March

March 8, 2012

Dear Centenary family,

Scientists have finally gotten around to studying one of the most important things on earth:  goose bumps.  (The study can be found in the journal of Social Psychology and Personality Science.)  Scientists found that certain songs can trigger activity in a person's hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for hunger, rage, sex, and involuntary responses like blushing and goose bumps, "sometimes known as aesthetic chills, thrills, shivers, frisson, and even skin orgasms... a seconds-long feeling of goose bumps, tingling and shivers, usually on the scalp, the back of the neck, and the spine, but occasionally across most of the body."  Leave it to the scientists to point out something we already knew! 

Do you know one of the biggest prompters of goose bumps?  (Hear I wish I could answer that question by saying "great sermons."  But, alas, that is not the answer!)  One of the biggest promptersof goose bumps (or aesthetic chills, if you wish to call them that) is.....   drum roll .......  MUSIC!   Now, when you think about it, there is no surprise there.  It happens to me all the time.  Take, for example, Christmas Eve...  We preachers have long known that the feeling engendered at the end of the service when we sing Silent Night while candles are lit is FAR more important than anything that has been said during the service. 

Scientists also found that the style of music doesn't matter as much as a person's engagement with it ....  Whitney Houston, Broadway musicals, a child singing, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, classical music... you name it and goose bumps are possible if you are engaged. 

So, what does engagement mean?  World-renowned violinist Joshua Bell walked into one of the Metro Stations in Washington, DC and started playing some of the world's greatest music on a $3.5 million violin.  Two thousand people passed through the station.... But only six stopped to listen.  The rest rushed on, with the exception of small children who tried to stop to listen, but their parents pushed them on. 

Hmmm...  I wonder if that is what Jesus meant when he said we have to be like small children to experience the Kingdom of God? 

Jerry Elder, our incredible choir, Philip, Al, Kenneth, Elna, CJ,  and numerous soloists bless us week in and out with music in worship.  Tyler is a part of this group too because he controls the sound.  Sometimes the music may not speak exactly to you.  But I guarantee you that the piece of music may be speaking to and creating goose bumps for someone else.  Be patient... Your piece is coming.  The marvelous diversity of the music – classical to hymns to blues to rock to folk music -  is very rare.  Very rare.  God uses it all to create an openness to experiencing the Kingdom.  So, this day, I simply want to say thank you to our musicians at Centenary.  We are blessed by them.  They help us to see and experience God.  And... thank God for the possibility of goose bumps!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Speaking of goose bumps – Two upcoming musical opportunities –

First, next Thursday, March 15 – 7 pm in the fellowship hall. We are showing the wonderful  folk musical "Cotton Patch Gospel".  This award-winning drama is a leg-slappin', toe-tappin', hand-clappin' hoe-down of a story that retells the Gospels of Matthew and John in the musical style of the present day south.  Georgia is the setting where Jesus grows up, so you will hear about Gainesville, Valdosta, Atlanta, and Ty Ty rather than Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem.  Harry Chapin wrote the musical from the work of Clarence Jordan, a renowned theologian/biblical scholar who lived and worked in Americus, Ga.  He founded an inter-racial community,  Koinonia Farm,  in a time where people were very threatened by anything that was inter-racial.  Clarence Jordan was a prophet.  When he died, the local funeral homes of Americus would not even receive the body of Clarence Jordan because he was a hated man, so Millard Fuller (who founded Habitat for Humanity) put Jordan's body in his pick-up truck and drove it back to the Farm before the funeral.  Jordan is buried in a simple, unmarked grave at Koinonia Farm in Americus, Ga.  We will talk some more about Clarence Jordan and I will introduce you to some of his writing.  We will watch "Cotton Patch Gospel" and discuss some of the themes you saw.  Mark it down!   This event is no charge... and even the popcorn is free!  Goose bumps will be free, too, as the story unfolds.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And more music...  Start spreading the news... (sounds like the beginning of a song to me!)...  Our Maundy Thursday service on Thursday, April 5,  7 p.m., will be radically different.  (This is the day during Holy Week when we traditionally remember the Last Supper Jesus had with the disciples, prior to the crucifixion.)  During this service, which we are calling "Maundy, Maundy", (pun intended), there will be no sermon.  What?  No sermon?  You heard right – No sermon.  Music will take us through the experience of the Last Supper...  Come sit and be blessed by the music of Joe Cocker, John Hiatt, Sarah McLaughlin, Sly and the Family Stone, Elton John, Richie Havens, Linda Ronstadt, Glen Campbell, Neil Young, Tracy Chapman, Dan Fogelberg, Leonard Cohen, and James Taylor.  We are inviting the community.  This is something that will be talked about... you don't want to miss this service of worship. I have goose bumps looking forward to this service.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We continue our sermon series this Sunday -  Promises, Promises

February 26 – God's Covenant with Noah – Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself - Genesis 9:8-15

March 4 – God's Covenant with Abraham – Bless You!  - Genesis 15:7-14, 17-18

March 11 – God's Covenant with Moses – Traveling Light - Exodus 23 and 24

March 18 – God's Covenant with the World (Part 1) – Tattooed by God – Jeremiah 31:31-34

March 25 – God's Covenant with the World (Part 2) – Gotcha Covered – John 3:16

April 1 – Palm Sunday – God's Covenant with Jacob – Walking with a Limp – Genesis 32:22-31

April 8 – Easter Sunday –God's Covenant with Us – Play It Again Sam!  And Again!

 

Spring Forward.  Set your clocks ahead one hour on Saturday night so that you will be to worship on time!

Grace and peace,

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

www.centenarymacon.org    


March 15, 2012

Dear Centenary family,

We are moving through a series of sermons about covenant which we titled "Promises, Promises".   In her sermon last week, Beth used a phrase from Walter Brueggemann (an esteemed Old Testament scholar).  Brueggemann believes that covenant is best and most accurately thought of as a "subversive paradigm."  Let me explain what that means.

In Matthew 13:33, Jesus says this:  "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."  We think of the parable in our modern culture in this way:  yeast is something that makes bread become delicious, so to us, being yeast means helping to increase what we like about the culture.  BUT that is not what the parable means.  This is the most subversive (and perhaps the most dangerous) parable in the New Testament.

In the time of Jesus, everyone would have known that leavened meant "rotten".  Leaven made bread rise but it also caused it to start deteriorating.  Unleavened bread was prized because it was preserved longer.  Leaven, then, had a negative effect, out of all proportion to size, that couldn't be stopped once it began.  So, what Jesus was saying was:  "Hiding a little leaven in the huge loaf of the Empire means that surreptitiously – subversively – we will corrupt the Empire in a powerful, unstoppable way.  We will represent God's Kingdom as opposed to the Empire."  As leaven, Christians are called to lessen the injustices that exist in today's Empire (world), by working from within in hidden ways. 

I have come to the point of believing that this little parable should be the signature for the church.  Our personal encounter with God leads us to think of specific and subversive ways we challenge authority on behalf of those whose voices are silent. 

A little film on You Tube has caused a great global stir this week.  A very small organization, Invisible Children, has as their mission to tell the story of exploited children.  Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, has for many years been exploiting children in Africa.  Young boys are forced into being soldiers, and are even required to kill their parents and siblings.  Young girls are subject to rape and exploitation.  Invisible Children simply wanted to tell the story of this infamous man, Joseph Kony...   As of Wednesday morning, 77,891,077 people had watched this video.  Think of it... nearly 78 million people.  You can see it by clicking:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

Here is what I deeply believe... This little organization (Invisible Children) and some organizations like www.enoughproject.com are leaven.  They tell the stories of atrocities that the world has allowed to exist.  Kony2012 was leaven, but when it went viral, it affected a very huge audience.  The story brings change.  It forces change.  Leaven in the loaf.

And when Centenary is at its best, we are leaven.  We understand God's covenant to be subversive.  We live and act in ways that raises questions about Empire and power.  Faith, for us, is not just personal – it is corporate and transformative.  We swim against the stream of contemporary understandings of the nature of faith.  If your faith isn't making you cause trouble somewhere, then is it faith?  Not according to the vision of Jesus.  If you aren't subversive, what are you?  Jesus' call and challenge:  Be leaven.

I will be preaching about this concept on Sunday as we continue the series on covenants... This week I will be exploring the new covenant in Jeremiah.  Hope to see you Sunday in worship.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Tonight, Thursday, March 15, 7 pm in the fellowship hall.... We are showing the wonderful  folk musical "Cotton Patch Gospel".  This award-winning drama is a leg-slappin', toe-tappin', hand-clappin' hoe-down of a story that retells the Gospels of Matthew and John in the musical style of the present day south.  Georgia is the setting where Jesus grows up, so you will hear about Gainesville, Valdosta, Atlanta, and Ty Ty rather than Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem.  Harry Chapin wrote the musical from the work of Clarence Jordan, a renowned theologian/biblical scholar/farmer who lived and worked in Americus, Ga.  He founded an inter-racial community,  Koinonia Farm,  in a time where people were very threatened by anything that was inter-racial.  Clarence Jordan was a prophet.  When he died, the local funeral homes of Americus would not even receive the body of Clarence Jordan because he was a hated man, so Millard Fuller (who founded Habitat for Humanity) put Jordan's body in his pick-up truck and drove it back to the Farm before the funeral.  Jordan is buried in a simple, unmarked grave at Koinonia Farm in Americus, Ga.  We will talk some more about Clarence Jordan and I will introduce you to some of his writing.  We will watch "Cotton Patch Gospel" and discuss some of the themes you saw.  Mark it down!   This event is free... and even the popcorn is free!  Hope to see you tonight at Centenary!

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And more music...  Start spreading the news... (sounds like the beginning of a song to me!)...  Our Maundy Thursday service on Thursday, April 5,  7 p.m., will be radically different.  (This is the day during Holy Week when we traditionally remember the Last Supper Jesus had with the disciples, prior to the crucifixion.)  During this service, which we are calling "Maundy, Maundy", (pun intended), there will be no sermon.  What?  No sermon?  You heard right – No sermon.  Music will take us through the experience of the Last Supper...  Come sit and be blessed by the music of Joe Cocker, John Hiatt, Sarah McLaughlin, Sly and the Family Stone, Elton John, Richie Havens, Linda Ronstadt, Glen Campbell, Neil Young, Tracy Chapman, Dan Fogelberg, Leonard Cohen, and James Taylor.  We are inviting the community.  This is something that will be talked about... you don't want to miss this service of worship.

Grace and peace,

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

www.centenarymacon.org