March 9, 2014

Dear Centenary family,
Dennis Hanson, Connie Sealy, Holley Long, Al Lee, Nell Persons, Russell Henley, and Tiger Woods could tell you about it.  Swing memory.  Golfers have it.  When one of these golfers swings a golf club, they have swing thoughts:  grip, alignment, stance, visualization, rhythm.  But when they actually swing the club, they are not thinking about every nuance of the swing.  Once you prepare for the swing, it happens naturally.  Swing memory takes over.  And, if you are fortunate and have practiced hard, the authentic swing just happens.  Amateurs and Pros are told to not “over think” the swing.

That is what I want my spiritual life to be like.  I understand the need for intentionality and discipline, but I long for that intentionality to lead to an authentic and relaxed connection with God.  Worship, prayer, meditation, and Bible study are parts of my “spiritual swing thoughts.”  Then all of a sudden in the midst of the intentionality, it happens.  The authenticity is there and I am lifted to a different plain.  I am in a different place.  A connection is made.  We give ourselves to the moment and the moment sweeps us up.  No longer is being spiritual something I do--- It becomes something I am.  I am present in the moment.  This happens for me in worship at Centenary… and at others times. 
Now… let me hasten to add that Dennis, Holley, Connie, Nell, Al, Russell, and Tiger have hit errant drives.  (Holley has probably hit more errant drives than the others.)  They have all had bad days when it did not happen on the golf course like they wanted it to happen.  What then?  Do you give up and go home and quit because you had a bad day?  No.  You practice a little more.  You work on that swing thought.  You get ready.  You stay open to the authentic swing.   And the practice itself becomes a blessing.  Practice is the embodiment of hope for the authentic swing.

Then, sometimes it happens.  Dennis hits a 300 yard drive.  Russell’s approach shot nestles 6 inches from the cup.  Connie connects with a 5 iron that puts her in range to make a birdie.  Nell is just short of the green in two on a par 5.  Al is on the putting surface off the tee on a par 3.  Tiger sinks a putt that breaks 20 feet to the right at the Masters.  And even Holley chips it in from off the green for a birdie.  The practice and intentionality have paid off and you have moved to an authentic, comfortable swing.  OK… I know.  I know.  I hear some of you saying “Enough already with the sports metaphors!”  And you are right.  Sports metaphors have their limitations.  But do you get it? 

Read.  Pray.  Think.  Question.   Worship.  Wonder.  Wander.  Long for God.  Connect with others.  Love God.  Love others.  Love yourself.  Serve.  And at points it will happen.  It may sneak up on you in moments when you are not expecting it.  Suddenly there is oneness… a peace that passes understanding… a sense of loving and being loved… a knowledge of the presence of God.  While God touches you at ALL times, there are moments when you will be keenly aware that God is touching you.    Our hearts are strangely warmed.   That experience, my friends, is not to be missed.
Don’t forget the Spiritual Disciplines Lenten Class in the Round Room…. Sunday, 9:30 a.m.
Congratulations to the Mercer Bears!  What a great season!
Church Work Day – Saturday, April 5, 9 a.m.  Centenary could use your help with some projects.  We will be finished by 1 pm.
This Sunday I will be preaching a sermon titled, “20/20”…  Jesus heals a blind man with spit, dirt, and mud.  The scripture is from John 9.  Hope you will be present.  Bring a friend.
Manna and Mercy,
Tim Bagwell
Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.  


March 4, 2014

Dear Centenary family,

She’s been called lots of names.  Call her “Mother Earth’s daughter” or Luna.  You can call her full, crescent, half, quarter, new, waxing, or waning.  She pulls the oceans back and forth, inspires artists, stimulates poets, encourages storytellers, stirs imaginations and causes lovers to fall more in love.   I remember the jingle: 

I see the moon and the moon sees me;

The moon sees the one that I want to see.

God bless the moon and God bless me,

And God bless the one that I want to see.


The moon is the basis for many calendars:  Chinese, Celtic, Islamic, Hindu, Japanese and (in part) Hebrew.  Wise gardeners pay attention to the moon.  Moon gardeners will tell you that it is best to plant above-ground crops at the new moon or during the waxing phases and root crops should be planted during the full and waning phases. 


And did you know that the moon is responsible for when Passover and Easter occur?  Remember now, that it all starts with Passover.  Jesus was a Jew.  Many Christians forget that Jesus was a Jew.  He was born a Jew, lived as a Jew, and died a Jew.  Jesus never converted.


Jews traditionally have their Passover celebrations starting on the first full moon after the vernal (spring) equinox.  And, according to the Jesus stories in the Christian scriptures, Jesus was crucified during Passover.


So, in 325 AD, a bunch of Christian Grand Poobahs got together in a powwow called “Council of Nicea” and decided that Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.  (This explains, of course, why the date of Easter changes every year.) 


So, Passover and Easter are linked by the springtime moon.  And all of this lunatic reflection (get it?) brings me to Ash Wednesday, which is March 5.  Ash Wednesday is 40 days before Easter, excluding Sundays.  Since every Easter is set by the moon, then that means that all Ash Wednesdays are set by the moon.  Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent, a season of reflection, repentance, giving up or taking on something.  Lent is a time of moving toward the cross… and then we are confounded once again by the glorious mystery of the resurrection on Easter which confounds logic.  God is that way – confounding our logic and bringing life out of death. 


So, you are invited to two services at Centenary this Wednesday, March 5.

** The first is at noon in our sanctuary.  It is a community service with Mercer University.  Our own Eric Mayle is preaching.  I will be there to have the ashes imposed on my forehead.

** The second service will be at 7 pm in the sanctuary after our Wednesday Fellowship Supper.  Our own Beth Dunwody is preaching.  I’ll be there too, to have the ashes imposed on my forehead.


I can’t explain it all, but I am drawn to the dance that occurs during Lent.  We are dancing in the moonlight.  Join me this Ash Wednesday for one, or both, of these special services.


Thank you for your support of “The Sleepout”!  You have raised $2,222.96 for Daybreak, a difference-making ministry to homeless persons in Macon, Georgia.  Stacey Harwell, Eric Mayle, Jonathan Dye, Diane Buck, Jack Castle, Michelle Hoyt, John Mahoney and I spent the night (along with about 60 other people) in 24 degree weather.  Can you say, COLD?  But it was good.  We all had the choice to leave.  Our homeless friends don’t.  Many nights they are subject to the elements.  Daybreak is a GREAT ministry.  I’m glad Centenary supports Daybreak. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Most of you know that while my passion is Centenary, I have a job as the Executive Director of New and Revitalized Congregational Development for the United Methodist Church in The South Georgia Annual Conference.  That is a ridiculously long title, isn’t it!?  What it means is that I train pastors, revitalize congregations, birth new congregations, oversee Hispanic ministry, and raise money for all of this.  My ministry covers Macon, Columbus, and all points south in South Georgia.  I’ve been doing this job since January of 2002.  In that time, I’ve worked with or birthed 48 congregations.  (Some of you may not know that Karen Hahn, who is a part of Centenary, is my assistant in this work.)  This past Sunday, March 2, Karen and I were present with Bishop King as we constituted (chartered) this congregation that I started working on about 5 years ago.  The church is called The Waterfront United Methodist Church in Richmond Hill.  It was an exciting day for that congregation and for us all as a new congregation that has been functioning for the past 2.5 years formally became a church.  Pray for The Waterfront UMC and Pastor Adam Ricker. 


Lent is a season of self-preparation and reflection on our lives and on our faith.  Please join us for our Lenten Sunday school series (beginning this Sunday, March 9), "The Spiritual Practices of Lent" in which we will discuss and practice ways to prepare our hearts and minds for this holy season of reflection in the life of the church. Each Sunday, we will discuss and engage in a different spiritual practice.  Join us each Sunday in Lent – 9:30 in the round room next to the sanctuary.


A note about my emails – I’ve been experiencing significant difficulty with my Centenary email list.  The last two weeks I’ve written my Centenary reflection, but have been unable to send it.  Very frustrating.  So, I hope I am back up and running with this email to you.


Thank you to Beth Dunwody and Stacey Harwell for two wonderful sermons (from what I hear) the past 2 weeks.  I am back in the pulpit this Sunday… and looking forward to it.  My sermon title:  “The Devil Came Down to Georgia”… Not sure that Charlie Daniels will be joining us, but I sure hope you will be there.


Manna and Mercy,

Tim Bagwell


Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.