October 12, 2010

Dear Centenary family,

Would Jesus visit Gliese 581g to show the Gliesens what God is like?  Let me back up.  On September 29, 2010, credible and reputable astrophysicists discovered the first known ?Goldilocks? planet.  A ?Goldilocks? planet is one that it is not too hot and not too cold, but is just right to sustain liquid water on its surface, thus creating the possibility of life as we know it.  The planet is located only 20.5 light years from earth.  (One light-year is about 6 trillion miles, so this means that Gliese 581g is approximately 123 trillion miles from earth, give or take a trillion miles.) 

?It?s both an incremental and monumental discovery,? according to Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  ?Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent,? says Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California in Santa Cruz. 

Gliese 581g orbits its star (or sun) every 37 days.  Its mass is 3 or 4 times greater than earth?s.  Astrophysicists hypothesize that the planet has enough gravity to hold on to its atmosphere. 

Do Gliesens slither around?  How many arms and legs do they have?  Do they have one eye in the middle of their forehead or are they like my mother who, without a doubt, had eyes in the front and back of her head?  Do they love and care for each other?  Have they had wars?  Do their politicians run trash-talking political commercials on TV?   Do their kids play soccer or football?   Do they understand the subtleties of a squeeze play in a baseball game?  Do they have pets?  Are they all employed?  Do they have comprehensive health care?   What is their educational system like?  Is there a Gliesen Van Gogh and a Gliesen Bob Dylan? 

But the most important question of all is this:  Should there be life on this ?Goldilocks? planet, would Jesus visit Gliese 581g to show the Gliesens what God is like?  A second critical question follows:  Would the Gliesens listen to Jesus any better than we humans?


It?s Kinda Like?  Our series on the parables of Jesus continues this week.  I will be preaching a sermon titled, ?On Stuff? from Luke 12:16-34.  Anxious about your life?  Who hasn?t experienced that?  Let?s talk about it on Sunday.  Bring another anxious person and we will listen as Jesus helps us clarify our priorities.  Jesus is always interested in what is of top value to us.  You might even hear a little of Janis Joplin ? ?O Lord, won?t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?? 


As I write this, the miners in Chile are being rescued.  Thanks be to God!


Be informed and care.  Hundreds of thousands have died in Darfur, Sudan.  Genocide is an ugly word.  My son John sent me this clip of George Clooney and Ann Curry talking about the developing situation in Sudan.  Watch it.  Then care.   http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/39628496#39628496  

For more information as to how you can care, visit http://www.enoughproject.com 

See you Sunday!

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.



October 22, 2010

Dear Centenary family,

Why are we obsessed with finding out God?s ?plan? for our lives?  This terminology has crept into our national religious consciousness to the point where it is the default language in theological musings and in our prayer life.  ?Finding God?s will for our lives? is of utmost importance.

I would argue that this ?finding God?s will? language is decidedly unhelpful, can be harmful, and most certainly fails to recognize the larger biblical narrative.  I have watched as some people have become obsessed and paralyzed by trying to base all their decisions on what they perceive God has in mind for them.  This perspective becomes a detriment to their faith and witness. Let?s be clear -  The Bible outlines God?s will without equivocation:   Love God.  Love Others.  Love yourself.  Serve.  Period. ?Obey this and that is all that is required of you?, according to Jesus. 

But there are millions of evangelicals who want more from the mind and will of God.  They believe that God controls all facets of their lives ? their friends, careers, life choices, partners, who to marry, what financial decision to make, etc.  You name it, and God has a chosen path for it.  Failure is defined as not figuring out the correct path.  If life goes awry and one has sought God?s guidance, then the underlying logic is that either I am not listening well to God or God is jerking me around and wants to teach me a lesson.

There are two criteria for confirmation used by those who want to constantly search for and discuss ?God?s perfect will?:  First, there is a feeling of peace and well-being.  Second, there is certainty.  (The mere existence of questions indicates for many that God?s will is not made manifest in whatever the question might be.)  Be reminded that Jesus? life was not always peace-filled nor was he always certain that he was doing the right thing.  Does his uncertainty mean that he was outside the will of God?

I want to speak a word for my deep belief that God loves us so much that many times truth and God lie in several directions when a decision confronts us. We become obsessed with the microcosm of life when God is tilted more toward the macrocosm.  Could it be that the Bible is right?  The essence of the will of God is simply wrapped up in ?Love God.  Love others.  Love yourself.  Serve.?  Once you commit yourself to this Bible truth, then God lies in more directions than we realize.  Don?t raise your anxiety level or waste your time in performing spiritual contortions by trying to figure out that which is pretty simple.  Just love God, love others, love yourself, and serve.  Now THAT is the will of God.  And frankly, that is all we need.

 ?God, I hear you.  You want me to base my decisions on loving you, loving others, loving myself, and serving.  I need to confess to you that I really want you to be my Answer Guy.  Forgive me for making you into something you aren?t.  Thank you for standing on the path of all the decisions which confront me.  I remember the Psalmist telling me that even if (or when) I make my bed in hell, you are there.  That is comforting!  Save me from the arrogance of believing that I have you figured out.  Give me vision to see the larger picture.  Tilt me, O God, toward the macrocosm.  Deliver me from the self-imposed anxieties in trying to figure out Your will for every little thing that comes my way.  Form me by your Word, then give me the courage and confidence to make decisions based on that spiritual formation. Amen.? 


Ginny Hathaway, a United Methodist pastor from Oklahoma, came to Centenary to interview for a job nearly 3 years ago.  She blessed us and was hired.  A series of circumstances caused her to be unable to walk through the door that was opened at that time.  But she could not shake the connection she felt with this community of faith.  Ginny is retiring as a United Methodist pastor in Oklahoma on December 31 of this year.  She and her husband, Bill (who is also a retired United Methodist pastor) are coming home to a place they have never lived, for they are moving to Macon to become a part of the Centenary community.  Incredible.  Ginny will be moving into the official capacity of retirement, but she has no desire to retire.  She will be working with us at Centenary after the first of the year.  Bill and Ginny are here for a visit this weekend.  Welcome them as family on Sunday morning.


This Sunday promises to be incredible.  The series on the parables continues.  I have some new reflections to share with you about the Parable of the Soils.  Frankly, I am excited about the way we will encounter this parable together.  Worship is never the same if you are not present.  So, come to worship.  Resist the temptation to pulled in other directions.  The music will be great and the children are singing and helping us sing.  Make it a priority? and while you are at it, call and invite someone to join you. 

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God. Love others.  Love yourself.  Serve.