October

October 2, 2013

Dear Friends,

Charles Dickens begins A Tale of Two Cities with these words which I learned by heart many years ago:  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”  That classic opening paragraph continues: “…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity… it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair… we had everything before us, we had nothing before us… we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was like the present period…”

The times in which we live are reflected in the ambiguity Dickens creates.  We are surrounded by good things – opportunities, blessings, plenty, community, hope, freedom…  But we also are overwhelmed with obstacles that seem to weigh us down.  To be fully human means to be conflicted.  The genius of Dickens is that he is able to articulate that which we all recognize in the recesses of our souls.  No generation or age is exempt from the paradox, conflict, and ambiguity of living.

The Bible is filled with stories of ambiguity, which is why it is loved and revered.  The Bible is not linear history, science, or an instruction manual.  It is not rock hard, absolute, unchanging, or perfectly coherent.  The Bible, in the words of Debbie Blue, is a “tangle of wild poetry, heartbreaking stories, contradictions, twists and turns.  It is the concrete struggles of an array of unruly characters being sought after by God…”  And so we can surmise in the words of Charles Dickens that “…the period was like the present period…”  Biblical times are like the time in which we live.

If you can’t stand ambiguity and paradox, don’t read the Bible.  If you are interested in stumbling across stories that reflect the essence of life, read the Bible.  Some of the Bible is nonsensical.  Don’t dwell on the nonsensical part of the story.  Move on, for you will find a pearl at some point that has been buried in a field.  You will have an “AHA” moment of self-recognition.  Something that was dark will become light.  That which was foolish will become wisdom.  The winter of despair will be transformed into hope.  You will see yourself more clearly.  You will encounter God as God searches for you.

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Manna and Mercy continues this Sunday at 9:30 in the round room at Centenary.  You are invited.

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We will be gathering for Fellowship Supper tonight (Wednesday) at 6 pm.  Breakfast will be served!  Plan to be present as we celebrate what has happened at Centenary over the past year.

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This Sunday is World Communion Sunday.  Mauricio Orozco and I will be preaching a sermon titled “You Are What You Eat”….  Join us for a special service we will share with Nueva Vida!

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You are invited to join the congregation of St. Paul Episcopal on College St. at 4:30 pm this Sunday for a Blessing of the Animals.  Hal Weidman, rector of St. Paul, writes “We hold this blessing liturgy each year in appreciation of St. Francis of Assisi and his love and appreciation of all of creation. We will also have the opportunity to offer our thanksgiving to God for our ability to enjoy nature and to assist us in being good stewards of it. Bring your pets, foster pets, animal companions and other members of your families—non-human, of course, for a blessing. This year with ecumenical fervor we have invited other Macon churches; St. James Episcopal, Centenary United Methodist and First Baptist Church of Christ to join us. After our liturgy concludes, we will pray our regular Community Celtic Communion Service beginning at 5pm. This day, the service will be held in the midst of God’s creation at our Appleton Outdoor Chapel.”

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Manna and Mercy.

Tim Bagwell


October 16, 2013

Dear Centenary friends,

After the people of Israel were set free from bondage to Egypt, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, learning what it means to be community.   Manna (bread) came and they were fed, as long as they did not hoard. 

Vibrant communities are always on a journey.  We are watching for God – a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of clouds by day.  Following.  Dancing.  Laughing.  Weeping.  Sometimes succeeding.  Sometimes failing.  Everything happens within the love of God.  We were created by love, in love, and for love.

Click on the link below to a YouTube video.  It takes 4 minutes to watch.  As you watch, think of this:  How is this video reflective of what is happening with the amazing, God-driven movement at Centenary?  The setting for the video is Grand Station in Antwerp, Belgium.  Turn up your computer speakers, click on the link below, watch the video, then come back to the email for a few final reflections:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EYAUazLI9k

OK… I am assuming that you have now viewed the YouTube video.  I would argue that what you saw on the video is the embodiment of what is happening at Centenary.  There is a lot of planning that goes into what takes place in worship.  As worship unfolds, we share an experience together.  What adjectives describe the video for you?  Here are some words I listed:  together, common language, sharing, excitement, laughter, smiles, various ages, many different colors, diversity, energy, invitation, modeling, creation of community, trust, spirit, participation, delight.  Did you notice that the traditional “Do-Re-Mi” morphed into rap and everyone was caught up in doing the Macarena?  Hundreds spontaneously joined the dance!  The point was not perfection… the point was participation!

Not everyone connected with that moment in the same way.  Did you see the guy with white hair who just walked through the station, seemingly unaffected by what was happening around him?  But it was obvious that he was curious.  Did you see that many were caught up in the intent and the spirit of the moment, even when they were clapping out of time or were feeling awkward in their swaying and dancing.  They were glad to be there! 

You are invited to Centenary this Sunday as we seek to live into God’s call for community.

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VERY IMPORTANT!  Coffee and Conversation this Sunday at 9 a.m.  Vicki and Kim are preparing cinnamon rolls and other goodies… Yvonne is making some good coffee.  Come for the visit.  For those who wish to attend, there will be a Sunday School Class conversation titled Bridges:Promoting and Initiating Healthy Discussion of End of Life Issues.  This will begin at 9:30 in the room by the sanctuary.  This class will be facilitated by Stacey Harwell.

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Thank you for your special gifts to Syrian refugees and to the Colorado flood victims that you left at the altar on World Communion Sunday.  The offering totaled $373. 

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Men’s Breakfast at Jerry Elder’s farm – Saturday, October 26, 8:30 a.m.  – For more info, contact Jerry at Jerry@centenarymacon.org

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A new sermon series begins this Sunday!  Centenary 3.0.  Beth, Stacey, and I will share preaching responsibilities for these services during the next 6 Sundays, leading up to Thanksgiving.  This Sunday, my sermon is Centenary 3.0 – The Handwriting on the Heart from Jeremiah 31:31-34.  Hope you will be present!

Manna and Mercy,

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself. Serve.


October 23, 2013

Dear Centenary Friends,

I have a friend who is experiencing an almost inexpressible burden.  You know the kind of burden I am talking about here.  Oppressive.  It wraps itself around your innards and squeezes to the point that you cannot breathe and it feels like your heart can’t beat.  At some points you can name the burden.  Other times the name of the burden is cryptic and cannot be named, but it is heavy…. A darkness visible.

How I long to relieve the pressure under which my friend suffers!  But because I care deeply for my friend, I refuse to give simplistic answers.  We Christians have been too quick to offer shallow and quick answers to the suffering of people.  While those answers may be well-meaning, they are misguided.  Christians who give answers too quickly and easily are not firmly grounded in the God who is at work in the world.  They also don’t know how to live with the mystery of God as revealed in the Bible.  The Bible, for some Christians, rather than being an unfolding and open-ended story/revelation that ends with a comma, is viewed as a heavy-handed prescriptive text that ends with a period. 

Some of us have the mistaken notion that, when our burden is heavy, the burden itself is a sign of distance or estrangement from God.  This perspective may be the most pervasive of all Christian distortions.  This rather complex conversation goes something like this:  If things are going well, then it means that I am in God’s will.  If things are going poorly, then it means that I am outside of God’s will. 

I no longer believe that.  Good things happen to bad people sometimes.  Bad things happen to good people sometimes.  And sometimes stories do not have happy endings.  God is in the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The lack of a happy ending, or the carrying of an inexpressible burden, does not mean the absence of God.  God does not control us like puppets and does not plan every nuance of our lives.  It is a glorious mystery… one I am willing to simply live with. 

Sometimes we bring suffering and burdens on ourselves… other times they occur for no reason at all.  Why does this happen?  I don’t know.  It is a mystery… one I am prepared to live with.

To my friend I say this:  You are a child of God.  When you were born God whispered a secret in your ear that no one else knows. No one in the whole world can take your place.  Your burden is not a sign of God’s absence.  Will I pray for the alleviation of your burden?  Of course.  But I will do more than that – I will pray that in the midst of your pain, you will glimpse the face of God.  When will your pain end?  I don’t know.  But I promise to listen to whatever you want to tell me, and I will simply stand by you when you are overwhelmed.  Will everything be ok?  Short term, I don’t know.  But ultimately with all that I am I believe that “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”  I can live with that.  And I think you can too. 

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Thanks to all who pre-ordered items from our Thanksgiving Bake Sale.  If you did not order this past Sunday, you still have one more Sunday to pre-order your holiday goodies.  We still have Pound Cakes, all sorts of cookies, Pumpkin Bread and Pumpkin Pies, Coffee Cakes, Cinnamon Rolls and Dressing available. For more information, contact Yvonne Stuart at vonniestuart@gmail.com 
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Centenary Operating System 3.0 - This week we will be looking at another key element as we strive to get to know God, our selves, and one another better in a sermon entitled A New Kind of Knowing. I hope you will make a point of joining us for each of the next five weeks, as we continue this series intended to be no less radical than the life to which Jesus was called, and that we are likewise called to follow, not out of obligation, but out of the sheer bliss of our being. Join us as Beth preaches this Sunday.

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Bridges:Promoting and Initiating Healthy Discussion of End of Life Issues.  9:30 Sunday in the room by the sanctuary.  This class will be facilitated by Stacey Harwell.

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Men’s Breakfast at Jerry Elder’s farmSaturday, October 26, 8:30 a.m.  – For more info, contact Jerry at Jerry@centenarymacon.org

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Food Justice Night at Centenary – Wednesday, October 23 – 6 pm… Care about food and hunger issues in Macon and Middle Georgia?  Come watch a movie with us…  Popcorn and drinks available at the movie…  Nursery will be open…

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Church Work Day – Saturday, November 9, 8 a.m. until 1 pm….  Bagels and coffee for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch will be served.  Come give us a hand for various tasks around the church.

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Free Computer Competency Workshop with Scott BarrettTuesday, October 29 – 10 am until 12 noon.

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Manna and Mercy,

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love yourself.  Serve.


October 30, 2013

Dear Centenary friends,

 

Yada… yada… yada…has become a part of the tapestry of our modern language.  In an episode on The Seinfield Show, “yada, yada, yada… “ was introduced as a way of saying:  So on and so on… Let your imagination finish the thought.  “Yada, yada, yada” officially entered pop culture as a means of glossing over certain types of encounters or a way of avoiding incriminating details in order to get to the punch line. 

 

Last Sunday, Beth Dunwody taught us a completely different definition of “Yada”.  “Yada” is a Hebrew (Yiddish) word for “know”.  It is used 900 times in the Bible. 

 

  • Yada – To know is to conceive out of love.  Adam “knew” (yada) Eve and they gave birth to Cain. 
  • Yada – To know is to let God in.  “Be still and KNOW that I am God.”  Yada.
  • Yada – To KNOW is to care and show mercy.  “The righteous know (yada) the needs of their animals…”

 

In order to live into our motto to Love God. Love Others. Love Yourself. Serve. we must first KNOW God, KNOW Others, KNOW our authentic selves, and out of that knowing, service will flow naturally. Yada`, yada`, yada`.

 

Good preaching Beth!  This is a further insight into what it means to move into Centenary OS 3.0. 

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Boo in Beall’s Hill… Come park in Centenary’s parking lot from 5:30 until 7 on Thursday, October 31, if you would like to participate in trick or treating in the church community.  Bring candy, open up your trunk and give it out! 

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This Sunday, we will be talking about the gifts we all have and see some examples of the way those gifts can happen within the context of our communities. Stacey Harwell’s sermon is titled "Fall Back" because these gifts are as natural to us as breathing, and are gifts that we will default to when needed.   It's also called "fall back" because of that great trust exercise we've probably all done or seen done where a group of folks supports someone who is falls into their arms.  So don't forget to "fall back" and set your clock back an hour to hear how we will engage each other in our new operating system with gifts of head, heart, and hands.

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Church Work Day – Saturday, November 9, 8 a.m. until 1 pm….  Bagels and coffee for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch will be served.  Come give us a hand for various tasks around the church.

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Susan and I want to thank you for celebrating with us the birth of our first grandchild.  Timothy Nelson Bagwell was born October 23 and weighed 9 pounds.  Timothy and his parents are doing well!  We look forward to visiting them in Washington, DC.

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Remember to Fall Back on Sunday.  Set your clock back one hour when you go to bed Saturday night… or you will be very early for church!

Manna and Mercy,

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love yourself.  Serve.

www.centenarymacon.org