September

 September 4, 2009

Dear Centenary friends,

About a year ago while in our sanctuary my eyes were drawn to the cross in the chancel area.  In my mind?s eye I saw a mosaic cross, reflective of the congregation that Centenary has become.  I sat on my idea for awhile wondering if it would dissipate.  The idea just grew stronger with me.  Quietly, I began to whisper the idea to some to see if there might be some energy with this possibility.  Not only was there energy, there was excitement.

A bit of research was done and we found that the present cross in the sanctuary was placed there in 1954, the year I was born.  We do not know what kind of cross preceded it. It is clear that several times down through its 125 year history, the cross at Centenary has changed as the congregation shifted and changed.  Given what is happening right now at Centenary, the time has come for us to look again at the cross. 

The 1954 cross has blessed the lives of many and will be moved to a place of honor in what we call the ?round? room next to the sanctuary.  The round room is where you will find one of the most amazing stained glass windows in Macon.  Look up!  It is in the ceiling.  This room has become a gathering place for the history of Centenary.  The 1954 cross will find its place among these special historical items.  We owe a debt of gratitude to Liz Laney for her help with the planning and visioning of this project.

Susan Walden, a local mosaic artist who has worshipped with us, has been commissioned to design the new mosaic cross.  It will be a work of art as well as the focal point of the sanctuary.  The light for the cross will come from the front.  It is not backlit. 

The cross is a Celtic Cross.  Myth has it that Saint Patrick introduced the Celtic Cross into Ireland in an attempt to share the Gospel with the Celts, the indigenous people.  Notice the ring in the center of the cross.  It serves several purposes:  First, the circle is a reflection on the nature of God.  God is like a circle.  God has no beginning and no end.  God is.  Second, the circle makes the cross stronger.  Third, the circle represents the Sun which was deeply important to the indigenous people of Ireland.  St. Patrick incorporated the Sun to give value and meaning to what the Celts believed prior to the arrival of Christianity.  It represents a holistic and inclusive understanding of faith.

Now here is what I am most excited about:  The circle in the cross will be made out of pieces of plates and pottery that come from your homes, so we do not yet know exactly what it will look like.  On September 27 within the context of worship, we ask that you bring pottery or glass that represents something meaningful in your life.  We ask that the pieces be 1-2 inches (no more than 4 inches).  And we also know that we may end up with a huge pile of broken shards.  So, not only will we use some of the shards in the cross, we will also use them to fashion a new baptismal font.  Can you sense what this can mean for all of us?  The congregation of Centenary will create part of this cross.  It will be reflective of who we are before God.

The artist is already working on the project.  It is anticipated that the cross will be completed by October 25, Centenary?s 125th anniversary celebration. 

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Nueva Vida (New Life) is a United Methodist congregation in Macon that serves the Hispanic community.  Rev. David Diaz and the leadership of Nueva Vida have been in conversation with the Centenary staff for many months about joining our two congregations for joint ministry.  After prayer, many conversations, and discernment, Nueva Vida has been invited to join hands with Centenary Church.  This will simply enhance our outreach to the community.  There will be several times during the course of the week when Hispanic services and Bible Studies will be held at Centenary.  We are creating one congregation with many ports of entry.  OCTOBER 4 is World Communion Sunday.  On this day we will formally welcome David Diaz and the Nueva Vida congregation to the Centenary community.

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I will be teaching an adult class beginning Sunday, September 13, 9:45 in a classroom below the sanctuary.  Here is the schedule:

September 13 ? Biblical Literalism ? Constricting the Cosmic Dance

September 20 ? Charles Darwin, The Bible, and God

September 27 ? Thank God for Evolution

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And finally ? September 27, 7 pm, - Friday Night at the Movies at Centenary.  We will be showing ?The Visitor?.  This movie is the story of a college professor who is confronted with some interesting and difficult choices in the midst of grief over his wife's death.  Richard Jenkins, the star of the film, was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.  The movie is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.  Come for an evening of watching a great movie, followed by discussion.

Grace and peace,

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

www.centenarymacon.org    


 

September 10, 2009

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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11 a.m. worship preview?.  Duane and Greg Allman (of The Allman Brothers Band) wrote in their song ?Whipping Post?: ?Good Lord, I feel like I?m dying.?  Elijah (of the Bible) felt that too.  The blues  are  inevitable for everyone.  This Sunday we are going to talk about the blues as people of faith.  How did Elijah handle that time in his life?  Where was God in all that?  Or in the words of James Taylor:  ?Won?t you look down upon me Jesus?  You gotta help me make a stand.  You just gotta see me through another day.  My body is aching and my time is at hand.  I can?t make it any other way.?  Come worship with us at Centenary as we deal with some ambiguity about the blues.  And while you are at it?. Why not invite someone to join you? 

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I will be teaching an adult class beginning Sunday, September 13, 9:45 in a classroom below the sanctuary.  Here is the schedule:

September 13 ? Biblical Literalism ? Constricting the Cosmic Dance

September 20 ? Charles Darwin, The Bible, and God

September 27 ? Thank God for Evolution

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And finally ? September 27, 7 pm, - Friday Night at the Movies at Centenary.  We will be showing ?The Visitor?.  This movie is the story of a college professor who is confronted with some interesting and difficult choices in the midst of grief over his wife's death.  Richard Jenkins, the star of the film, was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.  The movie is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.  Come for an evening of watching a great movie, followed by discussion.

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

www.centenarymacon.org    

 

 September 16, 2009

Dear Friends,

Sometimes it is good to simply contemplate great quotes:

Real faith means holding ourselves open to the unconditional mystery which we encounter in every sphere of our life which cannot be compressed in any formula.   Martin Buber

We know the truth, not only by the reason, but by the heart.  Blaise Pascal

Think I?ll just let the mystery be.  Iris Dement

It?s a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally.  It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.  Madeleine L?Engle

There is nothing to be afraid of.  There is everything to hope for.  I may not become perfect overnight, or be instantly blessed with the joys and consolations of the great saints, but little by little I will grow in knowledge of the road that leads to heaven.  I am in your presence.  I do not need to court you with great thoughts of profound insights, for the good of my soul consists not in thinking much, but in loving much.  If I love you, God, I will want for nothing.  You alone suffice.  St. Teresa of Avila

?when I went back to church, I was so hungover that I couldn?t stand up for the songs, and this time I stayed for the sermon, which I just thought was so ridiculous, like someone trying to convince me of the existence of extraterrestrials, but the last song was so deep and raw and pure that I could not escape.  It was like the people were singing in between the notes, with a sense of cry and hurt, weeping and joyous at the same time, and I felt like their voices or SOMETHING was rocking me in its bosom, holding me like a scared kid, and I opened up to that feeling---and it washed over me.  Anne Lamott in Traveling Mercies

What is it you want to change?  Your hair, your face, your body?  Why???  For God is in love with all those things and he might weep when they are gone.  St. Catherine of Siena

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I am preaching this Sunday from the story of Jonah.  It is a Whale of a Tale, so to speak.  Plan to be present to hear the story of this Old Testament comedy that is filled with profound truth.

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Have you been keeping up with the Mosaic Project?  Bring something from your life that can be incorporated into the Mosaic Cross or the new baptismal font to worship on September 27. 

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Nueva Vida (New Life) is a United Methodist congregation in Macon that serves the Hispanic community.  Rev. David Diaz and the leadership of Nueva Vida have been in conversation with the Centenary staff for many months about joining our two congregations for joint ministry.  After prayer, many conversations, and discernment, Nueva Vida has been invited to join hands with Centenary Church.  This will simply enhance our outreach to the community.  There will be several times during the course of the week when Hispanic services and Bible Studies will be held at Centenary.  We are creating one congregation with many ports of entry.  OCTOBER 4 is World Communion Sunday.  On this day we will formally welcome David Diaz and the Nueva Vida congregation to the Centenary community.

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This Sunday is the second Sunday I will be teaching an adult class.  You are welcome to join us at 9:45 in a classroom below the sanctuary.  Here is the schedule:

September 20 ? Charles Darwin, The Bible, and God

September 27 ? Thank God for Evolution

The first three Sundays of October Matt Martin will be leading a class that will discuss Flannery O?Conner and faith.  Several of O?Conner?s short stories will be used for the discussion.

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And finally ? Friday, September 25, 7 pm, - Friday Night at the Movies at Centenary.  We will be showing ?The Visitor?.  This movie is the story of a college professor who is confronted with some interesting and difficult choices in the midst of grief over his wife's death.  Richard Jenkins, the star of the film, was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.  The movie is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.  Come for an evening of watching a great movie, followed by discussion.

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

www.centenarymacon.org    

 

September 24, 2009


Dear Centenary family,

There has been much discussion over the past several years about ?family values.?  There are even those who make a direct correlation between the Bible and ?family values.?  When I hear the tired rhetoric, I wonder what Bible they have been reading!  Now be assured that I am for building healthy and strong marriages and families, but the problem is that it?s hard to find any families in scripture that look like the families that the ?family values? folks describe.

Jim Harnish, a Methodist preacher friend from Florida, reminded me that the Old Testament is the story of one dysfunctional family after another, from the sibling rivalry of Cain and Abel, to Jacob?s manipulation of Isaac and Esau (with more than a little help from his mother!), to Joseph?s brothers selling him into slavery, to Hosea buying back his prostitute wife or Solomon?s 300 wives!  (Anybody want to have a discussion about ?the wisdom of Solomon? after hearing about his 300 wives?)

The word ?family? appears six times in the gospels, none of them very positive.  Jesus? family comes to take him away because they think he is out of his mind (Mark 3:21).  He calls his followers to leave their families behind (Mark 5:19).  It is clear that Jesus expected family members to be in conflict (Luke 12:52).  At one point Jesus? mother asked to see him and he asked, ?Who is my mother, brothers, and sisters?  The person who does the will of God is my family.?  My guess is that Mary wanted to ring his neck for that slight.  If you can find one ?traditional? family in the Bible, I hope you will show it to me.  So much for the ?family values? rhetoric .

The genius of God is that God recognizes that which we often deny:  We are all dysfunctional people living in dysfunctional relationships.  Granted, some may be a bit more dysfunctional than others, but we share dysfunction in common.  I had a friend who used to tell me that his family put the ?fun in dysfunction.? 

Even with all our dysfunction we keep trying to connect with each other because deep down we know that ?it is not good for people to be alone.?  (Genesis 2:18)  We are created for relationship with God and each other.  Even God Herself/Himself is best described in relationship.  The Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) is about relationship.  And God loved us so much that he became one of us? all the way to the cross.

So we gather at Centenary as a large, wonderful, dysfunctional, Godly family.  And there is no doubt that we know how to put the ?fun in dysfunction.?  We don?t pretend.  Authenticity is highly valued.  ALL people are welcome here.  And not only are they welcome, they are accepted.  We are a multi-faceted growing congregation.  In the past four years, attendance in worship has increased by more than 250%.  Why?  Because this is a place of radical hospitality where we sense the presence of a God who created us all in His image.  Imago Dei. 

This Sunday we are building a cross? a mosaic.  We will bring pieces of our lives to be imbedded in this work of art.  (Those not used in the cross will be used in the baptismal font.)  Mosaic? pieces that are knit together with glue and grout.  Each piece is unique and valued.   Some of the pieces will symbolize joy and celebration.  Others reflect brokenness or sadness.  And still others are given to mark a time of moving on and letting go. 

The mosaic would not look right if one of the pieces was missing.  Welcome to this amazing family of God called Centenary.  We hope you feel right at home? because you are.

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Nueva Vida (New Life) is a United Methodist congregation in Macon that serves the Hispanic community.  Rev. David Diaz and the leadership of Nueva Vida have been in conversation with the Centenary staff for many months about joining our two congregations for joint ministry.  After prayer, many conversations, and discernment, Nueva Vida has been invited to join hands with Centenary Church.  This will simply enhance our outreach to the community.  There will be several times during the course of the week when Hispanic services and Bible Studies will be held at Centenary.  We are creating one congregation with many ports of entry.  OCTOBER 4 is World Communion Sunday.  On this day we will formally welcome David Diaz and the Nueva Vida congregation to the Centenary community.

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And finally ? Friday, September 25, 7 pm, - Friday Night at the Movies at Centenary.  We will be showing ?The Visitor?.  This movie is the story of a college professor who is confronted with some interesting and difficult choices in the midst of grief over his wife's death.  Richard Jenkins, the star of the film, was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.  The movie is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.  Come for an evening of watching a great movie, followed by discussion. 

P.S.  Please notice that movie begins at 7 p.m.

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I am looking forward to seeing you Sunday for a great service of worship. 

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

www.centenarymacon.org   

 

 September 30, 2009

Dear Centenary Friends,

Each piece had a story or was symbolic of a story.  The people of Centenary streamed forward and laid these ?stories? on the altar table.  For some, it was sharing the most meaningful thing in their life.  Others brought something from the past that represented brokenness.  The symbol of laying the gift on the altar was cathartic, a letting go.  One person brought a piece of Salisbury Cathedral.  The Cathedral, about 70 miles south of London, was built in 1250, nearly 760 years ago.  While some artisans were doing repair work on the original spire, they had to remove a small portion of the stonework in order to ?shore up? the ancient supports.  So, one person gave a piece of a church that is 750 years old for the cross, symbolizing the connection of Centenary to the ancient church.

It was incredibly moving? stories abound.  Another member of the church who has very few possessions brought what he could ? a button.  All gifts have equal value. 

Susan Walden is working to place these objects in the circle of the mosaic Celtic cross.  A work of art it will be, no doubt.  But after last Sunday, this mosaic cross has taken on incredible significance in the life of the Centenary congregation.  It is more than a work of art.  It is the Cross, on which hang our hopes, dreams, laughter, failure, tears, wholeness, hollowness, and forgiveness.   

We look forward to seeing the completed project on October 25, our 125th anniversary.

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This Sunday we will be celebrating Holy Communion with Christians all around the world.  The Sunday is called World Communion Sunday.  How appropriate it is that Nueva Vida United Methodist Church will join Centenary as part of our expanding ministry.  You will find the service this Sunday to be incredible fusion of English and Spanish.  I assure you that it is not to be missed!  I hope that you will make Sunday worship a priority.

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Dr. Matt Martin will be teaching an exciting adult study for three weeks at 9:45, beginning this Sunday.  The title of the course:  Faith, Spirituality, and Flannery O?Conner.   Two short stories will be read and discussed ? ?Revelation? and ?Parker?s Back?.  Read ?Revelation? first.  Matt is a gifted Professor of Literature at Wesleyan.  Come for the reflection, discussion, and community.

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

www.centenarymacon.org