Scott Hagan

Author's details

Name: Scott Hagan
Date registered: September 25, 2012

Latest posts

  1. Reflections on the The Word and World: A Theology of Telling the Truth and Inspiring Hope — September 24, 2014
  2. Reflections on the The Word and World: God loves you. Your church does, too. — September 19, 2014
  3. Reflections on the The Word and World: Home Depot (and the World) Leave us Exposed — September 10, 2014
  4. Reflections on the The Word and World: I Did Not See It Coming — September 4, 2014
  5. Reflections on the The Word and World: Epworth connects and equips all kinds of people to seek, serve, and share Christ — August 27, 2014

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  1. Reflections on the The Word and World: Do We Need Jesus in Our Death Penalty Conversation? — 1 comment

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Sep 24 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: A Theology of Telling the Truth and Inspiring Hope

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   My parents were the first to share with me the devastating news by telephone: the family of one of my high school friends had been involved in a serious car accident while back home visiting Statesboro and his two children were critically injured. We learned that they had been rushed by helicopter to a hospital in Savannah and we should begin praying for all of them. Conversations like that, updates on Facebook and, later, the site became a norm for the family and friends of David and Ellen Murkison in December 2011. We were praying for the health of their sons and, soon, for miracles to happen.
   The Murkisons will be with us this Sunday morning to share some of their story. I've been reading the book that Ellen has published this year and I must say, it is powerful. She is a really gifted writer, but there is something more going on than the retelling of a powerful story: Ellen is a theologian. It is not a title she would probably readily claim, based on her own words. She says as much to start the third section of the book, Prayers from Fiji,

I have no theological background, but I am person of faith. By writing this book, I am trying to follow what I believe is God's plan for me, namely to give others hope by sharing the extraordinary events of Brian's recovery. It would be a somewhat safer venture if I were to stop at this point to just let the events themselves be the story. Yet, I have heard a voice in my head saying to write on. [What follows]... are reflections on my journey through this experience from a faith-based perspective, and I humbly offer them up, flawed and imperfect as they are, from my heart and as honestly relayed as I can. (page 113)

I love her humility. She wants us to know that she does not have a theology degree in her past, but I cannot help declaring that what she is sharing is her own claim to a theological present. Ellen writes from a theology of 'this is what happened.' Like the Gospel writers of the New Testament, she writes about what she knows. She goes on to share the truth, as her family has lived through it, in sections about faith in the unknown, perseverance, community, forgiveness and gratitude. She writes openly about the Holy Spirit and the presence of God. I cannot wait to hear from them in person this Sunday at 9 AM and 11 AM in worship.
   We don't need more theology degrees in the church. We do need people to live into their calling to be theologians. We each possess the essential qualities needed: senses to be aware of what is happening around us and tools to share what we have seen and are experiencing. Here is what I know: the world is desperate to hear, from real people, a message of what God is doing in the world. We can inspire hope by simply telling the truth of what God is doing.
   Grace and Peace, Scott

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Sep 19 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: God loves you. Your church does, too.

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Receive the Word of God. Learn its stories and study its words. 
Its stories belong to us all, and these words speak to us all. 
They tell us who we are. They tell us that we belong to Christ 
and to one another, for we are all people of God.

   As they prepared to receive their Bibles and the prayer throws made for them by the hands of our Prayer Shawl Ministry volunteers, these were the words that Kelley Conkle read to Ema, Emma, Carter and Davis, the rising third graders who stood before the congregation on Sunday. The faces of these four young people beamed with pride as they received these gifts and the attention of standing in front of everyone. I then made an attempt to capture all of this. I said,

God loves you. Your church does, too.

   I made it to the parking lot after worship before the magnitude of that moment began to sink in further. What a privilege to speak to young people in such precious moments. What an honor to be a small part of what God is doing through the hundreds of family, teachers, counselors, coaches, doctors, nurses, and volunteers who have helped these young people to make it this far. Of course, we know they have further to go. The world is complicated and amazing and terrible and beautiful and sad. They know some of that now and will know more of that later. But, throughout, these two truths do not change; God loves them and so does this church.
Epworth's Sanctuary in April 1963
   Epworth has a long history of shining the love and light of God into the lives of children and adults. It started with families gathering in a home on Rosemont Avenue, continued with months of meeting at Sherwood Methodist Church, and has continued these 51 years that we worshiped here on Devonshire Drive. Our Homecoming preacher, the Rev. Dr. Rick Mitchell, is a part of our great history. He served here for three years, including the time that the Hamp Stevens Memorial UMC congregation merged with Epworth. That merger helped make possible the amazing renovations and updates that our building and parking have seen this year.
   Epworth has a good history. We gather to celebrate the God who makes history worthwhile. We gather to embrace the present that we are called to help transform. We gather to claim and proclaim a future overseen by the sovereign God of the universe that loves us. To that, we can all say, Amen.

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Sep 10 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: Home Depot (and the World) Leave us Exposed

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   The good people at the Home Depot headquarters in Atlanta confirmed on Monday that its computer systems were hacked into and that everyone who made purchases in stores since April of this year possibly had their card number and information stolen. This includes me and probably many of you. While it is not yet known how many consumers were affected by the breach, this story follows others just like it from Neiman Marcus, P.F. Chang’s, and Target. The Target crime affected some 70 million customers and has so far cost the company $146 million, according to the Washington Post.
   Clark Howard is an Atlanta celebrity and expert in the world of finance and common-sense living. He writes extensively on things you should know and do when it comes to protecting your accounts and your credit. Here are summaries of five of those things:

  1. Expect news of more breaches for the next 2 years - It will take at least that long for US banks to make the switch, which they could have done decades ago, to a safer process for cards. The retailers (Target, Home Depot, or anybody else) are not at fault here. The blame lies with the banks.
  2. Know the difference between debit vs. credit cards - Debit cards don't have the normal protections under federal law offered by a credit card. With a breached debit card, you have only 2 days after you notice that money is gone from your account, or else your liability rises to $500 or beyond.
  3. Watch your bank statements carefully - Go through your credit card and debit card statements this month and next month with a fine tooth comb. Identify any false charges and dispute them immediately with your bank or credit card company.
  4. Be on the lookout for email or phone scams - Be wary of anyone calling or emailing you trying to impersonate a breached retailer or your bank. When in doubt, hang up the phone or close out the email. Then call your bank or visit the merchant website to verify the legitimacy of the request.
  5. Limit the risks from debit cards by setting up a separate account - Customers who use debit cards are hit hardest by any breach. If you wish to continue using debit in the future, be sure you tie it into a separate account that's only used for debit transactions. You can read more of all of this on his website,

I especially like what Howard says first; expect that breaches will continue to happen. The truth is, the moment we choose to engage in the world we put ourselves at risk. This risk goes far beyond swiping our cards. We risk our bodies, our feelings, our hopes, our spirits, our closest relationships, and the list goes on. Jesus finishes a parable in Luke 19 with this line, "'The person that uses what he has will get more. But the person that does not use what he has will have everything taken away from him." Risk is necessary.  People who are overly concerned about security and consistency are likely to miss amazing opportunities that present themselves in our path. To be a disciple of Jesus is to take risks - but when it comes to your bank account, take some protections, too.
   Grace and Peace, Scott

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Sep 04 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: I Did Not See It Coming

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   I ask a lot of questions. I hope some of that springs from a sense of wonder that I have for the world. I hope some of my questions come from a recognition that I don't know all of the answers. Of course, I sometimes ask questions for other reasons. I like asking questions when I am teaching in order to elicit the answers from the people I am with. I think teaching often happens best when more than one person is doing the talking.
   You already know that when I ask questions of the children sitting around me during the Children's Sermon, all bets are off as to what they might say. There is no telling. Art Linkletter (and later Bill Cosby) had it right, "Kids say the darnedest things."
   My most recent experience with an answer I did not see coming happened this week in our adult Bible Study, however. We've had great groups of people attend on Tuesday evenings and on Wednesday mornings. Our topic this week was worship. Worship appears as the W within the framework of Epworth's Missional Measures - the way we know we are succeeded in our purpose - GLOWS. The question I asked was simple: "What words come to mind when you think about the history of worship?" Buddy Dunn spoke up and said, Pagan.
   I did not see that coming. I should have. It was brilliant.
   Just like that, in an instant, his answer gave the feeble lesson I was embarking on a new level of depth I could not have imagined. In another way, he pointed all of us to the very target I had in my notes for us to arrive at an hour later. He did it with a word I did not see coming.
   You had to be there to experience just how perfect a word it was. If I were to summarize it, I would say that recognizing the role that pagan worship has played, as the alternative to the Judeo-Christian worship outlined in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, really captures so much of what should be said on the topic. From the first offerings made by Cain and Abel, to the first altar built by Noah, to the "best theological conversation ever" about worship held between Jesus and a Samaritan woman at a well, our worship of the One True God runs counter to the pagan worship of the little gods of the world. We worship a true God who reigns above the silly, smaller gods that the world props up.
   Buddy's answer out of nowhere is how God often works. Answers are delivered when we think we already know it all. Solutions are found in precisely the place we were not looking. The word given is nothing like what we expect, but soon our vision adjusts and it makes perfect sense. Which is why our worship - keeping our eyes open to the glory of God in our midst - cannot be limited to one hour, one place, or one morning. God is at work all around us. We gather weekly as the people of God to reconnect with these very truths.
   May we have the faith to be ready for whatever next God-thing we don't see coming! Grace and peace, Scott

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Aug 27 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: Epworth connects and equips all kinds of people to seek, serve, and share Christ

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   Our mission statement, developed by the group of eleven on the Vision Team earlier this year, captures God's unique call on our church in the present. In many ways, our Mission also picks up the history of so much of what Epworth has been about since it was founded in 1960. It also, in a beautiful way, speaks to the legacy of the Hamp Stevens Memorial UMC congregation that was formed over a century ago, whose members now call Epworth home after our merger in 2006.
   I am already getting excited about some great moments, that will help to connect and equip us, coming up in our near future.
   At Homecoming, on Sunday, September 21, we will welcome back a beloved preacher from our recent past, the Rev. Dr. Rick Mitchell. Rick and his family moved to begin serving Epworth in June of 2004. Over his years of service, both he and Deb have served great churches in South Georgia. Currently he pastors the Eastman UMC church and Deb is pastor at Shelton Chapel and Dodges Chapel UMC's. Rick embodies our belief that Epworth GLOWS, for he is a person of character who gives God first place. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Homecoming is more than just the preaching. We will also celebrate our past and lean forward into our future through the help of music, great old photographs, and finally a covered dish meal that is simply the best there is anywhere.
   A week later, on Sunday, September 28, we will welcome the Murkisons to worship with us. Ellen and David, along with their sons Ben and Brian, have lived through the nightmare of a traumatic crash that led them through what Psalm 23 calls the valley of the shadow of death. Yet, their story includes faith and compassion, hope and healing, and ultimately a glimpse into the mystery and power of prayer. Ellen has written a book about the chapter of their lives that began with a car accident in December 2011. It is titled, Prayers from Fiji. I have loved getting started with it, and cannot wait to read the rest. While you won't have to have read the book to appreciate their story, many of us will want to get a copy to be encouraged by God's work. Our church website features links from the homepage to easy ways you can get paperback copies or even the Kindle version.
   The rest of the fall will also bring exciting and important moments. In mid-October, we will start the last of our four major renovation projects for 2014, with the Fellowship Hall Project. Thanks to the leadership of our Building Committee, the guidance of Glenn Griffin, and the work of Andy Rolling and ROCON construction, the interior of our church already looks vastly different than it did just eight months ago. On Sunday, October 26, we will have the official Open House for our Children's Ministry Area following the renovation work that is happening right now. On that day, we will also celebrate Consecration Sunday, and commit to keep growing and extending the ways god is working not just through our finances, but also our faith in Him.
   It is great to call Epworth home. It is great to have a clear sense of mission and calling. May we celebrate what God is doing in our lives. Grace and Peace, Scott

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Aug 22 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: Ferguson

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   The year is 1965. A white police officer arrests a young African-American man, driving drunk at the time, and his mother, violent and mad at her son for driving drunk. The events that would follow in Watts, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, California, left 34 dead, 1,032 people injured, and 600 buildings damaged or destroyed. When you go back and read the account from those who were first on the scene, the riots themselves had little to do with the initial incident.
   Here we are, nearly forty years later. On Saturday, August 9, 2014, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American male, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Since then there have been conflicts, protects, speeches, investigations, autopsies, and news coverage. The nation has been drawn into this affairs of this little community.
   Let's talk about Ferguson, then talk about one of central problems of our world and our lives. Here is how I summarize it, painting the story quickly and with the broadest of strokes:
A - A crime is committed in a convenience store when Brown steals cigars and pushes the owner around. Soon after, Brown is dead. All of the evidence is not in yet to determine if his death is also a crime, or within the bounds of the law. Either way, it is a tragedy.
B - The community mourns the death of their child. Too many children die from tragedies. It is sad. The community is partly reacting to their own beliefs that this local police department acts outside the bounds of ethics and the law, and that race is a part of this pattern. They take to the streets.
C - Criminals, interlopers, and looters from outside of this St. Louis suburb descend. They arrive to create havoc. They succeed. They are soon followed by cameramen, news anchors, community organizers, and television personalities.
   I recall a little quip from our childhood that said, "This is an A - B conversation, and you can C your way out." For me, the tragedy and drama associated with the crime and subsequent protests and criminal activity resemble this silly children's line. Too often, a third party inserts themselves into something for purposes that are not positive. Of course, I know you've probably never looted or thrown flaming bottles at police officers. Have you ever gossipped? Have you ever gotten involved just to stir things up? Have you ever taken sides out of spite, or anger, or meanness?
   My mom was in Watts that summer of 1965. She was there as a college student serving within a group of young adult Methodists as US missionaries. She roomed with an African-American woman of the same age, and remembers experiencing for the first time racism through this new friend she made. They were there as outsiders, but their purpose was for good. Can the same be said of our purposes for getting involved?
   God's heart breaks for the family of Michael Brown. Ours should, too. They should also break for every child that dies at the hands of any gun for any reason. And for every police officer put into such a terrible position. And for our nation, as it still wrestles with it's own terrible past about what it means to be white and black. But, before we rush into the next A - B conversation or situation, let's ask, "What is our purpose for being there?"
   The Apostle Paul says in Romans 12, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."
   May Grace and real peace be with us all, Scott

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