Scott Hagan

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Name: Scott Hagan
Date registered: September 25, 2012

Latest posts

  1. Reflections on the The Word and World: Ancient Pharisees, Modern Politicians, and Enduring Problems — July 16, 2014
  2. Reflections on the The Word and World: Thin Skin — July 8, 2014
  3. Reflections on the The Word and World: Picnics, Watermelons, and Fireworks — June 30, 2014
  4. Reflections on the The Word and World: Power Near and Far — June 25, 2014
  5. Reflections on the The Word and World: God is Good — June 19, 2014

Most commented posts

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

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Jul 16 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: Ancient Pharisees, Modern Politicians, and Enduring Problems

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   At the time that Jesus was engaged in ministry, there were varying philosophies within his own Jewish faith. Four predominant religious groups had emerged from the circumstances that pressed in on the little nation of Israel: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots.  Jesus likely interacted with all of them, touching the hearts of some and sparking violent hatred among others.(1) This first group, the Pharisees, has become a bad word to many of us who grew up attending Sunday School or reading through the stories of Jesus. There is another side, though. They descended from brave freedom fighters who died trying to resist tyranny, like our early American colonists. They were Middle-class merchants. They believed in the entire Old Testament as law, believed that studying the Scriptures was the highest act of worship and had even believed in bodily resurrection and life after death.
   Modern politicians share some of these common characteristics. Most of them rose from humble beginnings and serve as a response to the way they were raised. All of them hold certain values above all others and these values serve to guide them in their actions and speech.  Many of them believe that, even after the worst of moral or ethical defeats, they can resurrect their political aspirations in miraculous ways. (I’m thinking about Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton, and Mark Sanford to name but a few.)
   But Jesus did take issue with the Pharisees on a number of occasions. In Luke 12, he warns that the active ingredient in their behavior was hypocrisy. He believed Pharisees often said the right things, but did not do them. They were more interested in appearing to be right than actually doing right.
   To be honest, I think of American politicians today on a number of issues, not the least of which is that of children and immigration on our borders. Since last October, 52,200 children have entered the US unaccompanied. They are fleeing the absolute chaos of their home countries - primarily Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador - created by gangs and the drug industry. If they didn’t leave, they would be forced to enter the gangs or be killed. This current crisis is driven by a host of underlying causes, not the least of which is that our US laws and our morality require us to care for these children when they arrive until a better option can be found.
   Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, our modern politicians (on both sides) are more interested in winning points by ‘sounding right’ than by doing what is right. Every one of them, from Texas to DC, is offering quotes and soundbites to make themselves look better. Political posturing has become their measure of success. The problem is that the real enduring problems - poverty, fear, scarcity, child abuse - are not solved with posturing. The real problems of today require people who are doers of what is right and not hearers and speakers only. Jesus instructed his followers to be doers.
   What can I do? To be honest, there are not easy answers, right now. We can pray for wisdom for our leaders. I think we can also discern which leaders are doing what is right and which ones are satisfied with only looking right. Finally, I think we can care for children here in our community on behalf of those in Texas. We can engage even more with Open Door to help families find their way out of poverty and with the Wynnton Neighborhood Network to help feed families. One of our core values is simple: we serve to make the world better. That is what it means to follow Christ. Grace and Peace, Scott
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Jul 08 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: Thin Skin

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   I'm writing from the island of Manhattan, where Julie, Sam, and Jack are helping me retrace much of a trip I took with my family a couple of decades ago. We are visiting sites that are historic and help us understand our past and some sites that are meaningful in the present. We are also going to stop at two baseball stadiums, for fun!
   This morning we were retracing the steps that over 12 million Americans made over a century ago. We took the ferry out to Liberty and Ellis Islands. This is American history. They are also significant to Julie's family, and the families of over 100 million Americans alive right now that trace their time in the United States back to Ellis Island. Julie's great-grandfather Natale DiNatale arrived here in June 1903 from his village in Italy on board the ship Montevideo. He was 17. Imagine how much courage that took. 
   One of the fascinating details of the morning was learning about the design of the Statue of Liberty. It was both a gift to the United States and a critique of the tyranny of the French ruler Napoleon III. It was also an engineering feat. While it looks like a solid piece of sculpted metal, it is actually a meticulously crafted series of cooper sheets that were attached to an inner metal frame of steel. The frame was designed by Gustave Effiel, three years before the tower that bears his name in Paris was erected. But, what shocked me was the fact that the actual width of the cooper skin of Lady Liberty is only 3/32", or the same as two pennies pressed together. 
   She has withstood hurricanes and so much more with such a thin skin. That takes courage and good design. I think we could learn a thing or two about living with thin skin. It requires forgiveness and grace. People will test you. How do we respond? Do we turn the other cheek or strike back? Do we admit when we're hurt or pretend to be able to take everything? This is the very stuff Jesus talked about. 
   Living with thin skin takes courage. For many of us, being so vulnerable is akin to sailing around the world and starting over in a brand new place. 
   May we all have such courage. Grace and peace, Scott

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Jun 30 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: Picnics, Watermelons, and Fireworks

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   Picnics, Watermelons, and Fireworks. Those are the things that first come to mind for Bob Wait when he thinks back about the Fourth of July from years gone by. Those probably make a lot of peoples' lists of memories for this week. What about you? What do you remember? Some folks will add trips to the lake, visits to grandmother's house, and family meals together. All of the 50+ in our Carruth family would name our annual family reunion as a beloved Fourth of July tradition. We almost always gather at my Aunt Margaret's cabin in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina for a few days of the very stuff named above: fireworks, food, and family all over the place.
   As Bob and I sat talking the other day our conversation jumped from the holiday week to the work that has been happening at Epworth this year. In particular, the renovations in the hallways, the addition of the parking lot in the rear of our property, and now the start of the Children's Wing renovations. He and I are both aware that the faithfulness of generations of people from years gone by has played a part in bringing those projects to life.
   It was special to be able to share with Bob about the newest plaque that now hangs in the hallway of Epworth, commemorating the people and legacy of the Hamp Stevens Memorial UMC. Featuring a photo of the church building, a section with history and a great poem given to the church's namesake back in 1909. The plaque hangs above a special Bible, also given to Rev. Stevens back in 1909, that came to Epworth in the joining of the two congregations in 2006.
   Columbus has changed since that little church was founded in 1902 out of a tent revival meeting, but it's legacy is remembered in a plaque, a bible, and, most of all, the ongoing witness of the saints who still live out their calling at Epworth by singing in the choir, teaching Sunday School, serving in leadership, contributing to the ministry offering every week, and caring for one another. Sitting with Bob Wait, the prayer I offered was one of thanksgiving for the past and one of expectation for the future. What a delight to serve a God who reigns over our past and our future!
   Grace and Peace to you in this week we celebrate freedom and independence - Scott

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Jun 25 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: Power Near and Far

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   Our toilet started running about a week ago. Not all the time, of course, but every few minutes the sound of flowing water would indicate that more water was needed to keep the float at the right level in the tank. This is not the way it is supposed to work. It wastes water and keeps people up at night. People like me!
   While I know a couple of things about toilets, everything I knew to try did not apply. The flapper was not warped due to age and there was no water leaking onto the floor. I was stumped.
   I saw Billy Bullock, one of Epworth’s newer members (he and Alison joined in December), in a meeting about serving at Rose Hill this week and asked him. Billy is one of those guys who can fix lots of things. Lots. He told me two things to consider - check the flapper again and maybe reduce the water flow at the wall because the pressure could be too high. Then, about an hour later, he called me because he thought of one more thing to try. You guessed it, that third thing worked. If you’re wondering, he had me pop the plastic cap off of the float stem, with the water turned off at the wall, and then turn it back on slowly to knock any sediment out of the supply line that might have kept it from filling all the way every time. Honestly, I have no idea how it worked, but it did! Billy has that kind of power.
   People like Billy impress me. And, Epworth has lots of people like Billy. People who are good at stuff. People who have expertise and gifts and who are willing to share them. Epworth is filled with people who serve and give generously. This phrase is the last line of our Missional Measures, Epworth G.L.O.W.S., that define what Epworth people look like when our ministries have been successful. We believe that God intends for all of us to shine the light of Jesus.
   Along with having a quiet commode, I also love the fact that Billy’s power was exerted from afar. Sometimes we can have great influence from a distance. The Gentile Centurion that approaches Jesus in Luke 7, knows that Jesus can heal from a distance and Jesus marvels at his faith. Our prayers and our gifts are two obvious examples. Then, there are times that God’s power through us is best offered up close. We have to draw near to make a difference.The youth people are doing that this week, having driven twelve hours to Washington D. C. It is also what happens every week in our church when adults offer the power of God’s love and care to our children. 
   We are called to draw close to serve and bring about God’s Kingdom. Our Vision for Epworth in the next eighteen months is to help every person become actively engaged every month in ministries that are transforming the community. Imagine seeing God’s power at work near and far when that happens! 
   Grace and Peace, Scott

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Jun 19 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: God is Good

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   I shouted this down the halls of the church earlier today when a call came from someone with news that I had prayed would happen for them. I repeated it in the parking lot earlier today when two people walked up at the very moment another was walking out and they were able to meet and introduce themselves. I had literally thought about how I could get them to meet just minutes before and there they stood together. God is good. How else can we explain the small, serendipitous moments when everything lines up and good happens? I believe God is good even in the midst of the bad stuff, but it sure is nice when good things are happening. I think Romans 8:28 affirms this when Paul says, “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” (The Message translation)
   We could have ended Tuesday night’s Church-wide meeting with shouts, “God is good!” For indeed, months of preparation, countless prayers, generations of generosity, and the Spirit of God were all moving in and around the two reports that were offered.
   First, the Building Committee presented a report of what has been done. The hallways and entrance areas have been updated and refinished. It is amazing the difference that wider, smooth walls and higher new ceilings make, isn’t it? The rear parking lot was paved this week and that project will be complete in a week or two, after the last touches of landscaping are finished. These little things mean a lot to our members and visitors who attend Epworth every week. Then, the Building Committee presented two projects for the immediate future. Both were adopted with a unanimous vote by the large crowd that was gathered. The first project, set to begin next week, will renovate the Children’s Ministry wing. The second project will involve updating the ceilings, lights, walls, and floors of the Fellowship Hall. Then, later, a new external, adjoining storage room will be added.  This will provide some desperately needed space for the good stuff we use often, but have no place to keep.
   Second, the Vision Team presented the work of their six months together. Eleven members worked to capture our mission, our values, our definitions of success, and our vision for the next 18 months. We will talk more about this at length, but for now, I leave you with the new Missional Mandate that gets to the very heart of how God is using and wants to keep using Epworth for God’s Kingdom. It says this:
Epworth connects and equips
all kinds of people
to seek, serve, and share Christ.
It is simple, yet important. It is a statement about what happens inside our church and what our people do outside our church. It is something we do now and something we will strive to live into even more. What a way to start our fifth year together - God is good!
   Grace and Peace, Scott

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Jun 12 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: John 10 – "I am the Good Shepherd"

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"Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers." 
Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 
- The Gospel According to John 10:1-10

   Who do I follow? What voice do I recognize? What distinctive sound can elicit my obedience?
   In Jesus' time, this was a powerful illustration. Everyone knew that sheep were raised from their very first days to respond to the unique call and command of the master that guarded and provided for them.
   Alas, those days are long gone and the details of this illustration  - sheep, pastures, gates, gatekeepers and shepherds - are possibly lost in a world consumed with electronic mail, gasoline-powered motorcars, portable electronic devices, and moving pictures (or email, cars, iPhones and movies for those below my age). Yet, those initial questions remain with me. Who do I follow? To whom do I respond?
   It strikes me that the forces from within dictate a lot of this. What drives me? How do I define my life? What does success look like? Where do I turn for affirmation? The Henri Nouwen piece that Sister Chris shared with me over two years ago is so helpful. Nouwen begins by asking, “Who is this person that lives this little life?” Then, after listing the two most common subconscious answers - I am what I have or I am what others say about me - he says:
What I want you to hear is....Jesus’ whole message is saying you are not what you have, nor what people say about you even when that’s important and even though it makes you suffer and even though it makes you happy, that is not who you are. I come, Jesus says, to reveal to you who you truly are. And who are you? You are a child of God. You are the one who I call my child. (Now, child doesn’t mean little child, child means son or daughter.) You are my son, you are my daughter.
- Henri Nouwen, in a lecture entitled, "Who are We?: Exploring our Christian Identity"
   Do I follow someone or something that is fleeting and cares nothing about my life? Or, do I recognize the sound of the voice of the one who calls me child and loves me like family. Because I am. You and I are children of the Great Shepherd. Grace and Peace, Scott

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