Scott Hagan

Author's details

Name: Scott Hagan
Date registered: September 25, 2012

Latest posts

  1. Reflections on the The Word and World: Ferguson — August 22, 2014
  2. Reflections on the The Word and World: Content Suitable for Children and Adults — August 12, 2014
  3. Reflections on the The Word and World: Correct Me Please, I am Still Learning — August 5, 2014
  4. Reflections on the The Word and World: Water Cooler Woes — July 23, 2014
  5. Reflections on the The Word and World: Ancient Pharisees, Modern Politicians, and Enduring Problems — July 16, 2014

Most commented posts

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

Author's posts listings

Aug 22 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: Ferguson

Original post at

   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

Permanent link to this article:

Aug 12 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: Content Suitable for Children and Adults

Original post at

Like you, I was shocked to learn this week of the passing of Robin Williams at his home in California. As with every loss, our prayers go out to the family left behind. Specifically, we pray that they would know the peace of God, would experience God's presence that comforts, and would soon find a growing sense of celebration in the life he lived to take the place of hurt and loss they are feeling now.

Many of us have been watching Robin Williams for decades. I grew up watching Mork and Mindy, where he got his start on screen and played the role of an alien come to Earth. He was wacky, startling, brilliant, quick, and could stop the audience in a moment with his talent. That was just the beginning. How many of us include scenes from his movies as some of the most moving, poignant, and excellent that Hollywood has ever produced? For me, Dead Poets Society, Good Morning Vietnam, and Good Will Hunting are classics. And that list does not even mention Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, or Awakenings. 

Of course, not every one of these is suitable for children. Like his standup routines, some of the language is crude and some of the content is too edgy. But, when he was at his best, Robin Williams was so authentic and sharp that the lessons and emotions that pour forth from his characters translate across ages, across time, and across society. A life that is lived with transparency and humor crosses all boundaries. It draws us in. Like truth, such life is to be cherished when we encounter it. 

I had a similar epiphany this week in worship after I sat down following the sermon. Margaret and Kathryn, both in the choir and both volunteers as Sunday School teachers in our Children's Ministry, leaned over to tell me that they used the same scripture verses - Romans 13 and 2 Peter 1 - for their lesson on respect, an hour earlier. For a moment, we marveled together at the serendipity of such an occurrence. I was reminded that the truths of God's Word are suitable and needed by children and adults. We all need to be reading and studying the Bible. We all need to encounter lessons that remind us of the best possible life - living in response to the goodness and grace of God in our world. Jesus came that we might see that way of living in the flesh. 

May we all pursue such a life and celebrate those around us who are living it in our midst. Grace and peace be with you, Scott

Permanent link to this article:

Aug 05 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: Correct Me Please, I am Still Learning

Original post at

   Are we still learning? Are we open to guidance? To direction?
   John Wesley, the founder of Methodism in the 1700s, once wrote about this very subject. He knew that some, from time to time, disagreed with him. To this he said, "I trust, wherever I have been mistaken, that my mind is still open to conviction. I sincerely desire to be better informed. I say to God and man, "What I do know, would you please teach me!""
   This is amazing humility. For many people today, not knowing is seen as failure. We are hyper-competitive (coming from the former college basketball coach) and are driven by fears at home and work that if others think we don't know something, they will have some power over us. But, there is a better way. In his preface to a collection of his writings, known as his Standard Sermons, Wesley described what happened whenever he read a scripture and was unclear of its meaning. After following a process of prayer and continued scriptural reflection, he would turn to others for their opinions: “If any doubt still remains, I consult those who are experienced in the things of God . . . and what I thus learn, that I teach.” Again, take note that Wesley, a national bestselling author and probably the most followed preacher in England for five decades or more, is willing for others to correct him in scriptural interpretation, a field in which he had excelled all his life.
   For Wesley, the Methodist movement was to be a movement of revitalization. It was to revitalize not only the Church of England that he served as a local parish priest, but also the hearts of men and women in the pews and outside on the streets. For Wesley, grace was at the core of what he believed about God. He taught that it can be 'received' like water flowing down through channels like prayer, reading the Bible, attending worship, taking communion, and serving others. Wesley believed this grace was best seen in the life of Jesus the Christ. This grace was reshaping everything. The Methodist historian, Albert Outler, stated, "The heart of Wesley's gospel was always its lively sense of God's grace at work at every level of creation and history in persons and communities."
   Imagine how our lives would be different if we could live into the truths about God, the purpose of the church, and grace in our lives that Wesley had. Imagine if each of us committed to lives that did not stop learning. Wesley was actively preaching and studying and learning until his last days. Can the same be said of us? I pray that it can.
   Grace and Peace, Scott

Permanent link to this article:

Jul 23 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: Water Cooler Woes

Original post at

   Many of you have taken note of the fact that the renovations of the hallways meant the removal of the old metal water coolers that hung on the walls. We had three of them and, from time to time, two of them would operate. In their places, we have installed a new-style water cooler that will offer fresh water.
   What seemed like a simple purchase and solution has become more complex than you could imagine. First of all, I really thought we could do this in a way that saved the church in the long run by not using a water delivery service that would bring new jugs every couple of weeks. I've since learned that sometimes saving money leads to headaches, but that is another story for another week.
   Our journey toward doing this ourselves started with the realization that no single company makes everything needed. No company makes the water cooler and cup holder, and no company seems to make either one to be compatible with the other. This week we discovered that the unit we had in our hallway was defective - it never turned on because it was accidentally built without an 'on' switch. To top it off, four calls into their Customer Service center have gotten us a different answer every time. It is funny and frustrating at the same time. We've finally been told they will ship us a new one. Their people are nice - but there has to be an easier way to get to the finish line of clean, fresh, affordable water in our hallway.
   Which makes me think of the church. I wonder how our experiences with this company are similar to the experiences of visitors who've come to Epworth. How many people have come to our church looking for a simple, clear path to get connected, only to find it is not always that simple? How many of our members have longed for a way to serve but cannot get easy answers on where they are needed most? How many times have I wondered about the vast array of things that we offer people to learn, serve, and grow and how many of them actually lead to different destinations?
 Matthew records in 7:13 Jesus saying, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it." I don't think discipleship is easy. I don't think following Jesus is supposed to be simple. It isn't. But, I do think we should help people connect and we should be clear in how people can be equipped to follow this path. Jesus is the way. The church is called to help people along the way. I am so excited to serve a church that wants to be intentional in making that happen.
   Grace and Peace, Scott

Permanent link to this article:

Jul 16 2014

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

Original post at

   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
1 -

Permanent link to this article:

Jul 08 2014

Reflections on the The Word and World: Thin Skin

Original post at

   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

Permanent link to this article:

Older posts «