Lesson from the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount (Chapters 5-7 of Matthew’s Gospel) is Jesus’ comprehensive teachings on life, much of it an alternative to the teachings of the religious elite of His day. The overarching theme of Jesus’ message is living in relationship with God and one another; how we treat one another, and the respect we have for one another. The lessons to be learned from the Sermon on the Mount are as relevant today, as they were when Jesus first spoke them.

In this season of intentional reflection on our spiritual journey, Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount remind us once again that it’s not enough to love God, but we are called to love those God loves. Richard Rohr writes in his book, Eager To Love:

“For Francis and Clare, Jesus became someone to actually imitate and not just to worship. Up to this point, most of Christian spirituality was based in desert asceticism, monastic discipline, theories of prayer, or academic theology, which itself was often based in “correct belief’ or liturgy, but not in a kind of practical Christianity that could be lived in the streets of the world. Many rightly say Francis emphasized an imitation and love of the humanity of Jesus, and not just the worshiping of his divinity.” (p.81)

If we are to “journey with Jesus” we are called to a higher calling: Imitation! It’s one thing to say the right liturgy, proclaim with conviction the creeds, and adhere to “right” doctrine; it’s another to imitate the love of Jesus. Jesus in the Gospel of John proclaims, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (13:34-35) Embracing the way of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount is a reminder that the fruit of our faith is known through our actions.

Today Jesus reminds us that He came to “fulfill the law”. The law is summed up in two commandments: Love God, and love those whom God loves. Let us be imitators of Jesus. I look forward to making the journey with you this Lent as we journey with Jesus to the cross, and beyond, to resurrection joy!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

First Sunday of Lent

The Lenten season is here. It is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations. We began our 40-day Lenten journey this past Wednesday when we smeared ashes on our foreheads, with the sign of the cross, to remind us of our own mortality. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial. It’s a time of spiritual introspection or soulful self-examination.

During Lent, many Christians commit to fasting from food or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence. Some may try fasting from TV or technology. Others may try fasting from gossip or worry. Many Christians also add a Lenten spiritual discipline, such as reading a daily devotional, to draw themselves near to God. I hope you will pick up one of the Hyde Park Church devotionals this week found in the Welcome Center or at the ushers table in the Narthex. It’s not too late to start. These have been written by a variety of lay people and pastors.

Lent is traditionally described as lasting for forty days, in commemoration of the forty days which, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent, before beginning his public ministry, fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by the Devil.

We start a new Lenten series this Sunday titled: “Journey with Jesus.” We will focus on “Overcoming Temptation in the Wilderness.” It’s my hope you will join me in worship as we talk about the temptations of Jesus and how we might find ways to overcome these types of temptations ourselves.

Join me in reflecting on this passage about the temptations of Christ from the suggested gospel reading for the first Sunday of Lent found in Luke
4:1-13. It was written by Anne Osdieck.

Gospel Reflection: Luke 1

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days.

Holy Spirit, take us to the desert. Speak straight to our hearts.
Help us fast with Jesus. Smooth out our rough souls.
Give us spiritual quiet, a quick and ready faith.

God, our only nourishment, our energy,
we want to come out of the wilderness, like Jesus,
charged with yourself.
Let this be.

Pastor Dave

Youth Sunday

In Ephesians 6, Paul admonishes us to put on the full armor of God so we are prepared to take our stand for God’s kingdom. There are spiritual battles that we face each day. This fight can sometimes feel overwhelming.

Students today face so many difficult things. Gossip and judgement. Bullying and violence. Addictions to substances, images, and screens of various sorts. Uncertainty about the future. Verbal or physical abuse. Lack of trust with family and other authorities. A general overscheduled and over stressed pace of life. Although the battle can be difficult, there is so much hope!

I am privileged to also see many students who are full of joy, compassion, intelligence, leadership, and hope. Throughout the year our amazing young adults encourage me so much and give me hope. For example, our students worked diligently to serve children and families in Haiti who had so little. It warms my heart to have spiritual conversations with our confirmation students as they wrestle with what they believe.

I was encouraged when our students strongly supported our campaign to fight malaria. In fact they are helping sponsor a 5k walk/run event on April 16th to raise funds for the campaign. If you want to get more information to be a financial sponsor for the race or sign up as a participant, you can go to www.hydeparkchurch.org/imaginenomalaria. Although there is a battle, our students can stand firm, grow in their faith, and make an impact for God’s kingdom.

Today at youth Sunday we celebrate the amazing gifts and talents of our students. I know that God is still moving in His church and we have a role to play as children of God.

We can celebrate that as children of God, we are not in the fight alone. We have each other and the very presence of God is with us. We can celebrate that as children of God; we have the tools necessary to sustain us during the battles we encounter. We celebrate that as children of God, we not only can overcome, but that we will be victorious.

Take a moment to encourage a young person today. Let them know they are valued. If you have a heart for students, contact me about how you can be involved in the student ministry at Hyde Park Community UMC. We are always looking for help in encouraging, teaching, and guiding our young people. Let us be prepared, stand firm, and know that God is with us.

Ken Miller