Blessed and Blessing!

This Sunday, November 19, we will gather, blessed and beloved children of God, and we will work as the body of Christ to package and deliver Thanksgiving meals, blessing God’s beloved.  Join us in this act of Thanks-Giving, your participation in this act of love is an offering of love grounded in gratitude.

As we gather around our Thanksgiving tables this week I share with you the following Thanksgiving message from our Bishop, Gregory Palmer:

Greetings, beloved in Christ Jesus,

As people in Christ, “every day is a day of Thanksgiving.” So for me, Thanksgiving Day serves as a reminder of the call and privilege of living a life of gratitude all the time. The Psalms of the Hebrew Bible and the letters of the New Testament are replete with the call and affirmation to express gratitude in every way we can. The writer to the Colossians puts it this way: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:17)

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite authors, and she offers this word on the power of thanks: “Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back. “

Joining you in giving and living thanks every day, I am, your servant in Christ Jesus,

Bishop Gregory V. Palmer

May your Thanksgiving celebration be a time of renewal as you claim your blessings and become a blessing!  See you in Church!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

The Higher Road

There is an expression we have heard and no doubt used when either explaining how we’ve handled, or are giving advice on how to handle, conflict: “Take the high road”.  Don’t stoop to the lowest common denominator; rise above the meanness, the nastiness, the viciousness.  The Apostle Paul puts it this way; let me show you a “more excellent way”.

“Take the high road”, what does the high road look like?  In the twelfth chapter of Romans, Paul provides an answer: Love, Zeal, Blessing, and Peace.  As we begin this sermon series on the twelfth chapter of Romans, Paul says “Let love be genuine”.  Contemporary Theologian and Roman Catholic priest, Richard Rohr writes, “St. Francis moved beyond the world that most of us inhabit.  He rebuilt the spiritual life on “love alone” and let go of the lower-level needs of social esteem, security, self-image, and manufacturing of persona. . . .  Love is both who you are and who you are still becoming.” (A Spring Within Us, page 364-365)  St. Francis models and encourages “The higher road”.

“Take the high road”, it begins with love; as God’s beloved we are empowered to love one another as we have been loved.  Romans 12: 9-12 provides the framework for higher road living; I look forward to our common journey, traveling on the “high road” to which we are called.  See you in Church!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

UMCOR: The First to Arrive and The Last to Leave

Beloved children of God in Texas, Florida, the southeast, Puerto Rico, and Mexico City have had their lives turned upside down by recent natural disasters.  UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) is the emergency relief arm of our denomination.  UMCOR is known for being the first to arrive and the last to leave when disaster hits anywhere in the world.  Julie Dwyer writes, “While Irma, Harvey and Maria dominate news headlines, the United Methodist Committee on Relief hasn’t forgotten about Matthew (September, 2016 devastating hurricane).  “We really are there for the long haul,” said the Rev. Russell Pierce, interim executive director of mission engagement and director of ‘The Advance’, the designated giving channel of The United Methodist Church.” (UMNS, 9/26/17)

Our West Ohio Communications team writes, “As disasters continue to make headlines, we invite you to continue remembering our neighbors in your prayers. At least 237 people have died in Mexico City from the 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Widespread destruction is visible across the city. Hurricane Maria has devastated Puerto Rico and other Caribbean Islands with catastrophic flooding. May we be resilient in our generosity of love and financial resources so that those impacted will know that they are indeed beloved children of God.”

As we begin our sermon series: “Light The Way” we have an opportunity to be the light of Christ to those in the shadow of these natural disasters.  Many of us have already offered financial support, however, if you are still looking for a way to help our sisters and brothers faced with disaster I invite you to give through The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR): Domestic Disaster Response Advance #901670 and International Disaster Response Advance #982450.  You can give on-line: www.umcor.com; write a check to the church: HPCUMC memo = Disaster Relief; or mail your check to: Advance GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, New York, N.Y.  10087-9068

It’s a joy to be a United Methodist, and a privilege to serve in ministry with you!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Possessing God’s Wisdom!

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Kings 3:5)  Are you familiar with Solomon’s story, what he asks for and what he received?  God gave Solomon a blank check, and what did Solomon ask for?  Wisdom.  Read 1 Kings 3:1-12, a great story of not asking for what I want, but for what I need, and in turn receive blessing upon blessing.

God’s wisdom is available to all who seek God. Ultimately, we find in Solomon’s story God’s desire to anoint God’s beloved with God’s wisdom.  How?  God gives us the answer in the “Shema” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

Thus, when we understand and embrace that God alone is our God, give our “all” loving the Lord our God, the wisdom of God is ours and becomes profoundly real.  Richard Rohr in his book A Spring Within Us writes, “St. Bonaventure called God ‘A Fountain Fullness.’  Once we begin with outpouring love as the foundational pattern of reality and love as the very shape of God, then everything somehow has to fall into the same family resemblance.  If this is the Creator, then somehow this must be the DNA of all of the creatures.” (p.362-363)

Love is “the very shape of God”!  Like Solomon we are blessed with wisdom, and much more, when we with intentionality, love God with our all.  This is God’s gift to all who seek it.  I look forward to seeing you in Church as we seek God’s Wisdom, through what Jesus calls “the greatest commandment”, the “Shema”.

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

God is Calling

Hyde Park Community UMC is a faith community that believes in “gift based ministry”. God gifted you and me and calls each of us to specific tasks, ministries, and missions that utilize our giftedness in powerful and profound ways.  Hence, the weekly News and Happenings features “One and Done” Service Opportunities to help you connect our gifts in service (please see the need and respond accordingly).

God is calling! Specifically, is God calling you to use your gifts on the Servant Leadership Board?  The Servant Leadership Board is charged with guarding and championing the vision and mission of the congregation, strategically aligning our resources to share the love of Jesus to transform lives in our community, Cincinnati, and the world; engaging more people in ministry and mission, not meetings.

The Servant Leadership Board meets once a month (currently the second Monday of the month), additional responsibilities vary according to church programming.  Spiritual leadership is developed through a balance of loving (God and one another), learning (leadership development), and leading (making decisions that keep HPC aligned with the vision and mission).  The qualifications for serving on the Servant Leadership Board:

1) Be a member of Hyde Park Community UMC  for a minimum of one year; 2) Fulfill the membership vows of the United Methodist Church, supporting Hyde Park Community through prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness; 3) Possess a desire to serve Jesus Christ with excellence and demonstrate a history of this through prior service and current priorities; 4) Shall be of adult age (18 or older).

Is God calling you to use your gifts on the Servant Leadership Board?  Applications to serve on the Servant Leadership Board are available in the Welcome Center, and the church office.  Applications will be received through October 15.  If you have questions, please contact Pastor Cathy: cjohns@hpcumc.org or 513-979-8182.

God calls us to use our gifts in mission and ministry.  In whatever way you choose to serve, it is a joy and privilege to serve in ministry with you.  I look forward to seeing you in Church!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Commissioned!

We who claim to follow Jesus have been commissioned; over time it has become known as “The Great Commission” (Matthew 28: 16-20).  Webster’s New World Dictionary defines commission, “ An authorization to perform certain duties or tasks, or to take on certain powers; authority to act in behalf of another”.  Our commission from Jesus is an appointing, authorizing, and empowering to “teach all that I have commanded you” and baptize!

To this end Jesus left us with two commandments: “The Great Commandment”, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-39).  The second commandment is the  “New Commandment”, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:10-12).  Father Richard Rohr writes, “Love is what you were made for and love is who you are.” (Center for Action and Contemplation “A Flash of Love”, Wednesday, August 9, 2017).

We have been “commissioned”, and where did Jesus “appoint” us? The world. To whom did Jesus “authorize” us to speak? All people.  Given “authority” to do what? Teach what Jesus has commanded: Love God and love others as we have been loved.  “Love is what you were made for and love is who you are.”

In the wake of Charlottesville, VA.  The West Ohio Conference Bishop, Bishop Palmer, quoting Luke 19:41-42 writes, “these two verses, for reasons that I cannot concretely say, have come to me again and again.  I suspect it has everything to do with my confidence in a God and a Savior who is not far off but as near as our breath.  It is likely also because the God made known in Jesus Christ our Lord both weeps for us, and with us, especially when we have gone astray from God’s dream for us.  Finally, I suspect the text above is naming our apparent congenital blindness about the ways of peace.  May God help us.”  (A message from Bishop Palmer, Tuesday, August 15, 2017.  For the full text visit the West Ohio Conference website: www.westohioumc.org)

We are commissioned – authorized – empowered – anointed with authority – and appointed to go into the world and teach the way of love!  When we love as we have been loved, Dr. Seuss is right: “Oh the places you will go”!  See you in Church.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Doug

YOU CAN HELP

New Life Furniture provides household items to families in need in the Greater Cincinnati area.  The following is New Life Furniture’s mission statement:

  • We believe in the healing power of giving and receiving to empower communities to come together and support our most vulnerable populations.
  • We restore dignity and bring pride of ownership and confidence to those in need so they can be self-sufficient.
  • We make giving easy and fulfilling by picking up, transporting and cleaning your gently used furniture and delivering it to those in need.
  • We are the only nationally registered furniture bank in Southwest Ohio, striving to end the cycle of homelessness.

As one of our mission/outreach opportunities (primarily through Summer Impact, although we have various groups looking into connecting with N.L.F.), we offer this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those most vulnerable in our community.

New Life Furniture is in need of essential items including: Mattresses, box springs, dressers, tables, sofas, chairs and other housewares.  For more information, vis their website, www.nlfurniture.org, or schedule a pickup at 513-313-0530.

We grow deeper as Disciples of Jesus Christ when we participate in outreach efforts that transform lives. Involved with New Life Furniture and our mission partners (2020, Center for Respite Care, Habitat for Humanity, IHN, MEAC, Rothenberg, Thanksgiving Baskets, Wesley Chapel Mission Center, Wesley Education Center and Wesley Community Services) we become God’s transformative presence.

I look forward to seeing you in Church as we seek to grow in the disciple making process for the transformation of the world.

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Celebrating Summer Impact

Summer Impact is Hyde Park Community’s residential mission program in Cincinnati’s urban core.  Annually we invite youth groups to make Summer Impact their summer mission trip. This summer Hyde Park Community will provide 102 participants lodging, meals, evening worship lead by the Summer Impact Interns, and mission opportunities with the following mission partners: Wesley Chapel Mission Center, New Life Furniture, The Jubilee Project, Center for Respite Care, Stepping Stones, The Wesley Foundation in Cincinnati, with the hope to send groups to work with MEAC’s literacy program and Wesley Community Services.

Each year Hyde Park Community hires 3-5 Interns to assist Sarah Putman, Summer Impact Director, in leading our groups on the journey. Please make sure to read the Interns personal reflections of how God has been at work through Summer Impact.

Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church is living into our mission statement, “To share the Love of Jesus to transform Lives, Cincinnati, and the World” through our Summer Impact program.  I invite you to join me in praying for Summer Impact, the participants, the Interns and Director, and those we serve.  I look forward to seeing you in Church!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

The Power of Community

There are a number of clichés that describe the value of “community”, one of which is “united we stand, divided we fall.”  Although true, it is so overused that the power of the statement has been lost, or at best the meaning of its message has been fractured into multiple pieces.

Nonetheless, a life lived in a thriving, healthy, community is an empowered life!  Divided, alone, and isolated we actually do fall.  Throughout the Gospels, the foundation of Jesus’ teaching is “community”.  This was so significant to the followers of “The Way”  (later known as Christians) they developed a complex system of communal living (see Acts 4:32 ff.).  Although the communal lifestyle did not last (for reasons unknown to us), the need for community remains foundational.

Living in community means there is a time when I realize “the world doesn’t revolve around me”.   Richard Rohr in his book, “A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations” writes,

“Our life is not our own, yet, at some level, enlightened people know that their life has been given to them as a sacred trust.  They live in gratitude and confidence, and they try to let the flow continue through them.  They know that ‘love is repaid by love alone,’ as both St. Francis of Assisi and St Therese of Lisieux have said.” (p.134)

Thus, the “flow continues”, it begins as individuals – always flowing into “community”.  “Love is repaid by love!”  Therein lies the power of community, whether it is the local church, the neighborhood in which we live, the school we attend, or the world we are a part of; with gratitude and confidence we love as we have been loved!  I look forward to seeing you in Church as we are empowered and empower others through our community known as Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

A Life Well Lived!

A Life Well Lived!

Ecclesiastes is one of the books of the Bible many conveniently overlook.  Except for the opening of the third chapter (v.1-8) not many of us know anything about Ecclesiastes.  This Sunday we will help shed some light on the Wisdom of Solomon contained in Ecclesiastes, as we kick-off a 5-week sermon series on Ecclesiastes.  This week: what does it mean to live a “fulfilled” life?

I believe a number of us have heard jokes about arriving at the “pearly gates” of heaven only to be asked a question or two before gaining admission into heaven.  Recently I received an email that wasn’t a joke about gaining access to heaven, but a reflection of what a conversation with God might look like once we arrive at our eternal home.  It is a thought-provoking piece that can help us re-frame what a fulfilling life, here and now, looks like.

  • God won’t ask the square footage of your house; God will ask how many people you welcomed into your home.
  • God won’t ask about the clothes you had in your closet; God will ask how many you helped to clothe.
  • God won’t ask what your highest salary was; God will ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.
  • God won’t ask what your job title was; God will ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.
  • God won’t ask how many friends you had; God will ask how many people to whom you were a friend.
  • God won’t ask in what neighborhood you lived; God will ask how you treated your neighbor.
  • God won’t ask about the color of your skin; God will ask about the content of your character.

Too often in life we put a wrong emphasis on the wrong things, believing “this” is what matters to God.  Micah summarizes what God requires/desires: “To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)  Jesus summarizes the entirety of the law:  “‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And a second is like it: ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-40)  Contained in these verses is the pathway to a fulfilling life.  I look forward to seeing you in Church where together we pursue a life well lived!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug