Loved With an Everlasting Love!

The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is about relationships, God’s relationship with humanity, and humanity’s relationship with God. Foundational to embracing, maintaining, and sustaining this relationship is love. The unconditional, no strings attached, self-giving love of Jesus is not only our example, but also our calling as followers of “The Way”!

This weekend we celebrate “Valentine’s Day”, a day commemorating a Bishop’s love for God, and God’s people, costing him his life. As we take this opportunity to express our love for those we love, I encourage us to also take this opportunity to remember God’s never ending, and all encompassing love for you and me, and Jesus’ call to love those God loves.

Proverbs teaches, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgression.” (Proverbs 10:12). Paul reminds us, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another”(John 13:34-35). Love is how we partner with God to bring God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven”.

Chuck Swindoll in Wisdom for the Way reminds us of “The ABCs of Love”:
“I Accept you as you are; I Believe you are valuable; I Care when you hurt; I Desire only what is best for you; I Erase all offenses . . .. There is nothing shallow about authentic love. Nor is it a magic wand we whip out and wave over a problem with a whoosh, hoping all the pain will go away. Real love has staying power. . . . It refuses to look for ways to run away. . . . While the world around us gives the opposite counsel, love stands firm.” (p.19)

This is the everlasting love of God we are loved with; and the way of love we are called to live. I look forward to seeing you in church as we embrace God’s everlasting love. Invite a friend, relative, acquaintance, or neighbor to join you.

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Your Voice Matters!

When Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church made the decision to move to a new structure, we also made the decision to evaluate our facilities through a Master Plan. We engaged MSA Architects to lead us in our Master Plan. The goal is to arrive at a roadmap for the maintenance and development of our facilities that support our church’s mission as well as our congregation’s needs.

This past fall the Servant Leadership Board began the Master Plan process. MSA led the Servant Leadership Board in evaluating the uses and needs of our facilities, as well as hopes and dreams. In addition, MSA met with, and led the staff in a similar process.

The next step in the Master Plan process is to lead the congregation in the process of evaluating uses, needs, and aspirations as they relate to our facilities; to this end the Servant Leadership Board set three congregational input sessions: January 18, at Hyde Park Community, and another at Nast Community (our second location in Over-The-Rhine); and a third session February 2, 6:30 pm at Hyde Park Community.

On Sunday, January 18, over 45 people gathered in the Little Theater to provide input. Over 33 people met at Nast Community to do the same.

A successful Master Plan involves listening to as many voices as possible, identifies common themes, and brings clarity to the way forward. It is successful when it is open and transparent, and engages the congregation as a whole. Your voice matters! Our input-gathering sessions include interactive discussions to elicit feedback on the uses, needs, and aspirations of the congregation. We will use the information and ideas gathered to explore master planning principals and goals.

Join us Monday, February 2 at 6:30 pm, in the Little Theater for the third and final congregational input session. We want to hear from you, as together we position Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church for the future.

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Come to the Table

Over the past six months (or more) we’ve heard a lot about dis-unity, and division, in the church and our culture; racial, and ethnic tensions are on the rise; theological and political differences polarize. We have lost the ability to talk to one another in a way that sees the “other” as a blessed child of God. We find it is preferred to be right than to be kind. It is to this reality that Bishop Palmer invites the churches and communities of our annual Conference to create Circles of Grace.

Our District Superintendent, Rev. Brian Brown, answering Bishop Palmer’s call to create Circles of Grace, encouraged the churches of the Ohio River Valley District to begin the process of dialogue and reconciliation on Human Relations Sunday (January 18). Rev. Brown writes, “The table of Christ is one table filled with unique voices from every perspective. With so many conflicting perceptions of power and race in the United States, we must recognize there is a problem and we must create space at the table for all to participate in the conversation. Come to the Table is the name of a district-wide effort that includes a process, an event, and a dialogue – all to move forward to the place Christ’s love calls us to.”

This Sunday we participate with the churches of the Ohio River Valley District in an effort to Come to the Table as the Body of Christ. The Rev. Vance Ross, former Deputy General Secretary of the General Board of Discipleship, will remind us that as children of God we are reconciled to God through Christ and given a ministry of reconciliation.

Come to the Table is the invitation of Jesus! At Jesus’ table there is no Jew or Gentile, male or female, white or black; we are one in Christ Jesus. As we begin this process of creating Circle’s of Grace in our churches and our communities let us remember the words of our founding father John Wesley, “It is an unavoidable consequence of the present weakness and shortness of human understanding that several men will be of several minds in religion as well as in common life. . . .Although every man necessarily believes that every particular opinion which he holds is true . . . yet can no man be assured that all his own opinions, taken together, are true.” (John Wesley, Sermon On Catholic Spirit)

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday. Invite a friend, relative, acquaintance, or neighbor to join you in worship.

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

God Bearer

I am a collector of Icons (stop in my office and you’ll see a portion of them). A number of the icons I possess are of Mary holding Jesus (depicted as an older child/youth). The early church titled this icon, Theotokos (“God bearer”).

Mary, at the age of 13/14 was visited by the angel Gabriel, and told that she was going to have a child, “Conceived by the Holy Spirit”. She would raise the Messianic King of the Jews, who would be the Savior of all people. Mary was the “God bearer”! This was no ordinary calling, but one that I’m sure left Mary with conflicting emotions. None the less, Mary’s answer has reverberated through the ages, and continues to be a model for you and me, when God calls: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”(Luke 1:38)

Adam Hamilton in his devotional, The Journey, writes, “Gabriel, on behalf of
God, was asking a great deal of this frightened young girl. William Barclay captures the message of this scene for all of us when he says, ‘The piercing truth is that God does not chose a person for ease and comfort and selfish joy but for a task that will take all that head and heart and hand can bring to it.’” (P.36)

God is calling you and me in different and unique ways. Adam Hamilton questions: “When was the last time you took a risk to pursue what you believed God was calling you to do? We can learn from Mary – Theotokos! “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Thank you for joining us this Fourth Sunday of Advent, as we embrace the faithfulness of Mary, and as we seek to be faithful!

Christmas blessings,
Pastor Doug

Global Outreach Christmas Giving

As the Christmas season approaches you are invited to participate in the ministries of transformation in which Hyde Park Community is involved across the globe. We have a strong history of faithfully providing for our Global partners. We invite you to prayerfully consider giving a gift this Christmas season to the Global Ministry Partners at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church.

In giving to our Christmas offering for Global Ministry Partners you will be supporting:

The Samara United Methodist Church and the Volga District of Eruasia Central Conference, Russia.

The United Methodist Churches in Chemnitz, Freiberg, Plauen, and Augustusburg, Germany.

Ganta Hospital and Missionaries Dr. Albert Willicor and Victor Taryor in Ganta, Liberia.

Faith Academy, Haiti.

The Henrys in Asia Minor.

The Henderson Settlement and Red Bird Mission, Kentucky

Our specific goal for providing for the needs of all of our Global Ministry Partners is $60,000. With your generous support we will provide leadership training, education for those in poverty, supplies and staffing resources for health needs, as well as training and care for those who need support.

You can make your donation to the Global Ministry Partners by writing your check to Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church. Please use the envelope you will find in the bulletin throughout Advent/Christmas Eve. Place the envelope in the offering plate or drop it off in the Church Office If you write a check, and do not use an envelope, in the memo line write: Christmas Global Offering.

Your faithfulness in giving above and beyond this Christmas season may save the life of a person in Africa, enhance the livelihood of children in Haiti, provide a Christ-centered place of worship amidst predominantly atheistic surroundings in Russia and Germany, or help to maintain the health and wellness of Americans who have followed God into full-time mission service in Asia Minor. Join others at Hyde Park Community and be a part of making a difference!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

 

Ferguson: What does the Lord Require?

Like many of us this week, my soul has been “disquieted within me” after hearing the decision of the Ferguson, Missouri Grand Jury and the aftermath. As I write this, I must confess I’m struggling to make sense of it all. I’m trying to make sense of the loss of life, a young African-American man whose life has been cut short. I’m trying to make sense of a police officer’s action and the consequences of those actions he must live with the rest of his life. I’m trying to make sense of how a police officer can fire his weapon 12 times. I’m trying to make sense of the militarization of our police forces as we respond to unrest. I’m trying to make sense of protests that destroy personal and public property. I’m trying to make sense of this and much, much more.

I’m trying to make sense of it all and my guess is I’m not alone. However, as I try to make sense of it all, the voice of the prophet Micah speaks to me: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

We’ve heard a lot about justice. There’s justice for Michael Brown and justice for officer Wilson. We’ve heard about our broken justice system. However, I fear that in each case we’ve been talking about retributive justice which is different than the type of justice Micah is talking about.

Micah is clear: we need to do justice! Micah is not talking about retributive justice, but systemic justice. What does the Lord require of us? Do be a part of systemic justice! This kind of justice is not something that someone else implements and carries out; it is something that is required of me. Marcus Borg writes in his book, The Heart of Christianity, “If we ask why the God of the Bible cares about politics, about systemic justice, the answer is disarmingly simple. God cares about justice because the God of the Bible cares about suffering. And the single biggest cause of unnecessary human suffering throughout history has been and is unjust social systems.” (P.139)

I struggle with making sense of the events of Ferguson, Missouri, but I do not struggle with the fact that we need to do something about the systemic injustice in our society. From Moses to Micah systemic injustice is what broke the heart of God. Jesus devoted his life to transforming systemic injustice.Therefore, to this end I invite all who desire to make a difference, all who desire to: “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God”, to join in the conversation, but more than conversation, let us come together and do justice!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Give Thanks!

Thanksgiving begins a season of celebration with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. From Thanksgiving, through Advent and Christmas, to the New Year, we will spend time counting our blessings, expressing our gratitude, and sharing God’s love. As you give thanks this season, my hope is that you can pray this simple prayer: “O Lord, thank you Jesus”!

Pastor H.B. Charles tells the following story about a woman he knew who showed up at church and prayed the same simple prayer. “O Lord, thank you Jesus,” she prayed week after week. Finally somebody asked her, “Why do you pray the same little prayer?” She said, “Well, I’m just combining the two prayers that I know. We live in a bad neighborhood and some nights there are bullets flying and I have to grab my daughter and hide on the floor, and in that desperate state all I know how to cry out is, ‘O Lord.’ But when I wake up in the morning and see that we’re okay I say, ‘Thank you Jesus.’ When I got to take my baby to the bus stop and she gets on that bus and I don’t know what’s going to happen to her while she’s away, I cry, ‘O Lord.’ And then when 3:00 P.M. comes and that bus arrives and my baby is safe, I say, ‘Thank you Jesus.'” She said, “Those are the only two prayers I know and when I get to church God has been so good I just put my two prayers together, “O Lord, thank you Jesus.”

As you gather around table this Thanksgiving weekend, give God thanks for the many ways in which you have been blessed. Give God thanks for the many ways in which God has led you through times of danger, discouragement, and disappointment this past year: “O Lord, thank you Jesus”!

I look forward to seeing you in church this Advent and Christmas season as we embrace the lessons of the manger, with this simple prayer on our lips: “O Lord, thank you Jesus”!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Free at Last!

If we are to be a people who indeed live free, it will involve a change of attitude in how we approach life; it will involve making the shift from an attitude of “scarcity” to one of “abundance”. The problem with living life bound by an attitude of “scarcity” is that it shackles our perspective on all of life. Thus, we are imprisoned by fear; bound by fear, trust deteriorates; lack of trust diminishes our ability to step out in faith and embrace God’s blessings.

On the other hand, when we are able to see and claim that we are a people of “abundance” we find “freedom”! Thus, we live by faith not fear; faith and hope go together, and we possess a hope that, as Paul proclaims: “will not disappoint us”; and free to trust in God’s promises, an attitude of “abundance” moves us to invest in God’s kingdom: Loving God, and those God loves!

Commitment Sunday on October 26 was a day of celebration. Celebrating who we are: Beloved children of God, we committed ourselves to helping others embrace a new identity as a beloved child of God as well!

To date we have received 229 commitments, which represents an increase in average commitment, from 2013, of about 35%. The people of God have spoken. No longer will we live imprisoned by a mentality of “scarcity”, but in Jesus Christ, we are a people of “abundance”!

Thank you to all who have made a commitment to the vision, mission, ministry, and outreach of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church. You’ve chosen to invest in changed lives and transformed communities. The dividend is priceless!

If you have not yet made a financial commitment, I encourage you to join those who call Hyde Park Community home: Invest in her vision, mission, ministry, and outreach!

God is “doing a new thing” at Hyde Park Community, “don’t you perceive it?” I look forward to serving in ministry with you in the months and years ahead. Together, Loving God, and those God loves, we are free at last to live a life of abundance. See you in church!

In Christ,
Doug

In Christ We Find Freedom

Jesus tells the woman, whose sins are many: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Underlying the woman’s boldness is trust. Trust that God, in Christ, is who God says God is, and will do what God says God will do!

The tithe became an essential part of worship for the Covenant people, Israel. Tithing is an issue of “Trust”. A “tithe” means “a tenth part” of the first fruits of one’s labor. Jesus talked about money in 16 out of 38 parables. The Bible devotes 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but over 2,000 verses on money and possessions.

Tithing is not an issue of money. It is an issue of trust. God knows that the most difficult area for us to turn over to God is our finances. Therefore, God says: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse (the church), so that there may be food in My house, and test me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open up for you the window of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. (Malachi 3:10) God said it – Can I trust God to fulfill God’s promise? More importantly, can God trust in me?

We invite you to prayerfully consider how you will support the Mission and Ministry of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church through your financial resources. We invite you to join us in committing the “tithe” (10% of your income). If you are unable to commit to the tithe, we encourage you to take a percentage step towards tithing in your giving. Pray for God to guide your decision to invest sacrificially in the ministry of Jesus Christ at Hyde Park Community; we are praying with you!

In Christ,
Pastors Cathy and Doug Johns

Free At Last

There is much in life that we allow to imprison us; which in turn keeps us from fully experiencing the life God intends for us. Our attitudes, outlook, and our finances can imprison our spirit, and limit our joy.

This Sunday we begin a new sermon series: Free At Last! The series will help us understand that we serve a God of abundance not scarcity. Trusting God to be faithful to God’s promises, we are free to invest in life transforming ministries, offering freedom in the name of Christ Jesus to others who find themselves imprisoned. Trusting God to be faithful we are free to embrace God’s blessings, share God’s blessings, and in return receive God’s blessings!

The Rev. Rudy Rasmus, pastor, author, and global humanitarian will be with us to kick off our sermon series: Free At Last (9:30 and 11:00 at the Grace Campus; 5:00 p.m. at the Nast Downtown Campus). Pastor Cathy will kick off the sermon series at the 8:00 Grace Campus service, and the 9:30 Nast Downtown Campus.

Pastor Rudy has led St. John’s United Methodist Church with his wife, Juanita, for more than twenty years. St. John’s has grown to over 9,000-members (3,000 of whom are, or were, homeless at one time) and is one of the most culturally diverse congregations in the country. Pastor Rudy attributes the success of the church to a compassionate congregation, which has embraced the vision of tearing down walls of classism, sexism, and racism, and replacing them with unconditional love and acceptance. Rudy and Juanita are the proud parents of two daughters. Pastor Rudy’s most recent book is Love Period. God’s love, without condition, sets us free. It’s in loving others as we have been loved that we experience the fullness of our freedom!

We look forward to seeing you in worship. Invite a friend, relative, acquaintance, or neighbor to join you in worship as we reclaim our freedom in Christ Jesus!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug