Identity Theft

Identity theft is a real problem; hacked servers of medical providers, insurance companies, and major retail stores have put thousands at risk.  Social Security numbers in the wrong hands will negatively affect our identity, as well as potentially destroy life as we know it.  However, identity theft is not limited to the physical world but extends to our spiritual identities as well.

We are created in God’s image, male and female God created us, and God said we are “very good”.  We are children of God; God is our God and we are God’s people.  However, possessing free will we often find ourselves chasing life’s diversions, consequently experiencing “spiritual” identity theft.

The good news is that God, through Jesus Christ, provides a way back, offers restoration, and restores my true identity, not because of what I have done, but what God does for/in me!  Chuck Swindoll in his book, Wisdom for the Way writes:

God has entrusted to us a great deal. . . .  God is trusting in us to trust in God.  Yet God knows our fears as well, otherwise God wouldn’t assure us so often of God’s purposes and God’s presence.

We feel hurt and alone – God assures us God cares.  We feel angry and resentful – God provides wisdom and strength.  We feel ashamed – God promises to supply all our needs.  Our God is uniquely and ultimately trustworthy! (page 256)

Through the resurrection, Jesus’ victory is our victory.  Because He lives, my identity is redeemed!  Trusting in the “Spirit of our living God” we find God trustworthy.   Today we continue to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and our identity in Him, because He lives. Invite a friend, relative, acquaintance or neighbor to join you!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Your Kingdom Come

We pray: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. The reality is that God’s answer to our prayer is dependent upon our willingness to collaborate with God to make it happen. From our children’s ministry to our youth ministry; from our small groups to Sunday School classes; from our shared worship opportunities, and our music ministry, to our prayer and healing ministry, and hospitality ministries; from our outreach opportunities, to our mission partners, and the United Methodist Women, we collaborate with God in extending God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Annually, our Bishop and his Cabinet (the 8 District Superintendents) ask every local church to set “Breakthrough Goals”. The “Breakthrough Goals” provide the framework for developing strategies to achieve the goals set, based on the “Five Fruitful Practices”: Passionate Worship; Radical Hospitality; Intentional Faith Development; Risk-Taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity. At the March 9 meeting of the Servant Leadership Board, the 2015 goals for Hyde Park Community United Methodist were set as follows:

 2014 Actual2015 Goal
Passionate Worship
(Average weekly worship attendance)
593625
Radical Hospitality and New Members (Professional of Faith)2332
Baptisms1725
Intentional Faith Development (Avg. number of Small Groups,
Sunday School classes, and Bible Studies)
4852
Avg. attendees in groups/classes303330
Risk-Taking Mission and Service
(Total number members/attendees engaged in local, national, international mission/outreach, and number of people served.
28,65630,000
Extravagant Generosity
(Avg. weekly giving)
1,619,8331,800,000
Apportionments100%100%

Together we make a difference in God’s kingdom, and partner with God in establishing God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. I look forward to our shared journey; it’s a privilege to serve in ministry with you! See you in Church!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

It’s All About Love!

We are told in the Bible that we are loved with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Jesus reminds us that the greatest commandment is to love God with my all, and love those whom God loves (Matthew 22: 37-40). Love is something received and something shared. It’s all about love!

This Sunday we continue the teachings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 6:44). The kind of love Jesus speaks of comes only from God. In the Tuesday morning study group I lead, we have encountered the term panenthiest from two different authors (Marcus Borg and Richard Rohr). I have come to appreciate the depth of its meaning: “God is in me, I am in God, and God is in all things.” (Eager to Love, Richard Rohr, page 142). This is not to be confused with “Pantheism” (all things are God – I am a god).

As I have been introduced to Panentheism, I embrace what I have come to know about it. Panentheism is at the core of Biblical teaching, as well as the teaching of the first century church. It is the foundation of Jesus’ teaching: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” If indeed God is in me, and I am in God, and God is in all things, then this includes my enemies, those I hate, those I have deemed unworthy and worth-less.

The question is how? How do I love my enemies, those who seek to destroy me? The answer finds it’s power and meaning in the depth of my relationship with God, the love I have for myself, and, therefore, the depth of love I’m able to extend to those whom God loves. The next time you are irritated by, and/or in conflict with another; when revenge and retaliation toward the one who desires to harm you seems the only option; stop and look at the other and remember: he/she is a beloved child of God!

To love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you is no easy task. Nonetheless, it is possible centered in Jesus Christ! I look forward to seeing you in church. Invite a friend, relative, acquaintance or neighbor to join you.

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

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