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,

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

Stay in Love With God

Bishop Rueben Job wrote a book, “Three Simple Rules”, based on the teachings of John Wesley (father of Methodism): Do no harm, Do good, Stay in love with God.

The “Three Simple Rules” are discipleship pathways based on the teachings of Jesus. In Luke’s account of Jesus’ teaching on judging others (Luke 6:37-42), we see with new eyes, and hear with new ears, what it means to “stay in love with God.”

Judgment, we have convinced ourselves, is a way for us to gain superior moral footing. However, in reality, it is a way to marginalize those unlike us, and disenfranchise others based on stereotypes, accusation, rumors, and perception. Consequently, we all judge others, but yet we dislike being judged.

If we’re to “stay in love with God” we will embrace God’s call to love as we’ve been loved. Bishop Job writes:
“The question Jesus asked of Peter in John 21:15ff, “Do you love me?”reveals a great deal about the essentials of our relationship with God. Three times Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” and three times Peter answered in the affirmative. Staying in love with God was the primary issue of a faithful life then, and it is today. For from such a life of love for God will flow the goodness and love of God to the world.” (p.57)

Practicing Radical Hospitality moves me away from a life of exclusion to a life of embracing. Embracing the stranger, the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the lonely, and the vulnerable in our midst, is the way of love; and a way of “staying in love with God”! In love with God, there’s no room for judgmentalism and condemnation.

I look forward to seeing you in church as we strive to stay in love with God by embracing God’s call to radical hospitality! Invite a friend, relative, acquaintance, or neighbor to join you!

In Christ,

Welcoming the Other

Over the course of my ministry I’ve had the opportunity to visit a lot of churches, and have been involved in numerous conversations with regard to the identity and character of a particular faith community.  Inevitably I would hear: “we are a friendly church”  or, “we are an inviting and welcoming church”, only to find out through a visit on Sunday morning: welcoming, inviting, and friendly to those they know, yes.  Welcoming, inviting, and friendly to the stranger in their midst, well, not so much!

Radical Hospitality, the kind of hospitality God calls us to, is a hospitality that goes beyond just being, nice.  As followers of Christ radical hospitality is extended through our actions: “If you’ve done it to the least of these brothers and sisters, you’ve done it to me” (Matthew 25:40); and in our prayers: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).  Radical Hospitality involves embracing diversity – the kind of diversity we learned through song as a child:  Red and yellow black and white all are precious in His sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world!  As followers of Christ we are to, as St. Benedict puts it: “Welcome the other”!

The question we should always be asking ourselves (individually and as a community of faith) is are we are practicing the hospitality of Jesus?  Answering this question starts by embracing our diversity.  Father Daniel Homan and Lonni Collins Pratt in their book, Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love, write:

“The hardest thing about all these people is their absolute otherliness, which cannot be tamed or ignored.  They are going to remain unlike us.  We are not going to understand them.  We should celebrate this.  We need them to be different from us.  It fits in the way the universe has been designed.” (p.85)

Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church is a diverse community of faith; and God is calling us to widen our circle further.  I look forward to serving in ministry with you as we partner with God to bring His “kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven”.  See you in church!

In Christ,


Can’t or Won’t?

Hope is essential to a healthy life. Hope is the light at the end of the tunnel. Hope is the breaking of the morning dawn dispelling the dark of night. Hope is the fuel that powers us through difficult times. Hope sustains when there is very little to hang on to.

However, one of the great enemies of hope is a small but destructive word: “Can’t”; one small but destructive phrase: “I can not”! Chuck Swindoll in his book: “Wisdom For The Way” writes: “Can’t and won’t. Christians need to be very careful which one they choose. It seems that we prefer to use “can’t.”

“I just can’t get along with my wife.”
“My husband and I can’t communicate.”
“I just can’t discipline the kids as I should.”
“I just can’t give up the affair I’m having.”
“I can’t stop overeating.”
“I can’t find time to pray.”

Any Christian who takes the Bible seriously will have to agree the word here really should be “won’t”. Why? Because we have been given the power, the ability to overcome. . . . We’re really saying “I won’t,” because we don’t choose to say “With the help of God, I will!” (p.21)

The Psalmist helps us remember that God is a God of new life, and new beginnings. Paul reminds us: all things are possible in Christ Jesus; and, hope will not disappoint us. Indeed, one of the strands that hold the Bible together from Genesis to Revelation is Hope.

The writers of the Psalms encourage us to embrace the hope that is ours in our God. The Psalmist proclaims that God: “Turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” (Ps 30:11)  Embracing hope, God renews and re-orients life! May God’s blessings abound as we allow ourselves to be filled by the Holy Spirit, filled with hope!
In Christ,