Resurrection: Fiction or Fact?

Let’s face it:  Someone rising from the dead is not something that happens every day.  Like us, the people in first century Israel would have had a hard time wrapping their minds around The Resurrection.

The Pharisees, whose responsibility was to help the people keep the laws of Moses, did believe in The Resurrection. Brad H. Young, in Paul, The Jewish Theologian writes: “The Jewish people believed that God created the world. Our physical world is God’s creation, and it is good. The Pharisees, in contrast to the Greco-Roman religious beliefs, vigorously affirmed the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees stressed a literal resurrection of the physical body, which would be reunited with the spirit of an individual. Their worldview embraced a future restoration of God’s original design for his world. The Pharisees envisioned a time of redemption in which God would realign the physical creation with the ethereal (unearthly) realm.”  The Sadducees did not embrace resurrection, immortality of the soul, or spirits and angels.  Additionally leaders of the Sadducees functioned as priests while leaders of the Pharisees were called rabbis.

This Sunday, Pastor Cathy Johns will offer a unique perspective on what happened in Bethany when Lazarus walked out of the tomb as recorded in John 11.  Invite a friend to join you this Sunday; may God richly bless you this week!


Pastor Cathy Johns


When Nicodemus converses with Jesus he is introduced to a new understanding of living in relationship with God and those God loves.  Drawing upon a birthing metaphor, Jesus impresses upon Nicodemus the need for humanity to leave behind the dualistic thinking of the day (which still controls much of our lives today) and be “born again”.  This rebirth means leaving the dualism of the world behind and living into God’s acts of new creation! This rebirth means discarding the “fire insurance” teaching that most of Christianity has reduced our relationship with God to be; as the saying goes, “We are so heavenly focused they are no earthly good”.

Jesus is not saying we must be “born again” so when we die we can escape the fires of hell (fire insurance) and make our way to heaven.  We must be “born again” if we are to leave behind the dualism of our culture and reflect the image and likeness of God in the world we live. Born again we actively become participants in God’s acts of new creation.  Bishop N.T. Wright puts it this way in his book, Surprised by Scripture:

“The question of how you think about the ultimate future has an obvious direct impact on how you think about the task of the church in the present time.  To put it crudely and at the risk of caricaturing: if you suppose that the present world of space, time, and matter is a thoroughly bad thing, then the task is to escape from this world and enable as many others to do so as possible.  If you go that route, you will most likely end up in some form of Gnosticism, and the gnostic has no interest in improving the lot of human beings, or the state of the physical universe, in the present time.  Why wall paper the house if it’s going to be knocked down tomorrow?” (P.84-85)

God is a God of new creation, here, now.  The words of Jesus have been hijacked, it’s time for the church to reclaim the power of Jesus’ words for transformational living: You must be “born again”. Rebirth aligns us with God’s vision for creation here, now, today.  To be “born again” puts us at the center of God’s work in the world. Therefore, this world is not something that is to be endured and ultimately escape, but it is a place that mirrors the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. I look forward to seeing you in Church!

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

Some Things Never Change

A lot has changed since the days of Jesus, but some things are still the same.  People have never been fond of taxes or the people who collect them.   Here’s a fun riddle:   

Q:  How much did the IRS take from the moon?

A:  Four quarters

(Trust me!  This is one of the more “mild” jokes I could locate.)

This Sunday we continue our sermon series called “Awakened!”  Each week we take a look at a person whose path crossed the path of Jesus of Nazareth; they were never the same following their encounter with Jesus, who is the Christ.   

This week we will study Matthew, the tax collector, who was invited by Jesus to be a part of changing the world.  Jesus simply said to him, “Follow me.”  What followed was an immediate response, without excuses.  The writer of Matthew’s gospel records after Jesus’ invitation:   “he got up and followed him.”  Matthew is so excited about closing up shop and following Jesus that he invites Jesus to join his friends at a dinner party in his home…that’s where all the real drama happens!

Join us this Sunday for a “deep dive” into this important conversation with Matthew, the dinner party, and Jesus’ response to the critical onlookers.

May God richly bless you as you seek ways to model Christ who chose mercy and grace over marginalization and judgment.


Pastor Cathy Johns

Why A Welcome Lunch?

Sunday, January 21, 12:15 p.m.

Every effective leader should be able to tell you in one sentence why their organization does something. For example, a school principal should be able to “make a case” for keeping children inside for recess on a cold day. The answer should align with the values of the school:  perhaps safety and health.

The “why” is something that drives home the values and vision of the organization. The Church, charged with making disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world, has the same requirement of aligning “what” we do with “why” we do it.

What, then, is the “why” of inviting newcomers to a Welcome Lunch?  We host Welcome lunches  so that people who are new to our faith community will experience God’s love through a warm welcome that helps them feel “at home” in God’s house. Making disciples of Jesus Christ happens when strangers become friends, friends become disciples, and disciples change the world.

This Sunday, if you are a new person to our faith community, you are invited to join us for lunch in the Welcome Center at 12:15 p.m.  Reservations are not needed.  The hospitality team will provide delicious homemade soups and salads. We hope you can join us and experience the love of God through our community of faith.


Pastor Cathy Johns

The First Manger Scene

In Nan Bauroth in Christmas: An Annual Treasury (Vol. 66, Augsburg). Christian Reader, Vol. 34, we discover the very first manger scene:

“In 1224, inspired by the sight of shepherds tending their flocks in the moonlight, St. Francis of Assisi asked a wealthy friend from Greccio, Italy, to help him construct a live manger scene (the first ever). The idea caught on. By the 15th century, nativity scenes proliferated in monasteries and churches throughout southern Europe. Today, perhaps the finest collection of miniature nativity scenes in the world is found in Munich’s National Museum of Bavaria where more than 200 are displayed.”

Today, on this fourth Sunday of Advent, we find ourselves anxious to come to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Today, our congregation will open wide her doors to welcome people to God’s house for several unique worship experiences:

December 24th at Hyde Park Community UMC

9:00 a.m. Communion in the Chapel

9:30 a.m. Traditional Worship, 4th Sunday of Advent in the sanctuary

11:00 a.m. Worship @ 11, Contemporary Worship in the sanctuary

4:00 p.m. Family Service with Childrens Choirs, Candlelighting,                     and Carols

6:00 p.m.  Communion Service with acoustic praise band, Candlelighting and Carols

8:30 p.m.  Worship with Brass, Choir, Candlelighting, and Carols

11:00 p.m. Worship with Brass, Choir, Candlelighting, and Carols

December 24th  at  Over-The-Rhine Community UMC

10:30 a.m.     Worship,  preceded by Community Breakfast

5:30 p.m.   Worship with Candlelighting and Carols

I invite you to pray about who God is nudging you to invite to join you in worship, walking with you to the manger to celebrate Christ’s birth?  People without a church home are very receptive to accept invitations to worship in December.

May God fill your heart with the greatest gifts that cannot be found underneath your tree this Christmas:  hope, joy, love, and peace.

Christmas Blessings,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Rockefeller Christmas Trees Keep On Giving!

Michael Hill, of Associated Press, posted this on December 5, 2017:

“Old Rockefeller Center Trees never really die, they just get built into the wall frames and floor supports of affordable homes.  For the past decade, the ornament–laden trees that have been lit up with glitz, songs, and dancing Rockettes have gone to be milled into lumber and used in dozens of Habitat for Humanity homes from Philadelphia to Pascagoula, Mississippi.  Each tree yields a truckload of 100 or more boards, all stamped with an image of the tree and the year it was on display.”

One recipient, homeowner Keith Smith, shared that he cannot see the unique wood in his home from the 2015 tree, but adds “he feels it.”  He appreciated his family’s connection to the annual lighting extravaganza in Manhattan.

John D. Rockefeller, a very generous man to both the Church and our nation, would be proud.  I believe that God is also smiling as the trees continue to give shelter, joy, and hope to others.

This Christmas season, a season of giving, I invite you to count your blessings and give thanks for God’s gift to you:  Jesus, the Christ, our Savior, the hope of the world.

May you discover new ways to share with others all that God has given you!


Pastor Cathy

A Song of Peace Rising From the Ashes: I Heard Bells on Christmas Day

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived during a turbulent time in our nation’s history.  In 1861 the first shots of the Civil War were fired.  His household experienced a tragic fire which claimed the life of his beloved wife, Frances.  Additionally, their son, Lieutenant Charles Longfellow was severely wounded in the war.

Longfellow, stricken with grief, could hardly bear the thought of Christmas.  After three years of grieving the heavy sorrow of the death of his wife, Frances, he wrote these words of hope, into his journal on December 25, 1864:

“And in despair I bowed my head; there is no peace on earth,” I said.

“For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace of earth, good-will to men.”

Peace in the world requires something from us.  Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is here to invite us to be peacemakers as we bring God’s kingdom from heaven to earth.

May God bless you and your loved ones with hope, love, joy, and peace during this holy season.


Pastor Cathy

Gratitude’s Health Benefits

With all of the hate, division, and violence in today’s world, it is tempting to cave into despair.  The world is a mess! The good news is we can make a difference!  Research indicates that there are actual health benefits to practicing gratitude.

One study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Mike McCullough invited participants to keep a short journal each week.  One group recorded five things they were grateful for in the past week.  A second group recorded five hassles from the previous week that caused unhappiness.   The third, a neutral group, simply recorded five events that affected them in some way.  After ten weeks, those in the gratitude group reported feeling 25% better about their lives than the group that recorded hassles.  Additionally, they reported fewer health complaints and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more than the other groups.

Ocean Robbins, a noted author and speaker puts it well:  “Thankfulness feels good, it’s good for you and it’s a blessing for the people around you, too. It’s such a win-win-win that I’d say we have cause for gratitude.”

This Sunday is Commitment Sunday.  You are invited to step forward, in a spirit of gratitude, to invest in what God is doing through Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church.  Because of your gift, countless lives will be touched with the love of God, the healing and hope of Christ, and the wisdom and strength of the Holy Spirit.

In our world that has been described as a “selfie” culture, you are invited to step forward with a grateful heart and invest in building God’s kingdom here on earth.

Thank you, in advance, for your generous investment as together we lift our candles to the darkness and light the way for Christ in 2018.  May God bless you with all the benefits of a heart filled with gratitude!


Pastor Cathy

Eleanor’s Advice: What to Do With Your Candle

Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady during some of the most tumultuous years of the 20th Century, was a determined, strong woman.  No matter how many struggles she faced, she strove to hold onto a positive attitude and sought to make the world a better place.  She once said:

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

The world, friends, seems to be deepening its bent toward hate, division, and violence.  Millions are struggling in the wake of shootings and natural disasters.  What are we as the Church to do?

Jesus is clear:  “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hid.  Let your light so shine so that everyone may see your good works and give glory to God in heaven.” (from Matthew 5)

What does shining in the darkness look like?  Here are a couple of ideas:

Bring in a card to Pastor Cathy’s office for United Methodist pastors in Las Vegas who are serving in the wake of the violence. “Thinking of You” and “Praying for You” cards will be sent from our congregation to United Methodist pastors who are serving their city in the aftermath of the shooting earlier this month.  Please bring your cards in to the church office by Monday, October 23.  They will be put in large envelopes and mailed to the Las Vegas pastors with a letter from our congregation.  The church will pay postage.

Make a contribution to UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief which is responding to needs in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Florida, and Texas.  When national or international disasters come, the United Methodist Church shows up with blankets, water, medicine, and personnel to serve as the hands and feet of Christ.  Please send your check through Hyde Park Community UMC marked for UMCOR Relief in the area of your choice.  Our  finance office will forward your gift to UMCOR.  100% of your gift will aid those in need.

Thanks for being a congregation that is willing to stand up and hold up candles to the darkness!   Shine on!


Pastors Cathy and Doug

Sally Snowman: Light Keeper

America’s first lighthouse, Boston Light, celebrated its 300th anniversary in September of 2016.  Sally Snowman (her real name) is the keeper of the lighthouse.  The original tower was built in 1716; it was blown up by the British in 1776.  Sally is the 70th keeper of the lighthouse.   While the roles have changed with automation, Sally takes her role seriously.  She gives tours, maintains the grounds, and manages 90 volunteers.

I invite you to consider your role in the Body of Christ this month.  Are you a keeper of the light of Christ?  Do your thoughts, words, and deeds send out light and encouragement? Are you sharing the light of Christ with others or hiding it under a bushel?

At Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church we are committed to shine the light of Christ – here in our neighborhood, in the city, in our nation, and around the world.  This is more than just a “cute slogan;” it is our mission.  We are not a church that focuses inwardly, simply concerned with ourselves, but outwardly – committed to loving God and neighbor.  We are a community of faith that is committed to bringing heaven to earth and walking outside our walls with candles of hope, to bring healing and hope to as many people as we can.

I am praying for you and your family as you consider how you want to share Christ’s light.   When you support the ministry of the church with your prayers, presence, financial gifts, service, and witness, you are brightening the world with the love of Christ.

Rejoicing in the Light of Christ,

Pastor Cathy