Lessons from Dogs

Lessons from Dogs

Dogs help us understand God.  They help us see how God operates.  Here are a few examples:

  • They are always happy to welcome you home.   No matter how far away you strayed from the path, like a prodigal daughter or son, they rejoice when you come home.
  • They just want to hang out with you.  Your presence is what they love, longing for time to simply be together.
  • They are happy to rescue you from harm.  Dogs are trained to go over mountains and over rivers to pull people out of danger to safety.
  • Dogs are faithful.  A good dog will never leave you or forsake you.
  • Dogs, like God, are all about giving.  Their sole purpose is to love you.

This Sunday, I invite you to consider what it really means to follow Jesus, who is the Christ.

Who knows?!  The dogs may be pointing us in the right direction!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Breaking Bread Together

Consider the joy of breaking bread together….

It is a wonderful thing to sit at the table with family or friends and share a meal together.  Good food, with great conversation, is a wonderful combination!

This weekend we begin a new sermon series based on Henri Nouwen’s book, Life of the Beloved. In the next few weeks we will be studying what it means to live as a disciple of Jesus  as part of an authentic  Christian community.  The four verbs that are included in the liturgy for the Eucharist (the Sacrament of Holy Communion) will be explored:  Taken, Blessed, Broken, and Given.

Jesus did some of his best work at the table, breaking bread with others:

He ate dinner with Zacchaeus, a known tax collector, who was delighted to host Jesus in his home

He enjoyed food, friendship, and fellowship in Bethany with his friends, Lazarus, Martha, and Mary

The night before He was crucified, Jesus took ancient symbols of bread and wine, used in the Passover feast, and invited His followers to be a part of a new covenant, communing together in remembrance of Him. 

As the Risen Christ, He revealed His identity to His companions in Emmaus as He broke bread with them.                                                                                                                                       

In our world today which seems bent on division and discord, not unity and harmony, this sermon series will challenge us to embrace our neighbors in love as we step up to be the body of Christ.

We look forward to sharing the Lord’s Day with you this weekend.

Joy in our Risen Lord,

Pastor Cathy Johns

The Doctor is IN!

Easter is many different things to many different people. Easter is my favorite day of the year. The victory over sin and death has been won. We are healed through the power of God who raised Jesus from the dead.  We join the voices of people around the world who claim the victory that is ours:

“Christ is Risen!  Alleluia!”

But what difference does the Resurrection make in my life?

Someone once said, “Jesus walks in when the world has walked out.”

Jesus wants you to experience the deep abiding joy of His presence.  Celebrate with me today the Risen Christ who brings healing to:

our selfish natures and invites us to give ourselves

away in love for others….

Jesus is the Lord of Love

our hearts which can become weary and tired….

Jesus is the Good Shepherd

our broken dreams,  and picks up the pieces of our lives….

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life

our bodies and minds, plagued by worry and illness….

Jesus is the Great Physician

our fears about life and death….

Jesus is the Keeper of our Souls

Today we celebrate that Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, is present with us:  The Doctor is in!

May your Easter be filled with love, peace, and deep, abiding joy!

Joy in our Risen Lord,

Pastor Cathy

Popcorn’s Seductive Power

Have you ever driven to a movie theater and given yourself a huge pep talk about how you are not going to cave in and buy the popcorn?  After all, you really are not hungry, and you know that you do not need the extra calories.

You totally convince yourself that you are strong, fortified like a knight for battle, and then you walk through the door of the theater.

And then it hits you.

The smell of freshly popped popcorn, wafting through the air, finds its way to you.  Your senses are overwhelmed…and before you know it, you are standing in front of the concession counter.  Moments later, you walk away, gently cradling this bag of wondrous delight with your hands.

This week we continue the sermon series, “Love Speaks.”  As we examine Jesus’ words of love spoken from the Cross, we find a glimpse of his longing, of his humanity: “I Thirst.”

This Lenten season I invite you to listen to the longing of your soul that can only be filled through Jesus, the Bread of Life and the Living Water.  He is ready to renew us and He invites us to simply come and be refreshed through His Spirit.

May this prayer offered by Nancy Spielberg, author of “Bibles and Buckets” richly bless you:

“Lord, I crawled across the bareness to you with my empty cup, uncertain in asking any small drop of refreshment. If only I had known you better. I’d have come running with a bucket.”

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

In the Cross of Christ I Glory

John Bowring’s hymn, written in 1825, continues to touch me each Lent:

“In the cross of Christ I glory,

towering o’er the wrecks of time;

all the light of sacred story

gathers round its head sublime.”

Sir Bowring was a knight who served in Parliament twice.  A respected scholar, he was fluent in multiple languages, including Russian, Batavian, Spanish, Polish, Serbian, Bohemian, Magyar, Czech and Hungarian.  He was a social progressive who worked to make education available to all and was an advocate of prison reform.

He wrote this hymn when he was in his early thirties. In it we see the transforming power of God. The cross, a symbol of suffering and death, is changed into glorious victory and triumph.

Dr. Hawn, a professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology writes:  “It is one of the paradoxes of Christianity that an instrument of torture becomes a symbol of faith for all time where “All the light of sacred story/Gathers round its head sublime.”

If you are interested in exploring the history of hymns, this United Methodist link will assist you:

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship/hymns-hymn-singing-hymnals-hymnology

Our Lenten sermon series, “Love Speaks,” focuses on the last words of Christ from the Cross.  Be still and listen this Lenten season.  Draw near to the Cross and lean in to hear Jesus speak to you.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Holding Hands

As we approach Valentine’s Day, I invite you to consider all the ways that we connect with others by holding hands:

A mother holding the hand of her baby for the first time

A father holding the hand of a child as they cross the street

Walking with a special friend holding hands

Holding hands as you leave the church after your wedding

Holding hands in prayer around the dinner table with family

Holding hands to reassure a friend who is struggling

Holding hands with an elderly parent as they receive hospice care

30 Lessons for Loving, a new book by gerontologist, Dr. Karl Pillemer, concludes after 700 interviews that older adults “place intimacy as a high priority” in their marriages.  One recent widow, Jennie B., who was married for 47 years, says that what she missed most is holding hands.

This week I invite you to use your hands to extend the love of God to others.  The touch of Jesus brought healing to many.  Teresa of Avila wrote:  “Christ has no body now but  yours….no hands, no feet on earth but yours.”   

May our hands extend the love of Christ to bless the world.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Do you Listen as well as a Sheep?

Barbara Brown Taylor, a nationally known preacher, shares:

“In Palestine today, it is still possible to witness a scene that Jesus almost certainly saw two thousand years ago, that of Bedouin shepherds bringing their flocks home from the various pastures they have grazed during the day. Often those flocks will end up at the same watering hole around dusk, so that they get all mixed up together—eight or nine small flocks turning into a convention of thirsty sheep. Their shepherds do not worry about the mix-up, however. When it is time to go home, each one issues his or her own distinctive call—a special trill or whistle, or a particular tune on a particular reed pipe, and that shepherd’s sheep withdraw from the crowd to follow their shepherd home. They know whom they belong to; they know their shepherd’s voice, and it is the only one they will follow.”

God longs for an intimate relationship with each one of us.  When we open our hearts and our ears to listen for God to speak, God will provide the guidance that we long for, a message tailor-made for us.   

May God richly bless you this week as you walk with God.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Daring to be an Instrument of Peace

He is known as the “Cellist of Sarajevo.”  Vedran Smailovic, born on November 11, 1956, has also been called a hero.  A former cellist in the Sarajevo String Quarter, he made a choice.  He took his cello and played Albonini’s Adagio, a composition which symbolizes hope rising from the ashes.  Samilovic played this powerful piece of music amid the ruins of his beloved city.  He played during funerals even though snipers were a very real threat.

What does it mean to be a presence for peace this season?  Our nation is bitterly divided.  Racial tensions are high.  Economic strain plagues many.  Marriages and families experience added stress.

We are called to be peacemakers, standing for peace wherever we are, pointing people to Christ who is the light of the world and the Prince of Peace. It may be that it is as simple as choosing peace, instead of engaging in an argument.  It may be as simple as deciding it is more important to be kind than to be right.  It may be as simple as choosing to be silent rather than to speak.   

St Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226, reminds us during this holy season what is means to be an instrument of peace.  May this beloved prayer infuse your body, mind, and spirit with Christ’s peace:   

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Praying for God’s peace to fill you,

Pastor Cathy Johns

My Flash Mob Experience: An Advent Memory

We had finished eating our pizza after the basketball game.  Backing away from the table at the local Pizza Hut, we quickly got our pitch, stood up, and then broke out singing:

“Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!   For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!   King of Kings, forever and ever….And Lord of Lords, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!……And He shall reign for ever and ever……Hallelujah!”

It was a great experience!  People in the Pizza Hut watched in amazement, enjoyed the music, and clapped enthusiastically for us when we were finished.   It was before the term “flash mob” was born, but it certainly was an unexpected surprise for the patrons of Pizza Hut.  It broke through the mundane and flooded the dining room with love, light, and joy.

This Sunday we celebrate the beginning of the Advent season.  A time of longing for Christ to come, remembering his first coming as a babe in Bethlehem and his second coming when he returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Our sermon series examines, “Questions of Christmas,” that may have been asked by those in the first Christmas story.

The love of God can break through in strange places and at odd times.   This Advent season, I invite you to consider how God can “sing” through your life, using you as a vessel of love, light and joy this season.

Jesus calls his disciples to be “salt” and “light.”  This Christmas season I invite you to choose to be generous and include a gift to missions in honor of Christ’s birth on your shopping list.

‘Tis the season to be salt and light!   

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Praying for Our Nation

Praying for our Nation

As people who serve Christ, the Lord of all, I invite you to pray with me for our nation, especially this week:

O God, we acknowledge You today as Lord, not only of individuals, but of nations and governments. We thank You for the privilege of voting freely in our nation. Thank You for Your law, which our founders acknowledged and recognized as higher than any human law.  Bless our nation, O God.

We thank You for the opportunity to choose leaders who will work among us for the good of all. Guide our minds and hands to choose leaders who will seek to serve You. Awaken us, O God. Empower us to respond to Your call, not to be a sect running from the world, but a community of faith walking forward to renew the world. 

We rejoice that we are citizens of Your kingdom.  Remind us that we are, above all, Your beloved children. May our identity make us all the more committed to being faithful citizens on earth. We pray in the name of Jesus, who is the Christ, Amen.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns