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

Following in Bishop Colaw’s Footsteps

Bishop Emerson Colaw touched countless lives, including mine, and will be deeply missed.  At his memorial service last week, hundreds gathered to thank God for this man’s incredible life.  Bishop Colaw was:

  • a  modern day “Barnabas,” an encourager of laity and clergy
  • a beloved father, spouse, grandfather, brother, and cherished friend to many
  • a “dapper” man who always wore a blazer
  • a person who invested his life in building  community
  • a man whose quick wit and twinkle in his eye always lifted our spirits
  • an innovative leader who embraced the future
  • a person who loved sacrificially, following Christ’s example to serve others
  • a generous man who invested his time and resources in Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church, a place where people find hope and healing in Jesus’ name.

How can I say thanks to God for Emerson?  By seeking to love, humbly and without condition, and by reflecting the love of Christ through my investment of time and money in what God is doing through Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church.

This Sunday is Commitment Sunday.  May our investments in building God’s kingdom in 2017 reflect both the love we have for Jesus, who is the Christ, and our desire to follow in the footsteps of the faithful who have gone before us.

May we, as Emerson did, embrace the future with hope as we seek to build God’s kingdom here on earth.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Hope for The Blue Planet

During my doctoral studies at Chicago Theological Seminary I took a World Prayer class.  My colleagues in the course represented more than seven countries.  One of our assignments was to go and watch the IMAX film “The Blue Planet.”

It is an amazing film!  We were able to see what lightning strikes look like from space.  You could see the outline of the Great Wall of China.  We also, as the title suggests, saw a lot of blue, as nearly 71% of the earth’s surface is water!

When you consider God’s plan to send Jesus to this blue planet that we call home, did you ever wonder what would be on Jesus’ job description?   The answer is in the scripture for this Sunday.  Jesus stands up in Nazareth, reads from a scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and shares with everyone why He is here and what He came to do.

As 21st Century Christians who follow Jesus, claiming to be His disciples, we are called to continue the work He began.  Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Christ, started a revolution that changed the world.

This Sunday our faith community will bring a special offering to God:  our service commitments.  A simple list will be provided on an insert listing opportunities for you to serve Christ in the coming year.  God has blessed you with unique gifts, skills, and talents.  We are invited to change the world, in Jesus’ name, one life at a time.  Please join us this Sunday as we boldly claim allegiance to Jesus and join in His revolution to change the world.

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Announcing: Ministry Fair 2016

You are a unique creation!  There will never be another you!  Each person in our community is also uniquely gifted.  What would happen if we all stepped forward, using our gifts, as the hands and feet of Christ?

In the next few weeks, you will be invited to consider how you would like to serve Christ in the coming year.

On September 25th we will host a Ministry Fair that:

Celebrates the work of various ministry teams in the Welcome Center

Provides a booklet and service inventory list describing ways to serve

Invites you to pray about how you would like to step forward to serve in 2017

On October 2nd we will:

Identify places where we feel called to serve Christ on service inventories list

Present our service inventories list to God in worship

After October 2:

Staff and team leaders will connect with persons expressing desire to serve

Additionally Servant Leadership Board criteria and applications are available in the church office and at the Welcome Center.  Please contact Greg Rogers, Chair of Servant Leadership Board, or Pastor Cathy Johns for additional information.

It is a joy to serve Christ with each one of you!  I am already praying for God to help you discover how to use your gifts in joyful service to Christ.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Worn Out Bibles, Worn out People, and You

It has been said, “People who own worn out Bibles are not!”  It is almost Fall and many are headed back to school.  As adults, it is tempting to see education as something children do.  All of us, young and old alike, can grow in our faith through Bible study.

For me, Bible study enriches my life in many ways, but especially as a guide for my life.  Benefits include:

New Friendships

Offering and receiving support for current challenges in my life

Growth in my understanding of God’s Word

Trying to navigate life as a Christian without studying God’s Word is like walking through an uncharted forest without a map!   Many Bible studies and small groups begin soon. Please check out the Discipleship booklet and classes posted online and register for class.  Members, guests, and friends are all welcome!

This weekend we begin a new sermon series, “Playing in God’s Symphony.”  Each week we will be studying various ways that Jesus strengthened his spirit and discover ways we can strengthen ours today.   This Sunday’s message, “Observing the Rests,” is based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

I look forward to seeing you this weekend!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Where in the World is God?

Did you ever ask, “Where are you God?” Some ancient people would answer: “In the sun.” Others believed that the “gods” lived on Mount Olympus. Some believed that God was in the trees.

This week’s message, “The Heart of God: God the Revealer,” based on Psalm 139, explores where we can discover God.  Lawrence Kushner explains:  “In Judasim the world is viewed as one world which is material and spiritual at the same time.  The material world is always potentially spiritual.  For Judaism all things – including, and especially such apparently non-spiritual and grossly material things such as garbage, sweat, dirt, and bushes – are not the pediments to but dimensions of spirituality.  Jewish spirituality is about the immediacy of God’s presence everywhere.  It is about patience, and paying attention, about seeing, feeling, and learning things that only a moment ago were inaccessible.” (From “God was in this place and I, I did not know.’)

In Psalm 139 we discover a God whose love is inescapable.  It reaches beyond the highest heaven to the lowest places of the earth.

Let us celebrate this weekend our God whose love cannot be contained by time or space… a God who is with us, always!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Candy For Our Neighbors in the Congo

In August, I will be serving on a mission team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We have been asked to teach discipleship and leadership to residents of the Kamina Children’s Home in the North Katanga Conference. One of my duties is to bring thank you gifts for our hosts. I will be bringing hard candy and creating simple “hobo” bags with the word “peace” in three languages painted on them with fabric paint.

If you would like to participate in this mission project, I welcome your support! Here are four ways you can support this mission to Kamina Children’s Home:

1) Pray that God works in a mighty way through this mission team from West Ohio Conference.

2) Contribute Candy. Please bring individually wrapped candies by Monday, July 25 to the church office; please place your donations in the bin marked “Candy for the Congo”. List of candy to donate:  Jolly Rancher hard candy,  Life Savers (individually wrapped), peppermint hard candy (individually wrapped), Salt Water taffy, Werther’s butterscotch (individually wrapped), Tootsie Rolls midges.

3) If you would like to help me sew and paint the cloth bags, please contact me at cjohns@hpcumc.org or 979-8182.  We will be gathering in the Welcome Center on July 26 from 2:00 – 6:30 pm.

4)   Donate brightly colored shoestrings (15 pairs are needed.)   We will use these as drawstrings for the bags.

This week’s scripture is the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Jesus told this parable, in response to a question asked by a rich young man:  “Who is my neighbor?”

At times the needs of our world are overwhelming!  I invite you to come and explore this familiar parable for it is timely; we seem more eager to hate than to love our neighbor, more eager to fight than work for peace.

I look forward to seeing you in church this Sunday!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

“Nothing is Wasted with God”

During college many of us had to take “core” classes. In liberal arts college, like I attended, the idea was simple:  We are committed to producing graduates who have a well-rounded education.  I remember taking Southeast Asian history, thinking during the entire semester,

“I will never use this in my lifetime!”   Oddly enough, Doug’s sister, Dianne, who is an executive with General Motors, took an assignment in Singapore.  She flew our family out to visit and treated us to a trip to Thailand.  With God, nothing is ever wasted!

In high school I took three years of French and two years of French in college. Our son, Blake, was able to study in Paris during one of his college semesters. I was amazed at how quickly he picked up the language and knew how to navigate Paris like a native!   Although I enjoy French, it has been a long time since I have used it.  Chalk it up to Exhibit A of a  “well rounded education.”

This summer I will be joining a mission team from West Ohio Conference to offer discipleship training for youth in the North Katanga Conference of the United Methodist Church, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  During our first meeting, they explained that we would need to factor in the time for translation.    French is their primary language.  As we have been working on preparing the curriculum, I realized that I will at least be able to read the Bible to the youth in French!   With God, nothing is ever wasted!

As a pastor, I often hear people put themselves down by saying, ” I can’t do this”  or “I can’t do that.”  As we study the Parable of the Talents this weekend, I invite you to to celebrate who and whose you are:  You are a unique child of God who has been created to bless the world.   Let us focus on what we can do and give God all the glory!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns