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

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