Diving for Earrings

Doug and I have travelled to Israel several times.  We enjoy visiting a jeweler in the Christian Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem.  They do beautiful work.  We have purchased many Jerusalem cross necklaces and earrings from these dear men.

I am one of those odd women who believe you are never fully dressed without your earrings!  One of my favorite pair of earrings are gold Jerusalem crosses with my birthstone in the center.  I forgot to remove them once while swimming in a large indoor pool.

I gently pulled on my earlobes and noticed that one of them was missing.  Trained as a lifeguard, I began the search and rescue mission.  I walked around the edge of the pool and then spotted it – a small shiny, gold object – about two feet from the drain.  Next steps involved a little bit of strategic thinking.  I needed to gently approach the earring without creating too many waves.  I gently entered the water on the far end of the pool and swam underwater very gently toward the drain.  I reached down and was able to grab it with my fingers.   When I came up, I was overjoyed!  My earring was no longer lost, but found!

This weekend we will be enjoying one of Jesus’ parables, “The Woman with the Lost Coin.”  Like all good jokes, parables do have a point, or a punchline.  You either “get it” or you don’t.  As a preacher, I pray that you will “get it” and fully understand the joy of being found by a God who deeply loves you, even when you are circling the drain!  We have a God who does jump in to rescue us, pull us to safety, and rejoices with us.

May God richly bless you this weekend.  I look forward to seeing you, your friends, and your family!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

The Future of the United Methodist Church

The Future of The United Methodist Church

General Conference, which meets every four years to renew our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ and set our polity and doctrine, met this May in Portland, Oregon.  Delegates from all around the world came together to worship, pray, and make decisions.

Over 900 petitions regarding our theological understanding of human sexuality were discussed.  A variety of perspectives were shared; painful discussions took place.  Tears were shed.  There were some who believed that it was time for the United Methodist Church to move forward as separate groups while others fought for unity in the Body of Christ called United Methodism.

The Council of Bishops are appointing a diverse group to study all references to human sexuality in the United Methodist Book of Discipline and then come back with a recommendation (in 2018 or 2020) for a way forward.  This motion was approved by 32 votes.

These are difficult times for our denomination.  At Hyde Park Community United Methodist we are committed to seeking God’s wisdom through vigilant prayer.  We are a blessed, diverse community.  Bishop N.T. Wright offers a way forward as we seek God’s guidance in community:

“True wisdom is both bold and humble.  It is never afraid to say what it thinks it has seen, but will always cover other angles of vision.”

This week we conclude our sermon series “Tapping into the Power of the Hoy Spirit.”  Ephesians 6:10-20 helps us understand how to tap into the Spirit’s power for strength.  As United Methodists we need to put on the full armor of God and be ready to face the future without fear.  The full armor of God, according to Paul, includes these wonderful gifts from our God who loves us and equips us to be strong in the Lord:

  • the belt of truth
  • shoes of the gospel of peace
  • the breastplate of righteousness
  • the shield of faith
  • the helmet of salvation
  • the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God)
  • prayer

We, God’s people, will find strength in the Lord!  I look forward to celebrating the Lord’s Day with you.

Pastor Cathy Johns

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead

Zombies, or the walking dead, are part of a long-running television series.  I am not really a Zombie fan, but the special effects and costumes are fun to watch.  I am sure that the hair and make-up crew for Zombies enjoy letting their creative juices flow.

As we conclude the season of Eastertide, an important question arises:  “Are you alive or dead?”  It may seem to be a ridiculous question at first.   Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord, tells his disciples “Because I live, you also will live.”   Are you just going through the motions of life, staggering around like a Zombie, or have you embraced your identity as one who is fully alive in Christ?

This weekend’s message concludes our sermon series “Who am I?”  The scripture from Ephesians 2 celebrates our identity in Christ: “Alive, not Dead.”

We are a  people who are alive and well, serving as the hands and feet of Christ to bless the world.

May God richly bless you this weekend!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Are you a Victim of Identity Theft?

Protecting our identity is something all of us value. When someone accesses our records, we are at risk. Our personal information, no longer personal, is in the hands of someone who can threaten our security.

As children of God, we sometimes forget who and whose we are. Our identity as daughters and sons of God is clear:

“But you are a chosen race, the King’s priests, the holy nation, God’s own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvelous light. At one time you were not God’s people, but now you are God’s people; at one time you did not know God’s mercy, but now you have received God’s mercy.”
(1 Peter 2:9-10)

Sin, or the ways that we turn against God’s will for us, can hold us captive, robbing us of our identity as forgiven children of God. This Sunday we will study the relationship between sin, our freedom from sin in Christ, and our identity as God’s children.

The new sermon series, “Who am I?” begins with the message, “I am God’s Child,” based on Colossians 1:9-14.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Jesus: A Jewish Rabbi with a Twist

He did things rabbis did. Teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus embraced tradition. He also practiced what Luke Powery, of Duke University, calls “traditioned innovation.” Powery describes it:

Jesus embodies a both-and, not an either-or posture.

Jesus works within a tradition but is not enslaved by it. He is free from it, though he respects it.

Historian Jaroslav Pelikan, a former professor at Yale, explains the difference between tradition and traditionalism:

“Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

It was Jesus’ innovation, the fresh understand of God’s Law, that got him in trouble with the religious authorities. Jesus stepped into our lives to bring life-giving character to tradition, freeing us from rules that bind us with God’s grace that sets us free.

As we enter Holy Week, I invite you to come and walk with Jesus. On Maundy Thursday, a new, creative service with four dramatic readings from gifted laity, will bless us. Friday we will gather around the cross to remember the precious sacrifice of our Savior. Sunday morning we will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus.

As we enter Holy Week, I look forward to walking with you and our Savior, Jesus, whose love liberates us from death itself and leads us to life.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

It’s Mine!

If you observe a two-year old with their favorite toy, you will notice that they are not eager to share. At some level they are fearful that someone will come and take away their toy. At that young age, they cannot understand how sharing works. The toy can be enjoyed by another without it’s being taken away, removed forever.

This weekend we will receive an offering for “One Great Hour of Sharing.” Its purpose is to empower, provide water, supply food, and give relief from disasters.

Here are a few ways that this offering makes an impact:

In southeastern Michigan, three months after massive flooding, 900 homes needed mucking out. One Great Hour of Sharing provided training and support to help these communities with long-term recovery needs.

In eastern Kenya, people in Mbangulo went hungry without enough water to cook food. The task of fetching water took most of the day; women were at risk for sexual assault on their long journey to obtain water. One Great Hour of Sharing supported the building of a dam to provide living-giving water to their community.

Ersi Biliu and her husband in Timor, Indonesia could only afford to buy one packet of vegetable seeds at a time. After harvesting their meager crop of vegetables, to feed their six children, they simply went without. One Great Hour of Sharing provided them with several seek packets and nutrition education.

This Sunday you can make a difference! Your Gift to One Great Hour of Sharing will bring water, food, and hope to many in need.

I am looking forward to celebrating the Lord’s Day with you this Sunday.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Worship @11 Begins this Weekend!

Excitement is building…we hope you can join us in worship this Sunday!
Because people connect with God in different ways, we are excited to announce our worship offerings this weekend: 8:00 and 9:30 am with our 88-rank pipe organ and adult choirs, and Worship @ 11 with our new praise and worship team.

Here are a few thoughts from our members about this new worship experience, Worship @ 11:

“The commitment HPCUMC is demonstrating by broadening worship offerings in order to reach more people of all ages for Christ is inspiring! I can’t wait to see how current, past, and future members of this congregation may be moved with the implementation of cutting edge technologies that give glory to God and touch ALL of our senses!” Amanda Baker

“By offering this new style of worship in the sanctuary, we are making a long awaited commitment to provide a worship experience for those who seek a more non-traditional service.” Steve Kramer

“I am looking forward to the many new possibilities and experiences that we will have together in this old and new space. I can’t wait.”
David Colaw

I am excited about the Worship @ 11 service. It will be exciting to see how God uses this different service for those outside of the church, and for those inside as well – to communicate in many different ways Jesus’ love for us. Sara O’Connor

“I am excited for the new service to begin because it is going to open the door for new people to be able to use their gifts.” Patrick Portman

“I am thankful to be part of a church family that listens; hopefully, to the Holy Spirit, and, consequently, to people! We have choices, and we can well afford to “move over a bit” in our tastes/views, etc. A loving family always looks out for each other.” Marietta Garber

I am looking forward to joining you in worship this weekend, celebrating God’s wonderful love for all of us this Sunday!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

How a Charlie Brown Christmas almost wasn’t

A Charlie Brown Christmas, by Charles Schultz celebrated its 50th anniversary on December 1, 2015. If the television producers, however, would have prevailed in the drama behind the scenes, it may not have aired at all. Lee Mendelson, the executive producer of CBS network remembers the response when network executives first viewed the rough cut in November of 1965. They hated the show for two reasons: “It was slow” and “You can’t read the Bible on network television.”

Thankfully, Schultz won the battle. The simple cartoon, which intentionally embraced the true meaning of Christmas and invites viewers to turn away from materialism, had an astounding audience of 50 percent in the first year. It went on to win both an Emmy and a Peabody award. Pop Culture experts today confirm that it is now an icon and that its strength is its back to the basics approach. (cited from Bill Nichols, USA Today, “The Christmas Classic that almost wasn’t”)

This Christmas, I invite you to come back to the basics. Take time to read the second chapter of Luke this month and savor the timeless words of promise:

“For to you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”

Friends, Jesus is not a dusty, dead character from history. He is a living Savior who has been born for you: One who wants to save you from your grief, your broken relationships, your worry and anxiety and fill you with peace, the peace the angels announced that first Christmas over the town of Bethlehem:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven…..and peace on earth.”

Come back to the basics this Christmas; come and worship our newborn King.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Symbols of Advent

Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus” which means coming. During Advent we celebrate the two comings of Christ: Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and His promised return in final victory.

In our sanctuary you will see several symbols:

  • Advent Wreath: evergreen branches in a circle, a sign of life of eternal life.
  • Four royal blue candles and banners: Royal blue or purple signifies the royalty of Christ. In the ancient world these colors were the finest and most expensive; these colors invite us to offer Christ our very best.
  • The Christ Candle: The central candle is white, signifying the purity of Christ who is the Light of the World.
  • The Moravian Star: This star, a gift from Gisela Gildemeister, originally from Plauen, Germany, reminds us of Jesus as the Light of the World and the Star of Bethlehem.

Join us as we celebrate Advent, the coming of Christ:

Free Advent Devotionals available. Four people from our community have contributed to this book that aligns with the Advent sermon series.

Friday, December 4, 6:30 pm “The Four Leads,” an award-winning barbershop quartet will sing at the First Friday Niters fellowship group at 8 pm in the sanctuary. Join us for dinner (see News and Happenings to make your reservation) or come for the music!

Friday, December 4, 7:00 pm Saengerfest at Over-the-Rhine Community Church. Our choir sings at 7 pm.

Worship: Sunday mornings: 8:00, 9:00(Chapel Communion service), 9:30, and 11:00 am. Taize worship on Tuesday, December 8, 7:00 pm.

May God bless you richly during your Advent journey!

Peace,
Pastor Cathy

Children’s Letters to God

Stuart Hample and Eric Marshall share some interesting questions asked by children in their delightful compilation, “Children’s Letters to God”:

“In Sunday School they told us what you do. Who does it when you are on vacation?” – Jane

“Dear God, my Grandpa says you were around when he was a little boy. How far back do you go?” – Love, Dennis

“Dear God, do animals use you or is there somebody else for them?” – Nancy

“Dear God, did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident?” – Norma

“Dear God, is it true my father won’t get in heaven if he uses his bowling words in the house?” – Anita
There are a lot of opinions out there about who God is and what God does. This week we continue the series “Mythbusters” with the message “The Truth about God.” May God richly bless you this week!

Peace,
Pastor Cathy Johns