Hope in the Wilderness

Most of us would not like to spend a vacation in the wilderness.  It is defined as:

Wildernessan uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region.

As we move into the season of Lent, we study Jesus who walked into the wilderness where he spent 40 days and 40 nights.  In the wilderness there is not a lot to do;  it is by definition “uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable.”  There were no gardens for Jesus to tend,, no people to talk to, and no local restaurants to untie his sandals and enjoy a beverage.

There are many books that say they can teach you how to survive in the wilderness.  Finding clean water is critical.  Learning how to locate plants and animals for food is also important.  Protecting yourself from the elements, both the heat of the sun and the cold of the night, will help keep you alive.

But what happens to our souls when we are in a spiritual wilderness?  When we feel that the landscape of our souls is desolate and barren, where do we turn?

When loneliness and despair threaten to overcome us in these seasons of barrenness where do we find hope?

During times of uncertainty and anxiety and times of wondering “what next?, “ we need to pause and give thanks, for hope is found in the wilderness.  Jesus, as God in the flesh, willingly walked into the wilderness to prepare for his ministry.  Temptations did come, but God gave him strength to fight.  Questions did arise, but God provided wisdom and courage to respond. 

The same God who strengthened Christ is here to strengthen us, fill us with courage, and guide our steps both as individuals and as a community of faith.  John Wesley, one of the founders of American Methodism, put it well:

The best of all is, God is with us.”


Pastor Cathy

A Prayer for General Conference

The national headlines that will appear soon about the United Methodist Church may be disturbing or misleading.  Hamilton got it right: “History is watching.”

This week (Feb. 23-26) nearly 1,000 United Methodist delegates from around the world will arrive in St. Louis.  These elected delegates,  50% laity and 50% clergy, have been elected by their regional bodies.  General Conference is the only group in the United Methodist Church that can change our book of governance, The United Methodist Book of Discipline.

Today it is not permissible for same sex unions to be performed by United Methodist clergy nor are openly gay individuals allowed to go through the ordination process.

The purpose of this global United Methodist gathering is to discern our path forward regarding our understanding of human sexuality.  Several plans will be presented that invite change – some more inclusive and others more restrictive.  It is likely that a decision may be reached; however, no decision is one possible outcome.     

At Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church we stand on the shoulders of forefathers and foremothers who welcomed all and served their neighbors.  We will continue to embrace everyone who comes through our doors with the love of Christ, a place that welcomes all.  After St. Louis, we will work together to determine next steps as we seek to be faithful to God’s call to be The Church. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, please join me in prayer:

God of all Creation, Your divine image rests in each one of your daughters and sons.  As difficult conversations on human sexuality unfold, give us courage to lean in and listen, to one another and to You.  Remind us that in Christ we are one.  Fill us with courage to fulfill our mission:  To love You and all of our neighbors. May Your wisdom, peace, but especially Your love guide our steps as United Methodists. I pray in the name of Jesus, the Christ, whose love lifts all, Amen.


Pastor Cathy Johns

Does God Have Friends?

“God Friended Me,” a new television series, has just been renewed for a second season with CBS.   Brandon Micheal Hall stars in the show.  He is a young man who talks to God via social media.  It has moments of inspiration, humor, and drama.  The series has enjoyed great success with 10 million viewers each week.

Some of us may imagine a God who sits on a throne in heaven, thunderbolts in hand, far removed from humanity.  The Bible shares a different message about our Creator, the One who gave us life and longs for a relationship with each one of us.

Our new sermon series, “Walking with God,” focuses on God’s first friends, biblical characters in the Old Testament.  Each one of them faced struggles as we do, yet found God’s constant love to be a source of comfort and peace in their daily lives.  This week we will take a look at Adam and Eve, the very first people whom God created and called friends.

At Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church we are committed to being a place where deep, meaningful friendships can begin and grow.  We strive to be a place where strangers become friends, friends become disciples of Jesus, and disciples of Jesus become the Body of Christ, transforming the world with God’s love, hope, and peace.

I look forward to celebrating the Lord’s Day with you this Sunday!


Pastor Cathy Johns

Faithfulness in the Body

Our church family has a rich, faithful history.  Some of you may be aware that our current sanctuary was built in 1927, just two years before the Stock Market crash of 1929. The church members had built for the future, confident that God would provide.  In the early thirties, the bank came to the church; foreclosure was a real possibility.  Faithful church members took out second mortgages on their homes, during the Great Depression, to save the church.

Today we will consecrate another group of faithful leaders who have stepped forward to prepare our church family for a new generation.  The Capital Campaign Stewardship Chairs are Steve Kramer, Drea Osterbur, and Maddie Williams.  Over 40 people are already starting to serve, helping us to embrace God’s call to repair and restore our facility as well as create new spaces to welcome new generations.   

The theme of the capital stewardship campaign is Generations of Faithfulness.  Psalm 145 reminds us of the faithfulness of God: Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power…and your wonderful miracles.  For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.  You rule throughout all generations.”  (from Psalm 145)

Please pray for the leadership team and for our congregation that we may follow in the footsteps of the faithful generations who have gone before us.

May God give us strength and courage to today’s faithful Body of Christ at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church!


Pastor Cathy

Road Trip!

This time of year, travel increases as people head home to be with family and loved ones. When there are snowstorms, television reporters show us people sleeping in the airports.

Road trips can be a challenge but also a lot of fun.  Pack a few snacks, some good Christmas CD’s, a few bottles of bottled water… and let the fun begin!

Road trips were different two thousand years ago. I invite you to consider a few differences about the road trip that Joseph and Mary took from Nazareth to Bethlehem:

  • Hotels.com reservations would not have been possible
  • There was no running water
  • There were no disposable diapers they could pack to take with them
  • There were no automobiles so Mary, in her third trimester, rode on an animal, probably a donkey, about 80 miles – uphill.

As you prepare for your journeys this December, I invite you to pause and give thanks for those who made journeys that first Christmas:  Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the Wise Men, but especially the journey of God – who chose to journey to earth and come as a child to bless us all with great love.

May God bless all of your road trips this Christmas as you remember those whose  journeys that first Christmas continue to bless you!


Pastor Cathy Johns

Why Do we Have an Advent Wreath?

With the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season already buzzing in stores and on our televisions, I invite you to sit back, breathe, and soak in the beauty of Advent.  The Advent Wreath is a simple, liturgical reminder to us during the Advent season, a season of preparation and waiting for the coming of the Christ-Child.    

Four royal blue or purple candles remind us of the royalty of Christ, who is the King of Kings.   A candle is lit for each Sunday in Advent, the four Sundays prior to Christmas Eve.

The evergreen wreath, shaped in a circle, is a sign of life without end.

The Christ Candle, the tall white candle in the center, represents the light of Christ.  We light the Christ-Candle on Christmas Eve.   

After Christmas Eve, Advent wreaths are tucked away, but the Christmas crèche remains, for Christ, the Savior is born among us.

Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year.  We remember, in sequence, the story of God’s love and interaction with us with the two great cycles of the life of Christ:  Advent/Christmas/Epiphany and Lent/Easter/Pentecost.   The word “Advent” finds its roots in the Latin word adventus, or coming.

Norm Shawchuck and Reuben Job unpack Advent beautifully:

“This season proclaims the coming of Christ in the birth of Jesus, in the Word and Spirit, and in the final victory when God’s kingdom shall be complete.  Our privilege as Christians is to receive the gracious gifts of God’s presence in Christ.  Our task is to prepare for his coming so that we will not miss life’s greatest gifts.”

May your Advent season be a beautiful time of wonder, love, and praise.


Pastor Cathy

My Gift: What Difference Does it Make?

It may be tempting to think that investing in God’s kingdom does not make an impact.  Here are a few thoughts I wrote this week, simply giving thanks for the faithful people of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church whose generous gifts share God’s love and transform countless lives:

Because you give children learn of Jesus’ love,

Because you give there is music to praise God above.

Because you give there are warm places to meet

For those who need work or support for their week.

Because you give we provide welcome lunches

Extending hospitality with food and flowers in bunches.

Because you give our doors embrace all

With love and laughter filling each hall. 

Because you give broken hearts can be mended,

And healing and care is lovingly extended.

Because you give angels rejoice and sing

For your gifts honor God who created all things!

With a grateful heart,

Pastor Cathy Johns

October 28, 2018

Choosing Extravagance

Several years ago we were having an anniversary dinner in Las Vegas.  After looking at the menu we decided that we would enjoy salad and water; the prices were extravagant!  I knew that I would not be able to enjoy my dinner knowing the outrageous check that would land on our table.

We did ask to see a wine list.  While it certainly qualified as a diverse wine list with several countries represented, I found myself gasping out loud as I came across one particular bottle of wine.  It was $5,000.

Later in the evening I mentioned this to an accountant, a woman who worked in the casino.  I made the remark, “I wonder how many people actually purchase that wine for $5,000!”  Her response was stunning:  “You’d be surprised.”  She mentioned that clientele from other countries would order it, without giving it a second thought.

I thought:  “You could built a new well in sub-Sahara Africa that would bring water to an entire village” with $5,000!

The good news is this:  God’s extravagant love for you goes beyond your imagination!  God’s outrageous, inexpressible gift of Jesus to the world shows us the depth of God’s extravagant love for all of us.

God invites us to give generously, investing our gifts to build the kingdom of God, here and now.  Your gifts matter:  They provide shelter for the homeless; they bring healing to those who are ill; they deliver hope to the discouraged.  Your gifts offer guidance to the lost; your generosity blesses those who need a hand up, not a handout; your gifts nourish weary souls with God’s love!

Commitment Sunday is next Sunday.  You remain in my prayers as we as a congregation consider how each one of us will respond to God’s generosity in our lives with grateful, generous hearts.


Pastor Cathy Johns

It’s a Small World After All!

This week our faith community will experience the global nature of the Church and the unity of the Body of Christ in two significant ways.

On Wednesday, October 3, Bishop Cardona and Pastor Luis from Columbia came to speak to our staff.  They shared the significant impact of the Methodist Church in being peacemakers in a nation torn by violence.  Their strategy for planting new faith communities involves going into areas, sometimes new communities that form as people flee from violence, and listening to the needs of the people.  Ministries across the country vary depending on the response of the community.

Today, we will share Holy Communion with our sisters and brothers in Samara Russia.  The Samara United Methodist Church, one of our global mission partners, will gather at 5:30 p.m. in Samara Russia while we gather at 9:30 a.m. here in Hyde Park.  A translator, Max, from Samara, will help us bridge the language barrier as we gather at the Lord’s Table together. Although I understand how it works, it is still an amazing experience to worship with people, in real time, that live halfway around the world!  The Disney song is true:  “It’s a small world, after all!”

Come and join us at the Table this weekend, invited by Jesus, the Christ, who invites and welcomes all, embracing each one of us as beloved sons and daughters of God.


Pastor Cathy Johns

CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen: Driven to Serve

Cheryl A. Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, posts a Bible verse on her calendar each day:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.”

Bachelder has turned her company around with a focus on serving others.  Reflecting on the words on servanthood that Paul wrote to the people of Philippi, she writes:   

“I really like the choice of words around counting others more significant than ourselves.  I believe we’re all born with an inner 2-year old.  And we’d really still like to be laying on the floor, kicking and screaming because we didn’t get the candy bar we wanted.

I always say servant leadership is an aspiration, because you can really never claim you’ve arrived. Because as soon as you do, someone will find you—and in a trap of self-interest. It’s something you’re always working toward.”

Jesus invites all of us to reach beyond ourselves and step out of our cozy world of self-interest to serve others.  There are two great opportunities for you to answer the call of Christ here in our congregation:

Ministry Fair, September 30th: Stop by the Welcome Center to see all the ways that you can serve Christ.  On Sunday, October 7, our service commitments will be gathered together and dedicated to God in worship

Servant Leadership Board Applications. Committed members of Hyde Park Community United Methodist are invited to apply to serve on the Servant Leadership Board.  Applications are available at the Welcome Center; the application deadline is October 15.  The term of service is January 2019 – December 2021.

Serving others not only makes God smile, but lights up God’s world!   Thank you for all the ways you share the light of Christ in our church, community, and around the world.


Pastor Cathy