Same-Sex Marriage and the United Methodist Church

Last Saturday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling rippled through our nation, establishing same-sex marriage as a constitutional right. What is important to remember is the difference between the role of the judicial branch and the role of the Church. Supreme Court Justices are charged with determining if a law is constitutional. The Church is charged with proclaiming and interpreting God’s Word, giving us a plumb line for daily living.

The Supreme Court decision speaks directly to the legal issues of marriage. A marriage is a legal contract. The Church, through the centuries, has distinguished between a sacred and secular marriage. Some choose to begin their marriage within the Church while others choose to begin their marriage before a Justice of the Peace. The United Methodist Book of Discipline, which is changed only by the General Conference which meets every four years, is responsible for providing rules for how we live as United Methodists. General Conference, which meets again in May 2016, will be considering many pieces of legislation. Their actions will shape and form the United Methodist Book of Discipline regarding our understanding of Christian marriage.

I have listened to many people speak on this topic, some beginning their statements with, “But the Bible says…” and then continue to frame their argument. While I am certain it is not always the intent of the person speaking to use the Bible as a weapon, it has sometimes felt that way to me. The Rev. Adam Hamilton, of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, states in his blog that he has been studying the Bible for a long time:

“But, 37 years of studying the Bible has also taught me that the Bible is at times complicated. Within its pages we learn of the heart, character, and will of God, but we also find on its pages things that we might question. Things that seem to reflect the culture and the times the biblical authors lived in more than the timeless will of God.”

Clear-cut answers are not easily discovered as we seek the truth. For example, slavery and polygamy are both acceptable practices in the Bible. The Bible is like a multi-faceted diamond that contains many kinds of literature to bless and guide God’s people: Law, History, Prophets, Poetry, Gospels, and Epistles. Each type of literature has a different purpose. We need not be afraid of digging deeper into God’s Word and applying a Wesleyan approach as we seek the truth. Using the four lenses of the Wesleyan quadrilateral: scripture (which is primary), experience, reason, and tradition, in a spirit of seeking and prayer, will help us find our way. Additionally we can choose to follow the call of St. Francis of Assisi seeking to console rather than to be consoled, to understand rather than to be understood, to love rather than to be loved.

The Supreme Court’s ruling will influence the conversation about our denomination’s stance on homosexuality. I invite you to pray for our Bishops across the nation, pray for our clergy, pray for our congregations, and pray for the gay community that we can continue to seek the path God intends for us. Your prayers are cherished.

Your Servant in Christ,

The Rev. Dr. Cathy Johns

When the Wind Blows

There’s nothing quite like a fresh breeze blowing through the trees to refresh your spirit! When I look around I see God’s Spirit has been moving among us:

Beth Viera, a member of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church, will be commissioned this year at Annual Conference and will begin serving the Fort Jefferson UMC near Greenville, OH on June 21. Beth was honored at the Ohio River Valley Spring Gathering on May 31. She is pursuing ordination as an elder in the United Methodist Church. Beth looks forward to serving Christ in a beautiful setting, bringing pastoral leadership to a congregation of over 100. She is thankful for Hyde Park Community UMC, her home church. Please join us in praying for Beth as she steps forward to serve in her new appointment and and celebrating Beth’s new chapter of ministry!

Vacation Bible School, June 15 – June 19, has already been blessed with a high early registration of children and many wonderful servants who have stepped forward to share the love of Christ with the children in our community.

The Worship Task Force, formed after Vision Weekend 2015, was charged to: “evaluate our current worship opportunities, and then create, design and recommend worship options that reflect our diversity and will engage and inspire.” A diverse team has faithfully served since fall of 2014 and has presented its report and recommendation to the Worship Planning Team and the Servant Leadership Board. It has been approved by the Worship Planning Team, composed of our musicians, pastors, and key laity and received with joy and thanksgiving at the Servant Leadership Board on June 1. The congregation is invited to hear the report and proposal and offer input at two congregational Worship Conversations on:

June 28, Sunday, 12:15 pm in the Little Theater
July 7, Tuesday, 7:00 pm in the Little Theater

We hope to see you this Sunday as we celebrate Holy Communion, honor the class of 2015, and celebrate a God who is our refuge and strength. Please read Psalm 91 to prepare for worship. Have a blessed weekend!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

A Case of Mission Drift

It can happen to businesses. It can happen to universities. It can happen to churches. This well-known university has the following mission statement:

“To be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of your life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ.”

After its founding in 1636, the university emphasized the building of moral character and placed a strong emphasis on equipping ministers to share the good news of Christ. Every diploma contained the words: “Christo et Ecclesiae Veritas” meaning “Truth for Christ and the Church.

80 years after its founding, a group of New England pastors felt that Harvard had drifted too far from its original mission. They, with the help of a wealthy philanthropist named Elihu Yale, launched a new college. Yale’s motto was “Lux and Veritas,” (truth and light).

Although their reputations for academic excellence are respected world-wide, neither school reflects the intent of their founders today. At the 350 anniversary of the founding of Harvard, Steven Muller, a former president of John Hopkins University shared these profound words: “The bad news is the university has become godless.” A former president of Harvard admitted, “Things divine have been central neither to my professional nor to my personal life.”

Both schools were clear in their goals: Christian formation and academic excellence. They were both victims of mission drift.

This Sunday we celebrate the third great feast of the Christian year: Pentecost. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Christ, and Pentecost is all about God’s power blowing life, energy, and mission into the early church.

May God inspire us this Pentecost Sunday to stay true to our mission: to be the Church and step out into the world, carrying the love and light of Christ to everyone!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Even Presidents Have to Listen to their Mothers

When Laura Bush was First Lady she recalled one overnight visit with her husband in the home of his parents, the former President and Mrs. Bush.

“George woke up at 6:00 am as usual and went downstairs to get a cup of coffee,” Laura shared. “And he sat down on the sofa with his parents and put his feet up. And all of a sudden, Barbara Bush yelled, ‘Put your feet down!’
“George’s dad replied, ‘For goodness’ sake, Barbara, he’s the President of the United States.’
“And Barbara said, ‘I don’t care. I don’t want his feet on my table.'”
The president promptly did as he was told, for as Mrs. Bush observed, “Even Presidents have to listen to their mothers.”
(from John McCaslin, The Washington Times “Inside the Beltway” (11-12-03)

This Sunday Rev. Don Dixon, who served here at Hyde Park Community United Methodist for fifteen years, will preach a sermon based on Matthew 25. His message, “God still speaking,” will invite us to open our minds and hearts to what God is doing in and around us today. God is ever-present in our world and invites us to step into what God is already doing. Invite a friend to join you; and mothers, enjoy your special day!

Pastor Cathy

Bridge over Troubled Water

Visitors to the Grand Canyon all find themselves saying the same thing: “This is really big!” The towering walls of the canyon separated by several miles take our breath away. One of the seven wonders of the world, the canyon is about 227 miles long, 18 miles wide, and is 5,000 miles deep.

Have there been times when you felt separated from God, as if God were standing on one side of the Grand Canyon and miles and miles divided you?

This Sunday’s scripture from Romans 8:31-39 proclaims “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” How is that possible? Human beings are capable of doing awful things to one another! Paul explains that nothing in all creation, not life, not death, not things from the past, not things in the present, not principalities (territories) or powers, nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God through our Risen Christ.

Jesus, who is the Christ, God’s Son, came to us to teach us to love God and one another and to set us free from sin and death. He laid down His very body, to reveal the depth of God’s love for us. Jesus’ body closed the gap that we created between us and God and makes a bridge that unites us with our loving God, who longs to be in an intimate relationship with us.

Simon and Garfunkel released a song in January 1970 that is a timeless classic. The refrain gives us a wonderful picture of theology, a glimpse of God’s relationship with humanity:

“Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down.”

“Because He Lives,” our new sermon series continues this weekend. Celebrate the joy that we experience because of the relationship we have with God through our Risen Christ. No matter how sad or broken you feel, know that God loves you and will never let you go. Come and walk across the bridge to God. God is waiting and eager to welcome you home.
Joy in our Risen Lord,

Pastor Cathy

Easter: The Rest of the Story

Paul Harvey became famous for his column, “The Rest of the Story.” Harvey became well-loved for his clever stories which helped us get a new perspective on the news and life. For over 50 years he shared amazing stories with people across our nation.

For some Easter is simply a day when we gather to hunt for chocolate eggs to fill our Easter baskets. For some Easter is a day to go to the mandatory “Easter Family Brunch.” For others it is a day to celebrate a day that changed everything.

Easter is the foundation of Christianity. Dr. Leander Keck puts it well:

“Without Easter, there is no Christian faith.”

Easter is the day when we celebrate a God who defeated sin and death and offers us new life through Jesus Christ. New chapters of life open up to us because of Easter!

“The rest of the story” is about a journey of healing and wholeness, celebrating our victory over sin and death because Christ rose from the dead. We join the chorus through the centuries celebrating the great news: Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

At Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church we invite you to be a part of our faith community, a group of people that are committed to walking together, praying for one another, and supporting each other in Christian love. Here are a few ways that you can deepen your walk with God and get acquainted here:

  • Sign up for a new “Because He Lives” Connect Group. These small groups gather in homes and will use a brand new resource written by some of our Hyde Park Community clergy. Please contact Dave Weaver: dweaver@hpcumc.org or 979-8184.
  • Attend the First Friday Nighters Event: Friday, April 10. You are invited to come for a catered meal ($10) ; Brian Geist will share his journey on the Appalachian Trail.
  • Visit our website to see all that we offer for children, youth, adult, mission, and music ministries: www.hpcumc.org.

You are invited to be a part of the rest of the story of Easter: We would love to have you join us in the adventure!

Joy in our Risen Lord,

Pastor Cathy

“Stressed Out? Worried?”

You might be surprised by the results of a recent survey which tracked the top temptations faced by Americans. The people surveyed said they struggled with the following temptations either “often” or “sometimes”:

• Worrying or being anxious—60 percent
• Procrastinating or putting things off—60 percent
• Eating too much—55 percent
• Spending too much time on media—44 percent
• Being lazy—41 percent
• Spending more money than they could afford—35 percent
• Gossiping about others—26 percent
• Being jealous or envious of others—24 percent
• Viewing pornography or sexually explicit material—18 percent
• Abusing alcohol or drugs—11 percent

When asked if they tried to do anything specific to avoid giving in to a temptation, 41 percent said yes and 59 percent said no.
When people were asked why they give in to temptations, the top four reasons were:

• I am not really sure—50 percent
• To escape or get away from “real life”—20 percent
• To feel less pain or loneliness—8 percent
• To satisfy other people’s expectations of me—7 percent

Reported in Todd Hunter, Our Favorite Sins (Thomas Nelson, 2012), pp. 237-245.

Join us Sunday morning as we continue the sermon series: “The Radical Way of Jesus.” This Sunday’s topic is “Peace.” Jesus had a lot to teach us about how to handle worry and manage stress in the Sermon on the Mount.

Please invite a friend to join you or someone that might need some tools to help them achieve lasting peace in their lives.

Peace,
Pastor Cathy Johns

Anger Management

True story from the L.A. Times:

Judge tells Public Defender: ‘If you want to fight let’s go out back.’

Last June a brawl broke out in a Florida courtroom. The parties involved were Judge John Murphy and public defender Andrew Weinstock. The argument began as Judge Murphy tried to convince the defense lawyer to waive his client’s rights to a speedy trail, but the defense lawyer was not interested. Things heated up to the point that Judge Murphy said, “You know, if I had a rock, I would throw it at you right now. Just sit down.” Weinstock responded, “You know I’m the public defender. I have a right to be here and I have a right to stand and represent my client.” The video reveals that the judge asks the defense lawyer to step into the back hallway, saying, “If you want to fight, let’s go out back.” Outside of the view of the cameras the fight broke out.

No video recording is available of the fight, but the sounds of loud thuds and scuffling were obvious. The fight ended when two deputies separated the two men. A reassignment was given to the attorney so that he and the judge would not have future interaction. Judge Murphy voluntarily chose a leave of absence, stating he would seek anger management counseling.

This week we continue our Lenten sermon series: “The Radical Way of Jesus: Anger Management.” This message reveals Jesus’ teachings about responding to difficult people and situations in positive ways. We look forward to seeing you this Sunday; invite a friend to join you!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Update From Pastor Cathy and the Worship Task Force

During the Vision Weekend last October several task initiatives were launched to help our congregation maximize our effectiveness in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. One of those initiatives was the formation of the Worship Task Force. It has representation from all of our current worship offerings. This group was charged with evaluating our current worship and recommending worship options that will both reflect our diversity and connect new people to our faith community through worship. We have been evaluating our current worship experiences asking both “Who is here?” and “Who is not here?” as we seek to be faithful to our call to reach people with the love of Christ.

In early summer a proposal will be brought to the Servant Leadership Board from the Worship Task Force. Since December the group has been praying for God’s leading, evaluating all of our current worship services in both of our locations in Hyde Park and Nast Community, making field trips to other churches, and gathering data about our neighbors who live in our community.

The Worship Planning Team, our pastors and staff with worship responsibilities and the Worship Task Force are in full agreement. In order to allow time for God to reveal to us a worship strategy for the next chapter of our life together as a worshipping congregation, we recommend the following:

+Blended Family Worship will be put on hold after March 1. Feedback is being requested of families so that future plans can address their needs.

+Tuesday Evening Prayer Worship will also be put on hold after March 24, with the exception of Taize which will continue on the second Tuesday of the month.

The ultimate goal: To provide worship experiences that draw people to Christ, by reaching new people and meeting the needs of our current individuals and families.

Your prayers for wisdom and strength are appreciated and cherished. Thank you for your support during this exciting time of discovering God’s plans for our future together as a worshipping community of faith.

Pastor Cathy

Jesus: A Wild and Craaaazzy Guy!

The celebration of Saturday Night Live’s 40th Anniversary brought back memories and smiles. Characters like Rosanne Rosannadanna, played by the late Gilda Radnor, and the Blues Brothers, played by Dan Akyroyd and the late John Belushi, brought laughter into our homes for four decades.

Steve Martin, who holds the record for hosting the most Saturday Night Live shows with 13, brought back fond memories of a “wild and craaazzzy guy!”

Our Lenten journey begins this week with a new sermon series “The Radical Way of Jesus.” The definition of “radical” is intriguing:

+ very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary
+ very basic and important
+ having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people.

In the Sermon on the Mount, the cornerstone of Jesus’ teaching ministry, we discover radical teachings from Jesus, the Christ, who came to teach us how to live. Join us for this powerful Lenten preaching series on Sunday mornings as we explore what Jesus has to say about managing anger, loving our enemies, and replacing worry with peace.

Jesus, a wild and crazy guy, calls us to live a life that go against the grain of our culture. Invite a friend to join you in exploring what it means to follow the radical way of Jesus.

Peace,
Pastor Cathy Johns