Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh my!

All of us remember with fondness Dorothy’s walk through the forest on the yellow brick road. Accompanied by her two new friends, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow, and her faithful dog, Toto, the group encounters a lion. They are all terrified of course! Lions are known as the king of the beasts for a reason.

This lion, is not your ordinary lion, but a cowardly one. The Cowardly Lion has circles under his eyes because he has trouble falling asleep. One of Dorothy’s companions suggests that he try counting sheep. The lion explains that he cannot count sheep because he is afraid of them too!

Toto steps up to face the lion and begins to bark. When the lion chases after the dog, Dorothy scolds the lion. The Cowardly Lion begins to cry.

In our scripture for this Sunday, Daniel faces lions. He is thrown into a den of lions because he holds on to his integrity. Daniel refused to stop praying to God, continuing to pray three times a day in front of an open window. Daniel refused the king’s rich food and observed the dietary laws of his faith. Daniel trusts God and keeps his faith. God protects and shields Daniel from harm, shutting the mouths of the lions.

If you are experiencing a time of stress and challenge today, I offer this prayer to remind you of our God, the God of Daniel, who stands with us always, even when we face lions:

Eternal God, You call us to trust You. Many people clamor around us, trying to tell us what to do. Tune our ears to hear only Your voice over the din of noise. As we face challenges in our lives, remind us that You still stand with Your people among dens of lions, protecting us and shielding us from harm. Help us to place our hand in Yours, keep our faith and our integrity, and always trust that You are a God who keeps Your promises. We pray in the name of Jesus, who is our strength and our song, Amen.

May God fill you with the courage of Daniel, today and always!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Favorite Questions from Toddlers

If you have ever had a conversation of more than three minutes with a four-year old you have probably heard some interesting questions:

Why do we have snow?
Do cats and dogs go to heaven?
How big is the ocean?
Where does God live?

Toddlers, of course, are not the only ones asking questions! The toughest set of questions seems to be the ones that start with “Why?”

Why did Grandma get sick?
Why did we have to move?
Why did my friend die?
How can bad things happen to good people?

This month we are taking a look at suffering in a new sermon series: “Walking through the Darkness.” During these wintry months of extended darkness we will explore what the Bible teaches about walking through times of trial.

Join us this Sunday as we explore the question: “Why Does God allow suffering?” Invite a friend who is going through a tough time to join you. It will be a morning filled with encouragement and the deep, abiding joy that is ours as children of God!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Joseph and God’s Master Plan

Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, played a significant role in the first Christmas. The gospel writers do not share many details about the life of Joseph, but we do know that he was faithful to God’s call upon his life. As a carpenter, he would have taught Jesus how to make a living, working with wood. As a father, along with Mary, he would have helped build a loving family.

This Sunday’s text, Matthew 1:18-24, reminds us of the importance of being open to the movement of the Holy Spirit among us. Like Joseph, we may have all of our plans laid out, perfectly organized to move forward. God many times has a “Plan B” for us, a plan that aligns with God’s ultimate Will for our lives. Joseph found himself at a crossroads. Trusting God and believing Mary as she came to tell him of her visit from the angel would have required deep faith. Joseph’s visit from the angel of the Lord helped Joseph decide how to move forward: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

As a congregation we are beginning to execute a Master Plan for our building. Architects from MSA have started to have conversations with staff and some of our lay people in leadership roles. We are seeking input on the needs – both current and future – for our congregation. Gathering this data from the congregation will be critical as a Master Plan develops for our facilities. A study of the use of our current buildings and hopes and dreams for the future for the resources of our physical space will help us to maximize our effectiveness as we seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Your input is requested. Please mark your calendars and join in the conversation!

Dates for Congregational Gatherings for Master Plan:

January 18, Sunday, 10:30 am : at Nast Community UMC
January 18, Sunday, 12:30 pm: at Hyde Park Community UMC
January 24, Saturday, 10:00 am: at Hyde Park Community UMC
February 2, Monday, 6:30 pm: at Hyde Park Community UMC

Moving forward to address current and future needs for effective ministry through our facilities may seem like a daunting, scary task. But the good news is: God is with us! May we all learn from Joseph and Mary that the words the angel spoke that first Christmas season are true: “With God, all things are possible!”

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

A Future With Hope

Church Conference Report:

The prophet Jeremiah spoke God’s reassuring words to the people during a season of rebuilding:

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

On Sunday, November 16, Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church voted to accept the invitation of the Ohio River Valley district for Nast Trinity to become a new church start in partnership with Hyde Park Community UMC. The vote, 73 in favor, 0 against with 0 abstentions, will allow a full-time pastor to begin on March 1, serving the community in Over-the-Rhine.

The Nast Trinity Task Force, chaired by Pastor Doug Johns, will be happy to respond to your questions.

Black: The Color of Strength

In the Navajo culture the color black is a symbol of physical strength. As the Body of Christ we can finish 2014 with strength, “in the black!”

As of this writing we are $183,565 in the red.

Thank you to all who have given generously all year. Thank you, too, for those who can help our church finish 2014 with strength through your faithful end-of-the-year giving.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

A Future with Hope

Church Conference Report:

The prophet Jeremiah spoke God’s reassuring words to the people during a season of rebuilding:

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

On Sunday, November 16, Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church voted to accept the invitation of the Ohio River Valley district for Nast Trinity to become a new church start in partnership with Hyde Park Community UMC. The vote, 73 in favor, 0 against with 0 abstentions, will allow a full-time pastor to begin on March 1, serving the community in Over-the-Rhine.

The Nast Trinity Task Force, chaired by Pastor Doug Johns, will be happy to respond to your questions.

Black: The Color of Strength

In the Navajo culture the color black is a symbol of physical strength. As the Body of Christ we can finish 2014 with strength, “in the black!”

As of this writing we are $183,565 in the red.

Thank you to all who have given generously all year. Thank you, too, for those who can help our church finish 2014 with strength through your faithful end-of-the-year giving.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

The Truth About The Pilgrims

The winters in New England can be brutal.

The truth about the experience of the first Pilgrims is captured by H.W. Westermeyer below:

The pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts…nevertheless, [they] set aside a day of thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is more than one day!  Giving thanks to God brought joy to those first pilgrims and it can bring deep, abiding joy to us.  We experience Thanksgiving when we….

  • Pray daily to God, thanking God for all our blessings.
  • Commit a financial tithe to the Church, acknowledging that everything we have is from our generous God.
  • Attend worship weekly to draw closer to God.

Stewardship Campaign Update:

As the pilgrims brought their food to the table with thankful hearts, people in our faithful community are bringing in their pledges for the healing, transforming work of God through Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church for 2015.

Here is the latest update:
Pledges Received through 11/12: 247
Income Pledged for 2105 through 11/12:  $1,157,462

To those of you who have stepped forward with your commitments to God’s work among us, thank you!

May God continue to move among us, stirring us to give thanks as the pilgrims did – with glad and generous hearts.

Peace,
Pastor Cathy Johns

Salty Saints

This Sunday is All Saints Sunday. The United Methodist Book of Worship explains:

“All Saints (November 1 or the first Sunday of November) is a day of remembrance for all the saints, with the New Testament meaning of all Christian people of every time and place. We celebrate the communion of saints as we remember the faithful departed, both of the Church universal and of our local congregations.”

Jesus teaches us to be the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth.” Salt adds flavor and also preserves. Here are a few “salty saints” who have blessed my life, sometimes adding flavor, and sometimes preserving me through times of trial:

Don, my father, who taught me the importance of trusting God, always, and responding to God’s goodness with a glad and generous heart.

Sue, a cancer patient, who continued to come to church and set the table for Holy Communion until the last month of her life.

Steve, who served as a Stephen Minister and never wavered in his devotion to always serve Christ with passion and joy.

Deb, whose life was a song of joy, who sang on a praise team and encouraged many, including me, to keep the faith during tough seasons of life.

Today I invite you to come up with your own list of “salty saints,” people who have blessed your life. Stop and give thanks to God for each life that has flavored and preserved you. Finally, pray for God to help you step up as you strive to give your life away for others so that some day you will be remembered as a “salty saint!”

Cathy Johns

From the Pastors: Vision Weekend Report

Over 250 people gathered at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church last weekend, seeking God’s preferred vision for our future.

Over the summer we participated in twenty home gatherings and one at Nast Trinity. We asked three questions: What do you celebrate as a church? What challenges/obstacles do we currently face? What would be a mid-sized miracle that you would like to see?

As we listened, common themes became evident. From these articulated concerns, hopes, and dreams a vision began to develop based on who we are today and God’s preferred path for our future as a congregation.

Five major concerns were expressed. The vision, God’s preferred reality for us, emerged out of these concerns. The concern and strategies for implementation are shared here in a very condensed form:

Moving Forward in 2015:
Transparency
Strategy: Make financial data and other information clear and accessible to members so that trust is built, fueling passion and energizing us for mission and ministry as we make disciples for Jesus Christ.

Communication
Strategy: Explore innovative and effective ways to connect people with our congregation through digital, electronic, and print media so that current members and guests can deepen their walk with God.

Marketing/Public Relations.
Strategy: Form a team to develop effective ways to share our story with our community.

Worship
Strategy: Form a team to explore ways we can enhance our worship, seeking to align our resources and values, so that we can reach new people in our community for Jesus Christ.

Nast Trinity Downtown Campus
Strategy: Form a team to shape a new, clear vision for our partnership with Nast Trinity’s Downtown Campus so that we can effectively serve Christ and our neighbors in Over-the-Rhine.

VISION REPORT: Please pick up an executive summary of the findings from summer gatherings in homes and one at Nast Trinity. They are available in the Welcome Center and in the church office. The report and the Celebration of Ministry video are also available online: www.hydeparkchurch.org/vision-weekend. If you would like to see the complete raw data (40+ pages), Lindsay Garrison, who serves in the office, will be happy to print a copy of it for you.

We look forward to this journey with you! Praying for you with great joy for all that has been and all that God will call us to be in the future.

Peace,
Pastors Doug and Cathy Johns

Listening Well

Pastor Cathy Johns

A wise pastor once told me, “Cathy, just remember as you begin your studies to become a pastor…God gave us two ears and one mouth.” As an extrovert, I struggle to listen twice as much as I speak. Listening well is important to me, but sometimes it is a challenge.

When Jesus talks with the woman from Samaria at the well, Jesus shows us how to listen well:

L ook at the other person (John 4:7)
I nvest in people (John 4:13-14)
S top whatever else you are doing (John 4:9)
T hink about them and what they are saying (John 4:25-26)
E mpathize with them (John 4:18)
N otice their body language

Listening is an act of hospitality. When we listen to another person, really hearing them share from their hearts, it is a way of honoring them. It also extends authentic hospitality.

May God help us to use our ears and our hearts as we lovingly listen to each other.

Peace,
Pastor Cathy

A Review of a South Carolina Gem: The McCutchen House

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Our son, Blake, is a proud graduate of the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina.  During one visit we discovered “The McCutchen House” right on the “Horseshoe” of campus, a lovely, open green space.  It is a part of the School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management.  Students who are studying to be chefs, owners of clubs, and those majoring in Hospitality Management are able to work in this lovely, charming Southern gem.

The service was gracious and attentive and the food was outstanding, not to mention reasonable. As I was leaving I found myself thinking, “You can practice on me any day….that was amazing!”

As a Christian what does it mean to embrace and practice radical hospitality?  The Benedictine monks seem to understand this, both in theory and practice.  Several years ago I attended a seminar at a Benedictine monastery.  Within ten minutes of my arrival, I happy that I was there.  The welcome was genuine; the food was delightful.  I felt as if I was among old friends yet I had just met these gracious people.  They exceeded my expectations in every way.

What would happen if we as God’s representatives in the world exceeded the expectations of each person who came through the doors of our homes and our churches? For the month of September we will be exploring what it means to be a person of hospitality in the world and in the Church.  We can be part of the transforming love of God as strangers become friends, friends become disciples, and disciples change the world.

May God richly bless you this week and always!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Psalms: Rx for Life

What is your favorite psalm? Most people find strength in the psalms and find them to be comforting. They help us put words to the human condition, giving us strength and courage for the twists and turns of life.

This week we begin our sermon series with the message “When Life Makes Sense.” Dr. Walter Brueggemann, a delightful biblical scholar, reflects on the psalms based on an individual’s orientation, or how one sees the world in her/his present state.

As you prepare your heart for worship this Sunday, come with a heart that is open to receive what God has to offer: strength for the weary, hope for the discouraged, and grace and restoration for all of us who stand before God in our brokenness. May God richly bless you this week!
Peace,

Pastor Cathy