Blessed and Blessing!

This Sunday, November 19, we will gather, blessed and beloved children of God, and we will work as the body of Christ to package and deliver Thanksgiving meals, blessing God’s beloved.  Join us in this act of Thanks-Giving, your participation in this act of love is an offering of love grounded in gratitude.

As we gather around our Thanksgiving tables this week I share with you the following Thanksgiving message from our Bishop, Gregory Palmer:

Greetings, beloved in Christ Jesus,

As people in Christ, “every day is a day of Thanksgiving.” So for me, Thanksgiving Day serves as a reminder of the call and privilege of living a life of gratitude all the time. The Psalms of the Hebrew Bible and the letters of the New Testament are replete with the call and affirmation to express gratitude in every way we can. The writer to the Colossians puts it this way: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:17)

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite authors, and she offers this word on the power of thanks: “Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back. “

Joining you in giving and living thanks every day, I am, your servant in Christ Jesus,

Bishop Gregory V. Palmer

May your Thanksgiving celebration be a time of renewal as you claim your blessings and become a blessing!  See you in Church!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Zeal in the Church

As the temperature drops outside and the days get shorter and shorter it’s easy to want to hunker down at home with some hot cider and a good book, and wait for spring. And while we certainly need to take advantage of precious moments of rest in this chaotic world, Paul also encourages us in Romans 12 to not be lacking in zeal when it comes to the work of the church.

Downtown at Over-the-Rhine Community Church, we’ve been eager to follow Paul’s words. In October, a group of 12 headed up to Detroit for a conference hosted by Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), where we had a chance to interact with other churches/organizations doing similar work in similar urban environments. Our time in Detroit was enlightening, encouraging and motivating.

Just at the end of October we also finished our second round of church catechism, which has been the process we use to introduce the history and vision of OTRCC to people interested in deeper participation within the congregation.

Ultimately we have been reminded that zeal is simply the positive energy an individual or group of people feel toward accomplishing a goal. And it’s by this zeal that our role in the church becomes something that gives us joy and fulfillment. I’m excited to be back at Hyde Park on Sunday and talking more about the zeal of the Church!

Pastor Ian

The Higher Road

There is an expression we have heard and no doubt used when either explaining how we’ve handled, or are giving advice on how to handle, conflict: “Take the high road”.  Don’t stoop to the lowest common denominator; rise above the meanness, the nastiness, the viciousness.  The Apostle Paul puts it this way; let me show you a “more excellent way”.

“Take the high road”, what does the high road look like?  In the twelfth chapter of Romans, Paul provides an answer: Love, Zeal, Blessing, and Peace.  As we begin this sermon series on the twelfth chapter of Romans, Paul says “Let love be genuine”.  Contemporary Theologian and Roman Catholic priest, Richard Rohr writes, “St. Francis moved beyond the world that most of us inhabit.  He rebuilt the spiritual life on “love alone” and let go of the lower-level needs of social esteem, security, self-image, and manufacturing of persona. . . .  Love is both who you are and who you are still becoming.” (A Spring Within Us, page 364-365)  St. Francis models and encourages “The higher road”.

“Take the high road”, it begins with love; as God’s beloved we are empowered to love one another as we have been loved.  Romans 12: 9-12 provides the framework for higher road living; I look forward to our common journey, traveling on the “high road” to which we are called.  See you in Church!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

A Discipling Church

As the Pastor of Discipleship Ministry at HPCUMC I wish to share a few comments about discipleship. First, a definition: a disciple is a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or a philosopher. To say we are Christian disciples means we are personal followers of Jesus Christ. We follow his teachings, follow how he lived his life, and follow how he shared his love. The church is to model his life and love so that others might come to know him.

Our mission statement at Hyde Park Community is to “share the love of Jesus to transform lives, Cincinnati, and the world.”  The Mission of the West Ohio Conference of United Methodist congregations is, “to equip local churches to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world… A world of justice, love, and peace filled with people growing in the likeness of Jesus Christ.” Both of these mission statements are about being disciples and transformation.

At HPCUMC we are engaged in growing as disciples from kindergarteners to senior adults and everyone in between. Our faith development and spiritual formation is an ongoing journey. We never quite arrive. However, deeper discovery opportunities of transformation abound here. We need to be more intentional about how we are growing as disciples of Jesus Christ.

It is my hope you will seek opportunities to engage in a Bible study, a Sunday school class, join a small connect or contemplative prayer group, attend a seasonal retreat, or the Walk to Emmaus. All of these are ways to become the disciple Christ would have you be. Honestly examine your heart. Pray about where you are on your journey of transformation. We all have room for growth as disciples.

In the life of the church the beauty of it all is we listen, learn, love and disciple one another in Christian community. As our lives are transformed we are then sent out to “light the way” of transformation in our community and the world.

Stay on the journey of discipleship!

In Christ,

Dave Weaver

Gratitude’s Health Benefits

With all of the hate, division, and violence in today’s world, it is tempting to cave into despair.  The world is a mess! The good news is we can make a difference!  Research indicates that there are actual health benefits to practicing gratitude.

One study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Mike McCullough invited participants to keep a short journal each week.  One group recorded five things they were grateful for in the past week.  A second group recorded five hassles from the previous week that caused unhappiness.   The third, a neutral group, simply recorded five events that affected them in some way.  After ten weeks, those in the gratitude group reported feeling 25% better about their lives than the group that recorded hassles.  Additionally, they reported fewer health complaints and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more than the other groups.

Ocean Robbins, a noted author and speaker puts it well:  “Thankfulness feels good, it’s good for you and it’s a blessing for the people around you, too. It’s such a win-win-win that I’d say we have cause for gratitude.”

This Sunday is Commitment Sunday.  You are invited to step forward, in a spirit of gratitude, to invest in what God is doing through Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church.  Because of your gift, countless lives will be touched with the love of God, the healing and hope of Christ, and the wisdom and strength of the Holy Spirit.

In our world that has been described as a “selfie” culture, you are invited to step forward with a grateful heart and invest in building God’s kingdom here on earth.

Thank you, in advance, for your generous investment as together we lift our candles to the darkness and light the way for Christ in 2018.  May God bless you with all the benefits of a heart filled with gratitude!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Eleanor’s Advice: What to Do With Your Candle

Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady during some of the most tumultuous years of the 20th Century, was a determined, strong woman.  No matter how many struggles she faced, she strove to hold onto a positive attitude and sought to make the world a better place.  She once said:

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

The world, friends, seems to be deepening its bent toward hate, division, and violence.  Millions are struggling in the wake of shootings and natural disasters.  What are we as the Church to do?

Jesus is clear:  “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hid.  Let your light so shine so that everyone may see your good works and give glory to God in heaven.” (from Matthew 5)

What does shining in the darkness look like?  Here are a couple of ideas:

Bring in a card to Pastor Cathy’s office for United Methodist pastors in Las Vegas who are serving in the wake of the violence. “Thinking of You” and “Praying for You” cards will be sent from our congregation to United Methodist pastors who are serving their city in the aftermath of the shooting earlier this month.  Please bring your cards in to the church office by Monday, October 23.  They will be put in large envelopes and mailed to the Las Vegas pastors with a letter from our congregation.  The church will pay postage.

Make a contribution to UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief which is responding to needs in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Florida, and Texas.  When national or international disasters come, the United Methodist Church shows up with blankets, water, medicine, and personnel to serve as the hands and feet of Christ.  Please send your check through Hyde Park Community UMC marked for UMCOR Relief in the area of your choice.  Our  finance office will forward your gift to UMCOR.  100% of your gift will aid those in need.

Thanks for being a congregation that is willing to stand up and hold up candles to the darkness!   Shine on!

Peace,

Pastors Cathy and Doug

Sally Snowman: Light Keeper

America’s first lighthouse, Boston Light, celebrated its 300th anniversary in September of 2016.  Sally Snowman (her real name) is the keeper of the lighthouse.  The original tower was built in 1716; it was blown up by the British in 1776.  Sally is the 70th keeper of the lighthouse.   While the roles have changed with automation, Sally takes her role seriously.  She gives tours, maintains the grounds, and manages 90 volunteers.

I invite you to consider your role in the Body of Christ this month.  Are you a keeper of the light of Christ?  Do your thoughts, words, and deeds send out light and encouragement? Are you sharing the light of Christ with others or hiding it under a bushel?

At Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church we are committed to shine the light of Christ – here in our neighborhood, in the city, in our nation, and around the world.  This is more than just a “cute slogan;” it is our mission.  We are not a church that focuses inwardly, simply concerned with ourselves, but outwardly – committed to loving God and neighbor.  We are a community of faith that is committed to bringing heaven to earth and walking outside our walls with candles of hope, to bring healing and hope to as many people as we can.

I am praying for you and your family as you consider how you want to share Christ’s light.   When you support the ministry of the church with your prayers, presence, financial gifts, service, and witness, you are brightening the world with the love of Christ.

Rejoicing in the Light of Christ,

Pastor Cathy

UMCOR: The First to Arrive and The Last to Leave

Beloved children of God in Texas, Florida, the southeast, Puerto Rico, and Mexico City have had their lives turned upside down by recent natural disasters.  UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) is the emergency relief arm of our denomination.  UMCOR is known for being the first to arrive and the last to leave when disaster hits anywhere in the world.  Julie Dwyer writes, “While Irma, Harvey and Maria dominate news headlines, the United Methodist Committee on Relief hasn’t forgotten about Matthew (September, 2016 devastating hurricane).  “We really are there for the long haul,” said the Rev. Russell Pierce, interim executive director of mission engagement and director of ‘The Advance’, the designated giving channel of The United Methodist Church.” (UMNS, 9/26/17)

Our West Ohio Communications team writes, “As disasters continue to make headlines, we invite you to continue remembering our neighbors in your prayers. At least 237 people have died in Mexico City from the 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Widespread destruction is visible across the city. Hurricane Maria has devastated Puerto Rico and other Caribbean Islands with catastrophic flooding. May we be resilient in our generosity of love and financial resources so that those impacted will know that they are indeed beloved children of God.”

As we begin our sermon series: “Light The Way” we have an opportunity to be the light of Christ to those in the shadow of these natural disasters.  Many of us have already offered financial support, however, if you are still looking for a way to help our sisters and brothers faced with disaster I invite you to give through The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR): Domestic Disaster Response Advance #901670 and International Disaster Response Advance #982450.  You can give on-line: www.umcor.com; write a check to the church: HPCUMC memo = Disaster Relief; or mail your check to: Advance GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, New York, N.Y.  10087-9068

It’s a joy to be a United Methodist, and a privilege to serve in ministry with you!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

The Explosion of Choice

A research study recently asked 100 Japanese and American students to write down the decisions that they would like to make for themselves on a sheet of paper.  On the other side they were asked to write down decisions they preferred others choose for them.

When Americans wrote their entries for decisions they preferred to make themselves, the page was filled quickly.  It included items such as where to live and the type of job they would pursue.  The flip side was almost empty; the only decision most Americans wanted to pass along to someone else was the time of their death.

The Japanese had very different results, filling up the side with the things they preferred others would choose for them, including what they wore, what time they would awaken, and their occupation.

The researchers concluded that Americans desired to make their own choices four times more than the Japanese.  David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, notes:  “Americans now have more choices over more things than any other culture in human history.  He adds that it is “becoming incredibly important to learn to decide well.”

Today, I invite you to consider: “How do I want to serve Christ in the coming year?”  Please visit the Ministry Fair in the Welcome Center today.  IThe ministry fair celebrates many of the ministry teams that make a difference in our church family.  On October 1, we will dedicate our service inventories in worship.

I will be praying for God to guide your decision; it is a joy to serve Christ with each one of you!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Possessing God’s Wisdom!

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Kings 3:5)  Are you familiar with Solomon’s story, what he asks for and what he received?  God gave Solomon a blank check, and what did Solomon ask for?  Wisdom.  Read 1 Kings 3:1-12, a great story of not asking for what I want, but for what I need, and in turn receive blessing upon blessing.

God’s wisdom is available to all who seek God. Ultimately, we find in Solomon’s story God’s desire to anoint God’s beloved with God’s wisdom.  How?  God gives us the answer in the “Shema” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

Thus, when we understand and embrace that God alone is our God, give our “all” loving the Lord our God, the wisdom of God is ours and becomes profoundly real.  Richard Rohr in his book A Spring Within Us writes, “St. Bonaventure called God ‘A Fountain Fullness.’  Once we begin with outpouring love as the foundational pattern of reality and love as the very shape of God, then everything somehow has to fall into the same family resemblance.  If this is the Creator, then somehow this must be the DNA of all of the creatures.” (p.362-363)

Love is “the very shape of God”!  Like Solomon we are blessed with wisdom, and much more, when we with intentionality, love God with our all.  This is God’s gift to all who seek it.  I look forward to seeing you in Church as we seek God’s Wisdom, through what Jesus calls “the greatest commandment”, the “Shema”.

In Christ,

Pastor Doug