An Angel’s Announcement

I’m not sure what you think of angels. Are they real? Do they have a halo and wings?

I remember in the mid-1990’s there was CBS supernatural drama television series called, “Touched by An Angel.” The episodes generally revolved around the “cases” of Monica (played by Roma Downey), a young angel recently promoted from the “search and rescue” division, who works under the guidance of Tess (played by Della Reese). Tess is more of a surrogate mother than a mentor. Monica, in one episode, outlines that she started in the choir then annunciations, followed by search and rescue and then case work. Most cases involve a single person or a group of people who are at a crossroads in their life, facing a large problem or tough decision. Monica and Tess bring messages of hope from God and help give them guidance toward making their decision.

Our scripture lesson this Sunday has the angel Gabriel making an appearance to a young teenage girl by the name of Mary. He makes a “divine announcement” that she is pregnant. You talk about a “supernatural birth drama” about to unfold. The scriptures say she was perplexed. Anyone would be if you heard an angel from on high speak these words. She asked the angel Gabriel “how can this be?”

We are in the second week of Advent and into our preaching series titled “Unwrapping Christmas.” We will dig deeper into this story of Mary and the angel found in Luke 1: 26-38. Come and hear how Mary handles this dramatic event in her young life. She does something quite remarkable with this angel announcement. What might we learn from this story?

I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday!

Blessings,

Pastor Dave

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.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Abundant Living

Jesus states his purpose saying, “I came so that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  As partners with God, in God’s acts of new creation, abundant life is experienced through how we give ourselves away; and both we and those we serve experience abundant living!

Michael Josephson in a piece titled, “Live A Life That Matters” writes:

“Ready or not, someday life will all come to an end.  There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.  Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.  It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.  So what will matter?  How will the value of your days be measured?  What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built, not what you got, but what you gave!  What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encourage others.  Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident, it’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.  Choose to live a life that matters.”

Abundant living becomes a reality as we “live a life that matters”. In this season of Thanks-Giving we express gratitude for our blessings; may we become a blessing to the world through our investment in God’s acts of new creation.

The finance team is in the final stages of putting together our 2019 budget.  Thank you to all of you who have made an investment in the mission and ministry of HPCUMC/OTRCC through your 2019 commitment.  To date we have received 253 commitments totaling $1,214,491.  For those of you who are still praying about your 2019 commitment, I am in prayer with you.  I encourage you to either go to our website and make your commitment online, or return a commitment card to the Church office (there are commitment cards in the literature racks around the church and in the church office).

I thank God daily for you, and count it a privilege to serve in ministry with you!  This Thanksgiving I praise God for the abundant living that is mine through Christ Jesus, and the abundant living we are able to offer others through our investment in God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven!

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

Update from OTRCC

Greetings, Hyde Park family, from your brothers and sisters at Over-the-Rhine Community Church! It feels very good to be able to say that we are family. It is a blessing being a part of such a vibrant, vital, loving church as we live out the idea of being a church in two locations! This week will mark the completion of my first full quarter with you, and it has been an amazing first three months in ministry with you!

As we rush headlong toward the holidays, the idea of family is heavy on my mind. For some of us, we are excited about the opportunity to get together with our loved ones. For others, planning for these get-togethers is more like preparing ourselves for battle. Many of us fall somewhere in the middle. The truth is, family can be hard. It can also bring us much joy. Both of these are true because family is people and, as we learn in life, people are complicated. Relationships are complicated. I say all of that to say this: these dynamics are true in the church as well. That’s why loving each other well is primary in scripture and also why we have so much work yet to do! But while I have your attention, family, let me update you on what is going on at OTRCC.

At Over-the-Rhine Community Church, we are heading into the holidays with a renewed since of passion and purpose for our calling. We have been busy being the hands and feet of Jesus to our wonderfully diverse community. We continue to feed dozens of our friends in need each Sunday morning with a hearty, healthy breakfast while providing a loving, safe atmosphere and a sincere invitation to join us for deeper community in worship and beyond. We recently sent a dozen of our leaders, both new and long-time, to a conference to soak up some knowledge about how to be a church that lives into its context well and makes a true difference for Jesus in the community. We continue to see new faces each and every week and are seeing new folks begin to plug-in and lead in exciting ways. This week, we started our second round of intentional leadership development that we call Huddles. All of this is possible because you at Hyde Park and we at Over-the-Rhine believe that we are family and we try to live into that reality together. Great things are happening!

This Sunday, I’m excited to get to see the faces again of all of those worshipping at Hyde Park and meet some new ones. We will be in the third part of our sermon series on Four Things Jesus Did Not Say, and this week’s topic is “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”. I know, easy right? Not so much. As people who worship a God who is said to BE love, is hate even a weapon we have in our arsenal? Can we hate something about others and not step over the line of hating them? These are the kinds of things we will wrestle with together. I can’t wait to see you there on Sunday. It’ll be like seeing family.

Pastor Zak McIntyre

Over-the-Rhine Community Church

Bible “truisms”…

The Bible is one of the most popular and beloved books in the whole world. At least I hope you agree! It is also one of the most complicated to understand. There are stories with plot twists we could never conceive of, teachings that are hard to accept, and characters who have become heroes as well as cautionary tales.

Scriptures must be interpreted. Sometimes their meanings seem to conflict, or a particular message given in one context appears to be contradicted in another context. We must ask ourselves “what is the broader message or theme of the whole of scripture?” It is not enough to find a passage or two or three which supports our particular view. This is known as proof texting your point.

Here is what I think works best–We interpret all of scripture in the light of Jesus’ life and his teachings, as well as with the help of tradition, reason and our life experiences.

Our sermon series “Four Things Jesus Never Said” continues this week. Adam Hamilton’s book, Half-Truths, helps us examine a few sayings that may or may not appear in the Bible. Jesus certainly never said any of these sayings. A number of these sayings are misused and can actually hurt people.

Have you ever heard or said the phrase “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves?”

When saying this-What do we mean? Does it help others? Is it biblical? Is it not?

You are invited to be in worship as I attempt to make some sense of this most popular saying. See you on Sunday morning!

Blessings,

Pastor Dave

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

Investing in the Kingdom of God

Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and God’s righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well.” (Matthew 6:33, NJB)

The words of Jesus connect our yearning, as expressed in the Lords prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”, with God’s promise of blessing; Prayer and Partnership!  But what is this “kingdom of God” we pray for? It is a kingdom of abundance not scarcity, it is an investment in ensuring all God’s children have enough, it is investing in doing what is right, not settling for what is fair.

Henri Nouwen writes:

“Even a seemingly small act of generosity can grow into something far beyond what we could ever ask or imagine (see Ephesians 3:20): the creation of a community of love in this world and beyond this world; because wherever love grows, it is stronger than death (1 Corinthians 13:8).  So when we give ourselves to planting and nurturing love here on earth, our efforts will reach out beyond our own chronological existence.  Indeed, when we [financially investments in] the creation of a community of love, we are helping God build the kingdom. . . .  Paul is clear: Make love your aim” (1 Corinthians 14:1 NJB).”   

This is the nature of our partnership with God, expressed through the Lord’s prayer, and supported by our financial commitments: by helping God create communities of love, we are helping God build God’s kingdom.”  Our investments are a witness to our love of God, and those God Loves.  I invite you to watch the video on our website, hydeparkchurch.org, and hear the stories of how God’s Abundant Living has allowed HPCUMC to offer abundant living.   I look forward to seeing you in church as together we partner with God to bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven!

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

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.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Abundant Living!

Jesus proclaims in the tenth chapter of John, “I came that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly.” In Acts 1 we are told to go and bear witness to this abundant life. I celebrate the multiple ways Hyde Park Community has borne witness to, and offered abundant life:

• Over 90 youth and adult servants offered the light of Christ to the most vulnerable in Cincinnati through Summer Impact.

• For the third year we sponsored a Summer Reading Camp for at risk elementary students grade 1-3.

• Our Preschool maintains the highest ranking in the State of Ohio (5 star), with 200 children enrolled.

• First Friday Nighters and Thursday Edition continue to be a foundational piece of our Senior Adult Ministry.  New programs include: “A Few Good Men and a Meal”, a time for men to gather for lunch and fellowship; “Friendly Visitors”, a ministry where members of the church give their time and presence to fellow members of HPC who are home bound.

• The Organ Concert Series begins its fifteenth season hosting internationally acclaimed concert artists.

• 136 of the 228 participants in the “Shipwrecked” Vacation Bible School were from the surrounding neighborhood.

• Partnership with Rothenberg Preparatory Academy, offering a beacon of love, support, and compassion through 3 different programs for volunteers to engage.

• Our Youth made an impact locally and globally during the “Made to Make a Difference Retreat; and traveling to the impoverished Sea Islands of South Carolina offered a hand up to those in need.

• The Young Adult Ministry has launched a number of opportunities for fellowship and study, and is flourishing.

• Over 1,000 HPC members/attendees are engaged in a study or connect group.

• Inspiring worship is offered weekly through music and the spoken word.

• The Hospitality Team welcomes our guests with a welcome lunch quarterly.

Thank you for witnessing to the abundant life in Christ through your financial generosity and gifts of time! It is a privilege to serve in ministry with you!

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

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.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns