Star of Wonder, Star of Light

“The Star” leads the Magi and their caravan to the Christ Child, and in transforming wonder lead them back into the world.  Likewise “The Star” leads and sends you and me, where we live out our calling to be the “Light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

The Prophet Isaiah describes this “Great Light” that illumines and transforms (Isaiah 9:2-6).  It is a prophecy that holds in tension current reality and future deliverance.  Twentieth Century Theologian Jurgen Moltmann writes:

“Isaiah lets his vision of the birth of the child and the appearance of the pace of God shine like a light into the conflicts and experiences of real life. It is not easy to keep these dimensions together when one is used to splitting up faith and politics, to celebrate Christmas only in the heart and in the bosom of one’s own family.  But the message of the prophet is a realistic vision, and what it talks about is a visionary reality.  It is a message for the people, a message sent into the camps of the exiled, and into the slums of the poor.  It is a word against the captains of the arms industry and the fanatics of power.  If we really understand what it means, it bursts the bonds of Sunday worship.  For if this message really lays hold of us, it leads us to Jesus the liberator, and to the people who live in darkness and who are waiting for him – and for us.” (Watch for the Light, p.309-310)

As we celebrate The Epiphany – the day the Magi saw the light, encountered the Christ Child; and transformed returned to offer transformation to the world, let us make the journey as well.  As we begin a new year, let us be the liberating Body of Christ to the world; and the “Light of the world” to those who walk in darkness!  See you in Church!

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

Mission and Outreach

Join us in making a difference this Christmas. Historically our congregation has faithfully provided for the various needs of our global partners. Please prayerfully consider giving an extraordinary gift to our Global Outreach Ministry. With your generous support, we will provide leadership training, education for those in poverty, supplies and staffing resources for health needs, as well as training and care for those who need support. Our goal is $60,000 to meet the needs of our partners.

You can make your donation using the envelope provided in your pew and placing it in today’s offering or by mailing it to the church office (1345 Grace Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45208). Checks can be written to Hyde Park Community UMC with a note in the memo; Christmas Global Offering.

Your faithfulness in giving above and beyond this Christmas will enhance the lives of children in Haiti, provide a Christ-centered place of worship in Russia and Romania, or help to maintain the health and wellness of Americans who have followed God into full-time missions in Asia Minor. Keep Christ at the center of your Christmas and into the New Year.

In Christ,

Rev. Doug Johns, Co-Senior Pastor

Sarah Putman, Mission & Outreach Ministry Assistant

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!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

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