Give Thanks!

Thanksgiving begins a season of celebration with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. From Thanksgiving, through Advent and Christmas, to the New Year, we will spend time counting our blessings, expressing our gratitude, and sharing God’s love. As you give thanks this season, my hope is that you can pray this simple prayer: “O Lord, thank you Jesus”!

Pastor H.B. Charles tells the following story about a woman he knew who showed up at church and prayed the same simple prayer. “O Lord, thank you Jesus,” she prayed week after week. Finally somebody asked her, “Why do you pray the same little prayer?” She said, “Well, I’m just combining the two prayers that I know. We live in a bad neighborhood and some nights there are bullets flying and I have to grab my daughter and hide on the floor, and in that desperate state all I know how to cry out is, ‘O Lord.’ But when I wake up in the morning and see that we’re okay I say, ‘Thank you Jesus.’ When I got to take my baby to the bus stop and she gets on that bus and I don’t know what’s going to happen to her while she’s away, I cry, ‘O Lord.’ And then when 3:00 P.M. comes and that bus arrives and my baby is safe, I say, ‘Thank you Jesus.'” She said, “Those are the only two prayers I know and when I get to church God has been so good I just put my two prayers together, “O Lord, thank you Jesus.”

As you gather around table this Thanksgiving weekend, give God thanks for the many ways in which you have been blessed. Give God thanks for the many ways in which God has led you through times of danger, discouragement, and disappointment this past year: “O Lord, thank you Jesus”!

I look forward to seeing you in church this Advent and Christmas season as we embrace the lessons of the manger, with this simple prayer on our lips: “O Lord, thank you Jesus”!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

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

Free at Last!

If we are to be a people who indeed live free, it will involve a change of attitude in how we approach life; it will involve making the shift from an attitude of “scarcity” to one of “abundance”. The problem with living life bound by an attitude of “scarcity” is that it shackles our perspective on all of life. Thus, we are imprisoned by fear; bound by fear, trust deteriorates; lack of trust diminishes our ability to step out in faith and embrace God’s blessings.

On the other hand, when we are able to see and claim that we are a people of “abundance” we find “freedom”! Thus, we live by faith not fear; faith and hope go together, and we possess a hope that, as Paul proclaims: “will not disappoint us”; and free to trust in God’s promises, an attitude of “abundance” moves us to invest in God’s kingdom: Loving God, and those God loves!

Commitment Sunday on October 26 was a day of celebration. Celebrating who we are: Beloved children of God, we committed ourselves to helping others embrace a new identity as a beloved child of God as well!

To date we have received 229 commitments, which represents an increase in average commitment, from 2013, of about 35%. The people of God have spoken. No longer will we live imprisoned by a mentality of “scarcity”, but in Jesus Christ, we are a people of “abundance”!

Thank you to all who have made a commitment to the vision, mission, ministry, and outreach of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church. You’ve chosen to invest in changed lives and transformed communities. The dividend is priceless!

If you have not yet made a financial commitment, I encourage you to join those who call Hyde Park Community home: Invest in her vision, mission, ministry, and outreach!

God is “doing a new thing” at Hyde Park Community, “don’t you perceive it?” I look forward to serving in ministry with you in the months and years ahead. Together, Loving God, and those God loves, we are free at last to live a life of abundance. See you in church!

In Christ,
Doug

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

In Christ We Find Freedom

Jesus tells the woman, whose sins are many: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Underlying the woman’s boldness is trust. Trust that God, in Christ, is who God says God is, and will do what God says God will do!

The tithe became an essential part of worship for the Covenant people, Israel. Tithing is an issue of “Trust”. A “tithe” means “a tenth part” of the first fruits of one’s labor. Jesus talked about money in 16 out of 38 parables. The Bible devotes 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but over 2,000 verses on money and possessions.

Tithing is not an issue of money. It is an issue of trust. God knows that the most difficult area for us to turn over to God is our finances. Therefore, God says: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse (the church), so that there may be food in My house, and test me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open up for you the window of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. (Malachi 3:10) God said it – Can I trust God to fulfill God’s promise? More importantly, can God trust in me?

We invite you to prayerfully consider how you will support the Mission and Ministry of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church through your financial resources. We invite you to join us in committing the “tithe” (10% of your income). If you are unable to commit to the tithe, we encourage you to take a percentage step towards tithing in your giving. Pray for God to guide your decision to invest sacrificially in the ministry of Jesus Christ at Hyde Park Community; we are praying with you!

In Christ,
Pastors Cathy and Doug 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

Free At Last

There is much in life that we allow to imprison us; which in turn keeps us from fully experiencing the life God intends for us. Our attitudes, outlook, and our finances can imprison our spirit, and limit our joy.

This Sunday we begin a new sermon series: Free At Last! The series will help us understand that we serve a God of abundance not scarcity. Trusting God to be faithful to God’s promises, we are free to invest in life transforming ministries, offering freedom in the name of Christ Jesus to others who find themselves imprisoned. Trusting God to be faithful we are free to embrace God’s blessings, share God’s blessings, and in return receive God’s blessings!

The Rev. Rudy Rasmus, pastor, author, and global humanitarian will be with us to kick off our sermon series: Free At Last (9:30 and 11:00 at the Grace Campus; 5:00 p.m. at the Nast Downtown Campus). Pastor Cathy will kick off the sermon series at the 8:00 Grace Campus service, and the 9:30 Nast Downtown Campus.

Pastor Rudy has led St. John’s United Methodist Church with his wife, Juanita, for more than twenty years. St. John’s has grown to over 9,000-members (3,000 of whom are, or were, homeless at one time) and is one of the most culturally diverse congregations in the country. Pastor Rudy attributes the success of the church to a compassionate congregation, which has embraced the vision of tearing down walls of classism, sexism, and racism, and replacing them with unconditional love and acceptance. Rudy and Juanita are the proud parents of two daughters. Pastor Rudy’s most recent book is Love Period. God’s love, without condition, sets us free. It’s in loving others as we have been loved that we experience the fullness of our freedom!

We look forward to seeing you in worship. Invite a friend, relative, acquaintance, or neighbor to join you in worship as we reclaim our freedom in Christ Jesus!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Sacrament of Communion

A sacrament is a finite, physical, visible mediator of the sacred, a means whereby the sacred becomes present to us. A sacrament is a vehicle or vessel of the sacred. In Christian language, a sacrament is an “outward and visible sign” of “an inward spiritual grace.” Sacraments are “doors” to the sacred. They are sacred moments of grace.

There are a variety of names for the sacrament of communion: the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist or the Great Thanksgiving, and Holy Communion. Each of these names is taken from the New Testament and highlights certain facets of this sacrament’s many meanings.

Calling it the Lord’s Supper reminds us that it is a meal instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ and hosted by him at his table whenever it takes place.
Calling it Holy Communion reminds us that it is an act of the most holy and intimate sharing, making us one with Jesus Christ and part of his body, the church.

Calling it the Eucharist , a term taken from the New Testament Greek word meaning thanksgiving, reminds us that giving thanks to God for all that God has done is an essential part of the meal.

By using these different names we acknowledge that no single name can contain the “mystery of God” at work through the Holy Spirit in this sacred act.

October 5 is World Communion Sunday. As you receive the bread and the cup it is my hope that you will experience the presence of Christ in both a personal and communal way. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Let us celebrate this holy sacrament as a means of grace. May it liberate and empower us as the body of Christ.

In Christ’s love,
Dave

Stay in Love With God

Bishop Rueben Job wrote a book, “Three Simple Rules”, based on the teachings of John Wesley (father of Methodism): Do no harm, Do good, Stay in love with God.

The “Three Simple Rules” are discipleship pathways based on the teachings of Jesus. In Luke’s account of Jesus’ teaching on judging others (Luke 6:37-42), we see with new eyes, and hear with new ears, what it means to “stay in love with God.”

Judgment, we have convinced ourselves, is a way for us to gain superior moral footing. However, in reality, it is a way to marginalize those unlike us, and disenfranchise others based on stereotypes, accusation, rumors, and perception. Consequently, we all judge others, but yet we dislike being judged.

If we’re to “stay in love with God” we will embrace God’s call to love as we’ve been loved. Bishop Job writes:
“The question Jesus asked of Peter in John 21:15ff, “Do you love me?”reveals a great deal about the essentials of our relationship with God. Three times Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” and three times Peter answered in the affirmative. Staying in love with God was the primary issue of a faithful life then, and it is today. For from such a life of love for God will flow the goodness and love of God to the world.” (p.57)

Practicing Radical Hospitality moves me away from a life of exclusion to a life of embracing. Embracing the stranger, the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the lonely, and the vulnerable in our midst, is the way of love; and a way of “staying in love with God”! In love with God, there’s no room for judgmentalism and condemnation.

I look forward to seeing you in church as we strive to stay in love with God by embracing God’s call to radical hospitality! Invite a friend, relative, acquaintance, or neighbor to join you!

In Christ,
Doug