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

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

Welcoming the Other

Over the course of my ministry I’ve had the opportunity to visit a lot of churches, and have been involved in numerous conversations with regard to the identity and character of a particular faith community.  Inevitably I would hear: “we are a friendly church”  or, “we are an inviting and welcoming church”, only to find out through a visit on Sunday morning: welcoming, inviting, and friendly to those they know, yes.  Welcoming, inviting, and friendly to the stranger in their midst, well, not so much!

Radical Hospitality, the kind of hospitality God calls us to, is a hospitality that goes beyond just being, nice.  As followers of Christ radical hospitality is extended through our actions: “If you’ve done it to the least of these brothers and sisters, you’ve done it to me” (Matthew 25:40); and in our prayers: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).  Radical Hospitality involves embracing diversity – the kind of diversity we learned through song as a child:  Red and yellow black and white all are precious in His sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world!  As followers of Christ we are to, as St. Benedict puts it: “Welcome the other”!

The question we should always be asking ourselves (individually and as a community of faith) is are we are practicing the hospitality of Jesus?  Answering this question starts by embracing our diversity.  Father Daniel Homan and Lonni Collins Pratt in their book, Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love, write:

“The hardest thing about all these people is their absolute otherliness, which cannot be tamed or ignored.  They are going to remain unlike us.  We are not going to understand them.  We should celebrate this.  We need them to be different from us.  It fits in the way the universe has been designed.” (p.85)

Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church is a diverse community of faith; and God is calling us to widen our circle further.  I look forward to serving in ministry with you as we partner with God to bring His “kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven”.  See you in church!

In Christ,
Doug

 

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

Can’t or Won’t?

Hope is essential to a healthy life. Hope is the light at the end of the tunnel. Hope is the breaking of the morning dawn dispelling the dark of night. Hope is the fuel that powers us through difficult times. Hope sustains when there is very little to hang on to.

However, one of the great enemies of hope is a small but destructive word: “Can’t”; one small but destructive phrase: “I can not”! Chuck Swindoll in his book: “Wisdom For The Way” writes: “Can’t and won’t. Christians need to be very careful which one they choose. It seems that we prefer to use “can’t.”

“I just can’t get along with my wife.”
“My husband and I can’t communicate.”
“I just can’t discipline the kids as I should.”
“I just can’t give up the affair I’m having.”
“I can’t stop overeating.”
“I can’t find time to pray.”

Any Christian who takes the Bible seriously will have to agree the word here really should be “won’t”. Why? Because we have been given the power, the ability to overcome. . . . We’re really saying “I won’t,” because we don’t choose to say “With the help of God, I will!” (p.21)

The Psalmist helps us remember that God is a God of new life, and new beginnings. Paul reminds us: all things are possible in Christ Jesus; and, hope will not disappoint us. Indeed, one of the strands that hold the Bible together from Genesis to Revelation is Hope.

The writers of the Psalms encourage us to embrace the hope that is ours in our God. The Psalmist proclaims that God: “Turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” (Ps 30:11)  Embracing hope, God renews and re-orients life! May God’s blessings abound as we allow ourselves to be filled by the Holy Spirit, filled with hope!
In Christ,

Doug

Where’ s God When It Hurts

The Psalmists wrote often of their disappointment in God in the midst of their struggles, discouragement, and suffering. Some write with out-right anger and hostility that God would “forget” them. Others write about the anguish in trying to find their way in a world where God seems absent; and so it is in the 21st century.

We encounter our own struggles, agony, pain, and suffering in life; and like our brothers and sisters of ancient Israel we ask: “Where’s God?” Philip Yancey in his book, “Where is God When it Hurts?” writes:

“Much of the suffering on our planet has come about because of two principles that God built into creation: a physical world that runs according to consistent natural laws, and human freedom. . . . Where is God when it hurts? He is in us – not in the things that hurt – helping to transform bad into good. We can safely say that God can bring good out of evil; we cannot say that God brings about the evil in hopes of producing good.” (p.65 and 111)

God is not a God who brings suffering our way as some cosmic test of faith and obedience, nor is God a God who delights in our suffering, waiting for God’s children to cry out for help. Where’s God when it Hurts? God is present, actively seeking ways to help turn our attention to God, seek God’s strength, and live in God’s hope; as Paul puts it, “hope will not disappoint us.” Jesus puts it this way: “ Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” (John 9:3)

Where’s God when it hurts? God is present in the community of faith that reaches out to bring healing and hope to the broken, disenfranchised, and distressed. Philip Yancey writes, “I believe God has given the church a mandate of representing his love to a suffering world. We usually think of the problem of pain as a question we ask of God, but it is also a question He asks of us. How do we respond to hurting people?” (p.10) As the community of faith partners with God we participate with God in healing a broken world.

I look forward to the days (years) ahead, sharing in ministry with you, as together we partner with God to bring healing and wholeness where pain and suffering overwhelm and distort the lives of God’s children!

In Christ,
Doug

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

Getting Ready For Rally Day 2014

I hope everyone is having a great summer! Are you ready for Rally Day 2014 on Sunday, September 7? Traditionally at HPCUMC it’s the first Sunday after Labor Day that the church gets back into full swing. Let’s think of it as going back to “faith school” after summer break. I hope everyone is as excited about Rally Day as I am, and I do get excited about Rally Day!

In particular I want to speak about our Ministry of Education. As we gear up for the new season, the focus of our children, youth and adult ministries is on spiritual formation or faith development. Another synonym might be spiritual growth, discipleship or a big word like sanctification.

In Christian spiritual formation the focus is on Jesus. It is a lifelong process as a believer desires to become a mature disciple of Jesus and become more like him. Dallas Willard writes that “spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself.”
Galatians 4:19 speaks to the importance of forming one’s life toward the likeness of Christ … “until Christ is formed in you.”
Romans 8:27-29 further shows us that the shaping (“forming”) function of God’s divine Holy Spirit is carried out according to the will of God the Father, for the purpose of conforming us to the image of His Son – Jesus Christ.
Romans 12:1-2 encourages every believer to present themselves to the Lord as an act of spiritual worship and not to be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Then, you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.
We are not bystanders in the spiritual formation of our lives. We are to be active participants with God, who is ever inviting us into a deeper relationship. Spiritual formation is both a process and a journey. It requires a commitment of each one of us who has put their trust or faith alone in Jesus Christ to allow the work of God’s Holy Spirit to transform their life.

There are many opportunities for your spiritual formation here at HPCUMC. I encourage you in the “faith school year” to join a connect group, a Sunday school class, or participate in a mid-week book or Bible study. Hope you are looking to grow in your faith through study, prayer and being in relationship with others who are on the journey with you.
Rally Day is the beginning of something new. It is always great to get back to “faith school” in the life of the church. And it’s never too late to learn, grow and experience transformation as we mature in our faith. Make it a priority! Sign up for a class! May the Holy Spirit convict your heart to go to the next level of your own spiritual formation or faith development!

Are you getting excited about Rally Day 2014? I am!
In Christ’s love,

Dave Weaver