Home and Not Alone!

As we live into these final days of Advent we pray with the Psalmist, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10).  Our prayer is a prayer of anticipation and expectation as we welcome Christ Jesus in the home of our hearts, where God makes all things new and reminds us we are not alone.

As we travel these final days of Advent, we journey with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.  With expectancy we anticipate the birth of Christ Jesus in, through, and around us.  The following poem captures this expectant waiting:

Lo, in the silent night

A child to God is born

And all is brought again

That ere was lost or lorn.

Could but thy soul, O human,

Become a silent night!

God would be born in thee

And set all things aright. (15th Century)

As Father Richard Rohr says, “God cannot not love God’s universally-begotten child in you.”  I pray that in all our preparations we are able to prepare for God’s birthing and live in experiential knowledge of God’s love.  Knowing in heart and mind that we are not alone, indeed never alone, for Emanuel (God with us) has come!  I look forward to seeing you in Church!

Advent Blessings,

Pastor Doug

Rockefeller Christmas Trees Keep On Giving!

Michael Hill, of Associated Press, posted this on December 5, 2017:

“Old Rockefeller Center Trees never really die, they just get built into the wall frames and floor supports of affordable homes.  For the past decade, the ornament–laden trees that have been lit up with glitz, songs, and dancing Rockettes have gone to be milled into lumber and used in dozens of Habitat for Humanity homes from Philadelphia to Pascagoula, Mississippi.  Each tree yields a truckload of 100 or more boards, all stamped with an image of the tree and the year it was on display.”

One recipient, homeowner Keith Smith, shared that he cannot see the unique wood in his home from the 2015 tree, but adds “he feels it.”  He appreciated his family’s connection to the annual lighting extravaganza in Manhattan.

John D. Rockefeller, a very generous man to both the Church and our nation, would be proud.  I believe that God is also smiling as the trees continue to give shelter, joy, and hope to others.

This Christmas season, a season of giving, I invite you to count your blessings and give thanks for God’s gift to you:  Jesus, the Christ, our Savior, the hope of the world.

May you discover new ways to share with others all that God has given you!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Your Presence through your Presents!

As we begin the season of Advent, preparing our hearts, and homes for Christmas, I uplift to you three very specific ways you can be present through your Christmas presents.

Alternative Christmas Giving

A gift for the one who has it all!  Hyde Park Community U.M.C. has offered “Alternative Christmas Giving” for a number of years.  This year Alternative Christmas Gifts have a duel focus: “Starter Essentials” for Respite Care; and Sunday School supplies for the Children’s ministry of Samara UMC, Russia.  With each $10 gift you will receive an ornament with a card stating: “A gift of Sunday school supplies for our partners in Samara, Russia, and “Starter Essentials” for Respite Care were given in your honor.”  Your presence through your present.

Christmas at Rothenberg

Every year we provide Christmas gifts for our children at Rothenberg.  This year we committed to purchase gifts for the third grade and special needs classes.  This past week we received a call for help with the preschool class (38 preschoolers). Please see the bulletin board across from the Welcome Center, choose an ornament or two, purchase the gift on the ornament, wrap it with a tag identifying the child, and return the gift to the office by December 13. Your presence through your present.

Global Mission Partner Christmas Offering

Annually we have an opportunity to make a financial contribution to the needs of our Global Mission Partners (Samara UMC, Russia; Cluj UMC, Romania; Faith Academy Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti; and The Red Bird Mission, Kentucky).  Your “Presence through your present” is an investment in God’s acts of “new creation” in places, and for people, we will never know; but know through our investment. Communities are transformed through the love of Jesus Christ!  Please use the offering envelope in the hymnal rack to make your gift.

May God bless you this Advent season as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  See you in Church!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

A Song of Peace Rising From the Ashes: I Heard Bells on Christmas Day

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived during a turbulent time in our nation’s history.  In 1861 the first shots of the Civil War were fired.  His household experienced a tragic fire which claimed the life of his beloved wife, Frances.  Additionally, their son, Lieutenant Charles Longfellow was severely wounded in the war.

Longfellow, stricken with grief, could hardly bear the thought of Christmas.  After three years of grieving the heavy sorrow of the death of his wife, Frances, he wrote these words of hope, into his journal on December 25, 1864:

“And in despair I bowed my head; there is no peace on earth,” I said.

“For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace of earth, good-will to men.”

Peace in the world requires something from us.  Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is here to invite us to be peacemakers as we bring God’s kingdom from heaven to earth.

May God bless you and your loved ones with hope, love, joy, and peace during this holy season.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

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