Life Changing Attitude: Forgiveness

Attitude is everything! Our attitude is one of the few things we have total control of, but, sad to say, we fail to control. Too often we walk around carrying unhealthy thoughts and feelings that shape our attitudes. No matter our circumstances, we have a choice: positivity/negativity, good/bad, optimism/pessimism. The attitude we choose to embrace will bind us or free us; attitude is everything!
Forgiveness is a life-changing attitude and Jesus invites us to make this part of our lifestyle. We are created in the likeness and image of God. Created in the likeness and image of God, has nothing to do with our physical characteristics and everything to do with our character. Created in the image and likeness of God, we possess the characteristics of God. We possess the capacity to love as we are loved, to show grace and mercy as we have been shown grace and mercy, to forgive as we have been forgiven. As Paul puts it, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
Author, and Pastor of the largest United Methodist Church in the United States, Adam Hamilton, writes in his book, Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go,
“When we choose to show mercy, the image of God is seen in us. Our willingness to forgive has the power not only to change us, freeing us from bitterness and resentment but to change those who receive mercy from us, just as we are changed when finally we see and comprehend the vast and wonderful mercy of God.” (Page 138)
In many ways forgiveness is counterintuitive. For multiple reasons that seem logical and reasonable, we convince ourselves that forgiveness either makes us weak and/or more vulnerable. In reality it makes us stronger and releases us to live life abundantly. I look forward to seeing you in church.
In Christ,
Pastor Doug

West Ohio Annual Conference 2016

The West Ohio Annual conference began with almost 3000 clergy and laity gathering at Lakeside, Ohio in early June.  Each day began with a powerful worship experience with preaching by Bishop Palmer and guest bishops from other conferences.  Holy Communion is celebrated.  Worship is an inspiring way to start each day, and it sets the tone for all of us to work together in the unity of the Spirit.

For me, the gift of being a lay delegate is to see the best of our connectional church.  It is about learning what our church is doing for mission and outreach in the state of Ohio, the U.S., and the world.  It is learning about new initiatives which the conference, districts, and the local church are doing to be the hands and feet of Christ to the world. It is seeing how others are serving to transform the world.

The business portion of the conference was non-controversial this year.  There were five recommendations which were discussed and voted on:  Finance and Administration; Equitable Compensation; Pension and Health Benefits; sale of Camp Asbury; and a study regarding the benefits and costs of the Missional Church Consultation Initiative.  Two years ago we started using the electronic voting process so the actual voting took a lot less time than in the past when we said “Yea or Nay”; raised our hands, or had a written ballot.  The administrative and parliamentary procedures may be cumbersome and sometimes tedious (at least for me), but the gift is that everyone has “voice and vote”, and we are part of the holy conferencing process, the solutions, and the future of the United Methodist Church.

We affirm the new clergy who are commissioned or ordained as local pastors, deacons, or elders (including our very own Pastor Ian Strickland at OTRCC).  New clergy appointments are announced by Bishop Palmer.  We celebrate the retiring clergy who have served us well for many years (although I don’t believe a pastor ever retires).  And we honor the saints and spouses who have gone before us with deep reverence and appreciation.  Certified lay ministers and other missional lay leaders in the West Ohio are recognized as well for their faithful service.

Every year I am moved when over 3000 people stand and sing the hymn, “Lift High the Cross.” And every year I cry as I sing this hymn.   I pray asking God what He wants me to let go of and how I am best to serve Him.  Let us all celebrate and sing, “Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim till all the world adore his sacred name.”

-submitted by Diane Weaver

“Nothing is Wasted with God”

During college many of us had to take “core” classes. In liberal arts college, like I attended, the idea was simple:  We are committed to producing graduates who have a well-rounded education.  I remember taking Southeast Asian history, thinking during the entire semester,

“I will never use this in my lifetime!”   Oddly enough, Doug’s sister, Dianne, who is an executive with General Motors, took an assignment in Singapore.  She flew our family out to visit and treated us to a trip to Thailand.  With God, nothing is ever wasted!

In high school I took three years of French and two years of French in college. Our son, Blake, was able to study in Paris during one of his college semesters. I was amazed at how quickly he picked up the language and knew how to navigate Paris like a native!   Although I enjoy French, it has been a long time since I have used it.  Chalk it up to Exhibit A of a  “well rounded education.”

This summer I will be joining a mission team from West Ohio Conference to offer discipleship training for youth in the North Katanga Conference of the United Methodist Church, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  During our first meeting, they explained that we would need to factor in the time for translation.    French is their primary language.  As we have been working on preparing the curriculum, I realized that I will at least be able to read the Bible to the youth in French!   With God, nothing is ever wasted!

As a pastor, I often hear people put themselves down by saying, ” I can’t do this”  or “I can’t do that.”  As we study the Parable of the Talents this weekend, I invite you to to celebrate who and whose you are:  You are a unique child of God who has been created to bless the world.   Let us focus on what we can do and give God all the glory!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

By this they will know…

This past Sunday we awoke to a shock not experienced in the United States since 9/11; hate unleashed, mass murder, an act of terror. Like you, as I made my way to church, I had no clue what had happened early Sunday morning. Like you, my emotions are all over the board; demanding, desiring, hoping for answers. Why did this happen?  How do we respond?

In the aftermath, I know this; God through Jesus Christ provides us a way forward!  Jesus instructs us: “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:4); “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34); “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). In Jesus, through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered not to stoop to the level of the perpetrator and give into hate; rather, we are empowered to seek higher ground, choosing the way of love: “By this they will know you are my disciples.”

Hate breeds hate, love in the midst of tragedy and despair breeds transformation. Bishop Palmer wrote to the churches of the conference:

“Every life lost to terrorism and gun violence is a summons to turn our backs on a paradigm that simply does not work…In these days to come, may we compassionately hold the families cut most deeply by this loss and fear.  May we stand close enough so we feel their pain as if it were our own, because it is.  And may the pain of staying the same finally give way to the pain of change.  The change we need will be costly.  We will have to give up something.  Only in the letting go of what is do we have a chance to embrace what can be . . . .We must die to live.  Die to violence, to live in peace. Die to hatred, to live in love.” (Go to the West Ohio Conference website for the complete article)

We are called to a life centered in the love of God through Jesus Christ. At times it is a life that is not easy, convenient, or preferred; but a life that is, at all times, transformative!

I look forward to seeing you in church.

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Diving for Earrings

Doug and I have travelled to Israel several times.  We enjoy visiting a jeweler in the Christian Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem.  They do beautiful work.  We have purchased many Jerusalem cross necklaces and earrings from these dear men.

I am one of those odd women who believe you are never fully dressed without your earrings!  One of my favorite pair of earrings are gold Jerusalem crosses with my birthstone in the center.  I forgot to remove them once while swimming in a large indoor pool.

I gently pulled on my earlobes and noticed that one of them was missing.  Trained as a lifeguard, I began the search and rescue mission.  I walked around the edge of the pool and then spotted it – a small shiny, gold object – about two feet from the drain.  Next steps involved a little bit of strategic thinking.  I needed to gently approach the earring without creating too many waves.  I gently entered the water on the far end of the pool and swam underwater very gently toward the drain.  I reached down and was able to grab it with my fingers.   When I came up, I was overjoyed!  My earring was no longer lost, but found!

This weekend we will be enjoying one of Jesus’ parables, “The Woman with the Lost Coin.”  Like all good jokes, parables do have a point, or a punchline.  You either “get it” or you don’t.  As a preacher, I pray that you will “get it” and fully understand the joy of being found by a God who deeply loves you, even when you are circling the drain!  We have a God who does jump in to rescue us, pull us to safety, and rejoices with us.

May God richly bless you this weekend.  I look forward to seeing you, your friends, and your family!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Well Done Good and Faithful Servants!

On May 15, 2016 we wrapped up our Imagine No Malaria Campaign. In 2014 Bishop Palmer challenged the congregation of HPCUMC to be a “Champion Church” committing to raise $50,000 towards the 3.5 million dollar goal of the Annual Conference. Upon the recommendation of the Community Ministry/Global Outreach Team the Servant Leadership Board accepted the Bishop’s challenge.

I am excited to report that at the conclusion of our three-phase campaign HPCUMC surpassed our goal of $50,000, raising a total of $55,551.81. The break down is as follows:

Download (PDF, 14KB)

Quoting the statement on an Imagine No Malaria post card: “Thanks to the giving spirit you have inspired, we are closer to eliminating death and suffering from malaria.” According to recent statistics 430,000 of the reported 584,000 malaria deaths were children under the age of five. Every 60 seconds a child dies in Africa. The United Methodist Church has partnered with secular and sacred institutions to eradicate malaria from the continent of Africa. The West Ohio Conference is leading the way committing 3.5 million towards the United Methodist Church commitment of $75 million.

The Global Community effort involves a four-prong attack on malaria: Prevention; through the use of bed nets, providing access to diagnostic tests and medicine, draining standing water and improving sanitation. Treatment; ensuring clinics and hospitals have the diagnostic tests and treatment needed to save lives. Education; health care workers are trained to go door to door in remote communities to deliver and install bed nets and teach people how to use and care for the nets properly. Communication; using technology to reach millions with life-saving information about malaria.

Well done good and faithful servants! It is a joy and privilege to serve in ministry with you.  I look forward to seeing you in church.

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

The Future of the United Methodist Church

The Future of The United Methodist Church

General Conference, which meets every four years to renew our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ and set our polity and doctrine, met this May in Portland, Oregon.  Delegates from all around the world came together to worship, pray, and make decisions.

Over 900 petitions regarding our theological understanding of human sexuality were discussed.  A variety of perspectives were shared; painful discussions took place.  Tears were shed.  There were some who believed that it was time for the United Methodist Church to move forward as separate groups while others fought for unity in the Body of Christ called United Methodism.

The Council of Bishops are appointing a diverse group to study all references to human sexuality in the United Methodist Book of Discipline and then come back with a recommendation (in 2018 or 2020) for a way forward.  This motion was approved by 32 votes.

These are difficult times for our denomination.  At Hyde Park Community United Methodist we are committed to seeking God’s wisdom through vigilant prayer.  We are a blessed, diverse community.  Bishop N.T. Wright offers a way forward as we seek God’s guidance in community:

“True wisdom is both bold and humble.  It is never afraid to say what it thinks it has seen, but will always cover other angles of vision.”

This week we conclude our sermon series “Tapping into the Power of the Hoy Spirit.”  Ephesians 6:10-20 helps us understand how to tap into the Spirit’s power for strength.  As United Methodists we need to put on the full armor of God and be ready to face the future without fear.  The full armor of God, according to Paul, includes these wonderful gifts from our God who loves us and equips us to be strong in the Lord:

  • the belt of truth
  • shoes of the gospel of peace
  • the breastplate of righteousness
  • the shield of faith
  • the helmet of salvation
  • the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God)
  • prayer

We, God’s people, will find strength in the Lord!  I look forward to celebrating the Lord’s Day with you.

Pastor Cathy Johns

Master Plan Update

In 2013 Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church received, and approved, a recommendation from The TAG (The Armstrong Group) Team to:  “create a long term Master Plan with associated costs to lay a roadmap for future capital projects to meet evolving ministry and missional needs.”  Shortly after the decision was made, The MSA Architectural firm was engaged to lead HPCUMC in the creation of a Master Plan.  Due to Pastoral changes in January 2014, the decision was made to wait until the new pastoral leadership was appointed before beginning the work of the Master Plan.

The Servant Leadership Board, in consultation with Pastor Cathy and me gave the green light to MSA Architects to begin the Master Plan process in the fall of 2014.  The following year,  MSA Architects met with a number of groups in the church for input on current and future facility needs/wishes/desires.  In late fall 2015, MSA Architects presented their report to the Servant Leadership Board.  Subsequently a group from The Servant Leadership Board and Facilities Team, led by Pastor Cathy, developed the following schedule for sharing the Master Plan.

Over the next couple of weeks a team of people will be equipped to share the Master Plan with various groups (Program/Fellowship/Administrative) of HPCUMC.  In addition, there will be two to three “All Church” gatherings.  Following the sharing sessions, a recommendation will go to the Annual Charge Conference (Late October or mid-November) to assemble a team that will create a plan to implement Phase One of the Master Plan, which will include, but not limited to, a timeline, architectural plans and funding plans.

We are excited to share this forward thinking plan with you.  Be on the lookout for the many opportunities you will have to hear the Master Plan.  I look forward to sharing in ministry with you in the months and years to come as we put in place the infrastructure to fulfill our calling with excellence!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

A Prayer on Pentecost for the United Methodist Church

This Sunday is Pentecost, the birthday of the Church!  In Acts 2 we read the account of the Holy Spirit who empowered the people who were gathered all in one place.

There was the sound of a rushing wind and “divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, a a tongue rested on each one of them.” (Acts 2:3).

Once every four years the global United Methodist Church gathers.  At General Conference powerful worship will be experienced as the Church renews our commitment to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  Major decisions will be made which will impact individuals, families, churches, laity, pastors, and our life together as United Methodists.

The United Methodist Church needs your prayers this week.  Please join me in praying for General Conference:

God, Maker of heaven and earth, as the people called United Methodists gather in Portland, may Your Spirit rain down upon everyone.

As people gather from around the globe, renew the United Methodist Church in a powerful way, anointing us with fresh wind and fire as on the first Pentecost.

Jesus, Great shepherd of the sheep, watch over the delegation from West Ohio Conference, all voting members, and guests.

With Your gentle staff, direct them.  Lead them and guide their words, thoughts, and actions.  Protect them from harm.

Hold them in Your loving arms, especially when they are weary and need new strength.

Holy Spirit, Wonderful Counselor, flood every inch of General Conference with Your life-giving presence. 

Fill each delegate and guest with Your wisdom and strength.  Remind all who gather that You are a God who makes all things new. 

Help us to remember that with You all things are possible. 

Unite us.  Empower us.  Fill us with the peace of Christ, a peace that passes all understanding.

I offer this prayer in the name of our God, who created us, watches over us, and guides our steps.  Amen.

  

(offered by Rev. Dr. Cathy Johns)

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead

Zombies, or the walking dead, are part of a long-running television series.  I am not really a Zombie fan, but the special effects and costumes are fun to watch.  I am sure that the hair and make-up crew for Zombies enjoy letting their creative juices flow.

As we conclude the season of Eastertide, an important question arises:  “Are you alive or dead?”  It may seem to be a ridiculous question at first.   Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord, tells his disciples “Because I live, you also will live.”   Are you just going through the motions of life, staggering around like a Zombie, or have you embraced your identity as one who is fully alive in Christ?

This weekend’s message concludes our sermon series “Who am I?”  The scripture from Ephesians 2 celebrates our identity in Christ: “Alive, not Dead.”

We are a  people who are alive and well, serving as the hands and feet of Christ to bless the world.

May God richly bless you this weekend!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy