Comfort and Hope in Tragedy

From the floods in Houston to earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan, the United Methodist Church is bringing comfort and hope to those affected by tragedy.  The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the United Methodist “first responders” when tragedy strikes.

Bishop Palmer, resident Bishop of the West Ohio conference, writes to the churches of the Conference:

“Major disasters have unleashed chaos across the world.  Earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador have destroyed whole communities killing hundreds.  According to Defense Minister, Ricardo Patino, Ecuador’s earthquake is the worst tragedy that has hit their country in 60 years . . .  In Japan, an earthquake in the Kumamoto areas has resulted in 48 confirmed deaths with over 100,000 people in evacuation centers . . .  The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is assessing the situation and working with the Methodist Church in Ecuador and other partners to develop a response to the devastation caused by the earthquake . . . UMCOR has also assessed the situation in Japan and concluded that the government and people of Japan are strongly and adequately responding to the recent earthquake.  Please keep the people of Japan and Ecuador in your prayers.

Back home in the United States, Houston is still waiting for water to recede after major flooding.  Seven people are confirmed killed with 1,200 people rescued and more rain in the forecast.  The Texas Conference disaster coordinator is a member of the emergency response network for the city of Houston and will be advising UMCOR as to when cleanup supplies and personnel will be requested.  UMCOR Early Response Teams in Texas are on standby, ready to respond when invited.”

How can we help?  First and foremost, pray for the people and communities effected.  Second, consider supporting the relief effort of UMCOR with a one-time gift (www.umcor.org, click on “donate”, and then click on “U.S. disaster response”, or “International disaster response”).  If you do not have internet access, write a check to HPCUMC, and clearly mark UMCOR Disaster Relief.  Together we make a difference; it is a privilege to serve in ministry with you!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Are you a Victim of Identity Theft?

Protecting our identity is something all of us value. When someone accesses our records, we are at risk. Our personal information, no longer personal, is in the hands of someone who can threaten our security.

As children of God, we sometimes forget who and whose we are. Our identity as daughters and sons of God is clear:

“But you are a chosen race, the King’s priests, the holy nation, God’s own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvelous light. At one time you were not God’s people, but now you are God’s people; at one time you did not know God’s mercy, but now you have received God’s mercy.”
(1 Peter 2:9-10)

Sin, or the ways that we turn against God’s will for us, can hold us captive, robbing us of our identity as forgiven children of God. This Sunday we will study the relationship between sin, our freedom from sin in Christ, and our identity as God’s children.

The new sermon series, “Who am I?” begins with the message, “I am God’s Child,” based on Colossians 1:9-14.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

The Eradication of Malaria

Malaria is a preventable disease that kills over a half million people a year in Africa. According to recent statistics 430,000 of the reported 584,000 malaria deaths were children under the age of five. The West Ohio Conference, under the leadership of Bishop Gregory Palmer has led the denomination, in the effort to eradicate malaria, by pledging 3.5 million dollars. Last year HPCUMC embraced Bishop Palmer’s challenge and pledged $50,000 to the Imagine No Malaria Campaign.

The United Methodist Church has partnered with secular and sacred institutions committing $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.

In an effort to raise our $50,000 pledged, HPCUMC set up a Three Phase Imagine No Malaria campaign. Phase One: “Bring Change,” every man, woman and child was encouraged and challenged to bring their loose change to “change the world.” Phase Two: Alternative Christmas Giving. Individuals/Families were encouraged to make a donation to Imagine No Malaria as a Christmas gift to loved ones and aquiantances. Phase Three: The kick-off was led by a Youth sponsored 5K run April 16, proceeds to support Imagine No Malaria, and continues through May 8 offering the congregation the opportunity to make a one time gift (envelopes are in your bulletin for your use.)

Update: As we begin Phase Three, HPCUMC has raised $48,665 of the $50,000 goal! The question is not can we reach our goal, but how much will we surpass our goal? Can we raise $60,000? $70,000? Dr. Bev Connelly reminded us last fall, “No child should die from a preventable disease.”

Today we welcome Bishop Gregory Palmer to HPCUMC, the resident Bishop of West Ohio Conference, and world leader in the Imagine No Malaria campaign. Thank you Bishop Palmer for your leadership, challenge, and encouragement as together we walk with our brothers and sisters in Africa to healing and wholeness!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Your Legacy Gift and The Legacy of HPCUMC

For decades, the Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church Endowment program has been a vehicle in which individuals and families may express their love for Jesus Christ and HPCUMC. For over 40 years individuals and families have seen fit to enhance the mission and ministry of HPCUMC through their estate plans, wills, and gifts to the Endowment Fund. In 2010 the value of the Endowment Fund (including the Martz Scholarship Fund) was $12,759,784. At the end of 2015 the value of the Endowment Fund was $26,812,844. Over the past 5 years the Endowment Fund has grown over 14 million dollars.

The income from the Endowment Fund supports and enhances the mission and ministry of HPCUMC. Over the years income has been used to support the life transforming ministries of Wesley Chapel Mission Center, The Center for Respite Care, Habitat for Humanity, Inter-Faith Hospitality Network, MEAC, State Ave UMC, Wesley Community Services, Hyde Park Center for Older Adults, a number of food pantries in Metropolitan Cincinnati area, and the world wide effort to eradicate Malaria on the continent of Africa. The Endowment Fund offers scholarship help to our young adults in college, HPCUMC Preschool families, and short-term mission trips. In addition, income has been used to complete necessary renovations and repairs to our facilities, enabling HPCUMC to fulfill her mission.

Thank you to those who made a gift to the endowment and/or included HPCUMC in your estate plans. Your extravagant generosity will transform lives for generations to come. Furthermore, as we celebrate the ministry of the Endowment Fund, we recognize the generosity of Carl and Alice Bimel. Carl and Alice loved the Lord and their church! Consequently, they made it a priority to include HPCUMC in their estate plans. Carl and Alice have left a legacy that will transform lives and communities for generations to come!

The beauty of the Endowment program is that no gift is too small, whether $25 or millions; the endowment program allows every individual and/or family to leave a legacy to the church they love. To those who have considered making a gift to the endowment, and/or including HPCUMC in your estate plans, we look forward to talking with you with regard to the appropriate ways your legacy gift can make a difference.

Together we make a difference in God’s kingdom as we partner with God in establishing God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. It’s a privilege to serve in ministry with you! See you in Church!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

A Doubting Faith?

Have you ever had doubts or insecurities about your faith? Are you skeptical at times about God or wonder why God seems to be absent? If so, you are definitely not alone.
Maybe you’re just more open and honest about your feelings than a lot of people you know. In fact, I would say that most Christ-followers have at one time or another struggled with doubts. I know sincere Christians who have been believers for years and still struggle.

Doubting your faith is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can lead to spiritual growth and maturity. Think about it. It can be a time when you move from your family’s faith (childhood, adolescence) to actually owning your beliefs in a deep and real way.
There was an article blog in Christianity Today that spoke to this “doubt and faith” topic. It stated that there are usually two reasons why people doubt. Here they are:

1) Intellectual questions. In this case, people’s doubts come from questions about what’s true and what’s logical. People who have intellectual doubts often have questions like these: “Why should I believe the Bible is inspired by God?” “How is Christianity different from any other religions?” “Why isn’t evolution true?”

2) Emotional questions. These questions often come from hurt or grief. The emotional doubter may actually ask questions that are similar to those asked by the intellectual doubter: “Why does God allow suffering?” “How could a loving God send someone to hell for not being a Christian?” “Why are people born with disabilities?” The difference is that emotional doubters are not easily satisfied with intellectual answers. Why? Because their problem is not intellectual. It’s usually about their wounded feelings, and they need love and comfort.

This Sunday’s lectionary text is John 20: 19-31. It is the story of Thomas, aka…”the doubter.” You know the story. Jesus had appeared to his disciples behind closed doors (after his resurrection). Thomas missed the occasion. He did not believe his friends. He doubted or was skeptical of what they told him. He needed proof.

So he said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and place my finger in his side, I will not believe.” Thomas must have been from the “show me state of Missouri” in Israel in those times. Jesus did reappear.

But what about us? Where are we in the story? Are we like Thomas? What’s our proof of a resurrection? Do we still doubt? Does our faith waffle back and forth? Maybe we can give ourselves the “benefit of doubt” and still have a “courageous strong faith” concerning the resurrection.

Pastor Dave

Resurrection Hope, Resurrection Living

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! This is the proclamation of the women who visited the tomb of Jesus that first Easter morning. This is the great Easter proclamation of the first century church, and the church of the twenty-first century! It is a proclamation of a current reality and a future hope. God makes all things new, re-creating, and calling us to be partners in God’s re-creation!

However, from the time of the Epicurean philosophers to the “age of enlightenment,” and continuing into the twenty-first century, there are voices that would have us believe that God is not actively involved with God’s creation but has created and left us to our own devices; God is separated from the world, and remains uninvolved with the world. Therefore, if true, the resurrection of Jesus couldn’t possibly have anything to do with us today.

In his book, Surprised By Hope, Bishop N.T. Wright offers the following:

“Who, after all, was it who didn’t want the dead to be raised? Not simply the intellectually timid or the rationalists. It was, and is, those in power, the social and intellectual tyrants and bullies; the Caesars who would be threatened by a Lord of the world who had defeated the tyrant’s last weapon, death itself; the Herods who would be horrified at the postmortem validation of the true King of the Jews. And this is the point where believing in the resurrection of Jesus suddenly ceases to be a matter of inquiring about an odd event in the first century and becomes a matter of rediscovering hope in the twenty-first century. Hope is what you get when you suddenly realize that different worldview is possible, a worldview in which the rich, the powerful, and the unscrupulous do not after all have the last word. The same worldview shift that is demanded by the resurrection of Jesus is the shift that will enable us to transform the world.” (P.75)

Resurrection hope transforms our worldview; we are partners in God’s new creation. I look forward to seeing you in Church as we proclaim with the women at the tomb: Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! And thus we go into the world to be agents of resurrection hope and transformation!

Easter Sunday: Our choirs and pipe organ will enhance worship at 8:00 and 9:30 am, with brass at 9:30 am. Worship @ 11, a multi-media service, will feature Brenda Portman on the organ, “One Accord”, under the direction of Tom Jordan, and our music team of instrumentals and vocalists, led by Dave Colaw.

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Jesus: A Jewish Rabbi with a Twist

He did things rabbis did. Teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus embraced tradition. He also practiced what Luke Powery, of Duke University, calls “traditioned innovation.” Powery describes it:

Jesus embodies a both-and, not an either-or posture.

Jesus works within a tradition but is not enslaved by it. He is free from it, though he respects it.

Historian Jaroslav Pelikan, a former professor at Yale, explains the difference between tradition and traditionalism:

“Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

It was Jesus’ innovation, the fresh understand of God’s Law, that got him in trouble with the religious authorities. Jesus stepped into our lives to bring life-giving character to tradition, freeing us from rules that bind us with God’s grace that sets us free.

As we enter Holy Week, I invite you to come and walk with Jesus. On Maundy Thursday, a new, creative service with four dramatic readings from gifted laity, will bless us. Friday we will gather around the cross to remember the precious sacrifice of our Savior. Sunday morning we will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus.

As we enter Holy Week, I look forward to walking with you and our Savior, Jesus, whose love liberates us from death itself and leads us to life.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Jesus and the Law

Jesus teaches: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”. The laws of Moses and the teachings of the Prophets had one purpose, and the entirety of scripture reflects this purpose. Jesus said all the commandments are summed up in the “Great Commandment”: Love God and love those God loves! Likewise, Jesus in John’s Gospel gives us a new commandment, one that encompasses the great commandment and reframes it for all who claim to follow him: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

Michael Yaconelli in his book, “Messy Spirituality” writes,
“When Jesus and his followers show up, it isn’t long before people start pointing fingers and calling names. Jesus was called all kinds of names: wine-bibber (what is a wine-bibber, anyway?), Sabbath breaker, blasphemer. Over the centuries, religious people have refined name-calling to an art. The name most commonly used today? Unspiritual!. . . One day we decided to become a follower of Christ, to seek his presence in our lives, and were doing our best to keep Jesus in our sights when we were shocked to discover our fellow “classmates” calling us names. “Ungodly. Uncommitted. Poor example. Unspiritual. Carnal. Unbiblical.” In other words, “you are ‘doing God’ all wrong.” (P.45 and 47)

The voices are many that, like the Pharisees, want to tell us we are “doing God all wrong”. As you journey with Jesus this Lent, listen to the only voice that matters, Jesus. Journey with Jesus and hear His call of redemption, and restoration; His call to be loved and to love.

I look forward to our continued journey through Lent. A journey that takes us from the road of ridicule, name calling, and spiritual bullying, to traveling the way of Love. Jesus reminds us, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). Life lived from the mount of beatitudes; it’s all about love.

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

It’s Mine!

If you observe a two-year old with their favorite toy, you will notice that they are not eager to share. At some level they are fearful that someone will come and take away their toy. At that young age, they cannot understand how sharing works. The toy can be enjoyed by another without it’s being taken away, removed forever.

This weekend we will receive an offering for “One Great Hour of Sharing.” Its purpose is to empower, provide water, supply food, and give relief from disasters.

Here are a few ways that this offering makes an impact:

In southeastern Michigan, three months after massive flooding, 900 homes needed mucking out. One Great Hour of Sharing provided training and support to help these communities with long-term recovery needs.

In eastern Kenya, people in Mbangulo went hungry without enough water to cook food. The task of fetching water took most of the day; women were at risk for sexual assault on their long journey to obtain water. One Great Hour of Sharing supported the building of a dam to provide living-giving water to their community.

Ersi Biliu and her husband in Timor, Indonesia could only afford to buy one packet of vegetable seeds at a time. After harvesting their meager crop of vegetables, to feed their six children, they simply went without. One Great Hour of Sharing provided them with several seek packets and nutrition education.

This Sunday you can make a difference! Your Gift to One Great Hour of Sharing will bring water, food, and hope to many in need.

I am looking forward to celebrating the Lord’s Day with you this Sunday.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Lesson from the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount (Chapters 5-7 of Matthew’s Gospel) is Jesus’ comprehensive teachings on life, much of it an alternative to the teachings of the religious elite of His day. The overarching theme of Jesus’ message is living in relationship with God and one another; how we treat one another, and the respect we have for one another. The lessons to be learned from the Sermon on the Mount are as relevant today, as they were when Jesus first spoke them.

In this season of intentional reflection on our spiritual journey, Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount remind us once again that it’s not enough to love God, but we are called to love those God loves. Richard Rohr writes in his book, Eager To Love:

“For Francis and Clare, Jesus became someone to actually imitate and not just to worship. Up to this point, most of Christian spirituality was based in desert asceticism, monastic discipline, theories of prayer, or academic theology, which itself was often based in “correct belief’ or liturgy, but not in a kind of practical Christianity that could be lived in the streets of the world. Many rightly say Francis emphasized an imitation and love of the humanity of Jesus, and not just the worshiping of his divinity.” (p.81)

If we are to “journey with Jesus” we are called to a higher calling: Imitation! It’s one thing to say the right liturgy, proclaim with conviction the creeds, and adhere to “right” doctrine; it’s another to imitate the love of Jesus. Jesus in the Gospel of John proclaims, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (13:34-35) Embracing the way of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount is a reminder that the fruit of our faith is known through our actions.

Today Jesus reminds us that He came to “fulfill the law”. The law is summed up in two commandments: Love God, and love those whom God loves. Let us be imitators of Jesus. I look forward to making the journey with you this Lent as we journey with Jesus to the cross, and beyond, to resurrection joy!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug