Diana, Will and I would like to thank the people of Oakland UMC for the many cards, gifts and signs of love during this Christmas season. We thank you and what is more important to us is that we feel your spirit and affection for our family. We pray for you all to have a God blessed year with many days of joy! Thank you and God bless.
I’ve always loved the hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter” Several years ago Living Faith Parish’s accompanist, Ric Benzing played a rendition of that hymn that just kind of put me in a soulful mood. That is until I walked outside and there was no snow on snow nor was there winter winds turning the earth to iron and stone. A seasonally warm winter so far has never put me in the mood to have this hymn in the bulletin. There seemed to be a disconnect with the image created by music and the reality of what is going on with the weather.
Having image and reality clash is not anything unusual for our world these days especially after celebrating Advent, Christmas and the greatest retail event of the year. I cannot remember who said it but the quote is “image is everything.” Sports, music and even the X-games all have an image for those who follow the best of the trade by the stuff they wear, cut or don’t cut their hair, or the memorabilia they buy.
Jesus gave us an image and a reality both and that image and reality does have an outward and visible sign of our inward devotion to Jesus. However, we as a people of faith do buy our share of memorabilia that at times makes me uneasy as it makes Jesus more of an idol than the living Savior. But as the old song goes, “it’s hard to be humble when you are perfect in so many ways.” Our founder John Wesley’s imperative is to go on to perfection and when we take our vows to enter the ministry, we pledge to make that happen in our lifetime.
As Dr. Phil says, “how is that working for you?” Am I perfected? No! But I have come a long way. In that work of going on to perfection I found out that compassion for all God’s children is important andthat compassion must not just be an emotion but be followed by an action.
This past year we have seen new and old faces who have come, stayed and gone from our worship. We did not grow in numbers except in youth group and Sunday School this year but that is not the image and reality of Oakland UMC. The reality and image is that we are growing in outward and visible signs of an inward faith in Christ Jesus. The Oakland UMC is becoming an exciting place to be if you are interested in doing the compassionate work that Jesus has taught us to do. So, come join us this year and experience the spirit that is growing in us as we move forward to bring the good news that is Jesus Christ.
See you Sunday!
Rev. Dennis Hopes