Dear Brothers & Sisters,
It is time to burst forth “should old acquaintances be forgot and never brought to mind.” Ringing out the old and ringing in the new as we say good bye to 2016 and hello to 2017. We get to leave yesterday’s pessimism for tomorrow’s optimism. It is a time when we get to draw an imaginary line between midnight December 31 and 12:01 A.M. on January 1, 2017 and proclaim a redo.
One of the ways we leave the not so good behind and not take it with us into the new year is through a resolution. Now I have been told that the average New Year’s resolutions lasts only till about mid-February. I don’t know how they got that figure but I do know that would explain my four-hundred-pound weight loss. Every year I tell myself that I want to lose twenty pounds and for the last twenty years I have lost that twenty pounds only to gain it back. So for twenty years at twenty pounds that means I lost four hundred pounds. Of course it means I gained four hundred pounds, too!
Needless to say, there is a necessity for change as there is a need to grow and prosper. As Jesus said, “a single grain must die before it bears much fruit.” Funny thing about this world it keeps moving on and changing whether we like it or not. I believe God has a lot to do with that as God continues to create and recreate this world into the Creation that God intended it to be in the beginning. On the seventh day God rested but on the eighth day God continued God’s work of creating.
I remember an old classmate of mine who thought he had invented the perpetual motion machine. He got a lot of prestigious professors and people of science to come and look at his machine, but nobody bought into his invention. At the time of his death he still had not conquered gravity and friction with his perpetual motion machine.
Sometimes people think they are perpetual motion machines and since churches are made up of people we think our churches are perpetual motion machines. We will all stay the same for ever and ever! I remember the forty something man who told me that he was the same today as he was twenty years ago. I asked him had he sinned in the last twenty years and he replied “yes.” Then I asked him if he had asked God for forgiveness of those sins and he said “yes.” Then I asked him do you still sin in the same way after asking God to forgive and he said “no.” Then I said you have changed.
On January 22nd we have a chance to engage in a conversation about the future of our church. The Oakland UMC today is doing some fantastic stuff and bearing witness to our love in Jesus Christ through some great mission work. Some of the needs we fill through our missions will never go away as Jesus has told us “the poor will always be with us.” But what are the new challenges for our community, nation and the world around us?
No matter what question you ask the big question always is, “what is God calling us to be as a community of faith?” We know our strengths and our gifts and talents. We know what we like to do and do it very well, but is this what God is calling us to be?
Between now and January 22nd I ask you all to pray about what it is God is calling us to be. I also ask you to think about what the church may look like in the next 5, 10 or 20 years from now? What have been our strengths and our weaknesses? What does the community of Oakland say who we are and if we closed our doors what service or mission would the town miss? Another key question is what is our vision and where are we going and how are we going to get there?
So many questions! Never enough answers, but it is something to think about before we come together to have a conversation about our faith community and where we are going and what is God calling us to be. We may not know the answers to the questions or we may not know the question to ask, but what we do know is we have started out on a journey to continue Oakland UMC as a viable place where our God is very active and people’s lives are being transformed for the good.
After church on January 22nd we will share a meal and discuss our identity now and what God is calling us to be as children of God. So, come join us! Everybody is welcome!
See you Sunday,
Rev. Dennis Hopes
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Six months ago Diana, Will and I came to Oakland and we have been blessed with adventure, excitement and the love of a whole lot of people. We are grateful that God has blessed us by bringing us to Oakland and all the faithful at Oakland UMC and anyone and everybody else that we have met in the community of Oakland. We thank you for letting us into your hearts and your lives and making us feel welcome. So, we say to you Merry Christmas and a big huge thank you for being you and the people of faith that you are.
--Diana, Will and Rev. Dennis Hopes
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Our coldest night since last winter has just hit us and over this last weekend we had a little bit of snow. But that little bit of snow amazed me as it seemed to have knocked out a lot dish systems and a lot of Sunday afternoon television viewing for a lot of people. At least that is what I heard from others as I moved around the city of Oakland on Monday.
Personally, I called tech support because I couldn’t believe that what little snow we got could interrupt our television service. So when I called tech support we went through all the stuff to try to get my television going with no success. Our conversation ended with tech support telling me I could get a dish warmer or a visit from a technician and I declined both options.
So I got a ladder and climbed up on the roof and brushed the dish off and we had television! At least for the next three to four hours when the snow had once again started to cling to the dish. We love our screens, don’t we? I’ve got a television in the man cave with the NFL Direct TV package, a laptop, a smart phone and a Kindle.
I know that in today’s world and with the Iowa Annual Conference moving to almost 100% communication through e-mail, portals and web pages a device with a screen has become a necessity of life. Plus, the amount of resources that are out there through the world-wide web gives me an expanded library of opinions, thoughts and theologies from all over the world. And yes, you must be careful where you get your information from as it could lead to some very dangerous situations. As in the man entering a pizzeria with an AR-15 looking to be the lone ranger and breaking up a child trafficking operation in Washington DC this last week.
We already know that the screen can be a source of hours of entertainment and fun if used wisely. You can stream music, movies and television shows with just about anything that has a screen. Besides all that entertainment stuff we also have social media to keep in touch with people who we don’t even say hello to in the grocery store (that really has happened to me more than once).
So what does this have to do with Advent, Christmas and the coming of Jesus Christ?
We are told through the prophets and scriptures that we are to keep watch and stay awake as we do not know the hour or the time that Jesus will come. When he did come so long ago he was not in a conspicuous place but he was found in a manger wrapped in swaddling cloths. Jesus came in a way that was not expected and the world but for the few missed his grand entrance. It is promised the next time the signs of his coming and the new age he will usher in will be so cataclysmic that there will be no question that this is the real deal.
But just in case, I pray when that time comes that Jesus sends us emails, text messages or puts a video on YouTube because we just might miss his second grand entrance if he doesn’t give us a heads up (literally). When that happens I wonder what tech support would say if I called them up complaining I have no television signal? I know what Jesus would say. Take time to be holy!
See you Sunday!
Rev. Dennis Hopes
Pastor Kim Dewey