A February Letter from Pastor Joe







Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

In Ninety-Nine Stories of God, Joy Williams tells about a traveler who meets three men pushing wheelbarrows. He asks them what they are doing.  Each gives him a different answer. The first said: “I toil from sunrise to sunset, and all I receive for my labor is a few francs a day.”The second said: “I’m happy enough to wheel this wheelbarrow, for I have not had work for many months, and I have a family to feed.” The third said: “I’m building Chartres Cathedral.”

The three workers have different perspectives about the work they are doing. The first understands the work to be toil for not very much reward.  The second is grateful for the work so that he can feed his family. The third sees a greater vision than just pushing a wheelbarrow. He is building Chartres Cathedral something extraordinary for God and for people.

If someone asked you about the wheelbarrow you are pushing, what would you say?  Especially in the church, it is easy to be overwhelmed by a task, not appreciated, or see little return for our effort.  Other times, we easily see the greater task God has called us to and we rejoice in it.

So my question is: what are you doing with the wheelbarrow you are pushing?

Christ’s Servant

Rev. Joseph A. Johnson


Due to building renovation work at First Church,  the  ELMHURST CLOTHING CENTER will be on hiatus from February 8-February 28.

NO Clothing Center DONATIONS will be accepted until MARCH 1.

Thank you for your continuing support of this ministry.  We will look forward to receiving your generous gifts of gently used clothing, shoes, coats, household goods, bedding, toys, and/or books when  the Center re-opens on March 1.

If you have questions, please contact the Church Office:  admin@umcelmhurst.org.

WORSHIP in January & February

“But who do you say that I am?”  Matthew 16: 15

New Testament Understandings

SUN Jan 13:  Jesus of Nazareth

SUN Jan 20: Resurrection of Jesus 

SUN Jan 27:  Titles for Jesus 

SUN Feb 3:  Genesis of the Gospels 

SUN Feb 10:  Hymns about Jesus #1

SUN Feb 17:  Hymns about Jesus #2

SUN Feb 24:  Everyday Living

Sunday Morning Worship Series at 10:30 am with Reverend Joseph A. Johnson

A New Year’s Letter from Pastor Joe

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life…In Noah’s six hundred first year…              Genesis 7:11, 8:13

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Happy New Year!

Northern Parula Wood Warbler

This year a “Birds of North America Calendar” will be gracing my office wall.  Each month features a bird family.  January features parulidae or new world warblers.  Forty warblers are identified for January.  Maybe 2019 will be the year I will be able to identify all forty in the field!

As we begin a new year, we ponder what events will unfold.

In his 600th year, Noah experienced the great flood.  And he spent his whole 600th year on the ark—obedient to God’s will and discerning God’s ongoing activity in creation.  After sending out the raven once and the dove twice, Noah discerned that the flood waters had dried up.  For that year, Noah cooperated with God to bring about salvation to all the creation.  Without Noah and his family, the animals and humanity would have drowned in the flood.

Certainly, God can act without the assent of humanity, but the scriptures witness to a God who partners with humanity to save the creation from evil and violence.  This is most notable in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  In Jesus, the divine human partnership comes to full fruition.  Divine and human will became one.

Regardless of what events unfold this year, may we like Noah and Jesus be attuned to the divine will of bringing salvation to the creation.  Noah built the ark.  Jesus called and taught disciples.

Christ’s Servant,

Rev. Joseph A. Johnson


New Study Series beginning January 6

How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus

The world’s foremost Jesus scholar John Dominic Crossan shows us how the New Testament parables not only reveal what Jesus wanted to teach but also provide the key for explaining how the Gospel writers sought to explain Jesus to the world. In this meaningful exploration of the stories told by Jesus and the Gospel writers, Crossan combines the biblical expertise of his The Greatest Prayer with an historical and social analysis that harkens closely to his Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, creating an illuminating and nuanced exploration of the Scripture.  (From Google Books)

In 1969, I was teaching at two seminaries in the Chicago area. One of my courses was on the parables by Jesus and the other was on the resurrection stories about Jesus. I had observed that the parabolic stories by Jesus seemed remarkably similar to the resurrection stories about Jesus.

Were the latter intended as parables just as much as the former? Had we been reading parable, presuming history, and misunderstanding both?
—from The Power of Parable

So begins the quest of renowned Jesus scholar John Dominic Crossan as he unlocks the true meanings and purposes of parable in the Bible so that modern Christians can respond genuinely to Jesus’s call to fully participate in the kingdom of God.  In The Power of Parable, Crossan examines Jesus’s parables and identifies what he calls the “challenge parable” as Jesus’s chosen teaching tool for gently urging his followers to probe, question, and debate the ideological absolutes of religious faith and the presuppositions of social, political, and economic traditions.

Moving from parables by Jesus to parables about Jesus, Crossan then presents the four gospels as “megaparables.”  By revealing how the gospels are not reflections of the actual biography of Jesus but rather (mis)interpretations by the gospel writers themselves,  Crossan reaffirms the power of parables to challenge and enable us to co-create with God a world of justice, love, and peace.