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Christmas Eve 2014

Nativity Scene - Crow version

Be sure to join us for our Christmas Eve Service, Wednesday, December 24, at 7:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. We will celebrate God coming to share our human form in the person of Jesus as we seek ourselves to embody God’s love in our own lives.
Image: Nativity – Crow version

Holy Week and Easter Events

ResurrectionJoin us this Thursday, April 17, at 7:00 p.m. in the Tope Room for our Maundy Thursday worship.
Friday, April 18, we will host the Riverside/North Riverside Covenant of Churches ecumenical worship at noon in the sanctuary.
Easter Sunday, April 20, features an Easter breakfast in Fellowship Hall at 8:30 a.m. followed by Easter worship with Holy Communion in the sanctuary at 10:00 a.m. Take part in any or all of these services and activities with us.
If you plan to join us for breakfast on Sunday, call the office and leave a message by Saturday morning, so we can be sure to have enough food for those who will be attending.
And whether you join us or not, may the joy of Easter be yours in the coming year.

62nd Pancake Day Saturday, Feb. 1

pancakes and sausageCome join us for our 62nd Pancake Day this coming Saturday, February 1, between 8:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. in our Fellowship Hall. It’s all you can eat of pancakes with butter and syrup, some delicious breakfast sausage, orange juice, milk and/or coffee and tea for only $7.00 for adults, $5.00 for young persons aged 5 to 12, and at no cost to those under 5 years of age. Bring family and friends for a hearty breakfast in an atmosphere of warmth and fellowship.

Guest Musician Sunday, January 5

We want to wish everyone God’s richest blessings in 2014.
This coming Sunday, January 5, at our 10:00 a.m. worship we’ll have a real treat. Jimmie Sit will sing “A Little Bit of Everything” by Dawes, and Pastor Doug Asbury will base his sermon on the song. Come hear what one contemporary song has to say about life and what sense Christians and other seekers might make of it.

Christmas Eve Worship 2013

Madonna & Angels - BouguereauJoin us for a candlelight worship on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, December 24, at 7:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary. Hear again the familiar story of God coming to dwell with humanity, full of grace and truth. Sing the familiar carols of the season, including “Silent Night” by candlelight. We pray you will leave the service having been blessed, and that you will carry that blessing with you throughout the holiday season.

[Friday, Dec. 20] Here’s an update on some of the music that will be featured during our Christmas Eve worship at 7:00 p.m. on Dec. 24. The choir will open the service with a Christmas song from the Renaissance period and will sing two songs that include familiar carols. In addition, soprano Olga Bojovic will grace us with Mozart’s joyous “Alleluia” from “Exsultate, jubilate” as well as Adolphe Adam’s “O Holy Night.” Be sure to join us on this festive night!

Book Group(s) Proposed

The Politics Of Meaning – Michael Lerner

Pastor Doug Asbury invites all who are interested to participate in a book group to be held weekly at a time and day to be decided by those who desire to participate. The plan is that each session will last 90 minutes.
The first book to be discussed will be Michael Lerner’s 1996 publication, “The Politics of Meaning: Restoring Hope and Possibility in an Age of Cynicism,” copies of which are available through for as little as $4.00 including shipping, as well as from other sources.
Those who are interested in participating in the group are asked to contact Pastor Asbury via the church email: [email protected], or by calling 708-447-1760. Please include your preference of day(s) of the week and time(s) of day in your response.
Finalization of day and time of the meetings will take place when at least 6 persons have indicated in their responses that a particular day and time work well for them. If two or more workable days and times emerge from the responses, more than one group will be scheduled.
There will be no cost for participation in the group(s) beyond the initial cost of the book. The group will determine the books to be discussed following the completion of the Lerner book. Our hope is that the books discussed will help us live more abundantly through exposure to the ideas and images the authors share.
If you have any questions, please contact Pastor Asbury as indicated above. Also, please feel free to invite friends and neighbors to participate.

Thanksgiving Eve Dinner

Rockwell, Thanksgiving.jpg



Local residents who have no one with whom to share the Thanksgiving holiday are invited to join us for a dinner on Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, November 27, at 6:00 p.m. in Fellowship Hall at the church at 82 Woodside Road in Riverside, IL.  We will provide turkey with the trimmings, pumpkin pie, and beverages and invite those of you who attend to add potluck dishes of your choosing.

There will be no charge for the meal.

Please contact Marcia Minol in the office (708-447-1760) or Pastor Doug Asbury ([email protected]) to let them know if you plan to attend.  Also, extend this invitation to those with whom you are acquainted who might appreciate being part of this.

Earthbound or Heavenbound – 7/1/12

Jesus heals a woman through the touch of his garment

Sermon for Sunday, 1 July 2012

Riverside United Methodist Church

Pastor Douglas Asbury

2 Samuel 1.1, 17, 17-27:  David leads his troops in a public lament for the deaths of Saul and Jonathan.

Psalm 130:  In response to the cry of national mourning, “Out of the depth I cry to you, O Lord!”

2 Corinthians 8.7-15:  Last week, Paul placed the ball in the Corinthians’ court to restore their relationship. This week, Paul reminds the church to make good on its past promise to provide generous support for his collection for the poor in Jerusalem. At stake, says Paul, is not only their integrity, but their participation in the global body of Christ. He expects them to give all that they can so that the standard of living for Christians around the world would be more balanced.

Mark 5.21-43:  Two more illustrations of the power of the Word to bring abundance of life where no life seemed possible: the healing of a woman with an issue of blood (and so unable to sustain a pregnancy) and the raising of the daughter of Jairus who had died.

United Methodist pastor Glen Haworth told his congregation that on Memorial Day this year, his wife and he had a rare day off together, so they decided to spend part of it going out to see a movie together.  He said that they considered the film, “Think Like a Man” but decided against it, because his wife didn’t want to “think like a man,” and he didn’t want to learn how the film said men think.

He went on to say that the two of them have a running joke that’s based on the Asian character named Miss Swan that actress Alex Borstein created for MadTV.  In each skit employing Miss Swan, the dialogue was always brought around to Miss Swan having to describe a person, often for a police officer investigating a crime; and she would say, “He….(pause)….look-a like a man.”  Haworth explained that this didn’t refer in their household to “looking – literally – like a man,” as it did in the Miss Swan skits, but to “employing the searching techniques of men.”

Here, he gives an example:  “look briefly, and then yell, ‘Honey, do you know where my shoes are?’”  Haworth points out that “the whole notion of thinking or looking ‘like a man’ implies that there are other ways to think or look.”

That has actually been a running theme through the gospel readings since Pentecost Sunday – that there is what I want to call an “earthbound” perspective that can be contrasted with what I’m calling a “heavenbound” perspective; and Jesus keeps making a contrast between the two, if not directly, as in his exchange with Nicodemus regarding the distinction between being born physically and being born “from above,” then indirectly, as in today’s reading, in which the woman who had an affliction that had caused her to bleed for twelve years and had tried, literally, “every remedy known to man” to overcome her problem finally turned in faith to the One who could – and did – actually solve her problem, once and for all:  Jesus.  And Jesus, rather than taking credit for her healing, actually told her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well” – her faith!  Instead of remaining “bound to earth,” she broke loose from her tendency to seek earthly remedies for her problem and finally sought what we might call a “heavenly” remedy.  And what was that remedy?

Well, for some in the gospels, it’s bringing their friends to Jesus for him to heal them.  For others, like the blind Bartimaeus, it’s calling out to Jesus and asking for healing.  But for this particular woman, it was not even wanting to bother Jesus, but, instead, in her words, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”

Now I want to ask, from where would such a thought have come?  To me, it sounds very intuitive, since, on the face of it, it makes no rational sense.  “How could touching someone’s clothes bring healing?  Doesn’t the person at least have to touch the one needing healing, or even before that, know that the person even needs to be healed?”  Prior to her reaching out to touch him, Jesus seemed not even to know the woman was there, let alone that she needed and wanted to be healed from her affliction.  It was only when he was “aware that power had gone forth from him” that he knew anything about her; and by that time, she had been healed and knew it.

So, one question for us today is this:  are we ourselves, as twenty-first century Christians who are part of Riverside United Methodist Church earthbound in our seeking solutions to our problems and to the guidance of our individual lives and our life together as the Church; or are we heavenbound, reaching out to a Christ who we know loves us, values us highly, knows better than we do what we need, and will give us what we need to be and to do what he desires us to be and do?

I have talked and written a lot – and not without justification – since last fall about the bequest our church received from Mary Spatny Milan’s trust following her death last year.  In fact, I’ve mentioned it so frequently, I’m almost getting tired of doing so.

It’s tempting to think that, because I refer to it so much, that all I care about is the money the church received and, at the same time, the greater amount of money we could actually use to fix all the things that need fixing around the church and to fund all the various ministries I’d like to see us continue and create.

I have to admit, I would like to see more people giving more money.  I’d like to be able to give more money myself.  And, if we really thought about it, each of us could do more than we are currently doing; but we’re likely to do so only if our hearts were in whatever we knew would happen with the money.  So, we’re not going to give more just to make sure the insurance and utility and office supply and staff salary and other bills are being paid.  Those are very “earthbound” concerns, however important they might be for the continuation of this church.  We’re going to give for the sake of our church reaching out to the community and to the world in ministry, caring for the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of others in ways that will transform their lives from being earthbound to being bound to and for heaven.

When I mention Mary Milan’s provision for our church in her trust agreement, instead of focusing on the money she gave – as grateful as we all are for that – I want to focus on the vision that caused her to give it.  Like the woman with the flow of blood – or Jairus and his wife, who came to Jesus to heal their sick daughter – in giving that money to our church, Mary had a vision for what this church might be able to do, what lives this church might be able to change, as a result of her gift.

Now, I don’t actually know what was in Mary’s heart and mind when she made provision for this church as she did.  But I believe that whatever was in her mind was placed there by the God who loves this church more than any of us does, and who has more resources for us to carry out our ministry than any of us could possibly supply; just like God has more than any of us needs to live the life God wants – and created – us to live.

So our final question for today is, will we continue on as Christians and as Riverside UMC being earthbound, or being heavenbound?  Let us boldly choose to be the latter!  Amen.

1,000 Tree Planting Project

This year marks the 8th year of RUMC’s annual 1,000 Tree Planting Project.  The project, an all-volunteer effort to plant 1,000 trees on one day every November in Riverside, was begun in 2007 by church member and Riverside resident Tom Sisulak.  All church members and interested friends and community members are invited to join this very rewarding project which will be held on Saturday, November 22, 2014.

The morning begins at 10:00 a.m. in the church Fellowship Hall, downstairs at 82 Woodside Road, with a special teaching seminar. Several guest speakers along with some Native American friends and Mike Collins, the Riverside Forester, are expected to be involved.

The presenters give participants a better understanding of our responsibility to take care of the plant and animal life on our Mother Earth. They also instruct us as to how to plant the tree seeds, how to use the tree planting tools that are provided, and how to select a spot to plant the tree seeds that will produce beautiful hardwood trees for the next 300 years.

November is Native American Heritage Month. We are grateful to have members of Midwest Soarring ( to work alongside us as we care for our environment and learn from them in this project.

Following the planting, we return to the church where volunteer cooks have hot chili, hot chocolate, tea and coffee in Fellowship Hall for those who participated in the planting project. Participants are reminded to wear warm clothes, boots, hat, and gloves in case of cold weather.

Those who would prefer not to go outside to plant tree seeds are invited to help in the kitchen to prepare the food and drinks for the returning volunteer tree planters. Cooks prepare their favorite hot chili recipe at home and bring it to the church on Saturday morning, either to be served separately or combined in one large chili pot, at the discretion of those who are cooking. We have typically had between 20 and 40 volunteer tree planters who consume several gallons of chili and hot drinks.

All the volunteer tree planters receive a “1,000 Tree Planting Project” Certificate to commemorate the event and celebrate their efforts.

Illinois Farm Bureau “Partners”  Magazine in their Fall 2012 issue ran a feature on the event.   To read the article on line, go to, click on Library under the search bar and then click on Fall 2012 Issue.

For another article describing the 2008 planting project, click here. For a video reporting on the inaugural event, click planting_climate_change.htm.

The Power to Overcome – 6/24/12

Jesus calms a storm

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Riverside United Methodist Church

Pastor Douglas Asbury

1 Samuel 17.1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49:  The shepherd, David, uses the tools of his trade and the power of the Lord to defeat the giant warrior, Goliath.  “The Lord does not save by sword and spear” (verse 47).

Psalm 9.11-20:  The psalm celebrates God’s defense of those who are afflicted by catching the offenders in the traps they have made.

2 Corinthians 6.1-13:  Tension abounds.  Paul argues that his suffering for the sake of the gospel provides all the credentials he needs for the Corinthians to listen to him.  The ball is in their court now.

Mark 4.35-41:  Jesus treats a storm the same way he treats demons.  He rebukes it, and tells it to shut up.  Then Jesus rebukes the disciples for their fear — not just of the storm, but of what Jesus did to end it.

David and Goliath: The Law of Tooth and Claw
The Israelis and Arabs realized that, if they continued fighting, they would someday end up destroying the whole world. So they decided to settle their dispute with an ancient practice: a duel of two, like David and Goliath. This “duel” would be a dog fight. The negotiators agreed each side would take five years to develop the best fighting dog they could. The dog that won the fight would earn its people the right to rule the disputed areas. The losing side would have to lay down its arms for good.

The Arabs found the biggest, meanest Dobermans and Rottweilers in the world. They bred them together and then crossed their offspring with the meanest Siberian wolves. They selected only the biggest, strongest puppy of each litter, fed it the best food and killed all the other puppies. They used steroids and trainers in their quest for the perfect killing machine. After the five years were up, they had a dog that needed steel prison bars on its cage. Only expert trainers could handle this incredibly nasty and ferocious beast.

When the day of the big dog-fight finally arrived, the Israelis showed up with a very strange-looking animal, a Dachshund that was ten feet long! Everyone at the dogfight arena felt sorry for the Israelis. No one there seriously thought this weird, odd-looking animal stood any chance against the growling beast over in the Arab camp. All the bookies took one look and predicted that the Arab dog would win in less than a minute.

As the cages were opened, the Dachshund slowly waddled toward the center of the ring. The Arab dog leaped from its cage and charged the giant wiener-dog. As he got to within an inch of the Israeli dog, the Dachshund opened its jaws and swallowed the Arab beast whole in one bite. There was nothing left but a small puff of fur from the Arab killer dog’s tail floating to the ground.

The stunned crowd of international observers, bookies and media personnel let out a collective gasp of disbelief and surprise.

The Arabs approached the Israelis, muttering and shaking their heads in disbelief. “We do not understand,” said their leader, “Our top scientists and breeders worked for five long years with the meanest, biggest Dobermans, Rottweilers and Siberian wolves and they developed an incredible killing machine of a dog!”

The Israelis replied. “Well, for five years, we have had a team of Jewish plastic surgeons from Boca Raton working to make an alligator look like a Dachshund.”

This story, along with the story of David and Goliath, the story of Jesus calming the raging storm, and the Apostle Paul justifying his ministry in the apparent face of criticism by some Corinthians due to his background and things that had happened to him on account of his ministry, speaks of two different ways of addressing a challenge. On the one hand are those who believe that a challenge is best avoided, especially if it is judged that there is no way to win; and on the other hand are those who believe that one must answer force with force; but in the case of these stories, the “force” used by those who employ the power of God looks differently from that used by their opponents. The wily Jews modify an animal that no dog, however ferocious and powerful, could likely overcome. Little David with his stones faces gigantic, armored Goliath. The very human Jesus faces the full force of the storm and of the disciples disbelief and fears. And Paul challenges the many who think him less a representative of the living God and Christ the Savior than many others with better credentials.

One of the major points of these stories is something that Paul, in discussing God’s using the cross – an instrument of Roman oppression and reign of terror – as a means of salvation for all humanity, refers to as the “foolishness of God” that is “wiser than human wisdom” and the “weakness of God” that is “stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1.25). Those who rely on human perceptions and power, we are told, will forever be at the mercy of their own limitations; but those who trust God both for the divine vision of how God desires things to be and for the wherewithal to bring that vision into reality will always succeed, even in the face of what some may believe to be overwhelming odds.

David, Jesus and Paul had figured out that their taking responsibility for doing their divinely ordained part in bringing God’s purposes to fruition was essential to the accomplishment of the task at hand. Had they reneged, the Philistines would have won, Jesus never would have been born, nor would Paul, and history would have taken a completely different course. None of us would even be here, let alone be Christian or worshiping in this place at this time, had these men not done what God was calling them to do.

What will people a hundred or a thousand years in the future be doing on account of how we respond – or don’t respond – to God’s call to us to be a light pointing the way to Christ in our community, to be salt that preserves what is good and enhances the goodness that life brings by adding its own goodness to what exists?

It is a good thing that we are taking care of neglected maintenance on and around the church, that people are making the church and grounds attractive, that we are doing what we can to fund the church’s ministries. At the same time, we need continually to ask ourselves: what challenges are we fearful of facing, because our minds are earthbound, and, like the disciples, we believe someone else must step in to rebuke the wind and waves, to slay the goliaths, to spread God’s word, because we are inadequate to do so? God has called us to be faithful Davids and Pauls and disciples of Jesus the Christ, to step out in faith to address those challenges without fear, trusting that God will provide the wherewithal to overcome them.

May we not be pre-Pentecost disciples who fearfully cling to the tossing boat but, through the Spirit of Christ given at Pentecost, command the wind and the waves to cease and accomplish God’s purpose in our midst.

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