Midweek Message: Love Covers All

Midweek Message: Love Covers All

Dear Hyde Park Family,

How about some good news for a change?

For those who experienced worship last Sunday, you heard me conclude my sermon with the powerful story of Ken Parker, a participant in last year’s gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

He was a high-ranking official in the KKK, spewing hatred at people of color, Jews and gay people. At the end of the rally, worn out from heat exhaustion and dehydration, he was doubled over in pain when he met a woman named Deeyah Khan. Deeyah is a British documentary filmmaker of Punjabi descent there to chronicle the event. She saw Ken’s physical pain and approached him, asking if he was okay and if there was anything she could do to ease his discomfort.

That little act alone planted a little seed of doubt in Ken’s mind.

In a recent interview with NBC News, in a news segment that aired last week, Ken said, “She was completely respectful to me and my fiancée the whole time. And so that kind of got me thinking: She’s a really nice lady. Just because she’s got darker skin and believes in a different god than the god I believe in, why am I hating these people?”

Last year, on the Sunday of Charlottesville, I preached a sermon based on the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus. We dared to pray for modern-day Nicodemuses, people among the white supremacists who might come to see the way of love instead of hate, just like Nicodemus did.

Six months after that weekend, Ken Parker, still nurturing the seeds of doubt planted by his interaction with Deeyah Khan, noticed some African-American neighbors having a cookout in his apartment complex in Jacksonville, Florida. He and his fiancée approached them, and they began having a conversation. They were cordial with each other. They asked questions. They listened. They really listened.

He didn’t know it at the time, but the black man was a pastor, Rev. William McKinnon III, of All Saints Holiness Church in Jacksonville. That night would be the first of many conversations they would share with each other.

“God was working on his heart when he came to the table that day. It was divine,” said Pastor McKinnon, in an interview with the local Jacksonville news station.

And then last Easter, just this past April, eight months after Charlottesville, Rev. McKinnon invited Ken and his fiancée to church. In an Easter morning service, in a historically black congregation, the two of them worshipped.

A change was happening in Ken’s life. A month later, Pastor McKinnon asked him to stand up before that congregation and give his testimony.

“I said I was a grand dragon of the KKK, and then the Klan wasn’t hateful enough for me, so I decided to become a Nazi.” He said for a lot of people in the church, their jaws about hit the floor and their eyes got real big. But after the service, not one of them had anything negative to say. He said, “They’re all coming up and hugging me and shaking my hand, you know, building me up instead of tearing me down.”

He had experienced the power of love through a community of people committed to the love of God. People who knew what it meant to be angry at injustice, but who also knew how to be angry without sinning.

Ken Parker looked at his skin and saw the visible signs of his hatred, the tattoos that revealed a Nazi symbol, and the words “white pride.” He has since had them removed through laser surgery. But the biggest change is on the inside.

Last month, nearly a year after Charlottesville, he traded in his old KKK robes for a white robe of baptism. Walking hand in hand into the water with Rev. William McKinnon, he experienced the waters of baptism and the grace of God’s forgiveness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image from FirstCoastNews.com, WTLV-TV

In the NBC news segment, Ken said, “I want to say I’m sorry. I do apologize. I know I’ve spread hate and discontent through this city immensely — probably made little kids scared to sleep in their own beds in their own neighborhoods.” And now he has a message for white supremacists. “You can definitely get out of this movement. I mean, I was into that so much — it was my life, for six years. I never thought I would get out. Get out. You’re throwing your life away.”

Ken Parker is one answer to our prayers, for modern-day Nicodemuses to be redeemed by the light of Jesus. And we are called to work for more transformations like these in a world addicted to hate and dehumanization. We might wonder: what if the documentary filmmaker Deeyah Khan had chosen to respond to the disgusting dehumanization of the KKK by dehumanizing Ken Parker? What if Rev. McKinnon and his congregation had chosen the easy way of hating Ken Parker?

Now, imagine what can happen when you and I choose to live in love, take the time and watch our words. How many more Ken Parkers might God bring into the light?

As Pastor William McKinnon said, “It is clear to me that love covers all.”

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist

Midweek Message: The MAD That You Feel

Midweek Message: The MAD That You Feel

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Like many of you, I was heavily influenced at a young age by Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, a television show experiencing renewed nostalgia thanks to the recent documentary about Fred Rogers’ life. (My favorite film of 2018 so far.) One of my favorite songs that he wrote and sang was, “Mad That You Feel,” which was about anger:

What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
And nothing you do seems very right?

What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?

It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:

I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish.
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.

Mr. Rogers reminded us that feeling angry, in and of itself, is not wrong. It’s what we do with that anger that requires our careful discernment. 2,000 years earlier, Paul would say essentially the same thing to the Ephesians: “Be angry, but do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26) We will explore this text, and the subject of anger, this Sunday as the next part of our worship series on Ephesians.

To prepare for worship, I invite you to read the following words of wisdom from our spiritual ancestors found by Debbie Casanzio, who is preaching in the Chapel. Each of these quotes offers guidance on how to channel our anger in healthy ways. Read through them and see how they resonate with you and your relationship with anger:

When we have to reply to anyone who has insulted us, we should be careful to do it always with gentleness. A soft answer extinguishes the fire of wrath. – St. Alphonsus Liguori
Imagine your anger to be a kind of wild beast, because it has ferocious teeth and claws, and if you don’t tame it, it will devastate all things even corrupting the soul. – St. John Chrysostom
Fight all error, but do it with good humor, patience, kindness, and love. Harshness will damage your own soul and spoil the best cause. – St. John of Kanty
Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset. – St. Frances de Sales
When we have to reply to some one who speaks harshly to us, we must always do it with gentleness. If we are angry, it is better to keep silence. – St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori
It avails nothing to subdue the body, if the mind allows itself to be controlled by anger. – Pope St. Gregory the Great
If you judge people, you have no time to love them. – Mother Teresa

Join us this Sunday as we explore the gifts and risks of our own experiences with anger. We’ll learn practical techniques to identify and resolve the triggers that anger us, and learn to express those feelings in healthy ways.

See You Sunday!

Magrey

The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist

Midweek Message: The Ten Books I Read This Summer

Midweek Message: The Ten Books I Read This Summer

Dear Hyde Park Family,

With the start of school just around the corner, I hope that you and yours have had a full, enriching summer break. Perhaps that has included diving into a good book or two. For today’s Midweek Message, I thought I would share the ten books I enjoyed this summer, including the one many of you have asked me about from last Sunday’s sermon.

All These Wonders: True Stories about Facing the Unknown, edited by Catherine Burns. This was by far the best book I read. It’s a collection of real-life stories originally told live by notable people as part a series of storytelling events around the country called “The Moth.” Last Sunday’s sermon closed with Auburn Sandstrom’s story called “The Phone Call.”

One of the stories, called “The House of Mourning,” contains the single most beautiful passage I read all summer, about confronting grief in the wake of a loved one’s death: I tell them, “Just walk fearlessly into the house of mourning, for grief is just love squaring up to its oldest enemy. And after all these mortal human years, love is up to the challenge.” There are forty-five stories in all, each powerful and poignant. Don’t be surprised if you hear a few more woven into future sermons.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. Over the years I have developed a great fondness for The Boss and his music, and his recent memoir is exceptional. He narrates the 18-hour audiobook, and listening to it was itself like a Springsteen concert: long, encompassing, exhausting, and by the end, you wish it could go on longer.

Its best moments are when he is at his most vulnerable, an artist searching for his voice, amid a sea of constant cultural change. He reveals the intensity, intentionality, and granularity of his decision-making process as a songwriter, which I experienced as a master class in storytelling for preachers like me. December 15 can’t come soon enough, when I finally get to experience his acclaimed Springsteen on Broadway, when his final performance is live-streamed on Netflix.

Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World by Miroslav Volf. Volf is one of the greatest contemporary theologians of our time, and his most recent book has a timely, compelling premise: Even though religion, at its worst, may have contributed to our world’s greatest problems, the solution to those problems can only be found by religion at its best. Religion and globalization, when partnered in synchronization with each other, can enable the widespread, sustainable flourishing of all people in the world.

The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel. It’s a fictional story of two immigrants living in south Florida: a woman from Columbia, and a man from Cuba, both longing for freedom from the heartache and hardship of their past.

Engel vividly portrays life and culture in Miami and Key West, and tackles a host of social issues like immigration, capital punishment and poverty. Most importantly, she explores feelings of exile and dislocation. How does one establish identity, rootedness and purpose? What are the pathways to freedom from that which confines us? Ultimately, what does it mean to be “home”?

Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism by Wlliam Willimon. Many of our societal struggles are rooted in our inability to talk about systemic racism, as it elicits passion like few other subjects in our national discourse. Willimon is a former United Methodist Bishop, Dean of the Chapel at Duke Divinity School and a highly regarded teacher of preaching.

His latest book calls preachers to engage the task of talking about racism, and he uses as a case study a sermon preached in 1947 in Greenville, South Carolina by Rev. Hawley Lynn, in the wake of a brutal murder of a black man named Willie Earle by white supremacists. He calls it “the greatest sermon ever preached before South Carolina Methodists.” Every page, every point, packs a convicting punch.

The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels by Jon Meacham. Mark Twain once said, “History never repeats itself; at best, it sometimes rhymes.” Meacham’s book reminds us that as uniquely troubling as these times might be for many people, it is heartening to know that we have been there before as a country, and we can learn to abide by what Lincoln called “our better angels.”

Embracing the Wideness: The Shared Convictions of the United Methodist Church by Kenneth Carter. I was privileged to be asked to read an advanced copy and provide an endorsement for this new book by our Bishop Ken Carter. As the denomination continues to navigate the anxious waters around LGBTQ inclusion, and as it prepares for the special General Conference in St. Louis next February, Bishop Carter provides a strong reminder of why it is good to be United Methodist.

God’s love is inclusive, all-embracing, and not confined by our self-imposed binary, polarized categories. It is quintessential Bishop Carter at his best: theologically rich, scripturally grounded, clearly stated, non-anxious, hopeful and filled with convicted humility.

Holy Currencies: Six Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries by Eric Law. The Program Staff heard Eric Law’s presentation at the recent Large Church Initiative in San Diego, and for many of us it was the most invigorating and enlightening talk we heard. Every local church is gifted six precious divine resources which, when released in generosity and humility, form a free-flowing cycle of grace within the church and outward to the community: Time & Place, Leadership, Relationship, Truth, Wellness and Money. We can’t help but imagine how profound an impact Hyde Park United Methodist can make when we allow all six to flow freely. We are now studying his book and expecting it to contribute to our wider visioning process.

Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible by Tom Long. I have long admired Tom Long, professor of preaching at Candler School of Theology, for the way he crafts and delivers his sermons. This book gave me an even deeper appreciation for how he engages the scriptural text, particularly the kinds of biblical literature that we preachers would often rather ignore. When I grow up, I want to preach like him.

What Do We Know about Pontius Pilate? by Simon Webb. All four gospels to some degree talk about this enigmatic figure from Jesus’ final hours. But what can we really know about him? This short, quick read covers a lot of territory, including the myriad of extra-canonical, historical literature that references Pilate after his notable exchange with Jesus. It also gave me greater insight into the one question Pilate asks Jesus that I think best captures the epistemological challenge for our world caught in the crossroads of such diverging ideologies and perspectives. “What is truth?”

So, there you go. Maybe not the most exciting list of ten books you’ll ever see, but each one made a pretty big impact on me. And I’d love to know what books you’ve enjoyed this summer. I’m always looking for that next great read!

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist

Midweek Message: Adventure Yourself!

Midweek Message: Adventure Yourself!

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Be sure to read the end of today’s Midweek Message for an important word about our upcoming congregational survey, and the way you can participate in the next critical phase of our Vision Team’s work.

SHIPWRECKED!

First, I wish I could fully capture in words the energy coursing through our Hyde Park campus over the past week, as 416 children and 225 volunteers have experienced what I believe is consistently the best Vacation Bible School in our area.

When I first learned that “Shipwrecked!” was this year’s theme, I will admit some initial skepticism. A shipwreck doesn’t exactly elicit images of excitement, hope and joy. But let’s just face it: there are a lot of people – perhaps including you – for whom the best way to describe their lives is like feeling lost on a deserted island of hopelessness and despair.

It is also true that one of the most prevalent metaphors for the church in early Christian tradition was the ship. And if there is anything we know about ships in the Bible, it’s that they frequently encountered storms.

It turns out to be an appropriate image for us after all, for the kinds of storms we face in our lives, in our churches, in our communities, and in our world.

So, perhaps you can benefit from the same reminders that the children have received every day this week. I invite you to read each of these statements and their corresponding Bible verses prayerfully, looking for connections in your own life.

And remember: Jesus Rescues!

Monday’s Bible Point: When you are lonely . . . Jesus rescues!

Bible Story: The Parables of the Lost Coin, Sheep and Son (Luke 15)

Key Verse: “The Lord will hold me close.” (Psalm 27:10)

Tuesday’s Bible Point: When you worry . . . Jesus rescues!

Bible Story: Martha and Martha  (Luke 10:38-42)

Key Verse: “The Lord comes to the rescue each time.” (Psalms 34:19)

Wednesday Bible Point: When you struggle . . . Jesus rescues!

Bible Story: Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Luke 22:39-54; Matt. 26:36-56)

Key Verse: “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10)

Thursday Bible Point: When you do wrong . . . Jesus rescues!

Bible Story: Jesus welcomes a criminal before dying and coming back to life. (Luke 23:26-24:12)

Key Verse: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Friday Bible Point: When you are powerless . . . Jesus rescues!

Bible Story: Peter and John heal a lame man in Jesus’ name. (Acts 3:1-26)

Key Verse: “This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead.” (Ephesians 1:19-20)

“ADVENTURE YOURSELVES IN CHRIST”

One more connection to the shipwreck theme, this one from John Wesley. In 1781, Wesley wanted to give instructions to Christians on strengthening their commitment to Christ through covenant renewal. So, he wrote a pamphlet called “Directions for Renewing our Covenant with God.”

In the introduction, he says our human situation is like that of a person exiled to a deserted island, vulnerable to the effects of sin and evil in and around us. But even in our shipwrecked state, Jesus comes like the pilot of a vessel who comes to rescue us:

“And meeting for a while with a pilot, who offers to transport him safely home, Jesus embarks on an adventure with him and everything he has in his vessel: you should do likewise. Christ offers, if you will venture forth with him, and then he will bring you home, and he will bring you to God.”

Wesley gives this simple command, which is one of my favorite Wesley phrases: “Adventure yourselves in Christ.” I love that he uses adventure as a verb. And my prayer is that you will take whatever your next step is in that adventure, to avail yourself of the lifeline God has given you in Christ to face your fears, overcome your sins, and resist evil in the world.

Indeed, Jesus rescues!

CONGREGATIONAL SURVEY

The next critical phase of the work of our Vision Team is our congregational survey, which will be distributed starting July 8. You will receive it via email and will be able to complete it online. It will take you less than 20 minutes, and we would like you to complete it within a two-week window, by July 22. We hope that all of the adults and teenagers in your household will each complete a survey.

This survey is intentionally different from other congregational surveys you may have taken in the past. It builds on the insights we heard from more than 200 of you in our recent visioning chats by going deeper into your thoughts and feelings about the church’s mission and work. These questions are designed to have you think about what is vital for us to address in the future, and we thank you for considering each question fully.

Your insights will help us clarify one of the Vision Team’s chief guiding principles: though the world around us is changing, our mission has not, and we must adapt to the challenges of our time to do the work to which God has called of us. The questions will give you an indication of the level of depth with which the Vision Team is working.

Grace, Peace, and Blessed Adventuring in Christ,

Magrey

The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist

ROGER SCHOLTZ JULY 8

We welcome back to the Hyde Park pulpit the Rev. Roger Scholtz, our interim senior pastor in 2014-15 prior to my return. He will be preaching in the Sanctuary and The Portico on July 8.

To encourage people to hear him, we will be combining the Chapel service into the Sanctuary that morning, as well as showing a video of Roger’s sermon in the 11 Magnolia service. Then, on Tuesday, July 10, Roger will be offering a special workshop on empathy at 6:30 p.m. in the Harnish Activities Center, with dinner available for purchase at 6 p.m. RSVP at hydeparkumc.org/empathy.

MIDWEEK MESSAGE RESUMES IN AUGUST

As I have done in the past, I will be taking a break from writing the Midweek Message during the month of July and will look forward to resuming them in August. Read archived editions of the Midweek Messages here.

Midweek Message: Five Other Bible Verses For Jeff Sessions to Consider

Midweek Message: Five Other Bible Verses For Jeff Sessions to Consider

Dear Hyde Park Family,

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”
Romans 13:1

When U.S. Attorney General cited Romans 13:1 in defense of the administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families, my ears perked up. During my senior year of high school, my Bible class studied the book of Romans, verse by verse, resulting in a one-question final exam: “Explain Romans.”

I became familiar with the most popular way that verse has been used throughout our nation’s history: to divinely sanction governments as instruments of God, and coerce people into obedience.

British loyalists used it to counter the American Revolution. Slaveholders used it to promote slavery. Advocates of the death penalty use it to defend capital punishment. And Jeff Sessions has now invoked it to promote an inhumane method of addressing border security.

But if there is anything I learned from having to “explain Romans,” it is that one should never take a single verse out of context. Panning out to all of chapters 12 and 13 reminds us that this is not about the government getting to do whatever it wants to do, under the cover of God’s blessing. It is more about abhorring evil and doing good (12:9), practicing hospitality (12:13), being at peace (12:18), overcoming evil with good (12:21), loving our neighbors (13:8-10), and laying aside immoral actions (13:12-14)

But here is the biggest fallacy in using Romans 13:1 the way Sessions used it. Even if it were true that God has certified worldly governments to carry out divine will, there is still always one divinely sanctioned entity that predates and supersedes political institutions.

The family.

Before there were tribes, nations, borders, political parties, and earthly laws, God created the family. It is the preservation of the family, and particularly the protection of our children, that guarantees our flourishing and fruitfulness as a people. 

We remember that Jesus had words for the Romans as well, in his command to “let the children come to me, for such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14) It was an indictment of the way Roman culture had allowed the exploitation and dehumanization of children. Jesus was in no way interested in telling his followers that the abuse of children was allowable as a divinely sanctioned policy.

You may have heard that Jeff Sessions is a member of a United Methodist congregation in Alabama, and that reaction from our denomination has been swift. Our Bishop Ken Carter, recently elected as the President of the Council of Bishops, issued a strong denunciation. [1] The United Methodist Women has issued its own condemnation, [2] as has a growing list of at least 600 fellow United Methodists who have filed a formal church complaint against him. [3]

The problem is not with a politician quoting Scripture. Promoting biblical literacy in the public square can be a good thing. The biggest problem is not even with misinterpreting scripture. We are all susceptible to it.

The problem is in its misuse, to promote an agenda that is not only antithetical to the Gospel, but is destructive of the highest and best human institution that God created: the family.

So, here are five other Bible verses that I suggest Jeff Sessions consider:

Zechariah 7:9-10: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

Proverbs 31:8-9: “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

 Jeremiah 22:3: “Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”

 Isaiah 58:6-7: “Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free, And break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him.”

 Leviticus 19:33-34: “And if strangers dwell with you in your land, you shall not mistreat them. The strangers who dwell among you shall be to you as those born among you, and you shall love them as yourselves; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

The list could go on and on. We are called to practice hospitality to strangers, promote human dignity and worth, preserve the sacred bonds of family, and protect the children: the immigrant, the unborn, the school aged fearing for their safety, the bullied, the abused, the disadvantaged, the minority, from every walk of life and corner of the world. They are not commodities or pawns in political power games. They are all children of God, and children of ours.

Grace and peace,

Magrey

The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist

[1] Methodist bishop condemns immigrant family separations

[2] United Methodist Women Statement

[3] Church complaint filed against Session

JUSTICE FOR OUR NEIGHBORS (JFON)
Among the ways you might discern responding to this crisis is to support the United Methodist agency Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON), which promotes a just immigration system and provides legal support for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. I have made a personal contribution to them in the wake of this recent government policy and am on their mailing list. If you feel led to learn more, visit fljfon.org for more information.

Midweek Message: A Prayer for Pastors in the Year Ahead

Midweek Message: A Prayer for Pastors in the Year Ahead

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Last week was the gathering in Lakeland of the Florida Annual Conference, comprised of clergy and laity from around the state. One of the highlights is always the service of licensing, commissioning and ordination, in which we celebrate persons newly serving as clergy.

Among them were our own Amy Greene (deacon) and Zach Hutchinson (local pastor), two people who grew up in our youth group and were confirmed here many years ago. It was also great to welcome back Michelle Shrader, whose calling into ministry is rooted at Hyde Park. After three years of serving in South Africa, she returns home to Florida, where she will be serving down in the Miami area. You can read more about her return home here.

I am thankful for the way this congregation has nurtured the call of many throughout the years into full-time Christian ministry. We are grateful to have Nicki Taylor, a candidate for ordained ministry, serving on staff as our Director of Small Group Ministries, learning and leading among us.

It is also a time to recognize the year ahead for all of us, and the six clergy persons at Hyde Park who are all returning for another year of ministry. Sally, Vicki, Kim, Debbie, Justin, and I are grateful to be coming back, and as always covet your prayers and support as we seek to fulfill our calling among such a loving, caring and committed congregation as this one.

I have posted similar prayers like this in years past, but I offer it again, in the hope that you will lift up the clergy of Hyde Park, as well as others throughout the denomination, over the months ahead:

A PRAYER FOR PASTORS IN THE YEAR AHEAD

Gracious God,

We thank you for your church, the living embodiment of Christ, empowered by your Spirit to reach a hurting world.  We thank you for the women and men who serve as clergy and lay preachers, who challenge, nurture and order the life of your people.  And we thank you for lay people, and their rich array of skills and passions. Together, we are your church, from all walks and seasons of life.

We thank you for candidates for ministry, and those who are newly licensed, commissioned, and ordained for ministry, who are entering the tender years of their work. We especially give you thanks for Amy, Zach and Nicki. And we thank you for those who are retired, continuing to serve your kingdom in renewed ways. May all clergy, at every stage of ministry, fulfill their sacred calling for years to come.

We pray for our Bishop Ken Carter, his cabinet, and all our Conference leaders, as they lead us through times of adaptation, healing and growth. Grant them wise discernment and grace-filled leadership.

We thank you for your presence amid transition, particularly for clergy who are moving, and for churches receiving new pastors. Bless spouses, families, friends and all those impacted by these changes. Grant them strength for the journey ahead and a confidence that your kingdom will be built by the best people serving in the right places.

Even amid our gratitude, we acknowledge hardship. We recognize that the journey is often difficult for those who pursue your call. We pray for clergy who are dealing with physical, relational, emotional, mental or financial strains. Grant them courage to face their limitations, wisdom to make the tough choices, supportive loved ones to surround them in their darkest days, renewed strength for their moments of fatigue and the willingness to make necessary changes toward health and wholeness.

We pray for those struggling to find adequate balance between the demands of leadership and their responsibilities to family and self-care. Grant them the ability to discern healthy choices, prioritize what is most important and tend to those areas of life that nourish their souls and relationships.

We pray for pastors whose current spiritual state is likened to a dry, parched wilderness. For those whose difficult years in ministry have sapped them of joy, creativity, and innovation, we ask that you restore their energies and inspire them to new ways of serving your church. Buoy them with hope, fill them optimism and holy humor and remind them that “the joy of the Lord is their strength.” 

Over the year ahead, renew within preachers a holy passion for the Scriptures. Open their eyes to new interpretive possibilities, and fill them with new zeal for its preaching, its teaching and its embodiment through their example. May they fall in love once again with the beauty of language, and its power to name and sustain our commitment to be your people.

We give you thanks, O Lord, for all you have done in and through the faithfulness of clergy and lay people throughout the years. May we continue to serve as the living expression of your love, made real for the world to see. May all of us be led by the one whom you sent for our sake, Jesus the Christ, who is the head of the church, and in whose name we pray, Amen.

Grace and peace,

Magrey

The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist

Roger Scholtz Preaching July 8

We welcome back to the Hyde Park pulpit the Rev. Roger Scholtz, interim preacher prior to my return, on Sunday, July 8. An incorrect date was published in last week’s Midweek Message. He will also be offering a workshop the following Tuesday, July 10.

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