MidWeek Message: BREAKING NEWS: Hometown Man Causes Uproar

MidWeek Message: BREAKING NEWS: Hometown Man Causes Uproar

Jan. 18, 2018

Dear Hyde Park Family,

HOMETOWN MAN PREACHES; CAUSES UPROAR

Mathias Avram, Nazareth Gazette Special Correspondent

Nazareth, Galilee – Tensions flared as hometown product Jesus ben-Joseph made his first preaching appearance at the synagogue, offering a controversial message of inclusion and diversity.

In a sermon titled, “The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me,” Jesus was initially received with thunderous approval by the standing room-only crowd.

“I remember him when he was just barely old enough to pick up a hammer,” said Zachariah Yousseff, a next-door neighbor. “Who knew he would grow up to become a preacher? His message really resonated with me. At first.”

Jesus’ opening was filled with populist messages of liberation for the oppressed, recovery of sight to the blind, good news for the poor, and freedom for the enslaved, all issues that rank high among the latest opinion polls, according to several recent surveys.

“It definitely started out as a rousing speech,” said Reuben Aretz, holding a large sign emblazoned with “I’m with Jesus” in giant letters. “He set the scroll aside, sat down, and said ‘Today the Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ There was so much cheering I couldn’t hear myself think. We were right there with him.”

But according to several eyewitness accounts, the speech then took a surprising turn.

“Suddenly, he started talking about blessing foreigners. And that made me uncomfortable,” said Yousseff.

A written transcript obtained by the Gazette reveals that Jesus then referred to several ancient Hebrew stories involving immigrants from foreign countries. He mentioned God’s blessing of the widow of Zarephath, from the country of Sidon, a long-time oppressor of the Hebrew people and birthplace of evil queen Jezebel. He then described God’s healing of Naaman, a leper from Syria, a stronghold of the troublesome Canaanites.

“Clearly, that’s when Jesus started to lose the crowd,” said Aretz. “People’s signs started to droop, and the mumbling got louder. One guy next to me said, ‘Why would we want to allow people from Sidon, Syria, and all those other dung-hole countries? Get ’em out of here.'”

Tempers then flared as Jesus concluded his sermon, with people having expected Jesus to return to a more populist message.

“Things really got out of hand,” said Yousseff. “People started pressing in on the guy, threatening to lock him up in jail. At one point, people chased him out of the synagogue and over toward the ravine. I thought for sure people were going to pick him up and toss him over.”

But according to officials who later appeared on the scene, Jesus was able to escape the crowd, calmly passing through them without saying a word.

“I don’t know what happened there at the end,” said Aretz. “One minute we all wanted to kill him. And then, just like that, he was gone.”

“I just don’t know. Gives you something to think about, I guess.”

(This is a developing story. For the latest updates, visit Luke 4:16-30).

Grace and peace,

Magrey
The Rev. Magrey deVega, Senior Pastor

MidWeek Message: How Can I Remember My Baptism?

MidWeek Message: How Can I Remember My Baptism?

Jan. 11, 2018

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Last year, a worshipper asked this profoundly intriguing question: “Pastor, what does it mean when you say to us, ‘Remember your baptism, and be thankful?’ What if I don’t remember my baptism?

Great question. I don’t remember my baptism, either, as I was only seven months old at the time. What worth is it to remember our own baptism if we were too young to remember it?

For me, part of the answer is found in my baptism certificate, which I saw for the first time about six years ago during a visit to my parent’s house.

  • I was baptized a Presbyterian. That was a bit of a shock to learn, but as they say, I guess it was predestined. It was in a church outside Pensacola, where my aunt worshipped. She has since been a spiritual rock throughout my life, praying for me during some of my darkest times.
  • Her signature on my certificate as one of my godparents is joined by those of my uncle and aunt, other relatives who have prayed for and supported me since my earliest years and into my ministry. My first cousin is also a United Methodist minister, and his influence on me as a youth is one reason I eventually felt called to ministry myself.
  • It names both of my parents. There is my dad, Maghirang. It is from his name that mine is derived. Take the first three letters of his first name and combine it with the first three of his middle name and you get my first name. My middle name comes from the maiden name of my mother, Teresita. Put it all together, and my name is a symbolic convergence of two ancestral streams that make me who I am.
  • It reminds me of where I was born and when I was born: Jan. 9 (I just celebrated a birthday two days ago.) And it reminds me of the day I was baptized – Aug. 26.

So, what does it mean to remember my baptism? It doesn’t mean recalling the specifics of the event itself, but the ongoing impact that it has made ever since.

It means remembering that since the day I was born, God is at work in me. Even before I could realize it, God was putting together the people, conditions, and influences that would draw me toward a commitment to Jesus Christ and a lifelong journey of faith. It reminds me that I am not a self-made person, but am the sum result of many people who have poured their love, support, nurture, and prayer into my physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Mostly, it reminds me of who I truly am in God’s eyes. I like the way Josh Childs, host of the Methodist web series “Chuck Knows Church,” describes baptism in this quick, informative video.

We receive our identity from others: from the expectations and influences of friends and families and from the labels that society puts on us. But to become a Christian is to receive a new identity. We no longer allow others to tell us who we are. Christ now claims us.

This Sunday, you will have an opportunity to remember your baptism. Or, perhaps more accurately, remember that you are baptized. Remember that you have been created and claimed by God, nurtured by people who have loved you along the way, and drawn by the Holy Spirit into a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ. You may not be perfect, for none of us are. But God’s grace is at work in and through you, just as it has from the beginning.

And for that remembrance, you can be grateful.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey
The Rev. Magrey deVega, Senior Pastor

FINAL PUSH FOR STEWARDSHIP PLEDGES
We give thanks for all of you who have made a financial commitment for 2018! We have surpassed the total number of pledges from last year, but are still short in total dollars to maintain and sustain the current level of ministries. The Committee on Finance meets this Wednesday to adjust and finalize the budget proposal for this year, based primarily on your commitment. If you haven’t turned in a pledge, please consider making one of any size, using this link.

MidWeek Message: Cold…but Happy?

MidWeek Message: Cold…but Happy?

Jan. 4, 2018

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Allow me to state the obvious. It’s cold.

I’ve broken out parts of my wardrobe I haven’t had to wear since my years in Iowa. Many of us have been busy covering our plants, burning our fire logs, and putting on layers of clothing. Some of us love this weather, others don’t. But we are feeling it together.

THE WORLD DATABASE OF HAPPINESS

The weather reminds me of a study not long ago by a Dutch researcher named Ruut Veenhoven. He has been studying the connection between geography and happiness: does one’s place of residence have a direct correlation to one’s level of happiness? His work has produced the World Database of Happiness, which ranks countries according to how happy its citizens are. [1] Here’s the surprising discovery. Ranking consistently among the world’s happiest nations (and even number one in a few surveys) is – are you ready for this? – Iceland

Iceland? Really?

I found out about the Database when I read a book by Eric Weiner, provocatively titled The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World. Among his journeys was a visit to Iceland, to see what made its citizens so happy. Here’s what he found:

      When I first saw the data, I had the same reaction you’re probably having now. Iceland? As in land of ice? As in cold and dark and teetering on the edge of the map as if it might fall off at any moment? Yes, that Iceland. As for the winter part, I figured anyone could be happy during the Icelandic summers, when the sun shines at midnight and the weather turns “pleasantly not cold,” as one Icelander put it. But the winter, yes, the cold, dark winter, that was the real test of Icelandic happiness.

      But the number crunchers at the World Database of Happiness say that, once again, we’ve got it wrong. Climate matters, but not the way we think. All things considered, colder is happier. Theories abound as to why cold or temperate climes produce happier people than warm, tropical ones. My favorite theory is one I call the Get-Along-or-Die Theory. In warm places, this theory states, life is too easy; your next meal simply falls from a coconut tree. Cooperation with others is optional. In colder places, though, cooperation is mandatory. Everyone must work together to ensure a good harvest or a hearty haul of cod. Or everyone dies. Together.

      Necessity may be the mother of invention, but interdependence is the mother of affection. We humans need one another, so we cooperate – for purely selfish reasons at first. At some point, though, the needing fades and all that remains is the cooperation. We help other people because we can, or because it makes us feel good, not because we’re counting on some future payback. There is a word for this: love. [2]

THE WARMTH OF COMMUNITY

As I’ve thought more about it, I don’t think it’s the weather that dictates happiness as much as it is a sense of community. It’s that “interdependence” that is the “mother of affection.” It’s expressed when we celebrate each other’s joys, share each other’s burdens, and remember that, in the end, we are all in this together. (Remember how, during Hurricane Irma, many of us learned to depend on each other a lot more? And how novel that felt?)

And if happiness is ultimately determined by a sense of community and belonging, then why shouldn’t the church lead the way? In a world that feels iced over with tension and uncertainty, there should be no greater place to find contentment and real joy than in Christian community.

Weiner discovered that when Icelanders greet each other, the phrase they use roughly translates as “come happy.” And when they depart, they say, “go happy.” Goodwill and well-wishes are built into their language.

It ought to be the same for the church. We, after all, are the ones who bid each other “The Lord be with you (and also with you.)” We are the ones who see ourselves as a body – a dynamic, interconnected, mutually supportive organism. And we are the ones who are commanded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:26-27: If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Yes, Weiner was right. There is a word for this. Love.

I am so grateful to be part of a congregation that is Christ-centered, open to a diversity of people and perspectives, and directed in love toward the needs of others. We are all in this together, regardless of the weather.

So, keep it up. (And by all means, bundle up!)

Grace and peace,

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

Photo credit: Mark Wallheiser

[1] http://www1.eur.nl/fsw/happiness/

[2] http://www.amazon.com/Geography-Bliss-Grumps-Search-Happiest/dp/0446580260

Midweek Message: Christmas Comes

Midweek Message: Christmas Comes

Dec. 21, 2017

Dear Hyde Park Family,

“Christmas Comes”
By Ann Weems, from Kneeling in Bethlehem

Christmas comes every time we see God in other persons.
The human and the holy meet in Bethlehem
                or in Times Square,
                for Christmas comes like a golden storm on its way
                                to Jerusalem –
                determinedly, inevitably . . .

Even now it comes
     in the face of hatred and warring –
                no atrocity too terrible to stop it,
                no Herod strong enough,
                no hurt deep enough,
                no curse shocking enough,
                no disaster shattering enough.

For someone on earth will see the star,
                someone will hear the angel voices,
                someone will run to Bethlehem,
                someone will know peace and goodwill:
                the Christ will be born!

On behalf of the staff and lay leadership of the Hyde Park and The Portico campuses of Hyde Park United Methodist Church, I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Grace and Peace,

Magrey
The Rev. Magrey deVega, Senior Pastor

TONIGHT: BLUE CHRISTMAS SERVICE

We recognize that for many of us, this is a season of sadness, loss and longing. If you or someone you know could use an experience of encouragement and hope, join us for our annual “Blue Christmas” worship service, 7 p.m. tonight at The Portico campus.

CHRISTMAS EVE!

This weekend we offer twelve worship services, including “Carols in the City” 7 p.m. Friday at The Portico, and our Family Christmas Service at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the Sanctuary on our Hyde Park campus.

On Sunday, we will celebrate Christmas Eve all day long, from two morning services at 11 a.m. until one at 11 p.m. Worship will feature the singing of carols and the lighting of candles. For the full roster of Christmas services this weekend, visit our website’s Christmas page or to view many of the services, visit our Watch Live web page.

Midweek Message: I Hate To Break It To You, Virginia

Midweek Message: I Hate To Break It To You, Virginia

(Note – Parental Disclaimer: the following Midweek Message contains material that may be troubling to some children, particularly if they still believe in Santa Claus. Or the Tooth Fairy.)

Dec. 14, 2017

Dear Hyde Park Family,

I can’t tell you the exact moment when both my daughters realized there is no Santa Claus. But I can tell you when Madelyn realized there was no Tooth Fairy.

When she was five, she lost one of her teeth at school and didn’t tell me or her mother. Instead, our clever girl tucked it under her pillow and wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy asking some personal questions (“Dear Tooth Fairy: How do you know when I’ve lost a tooth? What do you do with all of them, anyway? And what’s your favorite food?”)

Naturally, she woke up the next morning and found the tooth still packed in its plastic bag and her questions unanswered. Perhaps the Tooth Fairy was busy last night, she thought. So, once more without telling us, she tried it again the next night. (You’d have thought we would have noticed she was missing a tooth, but that’s another story.)

Suffice it to say, the whole experiment convinced her that maybe there’s something sketchy about the whole Tooth Fairy story. And if that’s true of the Tooth Fairy, she thought, then what about the Easter Bunny? And if there’s no Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny, then what about….what about….

I do think it dawned on older sister Grace shortly afterwards. At one point she said to me and her mother, “Well, Maddy and I are not sure if Santa is real. But we still really like the idea of Santa.” I remember thinking, Well, I’ll give them credit: They’re too smart to believe in Santa, but not dumb enough to pass on getting the presents.

I miss those early years of their childhood. It’s not that I miss the days that they believed in Santa. I really miss sharing experiences when they were filled with child-like wonder and awe, when their imaginations were unbridled by skepticism and their hearts unencumbered by worry.

I guess what I’m really saying is, I think we all miss having that capacity to wonder as well. Nowadays, we are so caught up in holiday duties and December deadlines that we forget that Advent is less about what we can see and touch, and more about promise and expectation. It’s about discovering a surprising gift, in places where we least expect to find it. And it’s about realizing qualities in others that we might otherwise overlook. Archbishop Oscar Romero captures it well:

Advent should admonish us to discover in each brother or sister that we greet, in each friend whose hand we shake, in each beggar who asks for bread, in each worker who wants to use the right to join a union, in each peasant who looks for work in the coffee groves, the face of Christ. Then it would not be possible to rob them, to cheat them, to deny them their rights. They are Christ, and whatever is done to them Christ will take as done to himself. This is what Advent is: Christ living among us. (From The Violence of Love)

Yes, there is more to Advent than meets the eye. It is not found in a jolly old man from the North Pole, but in the arrival of Christ amid those who are hurting and hopeless. It is expressed in the magnificent song of Mary, the subject of worship this Sunday, who rejoiced that God “has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.” (Luke 1:51-52)

You have likely lost your belief in Santa. But don’t lose your capacity for a Christmas surprise. Try finding Jesus in unexpected places: in the face of the hungry or impoverished, in the soul of someone who is grieving a loss, in the heart of someone who needs to see the light of hope in their lives, or even in the eyes of an adversary whose opinion is different from your own.

For when you discover Christ in this way, in the people and conditions where you least expect to find him, you will be filled with wonder, all over again.

Grace and peace,

Magrey
The Rev. Magrey deVega, Senior Pastor

MidWeek Message: When Up is Down and Down is Up

MidWeek Message: When Up is Down and Down is Up

Dec. 7, 2017

Dear Advent Pilgrims,

The elevator once broke at my previous church in Cherokee, Iowa. Not only were people stuck inside, but whenever they pressed the “up” button, the elevator went down. And when they pressed the “down” button, the elevator went up.

Nobody panicked, fortunately. They called for help, and after a short wait, they exited unscathed. Bewildered, yes, but quite relieved that their church campus roller coaster ride had come to a safe and complete stop.

The repair company arrived the next morning to determine the cause of the problem. A small piece of candy had fallen into the door sill of the elevator and jammed the doors shut. All that fuss, all the disruption, and all the trauma of an elevator literally turned upside-down – all caused by an innocent piece of spearmint hard candy.

Sometimes the smallest, most innocent events can produce the most seismic consequences.

Advent is about waiting for the extraordinary to be born from the ordinary, for the upending to come from among the unsuspecting. We live in a world that needs inversion, a reversal of the upside down, inside out backwardness that leaves us feeling stuck inside an elevator going nowhere.

We long for a day when our sisters, daughters, mothers, and female friends can work in an environment that promotes their dignity and frees them from harassment.

We long for a day when all of life, from the impoverished to the underinsured, from the unborn to the incarcerated, from the undereducated to the unemployed, is given the best chance at the transformed, redeemed, and abundant life.

We long for a day when our teachers are as valued as much as our celebrities, our politicians are held to the same moral standards as any other, and our society’s addiction to personal and national indebtedness is healed by discipline, generosity, and commitment to the common good.

We long for a day when common sense safety laws mitigate mass violence, and those inclined to commit those crimes find freedom from their inner demons.

We long for a day when empathy governs our interactions, from the way we treat other people, to the way global leaders shape our world. And we long for a peace that is not merely the absence of conflict, but a shared commitment over the long haul to justice and equality. 

In short, we long for a world turned upside down.

So come, Lord Jesus. Be born among us again, Word Made Flesh, candy-wrapped in swaddling clothes.

And together, let us prepare the way.

Grace and peace,

Magrey

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

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