Midweek Message “Is God on your Christmas List?

Midweek Message “Is God on your Christmas List?

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Is God on your Christmas list?

That’s an appropriate question, given that Christmas is about Jesus’ birthday, after all, not anyone else’s. So if anyone deserves a present from you, it is the one who was given as a gift for the world. And the gift that is most suitable for God to get from you is not one you can pick up on Black Friday or Cyber Monday; it’s one that you can give every day.

It’s the gift of your obedience.

Consider how the Christmas story is filled with one person after another, giving Jesus the gift of their obedience. What would have happened if these people had chosen otherwise?

  • What if Mary had said, “I’m sorry. Too much pressure. Go find another girl.”
  • If Joseph had said, “Nope. No way. Too risky.”
  • If the shepherds had said, “Us? In the presence of a king? You’ve got to be kidding.”
  • If the magi had said, “Herod must hear about this at once.”
  • And what if John the Baptist had said, “You want me to eat what? And wear what?”

In fact, Mark’s version of the Christmas story begins with that same John the Baptist, who is all about calling people to repentance and obedience. John’s message was simple and clear: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

The word “straight” is Mark’s favorite word. The Greek word occurs seventeen times throughout his gospel, translated in different ways. It most often occurs as immediately, which we tend to associate with being “instantaneous.” But it also has the sense of being “straight up” or “straight forward.” Consider how this nuance changes the way some of these passages in Mark might be read:

  • “Then Jesus perceived with clarity and focus in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves.” (Mark 2:8)
  • “But when the grain is ripe, he goes in with his sickle with discipline and efficiency, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:29)
  • “But Jesus spoke to them with straight talk, and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” (Mark 6:50)
  • “Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Then he was able to see straight and true and followed him on the way.” (Mark 10:52)

From the beginning of his gospel until the very end, Mark’s primary concern is that we understand that following Jesus means living a life of focus, discipline and intentionality. Don’t deviate, stay focused and don’t lose track.

If you are interested in giving God a gift this Christmas, there may be no better one than the gift of your obedience to the way and will of Christ in your life.

At Hyde Park United Methodist, our Discipleship Pathway is our gift-buying guide for giving God our obedience:

There can be no better preparation for Christmas than the one you do in your own soul. Let us all prepare the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight.

Peace, Hope, Love and Joy,


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


Christmas Eve is three weeks away! Plan to join us for one of eight services Dec. 22-24. View the schedule of services. Invite a friend to experience the fresh arrival of Jesus in our lives. Consider signing up to provide Christmas Hospitality and provide a warm welcome to the thousands of guests joining us.

Midweek Message: A Thanksgiving Proclamation

Midweek Message: A Thanksgiving Proclamation

Dear Thanksgiving Celebrants,

On behalf of the clergy, staff, and lay leadership of Hyde Park United Methodist, I wish you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving Day.

I invite you to spend a brief moment today reflecting on these words from Abraham Lincoln, who officially designated this annual day of giving thanks. May it prompt gratitude in your heart to God for all the blessings in your life, and all those we share together.

– Magrey

“A Proclamation”

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things.

They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

 By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Midweek Message: “Merry Almost Christmas”

Midweek Message: “Merry Almost Christmas”

Dear Hyde Park Family,

During dinner with my family in St. Petersburg last Sunday night, while most of us were discussing the misery of another Bucs loss and catching up on life, my father turned to me out of the blue and asked me:

“Did you know you can be paid $1,000 to watch Christmas movies?”

“No,” I said, wondering where that came from.

He told me that the Hallmark Movie Channel was sponsoring a contest called “My Hallmark Dream Job,” in which one lucky (or, perhaps, unlucky) individual would be awarded $1,000 for binge-watching 24 Christmas movies in 12 days and writing reviews of each one. In case you’re curious, you can find more information here.

Good luck if you choose to apply. But if you’re going to binge anything this upcoming Advent, I’d much rather you consider something potentially more transformative than the latest Yuletide romcom.


I hope you’ll consider joining us this Advent for a series called “Almost Christmas,” starting December 1. It’s based on a book that I co-authored, along with our own Michael Dougherty and other talented writers in the denomination. Together we will explore the Advent themes of peace, hope, love and joy from a Wesleyan perspective. You will gain insight into how to live out those qualities in your daily life, and a deeper appreciation for what it means to be Methodist. It’s also not too late to join a small group that will be studying the book.


You might also pick up the companion daily devotional, written by me, Michael, Justin LaRosa, Jim Harnish and some of the foremost writers in United Methodism.

Each day is a reflection on one of the questions posed by John Wesley in his famous sermon “Almost Christian,” including the following:

  • Do I so far practice justice, mercy, and truth, as even the world requires?
  • Do I do good with all my might?
  • Is the love of God shed abroad in my heart?
  • Am I happy in God?
  • Is God my glory, my delight, and my source of joy?
  • Do I love my neighbor as myself?
  • Do I love everyone, even my enemies, even the enemies of God, as my own soul?
  • Do I believe that Jesus has taken away my sins and cast them as a stone into the depth of the sea?

Both the weekly study and the daily devotional are available for purchase in our Aldersgate Coffee Shop this Sunday, or you can stop by the office during the week.


Before we officially begin the season of Advent, you can experience the joy of giving as we join together in our annual SERVE Day, a true highlight of our church year. You and hundreds of other Hyde Park friends can serve at the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent, at its new location, distributing food to families in need so they can experience the comfort and joy of a Thanksgiving meal together. It’s a great thing to do as a family, and the time goes by quickly as you are making a real difference for people. Learn more and sign up here.

Grace and Peace,


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


Thank you to the hundreds of you who turned in your Estimate of Giving Cards last Sunday. Those cards play a key role in guiding our Finance Committee in making funding decisions for programs and ministries next year. As I shared in the sermon, God has already given us everything we need to do “Great Things” in our future; it’s just up to us to give it over to God. If you haven’t submitted your card, you can fill one out online on our private, secure platform.

Midweek Message: We are the Church Together

Midweek Message: We are the Church Together

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Not long ago I came across a wonderful poem titled “The Church Resides in Us” by Travis East, which you can read in its entirety here. I was particularly drawn to this last stanza:

Lord, help us to remember
We are the shadow of your cross
That we don’t just go to church
The church resides in us

Now let that last line sit with you for a minute or two.

The church, in its purest, most biblical sense, is not something you go to. It is something you become. It is not a theme park; you are God’s main attraction. It is not a shopping mall; you are the free sample. It is not a museum; you are God’s handiwork.

For the church of Jesus Christ to do what it is called to do, we need to each become what we are called to be. That means each of us taking the next step in following Jesus by observing our corporate practices of worship, small group, and service, and observing our private practices of giving financially, reading Scripture, inviting others, and prayer. In summary, our GRIP as I discussed in my Midweek Message on Oct. 24.

And when that happens, God does some truly Great Things.


This Sunday, we conclude our “Great Things” worship series with a service you will not want to miss. It will be filled with inspiring stories that celebrate the lives of those who have been touched by God’s love through the ministries we have supported together.

  • You’ll hear a witness from someone who has experienced the joy of worship in this congregation, because we have been the church together.
  • You’ll hear of story of how one person experienced a warm-hearted, open-minded welcome into God’s love in this place, because we have been the church together.
  • You’ll hear a testimony about the power of service, giving one’s self for others, because we have been the church together.
  • You’ll hear a person in the church remind us of what God’s grace can do, both in us and through us, because we have been the church together.
  • You’ll hear a first-hand witness of how The Portico has drawn new people to Jesus, because we have been the church together.

And most importantly, you’ll have a concrete, specific way to be part of all that God wants to do in 2020, when you receive an Estimate of Giving Card during worship, which you can fill out and bring to the altar rail as we come forward for communion.

To prayerfully prepare for this Sunday, I hope you’ll take a look at the helpful documents we’ve attached to today’s Midweek Message. They will give you a clear idea of how you can increase your estimated giving by even just one percent, and how you can take the “next step up” in your contributions. And if you haven’t received or seen a sample estimate of giving card, you can find one here.

Now more than ever, it is good to be the church, which resides in each of us.

See you Sunday!

Grace and Peace,


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

Join hundreds of Hyde Park volunteers as they staff Metropolitan Ministries’ Holiday Tent on November 24 and support those in need. It’s in a new location this year: Look for the big tent at 2609 N. Rome Ave., across from Rick’s on the River. Various work shifts will be available from 9:45 a.m. – 6 p.m. Learn more or Sign Up for a shift!

Midweek Message: From Suffering to Hope

Midweek Message: From Suffering to Hope

Dear Hyde Park Family,

My daily devotional time this year has been spent following the same Scripture reading plan that we will be following next year for The Bible Project 2020, which you can learn more about here. I’m excited that in the few weeks since we opened registration, nearly 300 of you have signed up to be in a small group, with close to 50 small group facilitators. And there’s still plenty of room for you!

Last Tuesday, the reading was from Romans 3-5, and I spent most of my time that day reflecting on Romans 5:3-5:

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

It’s a fifty-word passage that we wish were much shorter. Wouldn’t it be nice if Paul instead had something like, “We know that suffering leads to hope. Period.” No, instead the lengthy chain of phrases in between suffering and hope is Paul’s way of reminding us that often, the journey from darkness to light is a process, and the length of that journey can be a significant part of the transformation.

That idea might seem hard to believe and even tougher to swallow, but it’s a consistent theme throughout the Scriptures:

  • It would have been so much nicer if the Israelites had stepped immediately from Egyptian slavery to freedom in the Promised Land, but instead there were forty years and four hundred miles between the Red Sea and the Jordan River.
  • It would have been so much easier if the Judeans had been quickly freed from Babylon to return from exile, but instead it took seventy years, and help from the Persians, before they could come home.
  • And it would have been so much more comforting to the disciples if Jesus had come back to life minutes after he was crucified. But very often, resurrection takes time, and the time we spend waiting for Easter morning can be a Holy Saturday we didn’t know we needed.

Even the transformations that seem instantaneous in the Bible were not all that sudden after all:

  • Moses’ life was changed forever in a brief encounter with a burning bush, but it was a moment that took wandering as a fugitive in the wilderness to get there.
  • The blind man in John 9 was cured by Jesus with a single touch, but he had been waiting all his life for that miracle.
  • Saul’s conversion to Paul on the Damascus road seemed as instantaneous as that flash of light, but he still had to travel to Jerusalem, blind and aided by his friends, in order for transformation to be completed.

It’s no secret to you and me that life can be challenging, and we share in the pain of many people in our congregation and our community, even over recent days. But I invite you to spend some time reflecting on Paul’s words to the Romans, and even turn it into a prayer. For yourself, for your loved ones, and for anyone you know who is hurting.

God of hope and love,
Make yourself known to me in my suffering, so that I can discover an endurance that will enable me to go one step at a time, one day at a time.
Accompany me in that endurance, so that I can shed the parts of my character that are keeping me from living the life you intend me to live.
As I see evidence of the character-building work of your Spirit, may I be filled with a hope that the good work you have started will be completed in me.
And may that hope remind me of your love, poured into my heart, and always available to me.

Grace and Peace,


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

(Note: Perhaps a simple way to practice the personal spiritual discipline of “Inviting in a way that is natural and not intimidating,” you might forward this message to someone you know who could use a word of hope and encouragement.)

Don’t miss worship this Sunday as we continue our “Great Things” worship series with a sermon that will remind us of many of the exciting reasons it is great to be a follower of Jesus, and why it is so important to be the church today.

Your gifts to Hyde Park provide opportunities for all ages to grow in discipleship. A gift of $100 could fund five third grade Bibles, two scholarships for kids to experience God’s love at Vacation Bible School or a Wednesday night of Nursery care, allowing young parents to grow closer to God in small group community. A gift of $500 could fund Confirmation materials to help a class of youth claim their faith for themselves or provide a scholarship for a life-changing week at Warren Willis Camp. Your generosity ensures we continue teaching each other what it means to love God and love all. To learn more about what a step up in giving could mean to our life together at Hyde Park, go here.

Midweek Message: The Mask We Should Wear

Midweek Message: The Mask We Should Wear

Dear Hyde Park Family,

I attended a conservative Christian school from kindergarten to high school, which formed me in the faith in ways that still shape me today. But I also remember many of the prohibitions imposed on us students:

  • No listening to secular rock music. (I had been convinced it was the devil’s music.)
  • No long hair for boys. (I kept that one, too. It’s even easier for me to keep it today.)
  • No dancing. (The joke was, “Don’t have premarital sex. It could lead to dancing.”)
  • And by all means, no observing Halloween.

That last one I didn’t keep. They told us it was based on a pagan holiday (which it is) that encourages the practice of witchcraft and divination. Never mind that “Halloween” is derived from “All Hallow’s Eve,” a commemoration of the martyrs of the Church instituted by Pope Gregory IV.

It was a no-no at my school.

Still, I remember my parents buying my Halloween costume every year, typically those thin plastic onesies with the flimsy masks, and the eyeholes that never quite lined up with any normal face, and the overstretched rubber band precariously secured by two metal tangs. Those outfits never lasted the entire night, but it didn’t matter. Once a year, I got to be Batman, or Spiderman, or Superman, and my brothers and I would return with a Mt. Pinatubo-sized volcano of candy, ready to erupt with an empty caloric sugar buzz.

I realize now that administering that kind of unhealthiness to our children is not really the best idea. But I still think there is value in fostering imagination and playful pretending. And my daughters and I still enjoy creating our costumes every year.






One of the more recurring words in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is prosopon, a Greek word often translated as “face” or “countenance.” It’s a Greek theatrical term that means “mask.” Because of the distance between the stage and those in the back of the audience, Greek actors quickly interchanged masks portraying different exaggerated facial features. It helped them communicate feelings and emotions for even the most distant to see. They were also constructed to amplify the actors’ voices, so folks could hear them from far away.

We often wear figurative masks to project an image to others that hides our true selves. But when Paul talked to the Corinthians about wearing masks, he was using it in a positive sense. Paul called Christians to wear the proposon of Christ, to convey to a world that seems far removed that God’s grace and forgiveness is available to them.

But whenever someone turns back to the Lord, the veil is removed. The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom. All of us are looking with unveiled faces [“proposon”] at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:16-18)

So, if you’re celebrating Halloween tonight, have fun and be safe. I for one am dressing up as Wong from Doctor Strange (I don’t even need a mask for that one!) and Maddy is dressing like a pineapple (she doesn’t even have to pretend to be sweet!) But starting today, and every day following, remember to wear the greatest mask of all. The one that shows others that God loves them.

See you Sunday!


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

Join us in worship this Sunday as we honor those in our community who have died in the past year, including members of our church, military and first responders and the homeless. Our three Sanctuary services will feature the combined leadership of both our contemporary and traditional music ministries. And we start our new series “Great Things,” beginning with a reminder of the great gift we have from God, and the great gift we can give to God.

Your gifts to Hyde Park provide care and comfort. A gift of $100 could fund 16 love meals to be delivered to families in a time of need or 25 teddy bears used to share God’s encouragement through our pew bear ministry. A gift of $500 could fund a funeral with organ music, bulletins, tech support and a reception space, allowing a grieving family to celebrate the life of their loved one. These tangible expressions make God’s love real during life’s most challenging times and we are grateful that you make them happen. To learn more about what a step up in giving could mean to our life together at Hyde Park, go here.

And enjoy the extra hour of sleep Saturday night!

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