Midweek Message: Hoping They Get Dripped On

Midweek Message: Hoping They Get Dripped On

Dear Hyde Park Family,

 

One of my favorite comedians growing up was Paul Reiser, star of several 80s sitcoms and a very funny author. I remember reading his book Couplehood in college, and to this day I remember his reflections on showering:

 

I’ve discovered that while showering, the areas of our body that we spend the most time scrubbing are not necessarily the areas that need the most scrubbing. There’s a gap between Scrubbing Supply and Scrubbing Demand. For example, the mid-chest gets an awful lot of scrubbing. Right around the chest plate. We love scrubbing that chestal area. Now the fact is, nobody really ever has dirt there. You couldn’t get this part dirty if you wanted to. You’d have to come out of a pool and trip with your arms out. Or eat soup naked and fast. But we scrub there because it’s convenient. It’s nearby, it doesn’t take any effort, you can think about all the Things You Have To Do while you’re scrubbing. So we spend forty minutes scrubbing needlessly.
 
Your feet, however, which really need the attention, get nothing. Admit it. Your feet haven’t been scrubbed since you were in a bassinet. They’re just too far away. No matter how short you are, it’s not worth the effort. So you forget about them. “Well, they’ll get dripped on. They’ll be fine.”
 
I’ll admit it; I’m not the most diligent at scrubbing my feet every day, either.
 
Lately I’ve been thinking about Paul Reiser’s observations in relation to our four private spiritual practices, which are part of our discipleship pathway:
 

            G– Giving in a way that is joyous and generous
            R– Reading the Bible without fear or frustration
            I– Inviting others to Jesus in a way that is natural and not intimidating
            P– Praying with confidence and conviction

 

Developing the daily discipline to practice our “GRIP” requires intentionality and diligence, not unlike scrubbing our feet ever day. Most of the time, our tendency is to focus on the easier-to-reach practices, the ones that are more visible to others, like going to worship, being in a small group, and serving. Yes, those are all important, and we should be more faithful in practicing them.
 

But when we focus solely on those corporate practices, in the hopes that our private practices will somehow just get “dripped on,” we can settle for something less than the full work of God’s cleansing grace in our lives.
 
That’s why, as we live into our church’s vision for the future, we are emphasizing GRIP in each of our worship services moving forward. It is our hope that worship will not simply “give you what you want,” but will give you guidance on how to live “life as God intends it”, which is my favorite definition of the Kingdom of God.
 
Every sermon will be followed by a segment called “Strengthening Your GRIP”, and will give you practical next steps that you can take to grow in your giving, reading, inviting, and praying. Most Sundays in the sanctuary, that time will also include a reformatted, more participatory congregational prayer time, rather than just a preacher doing all the talking. It will model for you ways to pray that are rooted in Christian tradition, which you can practice throughout your week.

 

My conviction is that as we grow in our corporate practices (worship, small groups, service) and our personal practices (giving, reading, inviting, prayer), we will not only be more faithful followers of Jesus, and we will not just be a healthier church. We will be a greater witness to the world of what God’s love can do when it is made real for others.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

 

PRACTICING EXTRAVAGANT GENEROSITY

Have you picked up your free daily devotional yet? We have been giving away Practicing Extravagant Generositya monthly devotional that will encourage you in your personal spiritual practices of giving, reading scripture, and prayer. Copies are still available in the church office. I took particular notice of the conclusion to last Monday’s reading:

“Through our generosity, God can do extraordinary things. Through our giving, God changes lives, and in changing them, transforms us.”

Midweek Message: Bloom Where You’re Planted

Midweek Message: Bloom Where You’re Planted

Dear Hyde Park Family,

I don’t remember the first time I ever heard the phrase “Bloom where you’re planted,” but the phrase has stuck with me. Basically, it’s an invitation to make the most of your circumstances and look for ways to turn the most miserable situation into an opportunity for growth.

The first person to use the phrase was St. Frances de Sales, a 17th century French Catholic bishop:

“Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.”

It’s a lovely sentiment, made even more poignant when one considers the challenges that Frances himself had to overcome.

  • He failed at law school and decided to enter the priesthood instead, which surprised and disappointed his parents.
  • He was, by many accounts, a terrible preacher. When he preached, “The listeners thought he was making fun of them.” And people complained to the bishop that de Sales was “too conceited and controlling.”
  • He organized a missionary effort to Geneva, Switzerland, but only two people joined the team – him and his cousin.
  • As he tried to share the gospel, he had doors slam in his face and rocks thrown at him.
  • In the bitter winters, his feet froze so badly they bled in the snow, and one night he had to sleep in a tree to avoid wolves. He tied himself to a branch to keep from falling out and was so frozen the next morning he had to be cut down.
  • After three years of evangelizing, his cousin left him, and he had not made one convert.
  • Talk about a rough day at the office.

But de Sales did not quit, and he chose to bloom where he was planted. Because he could not get a face-to-face audience with people, he wrote his sermons down, reproduced them, and slid them underneath people’s doors. To this day, he is known as the patron saint of journalism because of his printed efforts. Slowly, his efforts warmed the hearts of the people of Geneva, and it is said that he returned to France having converted 40,000 of them to Catholicism.

Over time, throngs of people came to him to learn spiritual practices and how to live the Christian life. His book Introduction to a Devout Life, originally a collection of letters he wrote to common people seeking his direction, became widespread in its popularity all throughout Europe in 1608.

THIS SUNDAY: BLOOM WHERE YOU’RE PLANTED

The prophet Jeremiah could have identified with St. Frances de Sales. He was writing to Hebrew exiles who were living in the misery of a foreign land. But the text for this Sunday reminds us that even in exile, we can practice the advice of Frances, and “bloom where we are planted.”

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce … seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:4-5 | Jeremiah 29:7)

Join us this Sunday as we continue our worship series “The Bright Side” with a reminder of how God’s power and presence enables us to do more than make the best of our situation. God can help us mature and even flourish amid our hard times.

EVERY TIME YOU FALL

In addition to coining the phrase “bloom where you’re planted,” Frances de Sales also wrote this helpful word of advice:

Do not look forward to the mishaps of this life with anxiety, but await them with perfect confidence so that when they do occur, God, to whom you belong, will deliver you from them. He has kept you up to the present; remain securely in the hand of his providence, and he will help you in all situations…. If you happen to do something that you regret, be neither astonished nor upset, but having acknowledged your failing, humble yourself quietly before God and try to regain your gentle composure. Say to yourself: “There, we have made a mistake, but let’s go on now and be more careful.” Every time you fall, do the same.

Wise words, indeed.

See you Sunday!

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

Midweek Message: Finding God in the Bright Side

Midweek Message: Finding God in the Bright Side

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Several years ago, when I was going through a particularly difficult time, I found it hard to envision brighter days ahead. I woke up one morning earnestly praying that God would give me some “manna” for the day, some tangible reminder that God would give me enough strength to take things one day at a time.

Later that day, I was driving back to my office from a lunch appointment when a song began to play on the radio, one that I had never heard before. It’s a song called “Blessings” by a Christian artist named Laura Story. You can listen to the song here. As I listened to the lyrics, I had to pull my car over, and I wept over the beauty of the lyrics and the way it was giving me exactly the message I needed to hear that day:

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel you near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from your word is not enough
All the while, you hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

Chorus:
‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near
What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise

STRENGTH FROM THE SCRIPTURES

The Bible is filled with reminders that just when we think we’ve hit rock bottom, just when we think we are at the end of the rope, God is with us to give us just enough strength to see the “bright side” that is ahead of us. Maybe some of these passages will speak to you right now:

I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13)

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.(Joshua 1:9-10)

THE BRIGHT SIDE

If you or someone you love is going through a tough time, and they could use some “manna” to get them through their day, then our new worship series comes at a perfect time. It’s called “The Bright Side,” where we will hear some powerful words of encouragement from the Scriptures. This Sunday we will be looking at Paul’s advice to young Timothy, that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.”

We hope that you will join us, either live or online, and let’s discover together how to find God in the bright side, even when times seem cloudy and dark.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

Midweek Message: Praying … without Words?

Midweek Message: Praying … without Words?

Dear Hyde Park Family,

One of my favorite social activities is to play card games. Years ago, in seminary, my friends and I would play every Thursday night after classes were finished. Our group included a couple who had been married a long time. We would often play “trick-taking” games like Spades and Euchre, where the partners would silently work together to win enough tricks in a given hand.

That couple beat us every time. And after a while, we discovered their secret. They had been married long enough to not need words to communicate.

Think about it. If you’ve been in a relationship with someone for a long time, remember what it was like when you were first getting to know each other. You spoke words all the time. You shared what you were feeling and what you wanted, with precise language. You planned together, spoke together, learned about each other, dreamed together.

But there often comes a point when your relationship evolves, even matures, and you start communicating in a different way, and often in a non-verbal way. You learn to recognize their presence even when you don’t see them. You read their body language. You detect nuances in their face. You can tell when something is going on, without even hearing them speak.

And that’s exactly happened when we played this couple at cards. They would pick up their cards, and without intention, one would flinch their nose. Or purse their lips. Or furrow their brow.

I don’t know exactly what they were doing, but they killed us every time.

PRAYER AS ATTENTIVENESS

Sometimes I think about them when I think about prayer. Just as with any person, our relationship with God can change over time. Some picture God with a face and a human form, located in a certain place. Some people come to experience God in a different way, as present in all things, embedded in every moment, as close as your own breath.

And eventually, we might even come to the conclusion that praying with words is sometimes not even all that necessary. We can come to see that prayer is not as much about the words that we say, but the attentiveness of our hearts, the heightened awareness of God’s presence, the breathing in and out of God’s Spirit that reminds us of who we are in God.

It could then mean that every breath could become a prayer to God. Every chew of food, every gasp of delight, every splash of water in bathing, can become a moment of prayer, and delight, and joy, as we learn to sense the presence of God all around us.

Prayer can become a whole-life response to God’s grace.

I don’t think I’ll ever entirely let go of using words when I pray. But even still, there’s a lot that I can learn about raising my attentiveness to God’s Spirit, and I suppose you can, too. That’s one reason why this Sunday is so important.

THIS SUNDAY: PRAYING WITH CONFIDENCE AND CONVICTION

We conclude our important “Get a GRIP” worship series on our personal spiritual practices this Sunday with a sermon on prayer. Along with Giving with joy and generosity, Reading Scripture without fear and frustration, and Inviting Others to Jesus in a way that is natural and not intimidating, we will end with a worship experience devoted to Prayer.

I hope you will join us, either live or online, open to learning how the Spirit can reinvigorate your prayer life, so that you can pray with confidence and conviction, and a renewed sense of how your prayers to God really matter. We will experience different ways to pray that you can practice throughout the week, which will help you grow in your relationship with God. This would be a great service to invite a friend to attend, particularly if they have ever had questions about prayer.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

Midweek Message: The Bible Project 2020

Midweek Message: The Bible Project 2020

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Some of the most serendipitous privileges of ministry occur when I am planning a funeral with a family, and they hand me their loved one’s personal Bible. Its pages often contain highlighted scriptures, underlined words, and handwritten notes in the margin, creating a living journal of that person’s journey of faith.

As a congregation living into its core value of being biblically rooted, we believe that the Bible is not just an anthology of stories or a collection of pious phrases. It is a living book, through which the transformative power of the Holy Spirit can change the trajectory of your life.

And the only way that can happen is if you read it.

That’s why one way we are living into the vision plan that we adopted last fall is to take an intentional journey through the Bible next year as a congregation. Last Sunday, I announced in my sermon an exciting new endeavor called “The Bible Project 2020,” in which we will read the Bible cover to cover, Genesis to Revelation, from January to December next year.

Why? Well, first of all, the Vision Team heard a strong desire from this congregation to strengthen its connection to God and to each other by reading and studying the Scriptures. It’s an idea that came from all of you. Second, following the same reading plan will be more than just checking an item off a daily to-do list. It will help you develop a rhythm to your routine, enabling you to spend more time with God every day. And by doing it together next year, we will receive new clarity, “2020 vision,” in understanding and applying the Bible to our lives.

So, since last January, teams of staff and lay people have been working on lots of resources to guide and support us as we take this journey last year:

WORSHIP: We will be preaching our way through the Bible through thirteen separate worship series that will track our way through the Scriptures. And we’ll follow the same daily reading plan, so that we can follow along together.

DAILY DEVOTIONAL: We are currently developing a daily devotional with daily insights on the reading from me, as well as reflections written by church members like yourselves.

PODCAST: To help us unpack the meaning of some of the more challenging passages, we are creating a weekly podcast, led by a team of lay people and featuring guest experts on the texts.

CHILDREN AND YOUTH: Our Children’s and Youth Ministries will be taking a journey through the Bible as well in their curriculum, so that families can talk about these stories together.

ONLINE DISCUSSION: We’ll be creating a way for you to share your questions and insights on the daily readings with me and others through online discussion groups.

SMALL GROUPS: Finally, we will be creating small groups for you to choose to be a part of at times along the way. If you join one, you’ll be able to meet together and have a safe place to ask questions, gain insights, and figure out how to apply these Scriptures in your lives.

You’ll hear much more about this exciting journey between now and when we start it on January 1. But for now, here are answers to a few initial questions:

What reading plan will we be following? And is there a required Bible or translation we will be using? The daily readings will come from a plan that is part of the NRSV Daily Bible, which we will make available in our Aldersgate Coffee Shop, along with many other Bibles to choose from. However, you do not need to use that particular Bible, or any particular translation, to join us in this journey. We will make the reading plan available to everyone for free.

I’m already in a small group. Does our group have to do this? We hope that every existing small group will consider being a part of this experience. However, there is great flexibility in this journey, and your group can choose to join in just for parts of the journey along the way. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our Director of Small Groups, Nicki Taylor.

This is all part of strengthening our GRIP, our four private spiritual practices of Giving generously, Reading the Bible, Inviting others to Jesus, and Praying. I am excited about what learning to read the Bible faithfully, without fear or frustration, will do in your life, and in the life of our congregation.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

Midweek Message: Take a Breath and Get a GRIP

Midweek Message: Take a Breath and Get a GRIP

Dear Hyde Park Family,

There are few things more frustrating than being unable to take in a full breath of air.

While living in Iowa, I took on the overly ambitious task of building a large deck around my house. Admittedly, when it comes to home improvement projects, I’m more like SpongeBob SquarePants than Bob the Builder. But I had dreams of adding more than 1,000 square feet of outdoor living space to our home.

I drew up the designs, gathered all the materials, marked up the property and began digging the first of several post holes that would comprise the foundation of the deck.

Then I dug. And dug. And dug some more.

After about an hour of manual digging, I managed to get down only 20 inches of the required 36 to get below the area’s frost line. That’s when I hit what felt like solid bedrock. And I still had 17 more holes to go. (I told you this was an overly ambitious project.)

At the end of that first day, I plunged my post-hole digger into the ground, flopped spread-eagle onto the grass and laid still in exhaustion. That’s when I heard the neighbor walk by with her kids.

“Oh, my God!” she shrieked. “I think the preacher’s dead!”

After weeks of back-breaking work, I finally finished the deck, eager to enjoy the fruit of my labors. That’s when I couldn’t breathe. Every time I took a breath, I couldn’t get my lungs to fill completely with air. I tried stretches, I took anti-inflammatory pills, and I went to my doctor. Nothing I did could get a single full breath into my lungs. It was scary and frustrating.

A friend suggested I visit a chiropractor. I’d never been to one before, but I was pretty desperate. “Go see Dr. Irwin,” my friend told me. “He grew up on a cattle farm. He likes to work with the big patients.”

So, there I was, lying on my stomach listening to the chiropractor. “Your back is out of alignment, pastor. But don’t worry, let me do something.” Then I heard him crack his knuckles and rub his hands, like he was eager to work a kink out of Ol’ Bessie.

He pressed down onto my vertebrae, and I felt a pop in the middle of my back. Then, it felt like a flood gate of pressure was released from my chest. My ribs burst into full expansion, and my lungs swelled to take in the first glorious full breath I had taken in a long, long time.

THE LIFE GOD INTENDS FOR YOU

The first thing we learn about human beings is that God intends for us to breathe. Though we are made of lifeless dust, God’s own Spirit was breathed into us at the moment of our creation, and our lives came into being. And ever since then, we are created to fully inhale and exhale our love for God and others.

But life is strenuous, even backbreaking. The pressures of daily labor take their toll on us over time. They restrict our hope, tense up our joy and freeze our ability to love God and others. Instead of taking in the fullness of God’s Spirit, we feel suffocated by worry, fear, anger and grief.

This is not life as God intends it. So, we need to surrender ourselves to a specialist.

GET A GRIP

In this church, we believe that the way to fully surrender your tense, constricted life over to God is through the seven spiritual disciplines of our Discipleship Pathway. It begins with faithfulness in the three corporate practices of worship, small groups and service.

But it doesn’t stop there.

To really allow the full breath of the Spirit to fill you, pay attention to the four personal spiritual practices you should do every day, even in between Sundays, and “Get a GRIP.”

Give in a way that is joyful and generous.
Read the Bible without fear or frustration.
Invite others to Jesus in a way that is natural and not intimidating.
Pray regularly with confidence and conviction.

As I shared last Sunday, these four spiritual practices comprise not only our current worship series; they are the crucial part you can play in helping Hyde Park United Methodist realize the vision we adopted last fall and claim the future God has for this congregation.

But most importantly, practicing all four is the way God can help crack open your restricted airways, and help you live life exactly as God intends.

SO, DON’T MISS THIS SUNDAY: READING SCRIPTURE

I hope you will join me this Sunday as we talk about the second spiritual practice, “Reading Scripture.” And I am very excited to share with you the way that we, as a congregation, will join together next year in reading the Bible, to overcome the fear and frustration we often have with it. And if you’re not able to join us in person, be sure to watch us online at hydeparkumc.org/live.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

HURRICANE DORIAN RELIEF
For the latest on our efforts to help people suffering in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, including donating to the United Methodist Committee on Relief and viewing a word from our own Bishop Carter, visit our website.

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