Midweek Message: Lessons From Irma

Midweek Message: Lessons From Irma

Sept. 21, 2017

Dear Hyde Park Family,

There were a lot of responses to my Midweek Message last week. In both my Midweek and my sermon, I invited us to reflect on what Hurricane Irma has taught us: about ourselves, what we value, what we fear, how we will be better prepared, and how we will respond to those who are suffering.

I received dozens of responses from you all, each one precious and poignant, and far more numerous than I can share with you today. Here is just a sampling of lessons you have learned, with permission from those who shared them with me:

ON GETTING PREPARED

As we were prepping for the storm, I realized I didn’t care about any of my possessions; I just wanted to keep my family safe. I only grabbed two things when evacuating: my camera and my Grandmother’s pearls. Everything else was just “stuff.”

ON FEELING WORRIED

I’ve learned how exhausting worrying can be. We all prepared, heeded the evacuations and thanked God the storm spared us and we were fine. Even if it had directly hit us, we were prepared, God would still be with us. It would be so much harder, but I truly believe that those who could, would take others in and we would all help each other make it through. I saw so many people offering to help those who may need it. Together as a community we will be okay, because we can come together and put aside our differences when needed.

ON WHAT WAS FEARED THE MOST

I’ll start with what I was most fearful of. For me, I was terrified of losing my childhood home. Not only for the fact that the four walls would not be there. But for the mere terrifying feeling of losing memories. Now that brings me to what I value most. I hold on to and cherish memories of my dad and me throughout the home. I walk into what became his room downstairs when he was sick, and I can see his face and twinkle in his eye, telling me how happy it makes him to see me, after I’ve come home from work. I see his smile and I cling to it. I look next to the TV console and I see him, myself, and my niece dancing to his favorite song. These memories are not only what I value, but I cling to. What am I most fearful of? Not remembering each moment by its landmark (so to speak) in the house.

ON KEEPING THE FAITH

What did Irma teach me? Irma reminded me once again about the love that Jesus Christ has for all of us. I was very nervous and stressed leading up to the storm… not knowing what to expect (I have never experienced a hurricane growing up and living in Indiana my whole life). My husband and I talked with our two girls all week about the storm. We cried, prayed, and planned what we could. We talked a lot about what was important to us … each other and God’s Love! Things are replaceable, but each other is not. It was scary saying goodbye Saturday evening to my family and going into work, but I knew we would all be safe through our prayer and faith in Jesus Christ… I told the girls when they got scared to say a prayer to Jesus and I would do the same!

ON BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER

The storm taught me how much the family and close friends in my life mean to me and how we’d do anything for each other… I realized though through this storm how amazing the people are around me in my neighborhood. We went from being a cordial block to a block of people I’d call close friends who I know we’d do anything for. And my realizing we don’t ever “need” a bigger house but to be surrounded by good people is priceless. We’re here for the long haul now 🙂

ON RETHINKING THE IMPORTANCE OF POSSESSIONS

This storm has taught me that we have too much stuff.
Stuff that I wouldn’t take with me if I had to evacuate.
Stuff that I had to pack up to secure in case of flood or wind.
Stuff that exhausted me before the storm to secure and after to unpack.
(Note: it’s not all going back.)
But most important: this storm taught me the value of good friends, family and neighbors.
That my nephew playing the guitar was incredibly soothing as the storm approached.
That board games create laughter that refreshes.
That planning for food (meals) and emergency supplies is important and vital.
That the ability to “camp” in your own house is helpful.

ON HOW TO HELP THOSE WHO ARE SUFFERING

In the two days that I have been home, I’ve been listening to others tell their stories. Listening seems to be the most important thing. People want to tell their stories. I have offered to let people stay at our house, or have showers, laundry and recharge devices. I will give away stockpiled items. I’ll volunteer. I’ll pray for others and their recovery processes. I’ll be thanking God and will be grateful. And I’m so grateful for family and friends who checked in with my husband and me on a daily basis.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

“Hurricane Oreos” depleted much more quickly than “Hurricane Baby Carrots.”  Restocking accordingly. – Allison Reed

AND FINALLY, A POEM

“BEING PRESENT IN A HURRICANE”
by Lee Leavengood

A devastating strong force of nature cannot be ignored
Battening down from the strong winds and heavy rains
Watching the bending and swaying of the palm trees from inside
Feeling the dangers of the unpredictable outside
Being aware of life threating possibilities
In the now of an uncontrollable freak of weather
Asking who am I?

Grace and peace,
Magrey DeVega
Senior Pastor
Hyde Park United Methodist


HOW YOU CAN HELP

We are so grateful for all the donations you brought in by last Monday. A box truck full of flood buckets, hygiene kits, and items you stockpiled for the storm were all delivered last Tuesday to people in need down in Southwest Florida. This is in addition to deliveries we made last week to flood-ravaged residents in nearby Lithia. We are continuing to receive donations, so please bring them to church, and we will deliver them as they come in. You can also make a financial contribution to the United Methodist Committee on Relief by making your check payable to the church and designating it for “Hurricane Relief.”

BISHOP’S TOWN HALL SUNDAY NIGHT

We are honored to host Bishop Carter this Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. in our Sanctuary. We will be welcoming United Methodists from all throughout Central Florida and the Gulf Coast. There will be opportunities for you to submit questions, and he will share with us his reflections on the Commission on a Way Forward, hurricane relief, the mission of the church, and much more.

Midweek Message: When the Great Storm is Over

Midweek Message: When the Great Storm is Over

Dear Hyde Park,
30  “But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Just now, I bet you barely took a pause between reading verses 30 and 31 of Matthew 14. Peter cried out for help, then Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him. Call, then response. Just like that.
The truth is, we could just as easily separate those two verses with about 24 hours, spanning from, say, last Sunday morning to last Monday morning. We were all Peter last weekend, facing the strong wind, gripped with fear, and our spirits beginning to sink. In so many ways, we each cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Then, 24 hours later, we woke up to a brand new day. The storm departed, the wind ceased, and the dreaded storm surge that was to engulf South Tampa never materialized. We were left with downed trees and loss of electricity, but mostly blinking and bleary-eyed with disbelief. We wondered how we were spared, when nearly every other part of Florida was so devastated.

Then Jesus said to Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

I’ve always interpreted that line to be one of rebuke from Jesus. “C’mon, folks,” I hear Jesus say. “Amp up the faith, tone down the doubt. Get yourselves together.”
But I don’t think Jesus is reprimanding us right now. I am hearing a different tone in his voice, one that is instructive and inviting, not chastising. What I hear is, “Okay. So what will you learn from this experience? What did this storm teach you?”
Those are the questions we will be exploring this Sunday. And I’m wondering, what has this experience of dealing with Hurricane Irma taught you?
  • What has it revealed about who you are?
  • Or what you value?
  • Or what you are most fearful of?
  • Or what you would do differently in preparation for next time?
  • And how are you going to minister to those who are suffering?
Would you be willing to share with me what this experience has taught you? I would love for you to email me your responses, as I discern the content of my sermon for this Sunday.
No, I do not think God causes hurricanes, or even allows them to happen. Nor do I think God uses human suffering to reprimand us. Instead, I believe in a God of resurrection and second chances, who is with us in suffering, ready to reach out a hand. Then, it is incumbent on us to learn the lessons that this experience is teaching us.
HURRICANE IRMA DONATIONS NEEDED
We are continuing our collection of flood cleaning buckets and hygiene kits, expecting now that many of our donations will stay here in Florida to assist with recovery from Hurricane Irma. With the rising flood waters of the nearby Alafia River, many communities in our own county will be in great need. Those communities include Lithia, where former staff member Erick Ashley and wife Tracey serve churches and are in urgent need of buckets and kits. We encourage you to complete those donations and bring them to the church this Sunday.
In addition, bay area United Methodist churches are collecting donations of non-perishable food items, water, batteries, and other hurricane supplies for immediate delivery to Naples and South Florida. If there are items that you stockpiled which you no longer need, or if you can purchase items for donation, please bring them to the Courtyard outside the Sanctuary this Sunday.
It’s great to be on the other side of this storm. Now, let’s make God’s love real for others.
Grace and Peace,
Magrey
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist
Midweek Message: Calm Amid the Storm

Midweek Message: Calm Amid the Storm

First, a pastoral word.

This has been quite a week. Hurricane Irma has been a looming threat for the past several days. For many of us, our nerves are frazzled and our minds are on high alert. Emotions have vacillated between fear for the future and a determination to press on.

These have been tiring days and sleepless nights, watching the latest track updates, waiting in lines for water and gas, and running through exhausting mental checklists. Many of us have been on edge, filled with worry, anticipating the worst.
My pastoral word to you is to remember that no matter what, God is in this with us.

Please take a moment, whenever your anxiety and stress level is high, to do a few things. Breathe. Don’t panic. Pray.Remember that God will provide you a peace that passes your understanding. Stay centered in Christ. Do what needs to be done, but do not be afraid.

CALM AMID THE STORM

281 years ago, John Wesley was in a hurricane. He didn’t call it that, but based on his description of being in storm-tossed ship in the middle of the Atlantic, it sure sounded like one:
At noon our third storm began. At four it was more violent than before. The winds roared round about us, and whistled as distinctly as if it had been a human voice. The ship not only rocked to and fro with the utmost violence, but shook and jarred with so unequal, grating motion, that one could not but with great difficulty keep one’s hold of anything, nor stand a moment without it. Every ten minutes came a shock against the stern or side of the ship, which one would think should dash the planks to pieces. (from Wesley’s journal, February 6, 1736)

Sounds like scary stuff. Enough to make us fear for the worst, and there was a part of him that certainly did. But here’s the part that is so powerful. Amid the storm, Wesley found solace from a surprising source. Among his shipmates were a group of German Moravian Christians, whose calm, peaceful strength made an indelible impression on him. 

The next time you feel frazzled or anxious, read this next portion of Wesley’s journal:
In the midst of the Psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the mainsail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans calmly sung on. 
 
I asked one of them afterward, “Were you not afraid?” He answered, “I thank God, no.” I asked, “But were not your women and children afraid?” He replied mildly, “No; our women and children are not afraid to die.” From them I went to their crying, trembling neighbors, and pointed out to them the difference, in the hour of trial, between him that feareth God, and him that feareth Him not. At twelve the wind fell. This was the most glorious day which I have hitherto seen. 

The countenance of these Moravian Christians made a deep impact on Wesley’s life. It not only kept him calm during the storm, but it inspired him to draw closer to God in his walk with Christ. It made him want that same assurance for himself, eventually leading him to a Moravian worship service one night back in London, on Aldersgate Street, where he felt his heart “strangely warmed,” changing his life forever.

Remember that Jesus can still speak into the storms of your spirit and say, “Peace, be still.” Breathe, relax, and sing praise. And again, remember that God is in this with us.
 
UPDATES FOR THIS WEEKEND

Finally, here is some important information regarding the church’s plans this weekend:

Unless the county calls for the evacuation of South Tampa, we will proceed with worship this Sunday.

  • We will consolidate our services to offer three identical worship services at 8:30, 9:30, and 11 a.m., with 9:30 and 11 viewable online at hydeparkumc.org/live.
  • I will preach a sermon of comfort and challenge amid the storm, and there will be a time of prayer for ourselves and all those affected by Hurricane Irma.
  • It will be a “Sit-Together Sunday” for our children to join us in worship, so that our Sunday Morning Live volunteers can be with their families.
  • Our Open Arms ministry will be on as usual for our homeless guests.
  • There will be a special 5:30 p.m. prayer service at The Portico campus.
  • The Ministry Offices will be closed on Friday so that our staff can make final preparations with their families.
Should any of these Sunday plans change, we will notify you via email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the outgoing message on the church’s main phone line.
 
FLOOD BUCKETS

We will be continuing our flood bucket drive this Sunday, inviting you to purchase and donate flood relief supplies for victims of Hurricane Harvey. It is also very possible that our buckets will be used for people in our own state, in the wake of Hurricane Irma. We encourage you to bring your completed buckets to the church by Monday, Sept. 18.

We pray God’s blessing on you, your family, and all those who will and have been affected by Hurricane Irma.
 
Please ensure your own safety and wellbeing, and may we all experience God’s peace. 

Blessings and Peace,
the Rev. Magrey deVega


Photo with hands, credit: Cristopher Benitah
Midweek Message – Hurricane Harvey: How You Can Help

Midweek Message – Hurricane Harvey: How You Can Help

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Today’s Midweek Message is clear and simple: The people of Texas need help, and the United Methodist Church is ready to respond.

Our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is already actively engaged in providing and coordinating response efforts to those devastated by Hurricane Harvey all throughout the Gulf Coast, and they are asking every local church to participate.

Last year, Florida United Methodist churches responded to the floods in Louisiana by donating over 3,100 flood buckets, including about 200 from this church and over 170 from other area churches and businesses. The Florida Annual Conference has now challenged all of us to donate 4,000 total buckets for Harvey relief.

They are also asking people to donate hygiene kits, which contain necessary health supplies contained in a one-gallon plastic bag.

This Sunday, we will have 150 empty buckets for you to pick up and return, filled, by Monday, September 18. Supply lists for both flood buckets and hygiene kits will also be available, or you can read the complete list below. For more information on how to assemble the kits and the impact they make, click here.

You may also make a financial donation, all of which will go directly go to people in need. Make your check payable to Hyde Park United Methodist, and designate it for “Hurricane Harvey” or “UMCOR” or give online directly here.

Flood Bucket (Cleaning Kit) Materials

  • 5-gallon bucket with resealable lid (Buckets from fast-food restaurants or bakeries can be used if washed and cleaned. Do not use buckets that have stored chemicals such as paint or pool cleaner. Advertisements on the outside are acceptable)
  • Liquid laundry detergent (One 50-oz. or two 25-oz. bottle(s) only)
  • Liquid household cleaner (12‐16 oz. liquid cleaner that can be mixed with water. No spray cleaners
  • Dish soap (16‐28 oz. bottle any brand)
  • 1 can air freshener (Aerosol or pump)
  • 1 insect repellant spray (6‐14 oz. aerosol or spray pump with protective cover)
  • 1 scrub brush (Plastic or wooden handle)
  • 18 cleaning wipes (Handi Wipes or reusable wipes; No terry cleaning towels. Remove from packaging)
  • 5 scouring pads (Remove from wrapper; No stainless steel, Brillo pads, or SOS pads; nothing with soap built in)
  • 50 clothespins
  • Clothesline (One 100-ft. or two 50-ft. lines; Cotton or plastic)
  • 24-roll heavy-duty trash bags (33‐ to 45-gallon sizes; Remove from the box)
  • 5 dust masks
  • 2 pairs kitchen dishwashing gloves (Should be durable enough for multiple uses; Remove from packaging)
  • 1 pair work gloves (Cotton with leather palm or all leather)

Assembly Directions

Place all liquid items in the bucket first. Place remaining items in the bucket, fitting them around and between the liquid items. Sponges, scouring pads, clothespins, and trash bags can be separated to fit all of the items in the bucket. Ensure the lid is closed securely.

Hygiene Kit Materials

  • 1 hand towel (15 x 25 inches to 17 x 27 inches; Kitchen, cleaning, and microfiber towels not acceptable)
  • 1 washcloth
  • 1 comb (Comb needs to be sturdy and longer than 6 inches long; No pocket combs or picks please; Rattail combs and combs without handles are acceptable with a minimum of 6 inches of teeth
  • 1 metal nail file or nail clippers (No emery boards, please)
  • 1 bath-size soap (3 oz. and larger sizes only; No Ivory or Jergens soap due to moisture content; Do not remove from original packaging)
  • 1 toothbrush (Adult size only; Do not remove from original packaging)
  • 6 adhesive bandages (¾ inch to 1 inch-size; Common household Band-Aids)
  • 1 plastic bag (One-gallon size sealable bag only)
  • $1.00 to purchase toothpaste

Assembly Directions

Set the $1.00 for toothpaste aside to be included in a separate envelope. Lay out the hand towel flat on a table. Lay the washcloth flat in the center of the hand towel. Place all remaining items on top of the washcloth. Fold over the sides of the hand towel to cover all the items. Fold over one end of the hand towel so that it covers all the items. Grasp the bundle of items tightly and roll over the remainder of the hand towel tightly. Place the tightly rolled bundle in the plastic bag. Remove as much air as possible and seal the bag.

Grace and Peace,

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

Midweek Message: Living the Golden Rule

Midweek Message: Living the Golden Rule

Dear Hyde Park Family,

An episode of the classic television series The Honeymooners featured this exchange between the iconic Ralph Kramden and his buddy Ed Norton:

Ralph: When she put two potatoes on the table, one big one and one small one, you immediately took the big one without asking me what I wanted.
Norton: What would you have done?
Ralph: I would have taken the small one, of course.
Norton: You would?
Ralph: Yes, I would.
Norton: So, what are you complaining about? You got the small one!

This dialogue offers further proof of how hard it is to practice the Golden Rule, the last stop in our worship series “New Takes on Old Favorites.” Jesus spoke this well-known maxim in Matthew 7:12: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you, for this is the law and the prophets.”

The Bible doesn’t use the phrase “Golden Rule,” and its exact origins are uncertain. (One theory is that the third-century Roman emperor Alexander Severus liked the phrase so much he adopted it as his motto, displayed it on public buildings, and wrote it in gold on his palace wall.)

Regardless of the Golden Rule’s origins, it is much easier to say it than it is to actually put into practice. Loving our enemies, forgiving those who hurt us, and exercising compassion for everyone is not easy. It can be so difficult that it prompted Eusebius of Caesarea, a fourth-century bishop, to offer this exposition on the Golden Rule. I invite you to read his prayer in preparation for this Sunday, and look for ways that the Spirit might lead you to new understanding and new ways to love others.

A Prayer to Practice the Golden Rule

By Eusebius of Caesarea, fourth-century bishop

May I be an enemy to no one and the friend of what abides eternally.

May I never quarrel with those nearest me, and be reconciled quickly if I should.

May I never plot evil against others, and if anyone plot evil against me,

may I escape unharmed and without the need to hurt anyone else.

May I love, seek and attain only what is good.

May I desire happiness for all and harbor envy for none.

May I never find joy in the misfortune of one who has wronged me.

May I never wait for the rebuke of others, but always rebuke myself until I make reparation.

May I gain no victory that harms me or my opponent.

May I reconcile friends who are mad at each other.

May I, insofar as I can, give all necessary help to my friends and to all who are in need.

May I never fail a friend in trouble.

May I be able to soften the pain of the grief stricken and give them comforting words.

May I respect myself.

May I always maintain control of my emotions.

May I habituate myself to be gentle, and never be angry with others because of circumstances.

May I never discuss the wicked or what they have done, but know good people and follow in their footsteps. Amen.

Great words. Tough words. And easier said than done!

Grace and Peace,

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

Midweek Message: The Lord’s Prayer, in the Wake of Charlottesville

Midweek Message: The Lord’s Prayer, in the Wake of Charlottesville

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Worship this Sunday centers on The Lord’s Prayer, the next stop on our series called “New Takes on Old Favorites.” In the wake of the events of Charlottesville, we once again plead with Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name

Remind me that I am not to pray “My Father,” but “Our Father.” For you do not just belong to me or people who are like me. Remind me that you are bigger than any barrier that divides me from others. And you alone deserve my praise, beyond political ideology or tribal identity.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

Amid the brokenness, evil, and injustice in this world, I desperately seek a glimpse of your kingdom: your kingdom of love, in which voices of prejudice are silenced; your kingdom of grace, in which racist hearts are transformed; your kingdom of peace, in which violent actions are overcome with non-violence. Remind me of how the story of your love ends, how there will be no more mourning or sadness, when people from all over the world will gather to worship you. Now help us see that reality now on earth, as you have promised it would be.

Give us this day our daily bread

I need the sustenance that both comforts and strengthens me today. Grant me the bread that consoles my sadness and quells my fears for this country and its future. Grant me the bread that firms my resolve to resist evil and injustice. Remind me that there are many around me who hunger for the same, and grant me the opportunity to feed them that which I have received from you.  

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us

Convict me of my own racist tendencies, prompt me toward confession, and lead me in the tough work of reconciliation. Teach me how to forgive, especially when retribution seems more rewarding. Help me, in the words of Richard Rohr, to overcome the bad with the practice of the better. And may that work begin within my own heart, in the way I see others.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

Tempt me only to do good and to seek justice, when I am reluctant or fearful. Lure me away from temptations that cause more harm and do not lead to peace. And silence all voices within me but your own, that I may know the difference between the two. May my every action and thought be governed by love, and not driven by my sinful instincts.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever

God, help me to hope. Remind me to seek the glorious eternal in the brokenness of the temporal. Focus my eyes on your power and glory, that I might believe in the strength of your grace, even when adversity afflicts us. Remind me that my primary citizenship is in your kingdom, which is greater than any tribe, higher than any flag, and most deserving of my allegiance.

Amen.

And let it be so.

Grace and Peace,

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

 


LAST SUNDAY’S SERMON, IN THE WAKE OF CHARLOTTESVILLE

You may wish to view my 25-minute sermon from last Sunday, which was rewritten last Saturday during the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Listen for the new take on John 3:16, and the timely reason we can affirm that God so loved the world.

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