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

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

Dear Hyde Park Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

The family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace and peace,


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

[1] Methodist bishop condemns immigrant family separations

[2] United Methodist Women Statement

[3] Church complaint filed against Session

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

Hyde Park’s Home Communion Team

Hyde Park’s Home Communion Team

Once a month, 14 volunteers go out in pairs to bring communion elements to people who cannot attend a worship service, and in doing so bring a sense of connection and fellowship where they are. Together in their homes, they experience church. When this team visits people, all of us are part of what they’re doing: Making God’s Love Real.  This and all of our ministries and missions are supported by our weekly offering. If you would like to join this team as they serve communion, please contact the Rev. Sally Campbell-Evans, by email.

The Hyde Park Serves Team Makes God’s Love Real

The Hyde Park Serves Team Makes God’s Love Real

On Saturday, May 5, the Hyde Park Serves Team helped a woman whose apartment was destroyed during hurricane Irma to move into her new apartment. The woman is disabled and could not move herself. The Hyde Park Serves team moved her belongings, including a piano, from a storage unit into the new apartment.

Thanks to the volunteers who helped; volunteers will be needed for other projects related to Irma destruction. If you would like to serve, contact Vicki Walker.

From South Africa to Southern Florida

From South Africa to Southern Florida

To: My Hyde Park United Methodist Family


I am writing to thank you for the way you continue to make God’s Love Real in the lives of so many, including me!  The end of my three-year term of service in Cape Town, South Africa serving with the Bishop Michel Hansrod and with Alan Storey at Central Methodist Mission is coming to an end.  Yet, I am so happy to announce that I will be returning to my home state after fourteen years!


I joined Hyde Park in 1999.  In 2004, fourteen years ago, I left for seminary at Duke Divinity School.  After graduation, I was offered a one-year fellowship to look at religion and race which led me to Jackson, Mississippi.  So much of my journey every step of the way has felt like monumental amounts of learning and I am so, so grateful for every post I have served from Jackson, to Gulfport, to Charlotte, to Cape Town.


I will be flying into Tampa on May 29 to prepare for my next appointment which will be in Miami Florida serving Killian Pines UMC and with District Superintendent, Cynthia Dee Weems in her office.  I am very much looking forward to leading my own congregation and to the gifts and challenges this next chapter will hold.


I want to thank you so, so much for the prayers, for allowing me to share stories when I have traveled home, and for the financial support you have provided that afforded me this possibility to serve alongside our brothers and sisters in Cape Town, South Africa.  May your generosity be multiplied a hundred-fold in the world around us in the same way it has been multiplied in my life.  Please know that I am so, so grateful to be…


With you on the journey,

The Rev. Michelle Shrader


Ash Wednesday Services Feb. 14

Ash Wednesday Services Feb. 14

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, the 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter used for personal reflection and spiritual growth.

Join us for one of three services on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14. Each service will include powerful Scripture, moving music, a practical homily and the traditional imposition of ashes.  All are welcome.

• 12:15 p.m. The Portico campus Chapel
• 12:15 p.m. Hyde Park campus Chapel
• 6:30 p.m. Hyde Park campus Sanctuary

Children and families are welcome in every service, but childcare will be available at the 6:30 p.m. service at the Hyde Park campus. Learn more about our Children’s Ministries.

The season of Lent continues with our Lenten worship series, “Embracing the Uncertain,” written by our senior pastor, the Rev. Magrey deVega. Learn more about our Sunday services.

Lent 2018  //  Feb. 18 – March 25

Lent 2018 // Feb. 18 – March 25

This Lent, we invite you to go deeper.

Acknowledge those fragile, tenuous parts of your life, rather than run away from them.

Surrender your limitations over to God’s limitless love, and offer your toughest questions to a God whose faithfulness will sustain you.

In other words, embrace your uncertainties.

Embracing the Uncertain is the name of our Lenten series this year.

Each week, we will explore a different way that life feels uncertain, based on a different biblical encounter with Jesus in the gospels:

  • Feb. 18: Embrace the uncertainty of doubt, through a father’s desperate plea: “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”
  • Feb. 25: Embrace the uncertainty of forgiveness, through Peter’s question about how many times we are to forgive.
  • March 4: Embrace the uncertainty of worry, as Jesus teaches the crowd to consider the lilies and the sparrows.
  • March 11: Embrace the uncertainty of mortality, through the grieving of Mary and Martha over the death of their brother Lazarus.
  • March 18: Embrace the uncertainty of surrender, through the powerful transformation of a sinner named Zacchaeus.
  • March 25: Embrace the uncertainty of obedience, through the poignant prayer of Jesus himself, in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Each week, this series will invite you to acknowledge, and ultimately embrace, an area of your life filled with uncertainty.

And together, we will experience hope and new life through the certainty of the resurrection on Easter.

Easter Sunday is April 1. Celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus with us at 6:30, 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m.

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