Aug. 18, 2016
Dear Hyde Park Family,
I’m not sure which is proven more true by today’s Midweek Message: that I will do just about anything to come up with a good sermon illustration, or that I’ll use just about anything for a good sermon illustration. Either way, the walking boot on my left foot is one of the most unlikely objects I’ve ever used for theological reflection.
Some of you may know that I broke that foot while playing basketball several weeks ago. I wish I had a better story, like saving a baby kitten from an oncoming train, or jumping across rooftops to catch an escaped convict. Instead, I have to admit the truth, which is that this 43-year old no longer has the basketball moves of an 18-year old.
The pain was so excruciating that I had to miss Annual Conference last June, and had been wincing in pain under the delusion that it was merely sprained for about two weeks. And then, about four weeks ago, a highly recommended podiatrist finally broke the news to me (painful pun intended.) It was a stress fracture in two places near the arch.
I was given a big orthopedic walking boot, which had so many loops, straps, cushions, and air bladders that I wondered if my left foot wasn’t broken as much as it was a patient at an insane asylum. But for the past four weeks, I’ve been faithful to wear it, clumping along with an uneven gait and a squish-squish-squish stepping sound that has alerted office people of my proximity from several yards away. (“Sounds like Magrey’s coming. Or a wet platypus. Or a wet Magrey.”)
But over the past week, my foot has felt great. No pain killers, no discomfort, and an increasing desire to get rid of this boot and resume regular exercise. So yesterday afternoon, when I left the office for a checkup with the podiatrist, I was in high spirits and even higher hopes. As I left the lobby of the ministry office, the following dialogue took place:
- Magrey: Well, wish me the best! I’m off to the doctor’s office! (squish-squish-squish)
- Stephanie Nichols, Pastoral Staff Assistant: Yep, I heard you coming! I hope they get rid of that squishy thing on your foot!
- Magrey: Thanks! I think it will go fine! I’m not feeling any pain, I don’t need painkillers, and I’m feeling pretty confident that he’s going to tell me I can take this boot off for good! (squish-squish-squish)
- Gwen Lindsey, Worship Hospitality Coordinator: Sounds good! So let me ask you … did you bring your matching left shoe with you?
At this point, dear Hyde Park reader, I invite you to pause your normal rate of reading and go into mental slow motion video mode. Now … imagine. Picture my face, after hearing Gwen ask me that question. Watch your pastor’s face drain from embarrassment, his eyes rolling upward as his cheeks dropped downward. Now watch him lower his head, raise his right hand, and self-administer a Face Palm for the Ages. That will pretty much tell you all you need to know about whether or not I brought my other shoe to replace the boot on my foot.
It’s one thing to believe something to be true; it’s quite another to act like it’s true.
I’m reminded of that old Woody Allen joke about the guy whose brother thinks he’s a chicken. “Why don’t you take him to the doctor?” a friend asks him. “I would, but frankly, I need the eggs.” It’s one thing to have conviction; it’s quite another to act on that conviction. It’s one thing to have hope; it’s quite another to stake a claim on that hope with action.
Just ask Jeremiah. He was one of the most faithful, most emotionally distraught prophets in the Bible. The Israelites were running short on hope and long on fatigue. But his message to them was clear: Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. And remain faithful through your daily actions. Destroy the pot on the spinning wheel out of conviction that God is in control (Jeremiah 18) Buy the field in the homeland in the promise that you will return someday (Jeremiah 32) And in this Sunday’s text, we hear Jeremiah tell the people to seek the welfare of the city in Babylon, because God was going to deliver them. (Jeremiah 29).
So if Jeremiah had gone to the podiatrist today, he would have surely brought his other shoe. He blurred the line between hope and conviction, and he was ready to demonstrate his confidence before God and others.
That is the context for this Sunday’s important commissioning of the 80 people who have decided to “seek the welfare of the city” and make God’s love real for the growing population in downtown Tampa at The Portico. At every service, you will be inspired by the commitment these modern day “circuit riders” are making to start a new worshipping congregation next month, and will hear ways that you can offer The Portico your prayers and support.
Together, let’s not only believe that God is doing a new thing downtown; let’s act on that hope, confident in God’s love and power.
Well, the doctor gave me good news and bad news. The good news is that the foot is healing nicely and he is pleased with my progress. He even told me I can resume regular exercise (thank goodness) on a stationary bicycle. The bad news is I still have to wear the boot after all, at least for two more weeks. After that, I can graduate to a smaller, more flexible, soft-soled contraption that looks like a flipper on my foot. So I’ll go from something that makes a squishy sound to something that looks like a squishy animal. But by mid-September, I’ll have another checkup, and I expect the doctor to set me free for good.
And when I visit him again, I’ll be sure to bring that left shoe.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist