May 4, 2017
Dear Hyde Park Family,
This past weekend, I felt like a teenager again.
Last Friday night, my daughter Grace and the Plant High School Wind Ensemble performed two selections that immediately transported me back to my high school days. As soon as I heard Gustav Holst’s Suite No. 1 in E-flat and the sixth movement of Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy, I was a 17-year old bass clarinetist again. I noticed my fingers instinctively moving with the notes, myself breathing in between runs, my shoulders leaning in with every dynamic contrast. It was more than just fond recollection; it was anamnetic, a kind of dynamic remembrance which brought the past vividly into the present.
Then, on Sunday afternoon, my younger daughter Madelyn performed in the Symphonic Festival, a regional middle school honor band at the University of South Florida. As I walked the grounds of the campus, I was instantly transported back to when I was part of a similar honor band at USF. As I watched her work long hours, make new friendships, and perform under a renowned conductor, I felt like a much younger version of myself was right there with her.
What intrigued me about both these experiences was not the attempt to recapture my past, or to relive my “glory days” through my daughters. Instead, I was fascinated by the power of these songs and these shared memories to connect me to something greater than myself. As much as I have changed since my teenage years, and as much as the world now feels so different from the days of my youth, there was comfort to be gained in the continuity of shared music and memory. Years from now, when both girls are my age and hear this same music performed by others, they will be able to look back on these experiences with the same kind of dynamic remembrance, linking them to their father, and to all who enjoyed those experiences before them.
It’s the perfect metaphor for what I felt Sunday morning, at Youth Sunday. Our amazing youth led us in worship by offering prayers, performing skits, leading singing, and preaching sermons that called us to freedom from our fear. They spoke with poise, conviction, vulnerability, and maturity, and I couldn’t help but think about my first ever preaching experience in 1989, as part of Youth Sunday in my hometown church.
The songs of Gustav Holst and Percy Grainger link me to instrumental ensembles then and now. But it is the music and artistry of the Holy Spirit at work through the history of the church that calls us to a grand, cosmic connection to the church’s past, present and future. Last Sunday our youth preached from the same Bible that grounds the church in God’s revelation in Christ, recited the same prayers that unite us with the communion of saints, and reminded us that the same Spirit of God is alive and active now, just as before.
No matter what may happen in this chaotic, unpredictable, and sometimes frightening world, there is comfort in the continuity of God’s love and grace. And it’s a message we need to hear today.
Last Friday, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church rendered its decision regarding the ordination of Bishop Karen Oliveto, the first openly gay bishop in the denomination. We knew that going into the trial in Denver last week, no decision was going to put an end to this nearly 40-year rift within the church over this debate. And indeed, when the verdict came out, it emboldened some, saddened others, and further entrenched the already polarized sides more deeply into their camps. You can read more about the verdict here as well as a fine statement by our own Bishop Ken Carter, which he offered before the verdict was issued.
That news, compounded with the seemingly endless barrage of sad and scary headlines that come across our feeds every day, have the potential of making one feel so overwhelmed by the conditions of our society, our church, and our world. Never mind the personal burdens that we all have, some of them known only by God and held tightly in the confines of our hearts.
But if you listen carefully, you can hear the continuity of the Spirit’s song. It was composed by Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. You may have performed it in the early days of your faith journey, when times felt simpler and uncluttered. But it is still performed by ensembles of faithful people today. And when you hear it, when you experience it in worship, and especially when you see it rendered by the youth of our time, it does more than bring you back to a time gone by.
It calls you to pick up your instrument again. To dust it off and sit up straight. To tune yourself to concert pitch. To take a deep breath and focus on the notes in front of you. Because the Conductor is taking the podium once again, with baton in hand. And that same music that has long been a faint echo in your memory is being called forth once more, into a world that is desperate to hear it.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist
THIS SUNDAY: UNLEASHED!
One of the ways you can rediscover God’s song within you is through our new worship series called “Unleashed! Saying Yes to God’s Work in You.” Over the next three weeks, we will rediscover who we are in Christ, be inspired to take the next step in our spiritual commitment, and explore ways to offer our time and talents to God. You can look forward to receiving your own serve letter, which includes a “Say Yes” card that we invite you to prayerfully fill out and return on our Serve Commitment Sunday on May 21. And this Sunday, you can connect with folks in a special tent on Azeele Street who will help you be unleashed for God’s service. For more information, visit our website.