Dear Hyde Park Family,

The last time this church did an in-depth worship series on the Sermon on the Mount was February 2002, in the wake of 9/11. Reading through the Beatitudes during that time took on unique meaning in the context of the greatest act of foreign terrorism on American soil.

Now, nearly 20 years later, we find ourselves going through the Sermon on the Mount again, this time in the context of one of the greatest acts of domestic terrorism in our lifetimes.

Like 9/11, it is the images, not just the horrific act itself, that will forever be seared into our collective memory.

  • The image of a noose being hung and a Confederate flag being paraded into the Capitol Building, ghastly gestures of white pride and white supremacy.
  • The image of a man wearing a Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt, a dreadful allusion to the anti-Semitism that fueled atrocities by the Nazis.
  • The image of people flashing an “OK” hand gesture, an adopted symbol of white power often used by radical, alt-right hate groups.
  • The image of the black and green Kekistan flag, another symbol of far-right white nationalist groups patterned after Nazi Germany.
  • The numerous images of crosses, Christian flags and Christian fish symbols, reminding us of the danger of fusing extremist ideology with civil religion.

These are deeply troubling images. And as much as we would want to say, “This is not who we are!” we share a gnawing sense that, in fact, we are a broken people, in which a frightening number of us are driven by racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and hatred. And while I recognize that not all who attended the D.C. event can be characterized in this way, events like 9/11/01 and 1/6/21 raise a mirror to our soul as a country, and we are rightfully horrified by what we see.

In contrast, the Sermon on the Mount raises a different kind of mirror, one that envisions not who we are, but who we can become by the power and grace of God. It is an ethic built on reversals, which invert our sinful tendencies and transform them into the way of love, non-violence, forgiveness and holiness. Its words come to us at just the right time.

A COMMUNITY OF LOVE AND FORGIVENESS

No one confronted the scourge of racism with the the power of love and nonviolence more than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life and witness we commemorate this Monday. It is poignant liturgical and civic harmony that the observance of MLK Day occurs a week after Baptism of the Lord Sunday. This juxtaposition reminds us that living into the legacy of Dr. King is one way to fulfill our second baptismal vow, to “resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”

It is also the third baptismal vow that takes on unique significance for us this year, and is the context for a special journey that Bishop Ken Carter invites all Florida United Methodists to take over the next month:

“Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations and races?”

These five underlined words constitute the key words for a 31-day journey titled “A Community of Love and Forgiveness,” which takes us from MLK Day to Ash Wednesday. Each day, a lay or clergy person from across the Florida Conference has written a beautiful devotional entry, reflecting on what this vow means to them.

I invite you to join me, Bishop Ken Carter, and Florida United Methodists in reading these daily entries. The devotional can be found here, and the document includes videos of the authors reading their entries, embedded in the .pdf itself.

This journey will move us along the road toward Christian maturity and discipleship, strengthen our understanding of grace and our commitment to Christ, and remind us of our calling to be a community of love and forgiveness, which Christ has opened to all people, without exclusion.

Grace and peace,

Magrey

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

NEW MUSIC MONDAY
Abby Ebersole crafted a beautiful song, “No Longer Silent,” that speaks to the challenge for all of us to resist evil, injustice and oppression. Abby and Mike Tworoger, of our worship and tech teams, perform the song in video that will be released Monday.

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