Midweek Message: A Song for Thanksgiving

Midweek Message: A Song for Thanksgiving

Dear Hyde Park Family,

In this week of giving thanks to God, I offer you the lyrics of a new song by one of my favorite artists. It is titled “The Thanksgiving Song,” by Ben Rector. If you’d like to listen to the song and watch the clever music video, you can see it here.

The Thanksgiving Song
Ben Rector

Familiar highways
Lined with leaves turned brown
Making my way
Back into my hometown

Funny how this all looks different, but it feels the same
Like how life never stops changing but some things never change

So fill your plate and fill your drink
And fill this house with family
The kind of love that all these years can’t wash away
Cause the older that I get I see that life is short and bittersweet
Raise a glass to this Thanksgiving Day

Watching football
Watching families grow
The old kid’s table all have kids of their own
Starting to see my grandfather in my nephew’s eyes
Mom still can’t talk about him and not almost cry

So fill your plate and fill your drink
Put your dishes in the kitchen sink
And let the leftover year just wash away
Cause we made it through I do believe the longest year in history
Thank God that it’s Thanksgiving Day

On behalf of the clergy, staff and lay leadership of Hyde Park United Methodist, I wish you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving Day, with many glimpses of gratitude over the days and months ahead. And we look forward to beginning our Advent journey, titled “Living Christmas,” this Sunday, Nov. 29.

Blessings to you and yours!

Magrey

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

 

Midweek Message: A New View

Midweek Message: A New View

Dear Hyde Park Family,

For today’s Midweek Message, I’m delighted to hand the message over to our Executive Director Peggy Hisey, who has an exciting report to share with us. Peggy came to us at the beginning of the year, with none of us knowing then what kind of year this would be. Because of her leadership, a talented staff, and an amazing congregation of faithful people like you, there is much to celebrate!

Magrey

A New View

I can still see it. That big green machine disking up the field. The rich aroma of the earth rises to greet me. My skin prickles with goosebumps as I watch the trees shedding their thick coat as their leaves make a leisurely descent all around me. I have so many wonderful memories of living in central Illinois. The change in season was one of them. My favorite season by far was fall. We lived on three acres out in the country, giving me a front row seat to the seasons as well as the fall harvest.

I would watch the corn grow every summer as each stalk strained to flourish within its tiny piece of earth. Some days it seemed like it grew right before my very eyes. Eventually those stalks would wither and turn brown. The ears that once stood proudly would eventually fall over as if sleeping and weary. That’s when the hustle and bustle of the harvest started. The farmers would travel up and down the rows, making sure to gather all they had grown. Their energy was palpable.

This fall I have a new view, and I feel a different kind of energy, but just as palpable. One that comes from bearing the fruits of the harvest. I have seen that the workers in the fields for Christ have been tilling the land and planting seeds. Those seeds that have grown and are now being harvested.

I had the joy of gathering information for Hyde Park’s Annual Report this year. I didn’t realize it as I was gathering each piece, but I was harvesting the work you have been doing throughout the year. Thanks to your faithfulness in giving, praying and serving, we are seeing yields that we have not experienced for years! Our Annual Report summarizes the results of these activities. Of special note:

  • 68 New Members welcomed in 2020!
  • Nearly 890 people are involved in small groups and 89 are new participants this year!
  • We baptized 29 children and adults!
  • Our online Facebook group has grown by more than 700 members!
  • We reached people on six continents with the gospel message!
  • We provided more than 42,000 meals!

Fall brings all kinds of energy, and all kinds of things for which we are grateful. This year I am thankful for so many things. You, my Hyde Park family, are at the top of the list. I look forward to working beside you to continue the cycle of growing and harvesting in the name of Christ.

I pray you feel the gratitude as I do when I see all that has been accomplished and all that is possible with God, and that you will share this generosity as you complete and return your Estimate of Giving card this Sunday.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

Serving Him with you,

Peggy Hisey
Executive Director, Hyde Park United Methodist

Midweek Message: What is Still True … Again

Midweek Message: What is Still True … Again

Dear Hyde Park family,

“We are now in the wake of one of the most captivating, bewildering presidential elections of our lifetime.”

That was the opening sentence of my Midweek Message from Nov. 10, 2016, following the election of President Donald Trump four years ago. I re-read that message this past week, and in the wake of the election of President-elect Joe Biden, I discovered that much of what I wrote then is just as relevant and important to remember now.

Here again is a reprise of that message, which was titled “What is Still True.” I simply swapped the name of Donald Trump with that of Joe Biden, and I think you’ll discover that its five truths are just as timely for us today.

I acknowledge that the responses to Mr. Biden’s election are varied in this congregation, and it is not my intention to wade into partisan conversations during this tender time in our democracy. What interests me is answering a question that can bring healing across the divides: “If so much of what we thought we knew about this election has been disproven, what can we claim as factual?

Put more simply, “What is still true?” So, here are a few thoughts, by no means comprehensive:

1. What is still true is that democracy worked. In what was the highest voter turnout in history, millions of people cast their ballot, participating in a free and open exercise of their right to vote. Next January, we presume there will once again be a peaceful transition of power that will be the envy of many nations in the world. Regardless of how you feel (and are still feeling) about the result, we can still marvel at the democratic process.

2. What is still true is that we will pray for President-Elect Biden. Just as every other president has warranted the prayers of God’s people, we can pray for our new president and all of our leaders. The prayer that I was determined to pray before Tuesday, even before the results were clear, is just as important now: “Lord, may all our elected leaders exercise a wisdom that comes from humility, and pursue a justice that is governed by love.”

3. What is still true is that we need to be agents of peace, healing and reconciliation. What is still true is that this election has caused harm. There is nothing more important to debate at this time than what needs to be done for all of us to seek the welfare of our common citizenry, and to translate those intentions into actions of justice, love and peace.

4. What is still true is that we don’t know how to talk across our differences. As much as social media has brought us together, it has made us forget how to live together. It is too easy to assign whatever voice, tone, and intention we choose to someone’s Facebook comment, tweet or email. It is much harder to look someone eye to eye, over a cup of coffee, in order to see the image of God within them. And as much as 24-hour news keeps us constantly wired to what is happening, it has fostered a red vs. blue tribalism fueled by contentious surrogates and talking heads. We have forgotten how to talk, how to listen, and how to respond.

5. What’s still true is the mission of this church. As “strangers and aliens” in this land, we remember that our primary citizenship is to the Kingdom of God, which crosses political boundaries and transcends tribalism. Nothing from last Tuesday’s election changes what is at the core of this church’s mission. We will continue to make God’s love real through expressions of warm-heartedness (an embrace of a diversity of people) and open-mindedness (an embrace of a diversity of perspectives). Anyone disillusioned by the unpredictability of life will find in this place the steady reliability of the one thing that is ultimately always true: the faithful love and sovereign grace of God, given to us in Jesus Christ. And at the end of the day, and now more than ever, it is still good to be the church.

In addition, my Facebook devotional last Monday offered some fuller thoughts on the election, which you can view here. I reflected on the role and limits of our political leaders from a faith perspective, and offered ways for us to pray for President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris, through the lens of Micah 6:8.

And don’t forget to join us this Sunday, as we explore a powerful story from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, as part of our “Step into This Story” worship series. We will be inspired by the generosity of the early Christians, which will prompt us to prayerfully consider our estimates of giving for 2021, to be turned in Nov. 22.

Grace and peace,

Magrey

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

Midweek Message: “As the Votes are Being Counted”

Midweek Message: “As the Votes are Being Counted”

Dear Hyde Park Family,

At the time of this writing, we are still waiting for vote tallies from the general election. As your thoughts race and your emotions run high, I offer you some pastoral words of guidance and comfort.

  • Remember that the first thing God did to bring order out of chaos was to take a breath. (Genesis 1:2) Please do the same.
  • Elections are eventually decided. But they are not finish lines. They are mere mile markers in the long, hard road of perfecting our union. Elections remind us how divided we are. But they do not tell us that we have to remain that way.
  • Regardless of who you voted for, and for whatever issues led you to that vote, that work continues, and it is in our hands.
  • We must continue the work of dismantling racism.
  • Verify the validity of where you get your information. Follow news sources you trust, but don’t let it become a blind trust. And don’t post news on social media without fact checking first.
  • Acknowledge your own implicit bias in the way you perceive reality.
  • We grant great power to our elected leaders, but we do not give them all power. They cannot heal your broken relationships, or draw you closer to your loved ones and friends, or make you do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly. (Micah 6:8)
  • We are called to live with the kind of civility and decency that we should expect of our elected leaders.
  • Most importantly, remember that the kingdoms of this earth are ultimately inferior to the kingdom of God. (Revelation 11:15) Our primary allegiance is to God, not to our political systems, and we should not turn to them to bring us the kind of ultimate hope and security that only God can provide.

Take a moment to pray this Celtic benediction. My clergy colleague Steve Price shared it with our clergy covenant group following the election, and I find it to be very helpful.

O Sun behind all suns
O Soul within all souls
grant me the grace of the dawn’s glory
grant me the strength of the sun’s rays.
that I may be well in my own soul
and part of the world’s healing this day
that I may be well in my own soul
and part of the world’s healing this day.

Amen. May you be well in your soul, and be part of the world’s healing this day, and every day to come.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

ONSITE WORSHIP BEGINS NOV. 29

Last Sunday, I announced the start of onsite worship on Sunday, Nov. 29. It will take place under the new ministry tent on the ministry office parking lot on the Hyde Park campus, in an outdoor setting that is currently safer than meeting indoors. It will be a 30-minute service featuring prayer, scripture reading, a sermon, and instrumental and vocal music. Stay tuned for more information over the weeks ahead.

Midweek Message: “To Those Who Have Come Before”

Midweek Message: “To Those Who Have Come Before”

Dear Hyde Park Family,

I have been listening to Bruce Springsteen’s latest album Letters to You since its release last Friday. It was recorded live with his legendary E-Street Band in less than a week, in what Springsteen has called “one of the greatest recording experiences I’ve ever had.” [1]

One of my favorite tracks is the song “Ghosts,” written as a memorial to longtime bandmates Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons, who passed away in 2008 and 2011, respectively. Its lyrics describe how Springsteen continues to feel their presence, in the echoes of their music:

I hear the sound of your guitar
Comin’ in from the mystic far
Stone and the gravel in your voice
Come in my dreams and I rejoice

It’s your ghost
Moving through the night
Spirit filled with light
I need, need you by my side
Your love and I’m Alive

Toward the end of the song, Springsteen pledges to live in their legacy, offering his music both as a vow to them and a continuation of his own sacred journey.

I shoulder your Les Paul and finger the fretboard
I make my vows to those who’ve come before
I turn up the volume, let the spirits be my guide
Meet you brother and sister on the other side

ALL SAINTS’ DAY

This Sunday, we join with Christians around the world in remembering the saints who have gone before us. In a year that has been filled with much grief and loss, who are the ones that you will remember? Who are the people whose lives and legacy continue to echo in your hearts, whose “songs” you will sing in the way you live your life with hope, confidence and love?

We will continue our journey through Acts as part of the Bible Project 2020, focusing on one of the defining moments of the early church – the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. We will listen to the voices of our spiritual ancestors, who call upon us to extend the reach of God’s inclusive love to wider and wider circles of people. And, I will be sharing an important announcement related to worshiping on campus soon.

See you Sunday!

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

FAMILY FUN NIGHT!

We celebrate a wonderful night of ministry for our children and families at last Saturday’s Family Fun Night. It featured a “trunk or treat” event, in which 179 children and parents gathered for a safe night of costumes and candy on our Magnolia parking lot. The decorations were amazing, and many families expressed joy in being together and having a safe way for their children to observe Halloween. See the full recap here, and all the wonderful pictures!

And last Sunday, our Merge youth program had a raucous “Great Pumpkin Race” scavenger hunt. We had over forty participants enjoying a fun night hunting for clues all around the city of Tampa. Thank you to the adults and staff who created a memorable evening for our youth.

REMEMBER THE TIME CHANGE THIS WEEKEND

And enjoy that extra hour of sleep!

Midweek Message: Our Amazing Ancestors

Midweek Message: Our Amazing Ancestors

Two years ago, geneticist Yaniv Erlich announced a major breakthrough in genomic studies. His team at Columbia University set a record for the largest family tree ever created, made up of 13 million people, spanning 11 generations, going back 600 years. Using information from various online ancestry databases, they went through the painstaking process of looking for genetic links between people and generations all over the world. [1]

In an interview with The Atlantic, Erlich was asked about how all of us are related as human beings. He said the prominent theory is that all we have to do is go back 75 generations. And there, we will discover, as we pan the camera out to the highest and widest possible lens, that we are all related to one another. [2]

WHO ARE YOUR ANCESTORS?

If you’ve ever done genealogical work on your own family tree, you know how special it can be to discover stories about your ancestors. I remember learning about my dad’s father, Fernando deVega, who died when my father was young. He lived in a Filipino fishing village called Cavite, on the mouth of Manila Bay. He was a mapmaker by trade and was employed by the Filipino government to take boat trips along many of the Philippines 7,000 islands to map their coastlines. His work was foundational to modern Filipino mapmaking.

My mother’s father, Genaro Rojas, also made a living on the seas. He was a merchant, distributing commercial and retail goods on an island named Mindoro. He made a name for himself shipping Pepsi Cola products all throughout the country.

Both of my grandfathers were young adults during World War II, and they both helped the Allied forces defeat the Japanese. My paternal grandfather provided maps, and my maternal grandfather provided espionage and reconnaissance on the Japanese soldiers.

Stories like these make my DNA tingle, just as yours does when you hear about your ancestry.

ANCESTRY: OUR SPIRITUAL DNA

This week, we begin reading the book of Acts, which is the church’s family scrapbook. We will read about our earliest Christian ancestors, the first disciples, who took the message of Jesus Christ and started the first faith communities. We will hear stories of faithfulness and courage, as they expanded the reach of God’s love to wider and wider circles of people throughout the ancient near eastern world.

In learning about them, we will rediscover aspects about ourselves. We learn about our own calling and our own character. We remember that we are the product of past faithfulness, and we are responsible for transmitting that faith to those who follow us. Most of all, we remember that no matter what we face as a church, we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

Join us this Sunday, as we hear a message from Acts 2:42-47, and may the “awe and wonder” of the early church inspire us to live faithfully today.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

 

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