In Relationship with Others

In Relationship with Others

I’m not sure who decides such things, but on the National Day Calendar website, this past week contained several unusual observances: Monday was National Clean Your Room Day, followed by National Eat What You Want Day. Who knew that yesterday was National Odometer Day? And how exactly does one celebrate that?

For what it’s worth, today is an odd convergence of four celebrations: National Crouton Day, National Apple Pie Day, National Fruit Cocktail Day, and National Frog Jumping Day. Sounds like the makings of a very weird party.

But there is one observance that caught my attention: Tomorrow is National Decency Day.

In 2017, a parent in New York named Lisa Cholnoky had grown weary of the caustic nature of our public discourse, particularly online and in social media. She started a simple campaign in the form of a button she created and wore every day, containing the single word “decency.” The buttons became viral, as did her non-partisan, grassroots movement, which you can learn more about on their website Their mission is simple: “To inspire decency in our everyday life, in our conversations and our actions.”

Their efforts were recognized on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2017. And in 2019, National Decency Day was established to “celebrate the basic standard of civility that every American deserves.”

They offer three simple guidelines for practicing decency and civility in our interactions with others:

A: Active listening
B: Better understanding
C: Compassion

CREATED TO BE IN RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS

In John 15:9-17, our Scripture text for this Sunday in our “New Creation” worship series, Jesus said that our relationships with others ought to be life giving and loving, rather than hostile and divisive. “My command is this,” Jesus said. “Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

We are connected to God and to each other, as a vine is connected to branches. So, we are called to lean into that connection, despite our divisions and disagreements, to become an interdependent community, strengthening and encouraging each other. In other words, every day should be one of decency.

So, Happy Decency Day tomorrow, friends. Let’s make an extra effort to model civility and compassion in our interactions with others, every day. And in all things, let us love one another.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

INCREASED SEATING FOR SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP

Our Ministry Leadership Council Executive Group has approved an increase in the number of people who can attend Sunday indoor worship services. The total number of available seats has been increased by the number of people attending who are fully vaccinated (two weeks have elapsed since the final vaccination). You will find a space on the RSVP form for you to provide the number of people in your reservation who are vaccinated. Sharing this information will allow us to welcome more people into worship. The information will not be retained, but only used to determine capacity. See you Sunday! RSVP here.

Our Florida Conference Bishop Ken Carter has also provided helpful guidance to churches, following Governor DeSantis’ recent announcement lifting local government mask mandates. You can read Bishop Carter’s statement here. As we eagerly and steadily increase worship seating capacity and resume indoor ministries, we will continue for now to practice mask wearing and social distancing, in accordance with direction from the CDC, which has guided our Executive Team since the start of the pandemic. We believe that doing so lives out our faithful Wesleyan understanding of doing no harm, which is one of John Wesley’s three simple rules. It is also a way to love God and love all, fulfilling our mission of making God’s love real.

Are You Successful or Fruitful?

Are You Successful or Fruitful?

Dear Hyde Park Family,

This Sunday we focus on Jesus’ famous image of the vine and the branches in John 15, in which he calls us to abide in him and bear fruit. It is important to remember that the standard by which we measure our faithfulness to God is faithfulness, not success.

It is a distinction stated eloquently by the great spiritual writer Henri Nouwen:

There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development, and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability. And fruits are unique. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another’s wounds. Let’s remind one another that what brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness.

And when I think of people in this church who have born this kind of fruitfulness out of their obedience to Jesus, I think of Margaret Mathews and Doug Roland.

REMEMBERING MARGARET AND DOUG

It has been a tough stretch for funeral and memorial services in this congregation, and we offer our prayer and support for those of you grieving the loss of loved ones in recent days. Over the next 48 hours, we will be celebrating the lives of two members of our church, who have left a significant impact on our congregation and our community.

Tomorrow at 11am, we will be remembering Margaret Mathews, and you can watch the livestream of her service here. Margaret was a faithful member of this church, serving a variety of leadership roles, contributing her keen insights and wisdom to advance the mission of this church. She was a fixture in our small group ministries, longing to grow in her faith in the company of others.

Margaret was one of the most distinguished attorneys in Tampa. She chaired the board of the Hillsborough County Bar Association, was named the 2016 Outstanding Lawyer of the Year, and was recognized with the Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Award. But Margaret was driven less by those accolades for success and more by her inner standards of fruitfulness. She was a trailblazer for females in her profession and made it her life’s work to mentor female attorneys. She demonstrated the kind of determination, intelligence, humor, and grace that endeared her to many. Her fruit will last longer than her success, for the betterment of our community.

This Saturday at 10am, we will be celebrating the life of Doug Roland, whose service you can watch via livestream here.  He and Cheri joined our church in 1986, and immediately made an indelible mark in our church. He shared in nearly every leadership team, participated in our music ministries, and was a leader in many of our small groups. He helped create the Forum Class, a vibrant, spirited collection of disciples who engage vital issues of life and faith.

In what he would name his “pinnacle of service and calling,” he and Cheri would spend their retirement years in South Africa, providing invaluable service to the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary, which trains church leaders from six surrounding African countries. He helped to create their field education program, forging relationships between the seminary and eighteen field placement agencies, including prisons, AIDS care, early learning centers, and psychiatric hospitals. Bishop Peter Storey recalls theirs as a work in which “no firmer foundation could have been laid.”

As branches connected to the vine, we remain connected to saints like Margaret and Doug, nourished and strengthened by the same faith in Christ. Let us choose each day to bear fruit, extending the hospitality of God to others, not for the measures of worldly success, but for the purpose of glorifying God.

Grace and peace,

Magrey

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

A Few Lessons from Sheep

A Few Lessons from Sheep

This Sunday our services focus on Jesus as our Good Shepherd from John 10. And in an odd bit of comedic timing, this video popped up in my social media feed. You’ll want to watch it.

I bet you can relate to that sheep as much as I can. And here are a few other timely lessons we can learn from sheep, and from our Good Shepherd.

1. JESUS PROVIDES

It turns out sheep don’t like to drink running water from a stream. They prefer water that is not moving. A shepherd will then take his staff to momentarily dam the river, to create a pool of still water for the sheep to drink. No matter how much your life may feel like a frenzied rush of roaring water, you can find rest, provision, and stillness in the presence of Jesus (Psalm 23:2)

2. JESUS KNOWS YOU BY NAME

In the Ancient Near East, it was not uncommon for shepherds to name their sheep. Much like we name horses, dogs, and cats, shepherds called sheep by name. No matter how lonely or disconnected you might feel, you can listen for the voice of Jesus, who calls you by name and leads you forward. (John 10:3)

3. JESUS IDENTIFIES WITH THE OPPRESSED

Shepherds were despised in Greco-Roman culture. One Jewish midrash on Psalm 23 says, “The pious were forbidden to buy wool, milk or meat from shepherds. Civic privileges were withdrawn from them as from the tax collectors. No position in the world is as despised as that of the shepherd.” As our Good Shepherd, Jesus identifies with any way that you feel downtrodden, oppressed, and helpless.

4. JESUS BECAME THE SACRIFICE

In biblical times, shepherds eventually sacrificed many of their sheep, providing the means through which people could restore their relationship with God in the Temple. Without shepherds, there would be no sheep, and no sacrifice, and restoration with God.

That’s why the most surprising lesson we learn about Jesus as our Good Shepherd comes from John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus did not lead his sheep to slaughter, but saves his sheep from slaughter. This Good Shepherd does not allow us to die; he came to die in our place.

Join us this Sunday as we continue our worship series as we learn to follow our Good Shepherd.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

PRAYER FOR OUR COUNTRY

We join in prayer with others around the country in the wake of the verdict of Derek Chauvin’s trial, in the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last summer. I offer the following word from my friend and clergy colleague Rev. Tom Berlin, pastor of Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, Virginia:

The announcement of the verdict in the Chauvin trial is an important moment to me that serves everyone in a society that honors the rule of law. I am grateful for the testimony of police officers about the standards of their practices, the number of eyewitnesses and video that helped the jury understand what happened, and a justice process that includes a jury of peers to both the victim and the defendant and the rest of the community as well. I am grateful for a Judge who upheld the order of legal proceedings and for the ideals of the Judicial branch of our government. There are no real winners here. One man is dead. Another’s life is inexorably changed. Trauma to citizens abounds. But a verdict that arrives after due process has been given and is consistent with the legal standards of the state where George Floyd was killed is critical in a time when we have so much information about the remarkable volume of past injustice towards people of color. The work of justice is ongoing, never-ending work in every society, and tonight I give thanks for those who care about justice and have the courage to ensure it. “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute,” (Psalm 82:3)

God’s New Creation

God’s New Creation

Dear Hyde Park Family,

So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!
(2 Corinthians 5:17)

Last Sunday we kicked off our new worship series “A New Creation,” and I concluded my sermon with a story about a man named Rodney. I’ve changed his name here, but he’s given me permission to share his story with you.

Rodney is one of the many people around the country who have discovered Hyde Park United Methodist since we began our new online worship platform at the start of the pandemic. When he sent the following email a few weeks ago, it simply blew me away.

I came across Hyde Park UMC’s ‘Making God’s Love Real’ recordings in a very intense search for meaning in the early months of 2020. I’ve been a very tough atheist for most of my life, but I’ve also dealt with very strong feelings of depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, which have made me somewhat of a nihilist. 2019 was really damaging for me, but last year was full of healing and progress, in which you and HPUMC played a very big role.

I now consider myself a Christian and know I will make it through my hardest patches in the future thanks to the faith you sparked in me, as I’ve done this year. But I also still think rationality and science are the way to solve most problems in this world, therapy and medication are very powerful tools, and inequality across racial, cultural and gender lines is real. And the reason I can now break this apparent dichotomy is the listening of your teachings.

You do a great service to this world by helping articulate the complementary nature of science and religion with such a humane approach.

I remain forever thankful to you and Hyde Park’s United Methodist Church, and hope someday I can give back at least a fraction of the love I’ve received thanks to your worship services.

Since sending me that email, Rodney has told me that he hasn’t missed a service with us online, and that he is now getting involved in a local faith community near where he lives.

I think that deserves an Amen!

PARTICIPATING IN GOD’S NEW CREATION

Stories like Rodney’s remind us of why we do what we do as a church. God is at work in and through us, bringing healing to the hurting and hope to the heartbroken. And when you support this church, through your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness, you are part of the new creation that God is making for people like Rodney all around the world.

Thank you for your support, encouragement, and generosity as we continue to live through this season of change, and into the amazing future God has for this church.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

You’ve Gotta See This!

You’ve Gotta See This!

Dear Easter People,

Back in 1993, while walking through Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg, I saw my first Magic Eye 3D image. Or at least I tried to see it.

In case you’d never heard of them, Magic Eye 3D images are computer-generated pictures that on the surface, appear to be little more than colorful repeating patterns of lines and shapes. But if you stare at them long enough in a certain way, you begin to see an amazing, three-dimensional image pop out of the picture.

There was a display of them in the center of the mall that day, surrounded by a crowd of mallgoers who were captivated by them. After figuring out how to see them, I steadily moved from picture to picture, in awe of each one.

I was with a friend of mine who couldn’t figure out how to see it.

So, I did my best to explain it to them. “Okay. First you stand about three feet away from the image. Then stare into the middle of the picture, letting your eyes cross. Just a bit. Not too much. Then, let the picture get a bit fuzzy, see, so that you don’t focus on the shapes. Don’t focus on the shapes! Eventually, you’ll see patterns hidden in the shapes. And try not to blink, or you’ll lose concentration, and don’t focus on the glare in the glass, or your reflection. And whatever you do, just relax!”

Despite my yammering (or, perhaps, because of it), my friend still didn’t get it.

“Oh, just keep trying!” I exclaimed, “You’ve gotta see this!”

To which my friend, now more disgruntled with me than with their inability to see the image, responded sternly: “I don’t … gotta … do anything.”

I deserved that.

DOUBTING THOMAS

I imagine that a similar scene unfolded soon after the resurrected Jesus had appeared to all the remaining disciples except for Thomas. They must have peppered him for a full week. “C’mon, Thomas! We saw it with our own eyes! You’ll have to believe us! And you can believe it, too.”

“You’ve gotta see this!”

If we’re honest, there is a bit of Thomas in each of us. There is much about the Christian faith that we don’t understand, can’t figure out, and find hard to believe. But as we will discover this Sunday, when we begin a new worship series titled “A New Creation,” Jesus meets us right where we are. Jesus meets us at the point of our doubts and skepticism, and offers a personal, intimate experience of the resurrection for ourselves.

See you Sunday, online or indoors!

(Oh, and did you figure out the 3D image in the headline graphic? Let me know!)

Grace and peace,

Magrey

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

POP-UP VACCINATION SITE
We received this message from Mayor Jane Castor, who attends our church, and she has asked us to share it with our congregation. It is regarding a pop-up vaccination site in the city this Sunday: “There will be a pop-up vaccination site at 702 S Albany this Sunday. It will distribute 400 Johnson & Johnson vaccines to persons 18 and older. It will begin at 10am until all the vaccine has been distributed.” For more information, visit our website.

COMMUNION THIS SUNDAY
We will be observing Communion as part of our return to indoor worship at 9:30 a.m. this Sunday. We will also be sharing Communion during our online services, so you can choose to have bread or crackers and grape juice or wine in front of you. If you wish, you can also drive to the campus after the 11 a.m. service for drive-through Communion.

Mary’s Boy

Mary’s Boy

The Ballad of Mary’s Son
By Langston Hughes

It was in the Spring
The Passover had come.
There was feasting in the streets and joy.

But an awful thing
Happened in the Spring—
Men who knew not what they did
Killed Mary’s Boy.
And the Son of God was He—
Sent to bring the whole world joy.
There were some who could not hear,
And some were filled with fear—
So they built a cross
For Mary’s Boy.

On behalf of the staff and lay leadership of Hyde Park United Methodist Church, I wish you and yours a blessed Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and a joyous Easter. For the full listing of worship services over the next four days, visit our website.

Our online services will be broadcast at 9:30 and 11 a.m. You can also join us for our Sunrise Service at 7 a.m. at Tampa’s Water Works Park or our onsite worship services at 8 or 11 a.m. under the Ministry Tent at Hyde Park. The 9:30 service is at capacity with no further reservations accepted. Please wear a mask and observe safety protocols.

Grace and peace,

Magrey

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

Pin It on Pinterest