Dear Hyde Park Family,
A modern-day parable of hope, straight out of recent news headlines:
- Last summer, a woman named Dr. Elaine Soloway harvested 111 dates from a date tree, then she sampled one. She said it had a “honey or caramel aftertaste.” Nothing really remarkable about that.
- Those dates that she picked? They came from a pollination that occurred six years ago between two date trees, a male and a female. Nothing remarkable about that, either.
- Those two date trees? One was named Methuselah, and the other Hannah. Why? Because they were each germinated from seeds that were lying dormant, discovered in part by an archaeologist named Yigal Yadin back in the 1960s.  Now it’s getting interesting.
- Those seeds? They were discovered in the Holy Land and were dated (no pun intended) back to between 35 B.C. and 65 A.D. Hmmm.
- So, imagine: These were 2,000-year-old date seeds, that were around at the time of Jesus, in the very land where Jesus walked, left to decompose for millennia, only to be rediscovered, germinated, and nurtured back to fruitfulness. But that’s still not the most remarkable thing.
Dr. Elaine Soloway? She works at the Areva Institute for Environmental Studies, which sits near the border of Israel and Jordan, along with students from different countries from throughout the Middle East. Picture young Jewish, Christian and Muslim students working together alongside Dr. Soloway and her colleagues to bring new life from the land, even from seeds that survived against the odds.
SEEDS OF HOPE
The Arava Institute reminds these students that there is much more to the land than the geo-political wars that are fought over the possession and control of its borders. When the land is viewed through the lens of environmental stewardship, people can come together, and the seeds of peace, beauty and hope that may have been lying dormant can be recovered, revived and rejuvenated.
Rabbi Michael M. Cohen, who teaches at the Arava Institute, put it this way: “Following the example of Muhammad, Muslims traditionally break their daily fast during Ramadan with a date. In the Jewish Torah, dates are considered one of the seven most important species of the Land of Israel. And Jesus was reportedly welcomed into Jerusalem with his supporters waving date palm branches.”
“Grown on this campus steeped in faith, the dates of Methuselah and Hannah, like all the great redemption stories, remind us that what today appears to be dead or beyond reach can in fact be revived to help create a better, more just, and redeemed tomorrow.” 
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
In all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, “the smallest of all seeds.” Yet, by God’s grace, and with enough attention, diligence and cooperation, that seed can bear fruit that will be a blessing for others.
These may be hard times. Hope can be hard to find, for many reasons, on many levels. But there are still seeds. Seeds of peace, justice, equality, joy and promise. They may be hidden under the surface, out of plain view. But if we keep digging, keep searching, keep believing, keep nurturing – and tear down the walls that would divide us so that we can work together – then new fruit can still be born, into a future that can be as sweet as honey and caramel.
So, don’t give up. Keep on digging. Together.
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist
The summer of 2020 ushered in a new era of truth and advocacy that confronts our country’s history of racial discrimination and injustice.
Our Justice Team started a local conversation with a public screening of the documentary the “Tampa Technique.”
Now it’s time to have a deeper conversation that will go beyond the history of the film. We will take this opportunity to ask thought-provoking questions of our panelists and spur our community into public action. For more info contact Chalette@theportico.org.
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PASTORAL WORD AND PRAYER
In Witness against Systemic Racism
May 31, 2020
“EVERY PERSON HAS THE RIGHT TO BREATHE”
A Statement Shared by Magrey deVega during worship on May 31, 2020
We acknowledge yet another tragic act of violence committed against a person of color in this country. The victim’s name was George Floyd. We speak aloud his name because his life mattered. We speak his name because the evil of systemic racism continues to poison our society, and we confess our complicity in allowing it to persist. We speak his name, because it’s not enough to not be racist; we must also be anti-racism. We speak his name, because on a day when we hear the words of Psalm 150 and Acts 2, when God says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord,” and when the Holy Spirit descends like the breath of the wind, we affirm that black and brown lives matter, and that every person has the right to breathe.
On this Pentecost Sunday, when we celebrate the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we remember our baptismal vows require us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression, in whatever forms they present themselves. This is our calling. May it be so.
A PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND JUSTICE
God of Pentecost,
You send us your Holy Spirit, who “helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” We struggle for words in the wake of more evidence of how broken we are by injustice and inequality. You give voice to our sighs in the form of names – Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd – and countless others.
Forgive us, Lord, for failing to hear their voices unless their stories were video recorded.
Forgive us, Lord, for the prejudice that is in our own hearts, and the failure to stand up to racial bias and white supremacy where we see it.
Forgive us, Lord, for the racism in our economic, political, and social systems which poisons our communities and inhibits human flourishing, and our complicity in allowing it to persist.
Forgive us, Lord, for being more inclined to speak over and through our differences with others, rather than listening and leaning into them.
As we see the anger spilling into our streets and rising into the air, stifle our temptation to silence the voices of the unheard. Grant protection to all your people in public demonstrations across the country and let the messages of lament and the calls for justice linger long after the dust settles.
God, we pray that in the wake of such heartbreak, a new dawn will rise. One in which each of us take action as individuals, as communities, and as your church. Break down the walls in our hearts and in our own ignorance, that we may break down the walls among the oppressed. Show us all the ways, both private and public, to confront racism and eradicate its presence on this earth.
May your compassion and mercy guide and empower us, for the living of these days.
In Jesus’ name,
Note: Photo courtesy of the Rev. Anita Mays.
For the first time ever, Hyde Park United Methodist Church is going to read the Bible as a congregation, from cover to cover. And we are going to watch how the Holy Spirit unleashes a fresh wave of insight, transformation and possibility in us and in this church as we take this journey together.
Starting Jan. 1, we will begin with Genesis 1. And we will follow the same daily reading plan for all 365 days until we get to the end of Revelation at the end of the year.
There is no better way for you to learn to live your story as God intends it than for you to find yourself in the stories in this book. Did you know there’s between 600 to 800 stories in this book? And each one is an invitation for you to learn how to live your own story.
You don’t have to wait until Jan. 1 to start reading the Bible, of course. You can start with the daily Scripture readings that are listed in your sermon insert this morning (and on the website.) And I’ve also put together an insert that you might consider tucking in your Bible and keeping handy for reference. I’ve written a quick guide of Scriptures to read when facing certain challenges and situations. It’s available on our website.
For the complete run-down on this great program, visit Bible Project 2020.