(Note: Read to the end of today’s Midweek Message for a pastoral statement on the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.)
Dear Hyde Park Family,
People attending our in-person worship services may have noticed that for the past several weeks I have preceded my sermons with the following prayer:
“O God, open our eyes to empathy, curiosity and humility, that we might be generous and compassionate toward others and ourselves. Amen.”
Prior to these last several weeks, it was not customary for me to preface a sermon with a prayer. A friend once joked that often those prayers either offer a disclaimer (“Lord, I’m not sure that what I’m about to say is all that great, so pump it up a bit, would you?”) or appeal for air cover (“Lord, remind any potential complainers that these are your words, not mine.”).
PRAYING THE THREE
Rather, the prayer I’ve been offering has come from a deep place in my own spiritual journey lately. It first emerged from a sermon I preached during last January’s “Joy” worship series, based on Philippians 2 titled “A Joyful Example from Jesus.” I talked about how our society is so bucketized into polarizing and divisive factions, like tribes who are increasingly entrenched by their own confirmation biases.
So, in examining the truths of the Christ hymn in Philippians 2, I said this:
“Empathy, curiosity, humility. Imagine a world that was governed by these three virtues. Imagine a Christian community that was governed by these three ideals.”
Since then, I have continued to consider these words, and let its impact live in me. Over the last several months, I’ve pondered what it would mean for me to live with greater degrees of these qualities. More importantly, I’ve wondered what could happen if our congregation exhibited these three in greater measure.
· Empathy: To live with greater empathy would mean more openness to other people, or what our core values call being Warm-Hearted. It would be more intentional about hearing other people’s stories, affirming other people’s identity and worth, and recognizing our common humanity in each other.
· Curiosity: To live with greater curiosity would mean more openness to other perspectives, or what our core values call being Open-Minded. It would require a willingness to recognize the limits of our own understanding and push us to stretch our minds toward ideas that are unfamiliar and even discomforting. It is the embrace of mystery, after all, and not the avoidance of it, that is the key to learning.
· Humility: To live with greater humility would mean more openness to God, or what our core values call being Connection-Committed. It would decentralize our sense of self and centralize a sense of the communal. It would adhere to the mantra “I is we,” recognizing the ultimate interdependence and interconnectivity of all living things to each other, and all of us to God.
GENEROSITY AND COMPASSION
At the same time, I’ve been praying a great deal about generosity and compassion, two qualities which have emerged from my regular practice of mindfulness, and exemplified by our core value of being “Mission-Directed.” We remember that St. Augustine defined sin as “the heart turned inward upon itself.” An expression of redemption and salvation would therefore be a heart turned outward in generosity and compassion toward other people.
The natural consequence of a life built on empathy, curiosity and humility is that it positively impacts our relationships with others. Generosity and compassion are expressions of the hands and the heart, of action (generosity) and orientation (compassion). Together, they are the fruit that demonstrate how to live with the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2)
LIVING THE THREE
So, here is why I’ve been beginning my sermons with that prayer. It’s not to appeal for air cover or to offer a disclaimer. It’s to lift those values into our consciousness, to remind us of the work we all have to do (including myself) to live differently from this broken world. It is to use those values as interpretive filters to listen, receive, and apply the truths of scripture and the words of the sermon. Ultimately, we are called to live out these values more fully each day.
Imagine living the three in your life. And imagine a world in which everyone did.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist
PASTORAL STATEMENT ON THE RECENT SCHOOL SHOOTING
Pastors Sally, Vicki, Justin and I join the grief and anger in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. We lift up this prayer offered by our Bishop Ken Carter. We also lift up the work of an organization called Moms Demand Action, whom we have hosted for events at our downtown Portico location. In addition to considering your support of their organization, you may wish to observe National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange Weekend on June 3-5.