xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Mid-Week Message: November 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Experience the Wonder

November 27, 2007

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

If only God still spoke through burning bushes.  

One of the great challenges in our spiritual lives is hearing God in the silence, when God’s voice and face seem most concealed.  To be sure, God can be very audible to us, and we have known those moments when God has seemed real, active, and connected to our experience.  Those encounters are overwhelming, and they are easy.  We are like Peter on the mountain with Jesus:  “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”

But the challenge comes in those “in-between” moments:  
•    What did Moses do for forty years in the wilderness as a wandering fugitive, before the burning bush?
•    What did Jesus do between the ages of thirteen and thirty-three?
•    How did the disciples feel for those fifty days – after Jesus’ ascension and before Pentecost?
•    What did the Israelites do for four hundred years, prior to Christ’s birth?
•    What do we do in between revelations?  How do we sense God’s presence in those moments that we most sense God’s absence?

No other liturgical season observes the watchful, silent periods of our faith quite like Advent.  Once again, we are the people of God, waiting for a Savior, waiting for an in-breaking of God’s voice to speak to us with power, vigor, and drama.  We wait for the good news.

The temptation, of course, is to skip right to the manger.  To fast forward to Christmas Day and all the hope that it holds.  But to do so would be to undermine the gift that God gives us in this season:

A chance to cherish the journey, not just the destination.  
A chance to hone our listening skills, and raise our Godward antenna just a tad higher.  
A chance to stretch atrophied prayer muscles and exercise a stronger sense of patience.  

May you hear the good news of this Christmas with fresh ears, and a revitalized spirit.  And may you learn to hear God, even when God seems most silent.

Joy in the Journey,


The Rev. Magrey R. deVega
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
531 W. Main St.
Cherokee, IA  51012
Ph:  712-225-3955

Isaiah 2:1-5
2:1  The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2  In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.
3  Many peoples shall come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4  He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
5  O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!

Join us this December for a time of hope, peace, and joy as we experience the wonder of Christmas.  
Share in the coming of this One who comes to bring light once again into our lives and in the world.
All Sunday services are at 10:10am, with child care provided. Sunday school for all ages at 9:00.
December 2      “The Wonder of Hope”
                 Isaiah 2:1-5
New Four-part Advent Study in Church Library
During Sunday school hour, based on the book Rejoicing in Hope

December 9      “The Symbols of Christmas”  
                  Musical featuring Children’s Choir
Soup and Salad Luncheon following service  
               (free will offering)
December 16      “One Small Child”
                 Christmas Cantata featuring Chancel Choir
Christmas Cookie Sale following service  

December 23      “The Wonder of Peace”
                 Matthew 1:18-25
               Children’s Advent Festival,  9-10 a.m.
                 Children’s crafts, songs, stories, and taffy pull (free)
Old Fashioned Christmas Caroling for All
Meet at the Church at 5:00 p.m. -- Ministry to area shut-ins      

Christmas Eve, December 24           “The Wonder of Joy”
Luke 2:1-20
5:00pm            Candlelight and Carols Christmas Celebration
6:30pm            Candlelight and Carols Christmas Celebration


There is wonderful news to celebrate!  With about 70 percent of the expected number of pledges turned in, we have nearly matched the total dollar amount pledged for all of 2007!  36 pledges reflect an increase over last year, and 16 people turned in a pledge card who did not pledge last year.  Thank you, and praise God!  We currently stand at 60 percent of our budget pledged, so if you are among those who have not yet turned in a pledge card, it is not too late to do so!  They are available in the church office during the week or in the sanctuary on Sunday morning.  Be part of the exciting work that God is doing in and through this church.


You are likely aware that next Tuesday the county will be voting on a referendum to allow casino gambling here in Cherokee.  Check out the article from The Chronicle for the latest news.  (http://www.chronicletimes.com/story/1281927.html).  If you would like to have your vote and your conscience shaped by the United Methodist Social Principles’ stance on gambling, visit the denomination’s website:  (http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?mid=1743).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy New Year?

November 20, 2007

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Try this on Thursday.

When you are gathered around the Thanksgiving table with family and friends, catching up on old times and sharing poignant stories, wait for a pause in the conversation.  Then, look everyone in the eye and say with great gusto:

“Happy New Year, everyone!”

Then watch their faces.  You’ll probably get some worried looks from folks wondering if you’ve eaten too much turkey.  There will be those who think you’ve slipped into your tryptophan-induced nap a little early.  But none of them will realize that you’re actually observing a very timely moment in the calendar.

Not the secular calendar, mind you, but the Christian one.  The church’s liturgical year ends this Sunday, a religious “December 31st,” if you will.  The long journey that started last December, moved through Lent and Easter, burst into the fire and passion of Pentecost, and ambled through the summer days of Ordinary Time now ends on November 25, with an end-of-the-year celebration known as “Christ the King Sunday.”

Just like our New Year’s Eve, Christ the King Sunday is a transitional time.  It is a time of remembering the year we leave behind, to celebrate its joys, name its pain and sadness, and remember a God who, as it turns out, was with us all along.  It is also a time to look ahead, with hope and promise, toward a year that will unfold with its own share of triumphs and sorrows, all under the watchful eye of this Jesus who rules and reigns over all creation.


This Sunday, we will hear the story of a man who experienced just that kind of transitional moment.  The lectionary offers us the story of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist.  After emerging from a nine-month sentence of silence from the angel due to his unbelief, he sang a song of great hope for his new son and the dawning arrival of God’s kingdom on earth.  His song is both a reminiscing of God’s saving actions, and a claiming of God’s future promise.  I hope you will join us for this special Christ the King Sunday celebration, with a sermon titled, “Life in the In-Between.”

And, I would add that it’s not too early to think about what your New (Church) Year’s resolution might be.  May it be more than the typical stuff about weighing less, saving more, and cleaning out your closet.  Try addressing the deeper, substantive matters of life, faith, and love.  You may resolve to be more patient in your dealing with others.  You may wish to patch up that broken relationship with a dose of humility and forgiveness.  You may decide to be more consistent with your spiritual disciplines of daily prayer and scripture study.  You might simply try to make next year more about God and less about you.  

That is, after all, what the whole church year is about.  It is a 12-month journey with Jesus, from his birth in a lowly Bethlehem manger, to a transformative witness of his teaching and example, into the power of his self-giving sacrifice, through the triumph and glory of his resurrection, and into the ongoing witness to his reign through the Holy Spirit.  This is God’s time, and we are invited along for the ride.

I’m glad to share this journey with you!

Grace and Peace,


Luke 1:68-79

68 "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69  He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David,
70  as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71  that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72  Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant,
73  the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us
74  that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear,
75  in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76  And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77  to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.
78  By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
79  to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."


What a great day we had last Sunday!  We had a wonderful turnout to celebrate the conclusion of our stewardship series, as many people made their financial commitments for 2008.  We will be eager to share the results of the campaign as they become available.  In the meantime, if you have not yet turned in your pledge card, it is not too late to do so.  Pledge cards are available in the office throughout the week or in the sanctuary this Sunday and can be dropped off or mailed to the church office.  Thank you for your faithful stewardship and commitment to God’s ministries through this church!

And a special thank you to Sherry Held and the whole team of people who provided our Thanksgiving Celebration Dinner.  The fellowship hall was packed to overflowing, and the meal was simply delicious.  Thanks!


Thank you for the great response to purchase CD players for our shut-ins.  Twelve of you responded, so we are no longer in need of donors.  The equipment will be delivered this Wednesday, along with the first batch of CD’s from last Sunday’s service.  The recording quality is outstanding, and this will be a great improvement in our ministry to these wonderful folks.


Starting Sunday, December 2, we will begin a new Advent study based on the book
Rejoicing in Hope by Rev. James A. Harnish, Magrey’s former senior pastor at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa, FL.  It is a four-week study focusing on characters from Luke’s gospel who experienced hope in anticipation of the Messiah.  The study takes place on Sundays at 9am in the church library.  Books ($6.50) can be purchased at the first class.


We have leftover Christmas ornaments from previous years that would make great stocking stuffers.  They are available at a discounted price of $12.  If you would like to purchase an ornament, contact Linzi in the church office.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Harry Potter and the Gift of Contentment

November 6, 2007
Dear St. Paul’s Family,
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first book in the celebrated children’s series, a young Harry shares a conversation with headmaster Albus Dumbledore about an extraordinary magical artifact called the Mirror of Erised.  When Harry looked at its reflection, he saw an image of his deceased parents at his side.  When his friend Ron looked at it, he saw himself holding a championship trophy.
Intrigued by the powers of the mirror, Harry listened as Dumbledore explained,
   “Now, can you think what the Mirror of Erised shows us all?”
   Harry shook his head.
   “Let me explain.  The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is.  Does that help?”
   Harry thought.  Then he said slowly, “It shows us what we want…whatever we want….”
   “Yes and no,” said Dumbledore quietly.  “It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.”

It invites us to pause and think about what we would see in the mirror if we looked into it.  Would we see ourselves as we already are?  Or would we see a longing for  something more?  In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul posed a mirror to his soul and discovered within himself a priceless treasure:

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it.  Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  (4:10-12)
We live in a culture in which contentment is a rarity.  We accumulate more stuff, push for greater achievement, and stir with a restless anticipation for a future that always seems a tad out of reach.  In the meantime, we fail to see grace in the present moment.  
The frame of the Mirror of Erised (“desire” in reverse) bears the words
erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi, which when reversed reads “I show not your face but your heart's desire.”  
Have you discovered the treasure of contentment?

This Sunday we come to the pivotal moment in our stewardship series. We will further explore this powerful passage from Philippians with a sermon titled “Rejoice!  Hearts Filled with Gratitude.”  And, we will hear powerful testimony from a member of our church who has lived both the tragedy and freedom of this passage:  
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

At the end of the service, you will receive a packet containing the proposal for the 2008 Budget, and your financial commitment pledge card.  Please join us for this inspiring, transformative worship service.  
It’s still great to be the church!
Grace and Peace,