xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Mid-Week Message: January 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Transfiguration Sunday

January 29, 2008
Dear St. Paul’s Family,
What are the defining moments of your life?
All of us can point to one or two memories that we consider to be pivotal in shaping who we are today.  Perhaps you would think of your first kiss, or the day you got married.  Maybe you think of the birth of a child, or the moment you survived a near-death episode.  These moments change you, leaving an indelible imprint.
For Jesus, the transfiguration was a defining moment in his life. On a mountaintop with his three closest followers, Jesus appeared glowing white, accompanied by Elijah and Moses. And he heard a voice from heaven:   
“This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him!”  
There has been much debate among biblical scholars throughout history about the historicity of this event, but the gospel writers are clear in their placement of this story that the transfiguration was not just important to the life of Jesus, it was important to the salvation narrative for all humanity.  The presence of Elijah and Moses, along with a reference to the words heard at Christ’s baptism, draw in the grand sweep of history; Jesus’ self-reference as the Son of Man, as well as his prediction of his own death, point us ahead to a future of suffering and redemption.
The transfiguration story is the half-way point in the life of Jesus, and becomes a defining moment for all those who walk the life of faith.  Will we choose to stay on the mountaintop, as Peter, James, and John preferred, or will we enter a life of self-sacrifice, commitment, and utter surrender to God?  
Wesleyan Christians refer to the life of daily decisions to follow the way of Jesus the process of sanctification.  It is the grace-empowered journey of slowly being conformed to the image of Christ in every aspect of our lives.  Catherine Livingston was a nineteenth-century Methodist married to the preacher Freeborn Garretson.  In an entry in her personal diary, she reflected on the defining moment in her life, when she chose to identify with Christ, in his death and resurrection:
I find myself more than ever engaged for sanctification.  I desire to rest in nothing short of this great privilege. I want to serve my God with a perfect heart and willing mind.  I have long seen a great beauty in this doctrine, and long to bear witness to the truth of it.  I last night dreamed I was crucified.  Be it so, Lord Jesus!  Let me die that I may live, and that my life may be hid with you. Such a day of heaviness and travail of soul I have not experienced in a long time.  (Garretson Family papers, UMC Archives, Drew University)
This Sunday, we celebration Transfiguration Sunday, the final Sunday before the season of Lent. We conclude this sermon series on Matthew with a sermon called, “A New Life:  Will I Make Jesus Lord?”  I hope you will join us for this important last step of preparation before we begin our Lenten journey.  
In the words of Peter on the mountain, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”
Grace and Peace,

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

17:1  Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.
2  And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.
3  Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
4  Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
5  While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!"
6  When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.
7  But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid."
8  And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
9  As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
10  And the disciples asked him, "Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"
11  He replied, "Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things;
12  but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands."
13  Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Gospel Gourmet

January 23, 2008

Dear St. Paul’s Family,
Cooking is in!
Shows on the Food Network are among the highest rated on cable television.  Enrollment at culinary schools is up 28% over the past seven years,  and celebrity chefs like Rachel Ray and Bobby Flay are all over the airwaves.  And just yesterday, one of my favorite movies of 2007, Disney/Pixar’s
Ratatouille, was nominated for an Academy Award.  
For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is the story of Remy, a common rat living in France, who has a passion for fine gourmet cuisine.  And, thanks to a partnership with a lowly restaurant custodian, he discovers his inner chef, and an amazing ability to prepare delectable dishes.
In one scene, Remy reunites with his street rat brother Emil, who has no appreciation for fine foods and flavors.  In an effort to share his passion and enthusiasm for food, Remy shares the following exchange with Emil:
Remy:  I have got to teach you about food.  Close your eyes.  Now, take a bite of –  (hands Emil a block of fine cheese, which Emil inhales in one gulp)
Emil:  Too late.
Remy:  Here.  (hands him another bit of cheese)  And chew it slowly. (Emil chews).  Only think about the taste.  See?  
Emil:  Not really.
Remy:  Creamy.  Salty-sweet.  An oaky nuttiness.  Do you detect that?
Emil:  I’m detecting “nuttiness.”
Remy:  (Sigh.) Close your eyes.  Now taste this. (hands him a grape).  Whole different thing, isn’t it?  Sweet, crisp, whole different tang on the finish.
Emil:  Okay.
Remy:  Now, try them together.  (chews)
Emil.  I think I’m getting a little something there.  It might be the nuttiness.  Could be the tang.
Remy:   Every taste in the world being combined into infinite combinations, tastes that no one has tried yet!  Discoveries to be made!
Emil:  I think….you lost me again….  But that was interesting!  

Try as he might, Remy could not contain his passion for sharing something that had transformed his life, from a lowly street rat to a chef living up to his created potential.  And even when others didn’t understand, he lived in the joy of sharing this gift with others.

Matthew’s gospel contains a bit of a recipe itself.  Sprinkle a dash of salt, add a dose of light, and “
Voila!”  You get a transformed world.  Jesus was very clear to his disciples, and to us, that if we want the world to experience the rich, textured, and nourishing love of God, we are the ingredients to make it happen.
Just like a lowly street rat can spread culinary appreciation to a sleepy French town, and a small dash of salt can flavor a whole meal, and a tiny flash of light can illuminate the deepest darkness, little ol’ you can make a big, big difference!
I invite you to church this Sunday, as we continue our sermon series in Matthew with a sermon titled, “A New Purpose:  Can My Life Make a Difference?”  Discover how your God-given talents and passions can create a feast of hope and love for those around you.  
It’s great to be the church!

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

Matthew 6:13-16

13  "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14  "You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.
15  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

E-mail Down
We are making some improvements to the church receptionist’s computer in the next few days, so as a result, Linzi’s e-mail and the church e-mail will be inaccessible until Monday.  You can continue to send me messages at this address, but if you would like to reach Linzi, e-mail her at

Youth Mystery Dinner
For grades 7-12, join us tonight from 5-6:30pm for a Mystery Dinner this Sunday night.  Come with a hungry tummy and zero expectations! What you’ll eat (and when you’ll eat it!) is anyone’s guess! The fun won’t stop until the last course is served!

Environmental Stewardship Group
The Psalmist declares, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all that is within it” (24:1). The UM Social Principles encourage faithful people to “promote a more ecologically just world.” Are you interested in becoming a better steward of God’s creation?  Want to learn more about organic foods, sustainable living, reducing your energy bill, and other ways of “going green”? Then come to an introductory/exploratory meeting on Tuesday, January 29th at 7 pm in the church fellowship hall.  We will share fellowship, discuss the needs of our community, and consider the ways we might care for God’s good creation.  Contact Jessica deVega (
deVega@morningside.edu) with questions.

Valentines for Nursing Homes
Once again, the UMW is sponsoring a Valentines Card project for our area nursing homes.  Consider donating materials (paper, scissors, glue, etc.) to make some warm, creative valentines, and even volunteer your time on February 7 at 1:30pm in the dining hall to help make them.  Help spread the gift of love to these precious members of our community.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

From Young and Old

January 15, 2008

Dear St. Paul’s Family,
There is a quote from the Talmud that says,
“Blessed is the generation in which the old listen to the young; and double-blessed is the generation in which the young listen to the old.” Last Sunday, I was blessed to experience both.  
Sunday began with 21 seventh and eighth graders in this year’s Confirmation class, as they started on a journey that will conclude this Spring with their profession of faith in Christ and entrance into membership of the church.  This bright, energetic, and earnest group of kids discussed the meaning of baptism and the significance of God’s grace working in their lives.  Their exuberance and potential reminded me of the early days of my faith journey, and the wondrous adventure that followed.
Later that afternoon, I conducted a worship service for about twenty older adults in one of our community’s nursing homes.  I shared with them the same message you heard that morning, about the waters of baptism, our being made in the image of God, and the unconditional grace that God shares with all of us. At the end of the service, I walked around with a bowl of baptismal water, and watched as each of them touched the water to remember their baptism.  
The journey of faith is a lifelong endeavor.  It begins with a grace that operates even before our acknowledgement or understanding, and works throughout our lives to prepare us for eternity.  Along the way, God blesses us with the example of young and old alike – to remind us of where we have come from, and to inspire us with a vision of what lies ahead.
Will you join me in praying for both these young people in Confirmation, as well as these beloved older saints in our community?  

We continue in our series “New Year – New You!” with a sermon called “A New Strength – How Do I Deal With Temptation?”  We will hear Matthew’s version of the story of Jesus’ temptation by the devil, and we will apply its principles to the ongoing battles many of us face.
You may feel that you are unique in the private battles that you wage every day, but you are not alone.  Jesus wrestled with them, beginning with his forty days in the wilderness, and even up to the last night of his life, when he was tempted to choose the easier way rather than the way of the cross.  Temptations affect all of us, but we need not be slaves to them.  

As Martin Luther once quipped,
“You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them building a nest in your hair.”

Come this Sunday and discover God’s plan for a New You!
Grace and Peace,

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

From a Rookie Caucus-Goer

January 2, 2008

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

‘Twas the night before Caucus, and the stage had been set,
    As Iowans were saying, “Ain’t this thing over yet?”

It is Caucus Eve, and all eyes throughout the political universe are watching the Hawkeye State.  Little old us.  A state with a population that is roughly 1/100th the population of the entire country, in which only 6 percent of us are actually expected to caucus, holds in its hands the fate of the next leader of the free world.  Even with a good turnout, only about 130,000 Iowans are expected to culminate a two-year courtship that saw about a dozen suitors woo us with handshakes, campaign promises and a seemingly endless barrage of television ads.  Even as I write this, my phone has just rung with yet another recorded message from a campaign begging for my support.  

As a fresh Iowa transplant and first-time caucus-goer, my intrigue has been largely procedural.  How does one caucus, and what can one expect?  I am much more used to private voting booths, in my own little self-enclosed, touch-screen world.  Standing in a large room to make one’s support public sounds bold, chaotic, and wildly unpredictable.  But I do know something about messy elections.  Remember, I come from a state in which in which the simple matter of voting gets screwed up.  Mention the words “butterfly” and “ballot” in the same sentence to a Floridian and he is likely to cower in shame.  So compared to what I’m used to, caucusing should be a breeze.

If you decide to caucus tomorrow, I pray God’s wisdom on your decision, and that your support may be shaped both by your concerns as a citizen and your conscience as a Christian.  We are richly privileged with the opportunity to dictate the course of this election and, ultimately, the country and the world.  


This Sunday we observe Epiphany Sunday, marking the magi’s visit of the baby Jesus.  While not technically a part of the birth narrative, the arrival of the magi is an important piece of the proclamation that God’s new light has entered the world.  Against the fear, paranoia, and violence of King Herod, Jesus offered peace, hope, and love.  And the magi were caught in the middle.  Would they return in allegiance to their master, or become followers of this new way, this new King?  

This service is the first in a new series called, “New Year – New You!” and offers answers to some of our deepest questions about life, purpose, and meaning.  There is certain to be an upcoming service that addresses the longings of your heart, so I encourage you to join us for this journey.  And there is sure to be someone you know that is asking tough questions about their life, so please invite them to come along.  Here is the ad and the copy for the new series, distributed on Christmas Eve:


Once Christmas is over, we begin the task of looking ahead to the new year, leaving behind the highs and lows of 2007 and moving into a new                                                 future of hope and promise.  What kind of life do you hope to live in the coming year?  And might this Christ child, born once again in your heart, make a difference in how you will live?
Join us for a special sermon series called
“New Year – New You!”, designed to help us usher in a new season of joy, strength, and real life.  You won’t want to miss this opportunity to see how God can help you live the life you were created to live!
January 6                  A New Start:  Where Can I Find Real Life?                   Matthew 2:1-12
January 13                A New You:  What Is My Life Worth?                             Matthew 3:13-17
January 20                A New Strength:  How Do I Deal With Temptation?       Matthew 4:1-11
January 27                A New Purpose:  Can I Make a Difference?                  Matthew 5:1-15
February 3                A New Life:  Will I Make Jesus Lord?                             Matthew 17:1-9

See you on Sunday!  Happy New Year, and Happy Caucusing!

Grace and Peace,