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

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nothing But Nets

August 27, 2008

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

If I were to tell you that ten dollars could save a life, would you believe me?

More importantly, would you give it?

Every year, 1 million people die around the world from malaria.  It is particularly devastating in Africa, where malaria cases account for roughly half of all hospital admissions.  Malaria-related illnesses also affect the economy, with an estimated 12 billion dollars per year in lost productivity, foreign investment, and tourism.  Worst of all, malaria kills 1 child in Africa every 30 seconds.

The predominant carrier for the disease is the African mosquito, which is most active at night, between the hours of 10pm and 4am.  Sleeping African children become unsuspecting prey to a disease that has the potential of killing them in a matter of weeks.

But the tragic irony is that malaria is entirely preventable.  By supplying families with insecticide-treated nets that hang over their beds, rates of transmission
drop a whopping 90 percent.  Couple that with anti-malarial drugs and efforts to stem the breeding of these mosquitoes, and Africa could join the rest of the world in combating and even eliminating the threat of this disease.

And the cost of each net?  You guessed it.  Ten dollars.

Jesus was very clear:  if you minister to the sick, the dying, the diseased, and the poor, you minister to Jesus himself.  The church is called to respond to the needs of others with fervor and diligence, whether those needs be here in Cherokee, or in the most remote parts of the world.

The Iowa Annual Conference has placed a special emphasis on combating malaria by supporting a program called Nothing But Nets, an agency committed to fighting the disease one family and one life at a time by providing insecticide-laced bed nets.  As of last Annual Conference, churches throughout Iowa have provided over $200,000 of support.  That means 20,000 families have been saved through the efforts of Iowa United Methodists.

St. Paul’s joins the effort this Sunday, with a special offering for the Nothing But Nets program.  I would invite you to be prayerful and generous with your support, and know that all of the offering will count toward our Rainbow Covenant Missions giving effort this year.  More importantly, you will know that your small sacrifice will literally save a life.

For more information about the Nothing But Nets program, visit www.nothingbutnets.net.

It is still great to be the church.  See you Sunday!

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

God and Golf

August 20, 2008

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

What a wonderful celebration we had last Sunday!  We give thanks to God for all the energy and love that filled the sanctuary, as we commemorated our 150 years of ministry together.  Special thanks go to the members of the History Committee (Joyce Pyle, Dee Taylor, and Marlene Kelly) for all their hard work over the past several weeks.  

Among the ministers we have celebrated during this series is the Rev. Don Johnson, who served here from 1986-1990.  He is retired now, and living in Oceanside, CA with his wife Marileen.  An avid golfer, he recently wrote a book connecting the game of golf with the Christian life.  It’s called
Another Zone:  God and Golf. Along with his greetings, he recently sent us a copy of the book, which we will make available in the church library.

I am not much of a golfer, and my swing is horrendous - more like Charles Barkley’s than Tiger Woods’.  I can, however, see the game’s allure, and why it is so attractive to people who enjoy being outdoors and need to forget about the world’s troubles for a round or two.  But I’ve never connected the game with spirituality like Don Johnson.  After perusing the book, I picked up a few choice quotes, like this one from the chapter titled “Your Will Versus Relaxing”:

  All kinds of mistakes happen when you force yourself beyond your capacity.  One of the major things that will happen (if you are right handed) is that you will push your right hand and wrists through the ball so it will pull the ball to the left.  Or, another action that results from imposing your will is hitting the ground before the club strikes the ball – you dipped your right or left shoulder in trying to hit the ball farther.  Or, another possible consequence is miss-hitting the ball - - taking your eye off the ball – because you so willfully determined to hit it farther.  Your anger is vented in a radical and uncontrolled swing.  We all know what an uncontrolled swing is.
    As your game collapses, your anxiety increases and your will to do better is intensified to the extent that your swing is out of control.  To play within your capabilities is to live by grace.  When you push yourself beyond your capabilities you are essentially saying to yourself that you do not accept your present skill of golf.
    Living in the context of doing God’s will – the most inner part of your being – is the most relaxing and energizing stance that you can possibly have.  


We are pleased to welcome the Rev. Ray Kruger, retired Presbyterian minister, as our guest preacher this Sunday.  He will be preaching a sermon titled, “God’s Compellingly Compassionate Love.”  I will be out of town with my family for a wedding, and will be back Monday night.  If there is an emergency, please contact the church office.

Have a joyous weekend, and once again, Happy Anniversary!



Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"There Has Been Much Done, And We Have Done So Little"

August 12, 2008

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

“I arrived at Cherokee August 18, 1858, crossed the river on a small ferry boat near the old white mill accompanied by my wife and 18 month old daughter.  My wife, one of a Methodist family several of whom are noted for their deep Christian character:  brave, kind, and true, endowed with energy and pluck, with her good judgment and common sense, helped me through many hard places.”

And so begins the journal of the Rev. O.S. Wight, the Methodist Circuit Rider who first preached the good news of Jesus Christ to the fledgling community of twenty residents living in Cherokee 150 years ago.  O.S. Wight was a mere seven generations removed from Thomas Wight, one of the original pilgrims who lived in Massachusetts in 1635.   I’ve spent some time reading through pages of his journal, and have been amazed at the stories of faith, courage, and determination that marked this early pioneer of the faith.

“My education being much limited I felt my inability to fulfill my calling.  Out of my scanty means I bought books and devoted my spare time to study but made slow progress as life was a constant struggle for existence….”

“Peterson and Spirit Lake were included in my charge.  I had nothing to make these trips with except an ox team.  I sometimes walked the entire distance, there being no bridges.  I often encountered bad mud holes and swollen streams….My wife remained at home, surrounded by all the danger, loneliness, and disadvantage of pioneer life….”

The “disadvantage of pioneer life” would ultimately claim the life of their young daughter, who died suddenly after a two-day battle with a mystery illness.  She was buried “on the high bluff near the south bank of Mill Creek,” and he supposed that she was likely the first burial to ever take place in this area.  

Yet despite the pain and hardship of living and serving on the frontier, Wight pressed on to fulfill the call that God had placed in his life.  During his first year he preached about 50 sermons to the people of Cherokee and the surrounding area, and made it through the first year on $57.50 of support.  He faithfully made visits to families throughout Cherokee, Peterson, and Spirit Lake, organized class meetings, and held prayer meetings.  Among those he organized was a small class in 1866, just 4 miles northeast of Cherokee.  This group would eventually become the church of which we are a part today.  

Toward the end of his life, having witnessed the population of this area bloom to a bustling community of a few thousand, Wight reflected on the impact of the gospel on the people that he served throughout his years:

“(There are people here) by the thousands who are among the most prosperous, industrious, and intelligent people the world has ever known.  What makes them what they are?  I answer ‘the gospel of Christ.’  I said to a friend a short time ago, I have lived here so long there has been so much done, and I have done so little.  He said you held the ground and we will not know until the time of (reckoning) comes who has done the most so we do what we can.”

Of all the statements in Wight’s journal, that last sentence may be the most profound for us.  At times it may seem that our efforts and sacrifices pale in comparison to those made by our spiritual ancestors.  We have not paid with our lives as the first century martyrs once did.  We have not formulated the church’s doctrine as the early theologians have for us.  We have not had to survive persecutions, inquisitions, or even harsh pioneer living.  “There has been so much done, and we have done so little.”

But our efforts do make a difference.  Mother Theresa once said, “God does not call us to be successful, but to be faithful.”  And it is for his faithfulness that we remember O.S. Wight, as well as the countless pastors and lay people who forged a faith that we have inherited.  And may that be the simple standard to which we ascribe today.

This Sunday, we mark the 150th Anniversary of the birth of this congregation.  May we approach this day with solemnity and reverence, as well as joyous celebration for the work that God has done.  And may we be inspired to face a bright future with great hope and faith!

See you Sunday!


Join us tomorrow, Wednesday, August 13, at 1pm in the sanctuary, as Mayor Pam Pierce offers an official proclamation declaring August 18, 2008 as “St. Paul’s United Methodist Day.”  The Cherokee Chronicle will be here to cover the event, and it would be good to have a number of congregation members here.

This Sunday’s special worship service is followed by a celebration luncheon in the Fellowship Hall.  We give great thanks to Lee and Jan Nelson for donating the hams, and we invite those whose last names  begin with A-M to bring desserts, and N-Z to bring salads.  The sign up sheet is downstairs outside the church office.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


August 5, 2008
Dear St. Paul’s Family,
My family and I have been spending the past few days on Horseshoe Lake, Minnesota, at a cabin owned by Jessica’s family.  This is a special place for her, as it prompts many childhood memories of summers spent fishing and boating, swimming and water-skiing.  The shoreline beach is foot-printed with many ferocious games of beach volleyball.  The boat dock  is lined with stories of big-time catches, and ones that got away.  The clothesline in the yard reminds Jessica of summers spent wearing nothing but her swimsuit, indoors and out, 24 hours a day.  And the dining room table is etched with countless games of euchre, hearts, spades, and card houses that filled many rainy days and cloudless nights.
My first memory of the lake was fifteen years ago this month, when I met Jessica’s extended family for the first time.  Walking out onto the dock, I introduced myself to her Uncle Mike, and the conversation went something like this:
            “Hi, you must be Uncle Mike,” I said. “I’m Jessica’s new boyfriend.”
            “Oh, hey there!”  said Mike, with a firm handshake.  “You must be Steve.”
            “No?  Then you’re Rick….Mark?.....Joe?......”
            “My name’s Magrey,” I said, sheepishly.
            “Aw, I’m just kidding with ya’,” he said, swatting my now-slumped shoulders, nearly knocking me into the water.
(I credit Mike with this idea for a prank I swear someday I will play on my daughters’ new boyfriends.)
All of us should have locales like these that can serve as memory reservoirs – places that flood you with memories so vivid and evocative that it feels like you are reliving them the moment you walk in.  Maybe for you it’s a backyard tree house, a grade school tire swing, a library bean bag chair, or a patch of grass under a shady oak tree.
Whatever place is unique to you, I believe we all share one in common.  It’s the church:  a memory reservoir unlike any other.
When the New Testament speaks of remembrance, it often uses the Greek word
anamnesis, a word packed with so much meaning that there is no perfect English equivalent.  To first century Christians, this kind of remembering was more than just “fondly recollecting,” or flipping back through one’s mental scrapbook to ponder past events.  To remember something “anamnetically” was to do so with such vividness and clarity that the events of the past came alive in the present, as if they were happening for the first time.  
This is exactly the word that Jesus used in the upper room, when he told his disciples to share in the bread and the cup in
remembrance of him. When we partake of communion, we aren’t just retelling a fable secured in the distant past.  We share in such a dynamic, anamnetic remembrance of Jesus that he is actually alive in our experience, a real presence in real time.
The church is where this kind of vibrant remembrance occurs.  In every aspect of our worshipping life together, the past springs to life, and those who have gone before us join us in a mystical communion that lives in and through us.
  • When we say the Lord’s Prayer, our voices are joined with that of Rev. O.S. Wight, the Methodist circuit rider who first brought Methodism to Cherokee 150 years ago.

  • When we sing “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord,” we are joined by the St. Paul’s congregation of 1915, who sang that hymn when our sanctuary was first dedicated.

  • When we recite “The Apostles’ Creed,” we feel the electric presence of the saints who have gone before us:  loved ones, friends, preachers and lay people alike, who forged a faith upon which we stand.

  • And at every moment, we remember Jesus, who lives and reigns among us, guiding our church through 150 years of ministry.

The sermon this Sunday is based on the prophet Isaiah, who spoke words of comfort and hope to a people in exile, and offered them this call to remembrance.
Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord.  Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.
Remember and celebrate!  See you Sunday!

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