xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Mid-Week Message: 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Atop My Wish List

December 22, 2010

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.
Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche.
Over unprotected villages
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.
We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry, God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?
Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.
It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.
Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.
In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.

The word is Peace.

It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.
We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.
We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.


Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.
It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.
At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth's tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.
We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

(Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem
by Maya Angelou)

On behalf of the staff and lay leadership of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, and a Blessed New Year!

Peace, Hope, Joy, and Love,


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

We will gather to celebrate the arrival of Christ this Friday at 5:30pm for our Christmas Eve Service. It will feature carols, candlelighting, and our Chancel Choir. It will also include another “sermon in rhyme.” Join us, and bring a friend!

In observance of Christmas, the church office will be closed next Monday and Tuesday. Magrey and his family will be leaving after the service Sunday and will be visiting with family in Minnesota until next Saturday. The Mid-Week Message will resume Tuesday, January 4, 2011.

Help us end the year strong with your generous contributions to the church’s general budget. Just a reminder, to have your gifts counted toward your 2010 giving statement, they must be postmarked to the church by December 31.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Songs That Send Shivers

December 15, 2010

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

What music gives you chills?

Are there pieces of music that often manage to give you goose bumps when you hear them? I think of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma, and its exhilarating, swelling crescendos. Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium evokes images of God’s grandeur and majesty. From The Planets, Gustav Holst’s awesome Mars, the Bringer of War overwhelms with power and bravado. And nothing quite beats a chancel choir singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. These and many other selections never fail to give me the shivers.

As it turns out, music-induced chills are scientifically measurable phenomena. A recent study published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science revealed that certain songs can trigger activity in a person’s hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for hunger, rage, and involuntary responses like blushing and goose bumps. [1]

But here’s the interesting part: these researchers claim that the style, genre, tempo, and volume of the music does not determine these responses. What’s more important is what they termed a person’s “openness to experience,” one’s willingness to be moved by the music (as well as other aesthetic and artistic experiences).

Now, I’m pretty sure that Luke the gospel writer knew nothing about brain anatomy and personality science. But he sure knew a lot about emotive music. My friend and former senior pastor Jim Harnish likes to say that Luke reads a lot like a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical: every time something great happens to someone, they break into song (consider Mary’s Magnificat, or Zechariah’s prophecy, or Elizabeth’s song in seclusion). And often, those songs emerge from a person’s deep well of emotion. More than their counterparts in Matthew, Luke’s angels are always telling people not to be afraid. (“Fear not!” “Do not be afraid!” “Do not fear!”)

Apparently, there are plenty of goose bumps to go around in Luke.

We might say that Luke’s gospel is written for people who are particularly “open to experience.” Open to the possibility of a surprising word of good news, open to a new song that will overwhelm cacophony and chaos, and open to the arrival of a God who brings harmony in the midst of dissonance.

How about you? Will you be open to the soul-stirring sounds of Christmas, and allow its music to give you shivers? Will you deafen the drones of deadlines and to-do lists, and listen for the overwhelming hush of a faint baby’s cry, and the glorious songs of sky-blazoned angels? Will you quiet the noise within your soul, and raise your antenna heavenward, for what hymn writer Josiah Holland called “a song in the air?”

There's a song in the air!
There's a star in the sky!
There's a mother's deep prayer
And a baby's low cry!
And the star rains its fire
While the beautiful sing
For the manger of Bethlehem
Cradles a King!

In the light of that star
Lie the ages impearled
And that song from afar
Has swept over the world;
Every hearth is aflame
And the beautiful sing
In the homes of the nations
That Jesus is King!

Join us as we continue our journey to Bethlehem. And let’s pay attention to a Song that will give you chills.

Quiet down… and listen up!


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

[1] http://bodyodd.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/12/09/5619731-messiah-give-you-chills-thats-a-clue-to-your-personality

There will be no better place to be stirred by the sounds of Advent than at St. Paul’s this Sunday, as the chancel choir offers its annual cantata. It will feature songs that tell the story of Christ’s birth, interspersed with readings from Isaiah, Matthew, and Luke. You will not want to miss this meaningful part of our Advent season. And as always, bring a friend!

Having a hard time finding the perfect gift for a person who has everything? Then give the gift of love in their honor this Christmas. For the first time, the Missions Committee is offering an Alternative Christmas Gift Guide, available in church this Sunday. Stop by their table in the narthex for more information.

We will celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas Eve, December 24, with a service at 5:30pm featuring carols and the lighting of candles.

Thank you to all those who have already turned in a pledge card for our recent “Together in Faith” campaign. We’re eager to share with you this Sunday the totals pledged so far. In the meantime, the Leadership Team is making calls this week to active members who have not yet turned in a card, which are available from the church office or in the pews this Sunday. Thank you for your support!

Help us end the year strong with your generous contributions to the church’s general budget. Just a reminder, to have your gifts counted toward your 2010 giving statement, they must be postmarked to the church by December 31.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I Hate to Break It to You, Virginia

December 7, 2010

Dear Advent Pilgrims,

The time is soon approaching when both our girls will drop their belief in Santa Claus.

Honestly, my wife and I wrestled when the girls were born with whether even to tell them about the white-bearded man in the red jumpsuit. We were troubled by the prospect of informing them that only the good children received toys, while the bad children received none. True, it was a convenient way to get them to be “nice” rather than “naughty.” But what do we tell them about the poor kids in town who don’t get gifts for Christmas? Wouldn’t the Santa myth suggest that those are “naughty” kids?

Eventually, we cowered to culture, and have been playing the Santa game for years: stuffing their stockings the night before Christmas, munching on the cookies and milk they set out for him, and even forging his signature when they left handwritten questions for him to answer. But I think those days are coming to an end.

Madelyn was the first to suspect the reuse, and it started with the Tooth Fairy. About two months ago, she lost one of her teeth at school and didn’t tell us. Instead, our clever gal tucked it under her pillow and wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy asking some personal questions (How do you know when I’ve lost a tooth? What do you do with all of them, anyway? And what’s your favorite food?)

Naturally, she woke up the next morning and found the tooth still packed in its plastic bag and her questions unanswered. Perhaps the Tooth Fairy was busy last night, she thought. So, once again without telling us, she tried it again the next night. (You’d have thought we would have noticed she was missing a tooth, but that’s another story.)

Suffice it to say, the whole experiment convinced her that maybe there’s something sketchy about the whole Tooth Fairy story. And if that’s true of the Tooth Fairy, then what about the Easter Bunny? And while we’re at it, what about….what about….

Well, they’re not quite ready to give up on Santa yet, but we know it’s coming. The closest they’ve come this year was when Grace said recently, “Well, we’re not sure if Santa is real. But we really like the idea of Santa.”

Her statement impressed me as a highly nuanced, post-modern meta-narrative to the Santa story. Child geniuses, these two. But then I thought: Heck, who am I kidding? They’re too smart to believe in Santa, but not dumb enough to lose out on the free loot.

When that time comes, I will mourn the moment our kids lose their belief in Santa. It will be a rite of passage, yet another reminder that our girls are growing up. More importantly, it will mark the departure of significant child-like wonder and imagination, essential companions on the Advent journey.

Without that sense of wonder, they will become like many of us, caught up in holiday duties and December deadlines. Lest we forget, Advent is less about what we can see and touch, and more about promise and expectation. It’s about discovering a surprising gift, in places where we least expect to find it. And it’s about realizing qualities in others that we might otherwise overlook. Archbishop Oscar Romero captures it well:

Advent should admonish us to discover in each brother or sister that we greet, in each friend whose hand we shake, in each beggar who asks for bread, in each worker who wants to use the right to join a union, in each peasant who looks for work in the coffee groves, the face of Christ. Then it would not be possible to rob them, to cheat them, to deny them their rights. They are Christ, and whatever is done to them Christ will take as done to himself. This is what Advent is: Christ living among us.

Yes, there is more to Advent than meets the eye. It is not found in a jolly old man from the North Pole, but in the arrival of Christ in the midst of those who are hurting and hopeless. Unlike Santa Claus, who rewards only those who are “nice” and implicitly indicts those who are poor, Jesus Christ comes to those who are the least likely to be blessed.

You might have lost your belief in Santa. But don’t lose your capacity for a Christmas surprise. Try finding Jesus where you’d least expect to find him: in the face of the hungry or impoverished, in the soul of someone who is grieving a loss, and in the heart of someone who needs to see the light of hope in their lives.

To that end, let me share with you two new additions to our Advent journey this year.


In partnership with Bethlehem Lutheran, Memorial Presbyterian, and Greenwood Funeral Home, we will be hosting the first ever Service of Remembrance and Hope tonight at 7:00pm in our sanctuary. It will be a chance for anyone who, for any reason, does not feel the light of Christmas in their lives. Perhaps you or someone you know is burdened by a year filled with personal tragedy, broken relationships, divorce, illness, the loss of a job, caring for a family member, the death of a loved one, or a sense of separation from God. This special service honors people’s darkness and provides each person the opportunity to meet their suffering in a safe place and to access some much needed hope.


Stop the madness of buying needless presents for people who have everything and give a gift that truly matters. For the first time, the Missions Committee is sponsoring an Alternative Christmas Gift Guide, which you can use to donate money to some worthy organizations in honor of someone else. Guides will be distributed during worship this Sunday, which contain detailed descriptions of the following agencies and programs: Heifer Project, Self-Help International, The Wilmot Wells Project (Iowa-Nigeria Partnership), Church World Service’s Blankets Program, and Stan Sitzman’s Cherokee Needy Children Project. You will be able to donate to these agencies and give an acknowledgment of your contribution as a gift to someone on your Christmas list.

It’s time recapture a sense of surprise this Christmas. In the words of Archbishop Romero, let’s remember what Advent really is: Christ living among us. Let’s look into the faces of those who are in need, and bear witness to Immanuel, a God who is with us.

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

Join us for a fun, meaningful worship service led by our children’s ministry. They will offer a program called, “Operation Baby King.” Afterwards, we’ll gather in the Fellowship Hall for a soup and hot dog luncheon.

Attention St. Paul’s bakers! Save a plate or two of your holiday cookie creations and bring them to church Saturday or Sunday morning before 9am. The Adult Class will be assembling plates to sell before and after worship. Proceeds will support the Next Generation Fund and other opportunities in the church.

Thank you for the great response we have had so far to our “Together in Faith” stewardship campaign. Your pledges to both the General Budget and the Building Renovation will help advance our mission of putting God’s love into action well into 2011 and beyond. If you have not yet turned in your pledge card, please do so as soon as possible. Starting next week, members of the Campaign Leadership Team will be following up with personal phone calls to those who have not turned one in. Pledge cards are available in the church office or in the sanctuary this Sunday.

Did you miss viewing our fun campaign video at a home group gathering or in worship last Sunday? Do you want to show it to a family member or friend? Check it out on YouTube by going to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4w8-kiCEN8.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Our Day of Christian Responsibility

November 30, 2010

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

In May 1961, the people of St. Paul’s embarked on a capital campaign called “We Build – to Mould Character.” After nearly three years of planning, leadership proposed a three-story addition to the eastern part of the church campus that would serve as a new Christian education facility. The pastor at the time was J.E. Feller, who wrote the following introduction to the campaign’s information booklet:

We of St. Paul’s Methodist Church are entering upon the first stage of a program whose ultimate goal is the realization of an educational building. Our expanding Sunday School and Church program of activities make this a crucial year in the life of our Church. Through this program we are merely seeking to measure up to the needs of the present and the hopes of the future as our forebears did in 1914. May we be worthy of their vision and their dedication.

This, then, is our challenge, and to meet it we must pool our resources of time, talent and substance. I know this is a busy season, but I also know that this is the time to go ahead. I ask each of you to make the sacrifices, of time and substances, which the accomplishment of this important program requires. Going forward with such dedication, we believe that God will not only crown our material efforts with complete success, but out of his boundless love he will “pour down for us an overflowing blessing.

This is OUR DAY of Christian Responsibility.

The campaign went very well. The new wing encompassed 13,000 square feet of space, including 8 classrooms, a youth center, a chapel, and offices. The total cost of the project was $130,000, with an additional $13,000 to retire parsonage debts, and $10,000 for new furnishings. The church completed the building in 1962, and retired the mortgage a mere six years later.

As I have read through the historical documents to learn about this period of our church’s history, I have come to learn something about how this church defines success and faithfulness. It would be natural to assume that effectively raising $153,000 would best characterize the congregation’s discipleship. But that is not the case. Consider all that has happened in the last fifty years:

Since 1961:
  • 1,593 have joined the church. (In fact, 91% of our current membership has joined since then.)
  • 915 children and adults have been baptized.
  • 527 couples have been married.

Those are the numbers that really matter.

As I have said often over the past four weeks, our current capital campaign is not just about bricks and mortar. It is not just about dead boilers and single-pane windows, and it is not just about raising $1 million dollars to renovate the education wing. What matters most are the people in the future whose lives will be directly impacted by our actions in the present. We must respond to the same challenge that marked the people of 1961, and “pool our resources of time, talent, and substance.”

Rev. Feller reminded the people of their spiritual ancestry, and his words ring just as true for us today: “May we be worthy of their vision and their dedication.”

If you were not in church last Sunday to pick up your commitment card, you will be receiving one in the mail in the next few days. We invite you to prayerfully consider how you will respond, and bring that card with you this Sunday. I would also encourage you to heed the guidance offered in 1961 by the campaign leadership team to people as they considered their own personal commitments:

“My pledge should be…
… one determined after prayer for God’s guidance.
… one that brings an inner conviction of satisfaction.
… one about which I can talk to others without apology.”

We would all do well to follow all three pieces of guidance in preparation for this Sunday.

And, if you have not yet had a chance to attend a home group gathering, plan on coming to one of the three remaining opportunities over the next two nights:

  • Tonight: Dick and Betty Point’s house, 7:00.
  • Wednesday: Here at the Church at 6:30 (hosted by Jeff and Korrie Waldner).
  • Wednesday: Marlin and Sherri Lode’s house, 7:00.

Nearly fifty years after St. Paul’s took a great step of faith and built the education wing, we have a chance to continue that same legacy of faithful diligence and “measure up to the needs of the present and the hopes of the future.” Together in faith, let us build a better future, knowing that countless numbers of people – most of whom we will never know – will be impacted by the decisions we make today.

Indeed, “this is OUR DAY of Christian Responsibility.”

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

The youth will be traveling to the Midwest Christian Children’s Home near Peterson, Iowa, to deliver donated items and interact with the residents. Items will be purchased using funds raised from their November cinnamon roll sale. Youth grades 7-12 are invited to meet at the church at 1:30 and will return by 4:30.

Rehearsals for this year’s Children’s Christmas Program take place during the Sunday school hour on December 5 and 12, as well as the next two Wednesdays, from 3:45-4:45pm. PreK and K children are not required to attend the Wednesday practices. For more information, contact Korrie Waldner.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


November 25, 2010

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Happy Thanksgiving!

I trust that on this day and over the long weekend, you will have ample opportunities to offer thanks for all the many blessings in your life. May your days be filled with the comforts of family and friends, a sense of peaceful contentment, and the promise of a future secure in God’s love.

May you also take a moment to give thanks for the ongoing work of St. Paul’s as it fulfills its mission of putting God’s love into action by transforming lives, improving the community, and changing the world. I invite you to read through each of the submissions in our Daily Devotional Booklet, available in the church office. We asked each contributor to reflect on the question, “How have I seen God’s love put into action through the St. Paul’s community?” Of particular interest is today’s reading, from C.W. Miller.

From the moment C.W. first started attending St. Paul’s a few years ago, he was eager to grow in his faith and become active in the church. I did not fully know C.W.’s story until later, when he shared the amazing work of transformation that God had been doing in his life. As you read his story below, remember that C.W. is one of the many reasons St. Paul’s exists.

He Loves Even Me”
When I ponder the phrase God’s love in action, I can’t help but reflect on my past. I had a time in my life when I was the prodigal son when it came to my faith. At times I was so wrapped up in the world that I had little use for other people and even less regard from them. I was able to act the part of being a constructive member of society for the most part, but unless you had something I wanted, or needed your help, I really didn’t care. There were a lot of people who did not like me at that point. I couldn’t blame them; I didn’t like me much either. I tried to fill that hole in my life with several hobbies, and when that didn’t work, I tried to find comfort in the bottom of a bottle. Luckily God saw to it that I did have some true friends who called me on my behavior. It was because of one in particular that I made a decision not to continue with the life of dependency on worldly elixirs.

God continued to provide help for me as I started my new path. He put people in my life who where able to provide the guidance I needed, sometimes with gentle coaxing, sometimes with blunt honesty. I was forced to take a moral inventory of myself. It was at that point when I was sure all was lost, God gave me a wonderful gift. On a particularly bad night I asked God for help, or I was going to the liquor store. I went to bed early that night to avoid the potential. The next morning I awoke and my desire to drink was gone. God loved me even in that broken state, just the way I was; however, he loves me too much to let me remain in that state. He called to me through loosely remembered bits of His word from back in the days I went to church in my youth. I became hungrier for more of His word and started to listen to Christian radio, something that I had openly shunned. That led to coming to this church without having it feel like a funeral or wedding.

Yes, looking back on my life I have no doubt in my mind that I desperately need Christ to be my savior in order to receive forgiveness. I am amazed at God’s Love in Action, and that he loves even me.

C.W. Miller


I love C.W.’s line: God loved me even in that broken state, just the way I was; however, he loves me too much to let me remain in that state. That is about as good a definition of grace that I’ve read. And it’s because of that grace that we exist as a church: to reach out to more people with a love that meets them where they are, but loves them too much to leave them there.

Lest you think otherwise, our capital campaign is not just about bricks and mortar. It’s not about building monuments to ourselves. It’s about creating a movement of God’s spirit that will continue working in the lives of people. It’s about equipping future generations of this church with the best possible tools to make a difference. This Sunday, we’ll focus our attention on Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7:24-27. And after the service, you’ll want to pick up your commitment packet that contains your pledge card. Please spend next week prayerfully considering how you will be a part of Commitment Sunday on December 5, and help to build a better future.

May we all take time over these days to be thankful for what God is doing in and through the people of St. Paul’s.

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


If you haven’t yet had a chance to attend one of our home group gatherings, there are several opportunities to do so next week. You will have a chance, in an informal setting, to learn more about the renovation project and ask questions. The time will last about an hour and a half and will begin with refreshments provided by the host family. The program will include an informative (and very entertaining!) 13-minute video, a brief stewardship Bible study, and a talk by one of our presenters. You’ll have a chance to ask questions, offer comments, and be better prepared to make your commitment on December 5.

Please sign up for one of the following groups, either by marking your preference on a bulletin attendance sheet, at the sign-up table in the narthex this Sunday, or by response to this e-mail or to Andrea Cook at acook@cherokeespumc.org If you have any special needs that would prevent you from attending one of these sessions, such as a ride or a sitter for your children, please contact our Special Needs Coordinator Sheree Hausmann or indicate it on your attendance form.

Mon, Nov 29 Roni Timmerman, 7:00pm
Mon, Nov 29 Gene & Jean Anderson, 7:00pm
Tues, Nov 30 Dick and Betty Point, 7:00pm
Wed, Dec 1 Jeff and Korrie Waldner (here at the church), 6:30pm
Wed, Dec 1 Marlin and Sherri Lode, 7:00pm

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Together in Faith

November 16, 2010

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Did you know that nearly forty years ago, the people of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church said a prayer for you? That’s right, you! During their worship service on October 24, 1971, the congregation included the following as part of their morning prayer:

For every opportunity for service in the spirit of Jesus in all the changing circumstances of our fast moving life, and to carry the spirit of Jesus to future generations, we pledge our loyalty to thee, O Lord, and our support to the church universal.

Our spiritual ancestors made a promise to God that they would be faithful to whatever God was calling them to do, to ensure that the faith was passed on to people like us. We have inherited the privilege of being part of that same family, and we have that same responsibility to ensure the faith for future generations.

Two years ago, this congregation adopted the 20/20 Vision Plan, which included among its goals a comprehensive renovation of the Education Wing. After more than a year of listening, studying, and planning, the Building Committee, along with critical feedback from you along the way, has put together an exciting plan to modernize our campus, emphasizing energy efficiency throughout the building.

It is now our turn to do for the next generation what our forerunners did for us: carry the spirit of Jesus to future generations.

That’s what this Capital Campaign is all about. It’s titled “Together in Faith: Building a Better Future,” and it invites us on a journey toward claiming God’s future for St. Paul’s. You may have already received the information brochures that detail both the General Budget and the Building Renovation. Please read through those materials and inform yourself with the details. In addition, here are ways that you can participate in this great adventure:

  • Join us this Sunday, November 21. You will receive a devotional booklet containing powerful articles written by members of the church who reflect on the question, “How have I witness God’s Love in Action through St. Paul’s?” In addition, Kevin Gowdy, our capital campaign consultant, will be our guest preacher.

  • Participate in one of the home-based small group gatherings that will begin next Monday, which will give you the most detailed look at the upcoming renovation and give you a chance to share your feedback. Sign up on an attendance form or on the tables in the narthex this Sunday, or you can e-mail Andrea Cook (acook@cherokeespumc.org). A full schedule is included below.

  • Celebrate with us on December 5, when we will offer our commitment cards to support the Capital Campaign and the annual Stewardship Campaign.

Just like forty years ago, you have a unique chance to “pledge your loyalty to God.” Join us for this great opportunity to share in the next great chapter of our life together, and to put God’s Love into Action.

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

One of the most important ways you can participate in our building campaign is by attending one of the following home group gatherings. You will have a chance, in an informal setting, to learn more about the renovation project and ask questions. The time will last about an hour and a half and will begin with refreshments provided by the host family. The program will include an informative (and very entertaining!) 13-minute video, a brief stewardship Bible study, and a talk by one of our presenters. You’ll have a chance to ask questions, offer comments, and be better prepared to make your commitment on December 5.

Please sign up for one of the following groups, either by marking your preference on a bulletin attendance sheet, at the sign-up table in the narthex this Sunday, or by response to this e-mail or to Andrea Cook at acook@cherokeespumc.org If you have any special needs that would prevent you from attending one of these sessions, such as a ride or a sitter for your children, please contact our Special Needs Coordinator Sheree Hausmann or indicate it on your attendance form.

Mon, Nov 22 John and Kay O'Connor, 6:30pm
Mon, Nov 22 Tom & Corrine Lundell, 7:00pm
Tues, Nov 23 Evan and Nancy Knapp, 7:00pm
Mon, Nov 29 Roni Timmerman, 7:00pm
Mon, Nov 29 Gene & Jean Anderson, 7:00pm
Tues, Nov 30 Dick and Betty Point, 7:00pm
Wed, Dec 1 Jeff and Korrie Waldner (here at the church), 6:30pm
Wed, Dec 1 Marlin and Sherri Lode, 7:00pm

Following the service this Sunday, you are invited to join us downstairs in the Fellowship Hall for our annual Thanksgiving Luncheon. Turkey and all the fixings will be provided, and please bring a side dish or dessert to share.

Next week the deVegas will be driving down to Florida to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with family and friends. They will be leaving this Friday and returning the Saturday after Thanksgiving. In the event of an emergency, please contact the church office.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another Great Year

November 10, 2010

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

For those of you not in attendance at Monday night's night’s Charge Conference, I’d like to share with you my pastor’s report that was included in the packet of material. It is a kind of “state of the church” summary of all that we have experienced and achieved in the past year. The process of writing this report is becoming one of my favorite activities every year, as it gives me a chance to reflect on all that we have done together to put God’s love into action. This year was no exception:

Pastor’s Report
St. Paul’s UMC Charge Conference
November 8, 2010
Magrey R. deVega

The best way to evaluate this past year and celebrate all the ways that St. Paul’s has put God’s love into action is to consider our four-fold mission statement:

WORSHIP: We worship with joy, because Christ is among us and deserves our praise.
Worship continues to be central to the life of the St. Paul’s community. Every Sunday is filled with opportunities to experience God and grow in our faith through dynamic, diverse, excellent worship experiences. This past year saw changes in worship leadership, as we welcomed Larry Hunecke as our new Chancel Choir Director and Joe Vannatta as our Bell Choir Director. We give thanks to Sherry Held and Amy Stief for their wonderful service in those capacities prior to the new hires.
Our sermon series have been varied and relevant, and have included series titled, “Believe It or Not,” “Facing Life with Faith,” “The Seven Next Words of Christ,” “The Hebrews Hall of Fame,” and a series on Elijah and Elisha.

GROW: We grow in our faith, practicing every day what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
We continue to make progress on our goal of starting new small groups every year and anticipate having a total of six new small groups started in the next few months.
Children’s and Youth Ministry continue to be vibrant and active. The youth went on a Ski Trip in February, and did a service project at the Midwest Christian Children’s Home last December. The Children had another wonderful Vacation Bible School and Children’s Sabbath, and raised money for the program called Kids Against Hunger.

CARE: We care for each other as an encouraging, supportive, and growing family.
The Helping Hands program, under the guidance of Sheree Hausmann and Marlene Kelly, continues to link the skills and energy of people in the congregation with those in need. The Visitation Program continues to link lay visitors with shut-ins and homebound persons. They receive audio recordings of the service and a bulletin, and check on them for pastoral and personal concerns. We are grateful for the wonderful team of visitors who make these connections every week.
St. Paul’s added two new Alcoholics Anonymous groups, both of which meet at noon every week, to bring to five the total number of AA groups hosted by the church. St. Paul’s continues to be the center of recovery and support in Cherokee, including Moms on Meth, Narcotics Anonymous, and the Foster Care Review Board.
As always, our Funeral Luncheon Team continues to provide an amazing level of generous hospitality for families grieving the loss of loved ones. Theirs was a formidable task repeated dozens of times over the past year, and they provided wonderful luncheons with grace and warmth. Thanks to Phyllis Parrott and Donna Henrich for their coordination.

SHARE: We share with others to meet their physical and spiritual needs, and invite all people to faith in Christ.
God’s love has been put into action in remarkable ways this year. We are on track once again to achieve Third-Mile Status with the Conference’s Rainbow Covenant Missions initiative, including first-time offerings for the Iowa-Nigeria Partnership and the P.E.T. Project. In fact, a sizeable offering of $1,600 was received for P.E.T., enough to purchase four mobile transportation units for immobilized people around the world.
We made strides in offering our time and energy as well. St. Paul’s and the wider United Methodist Church were recognized by the Cherokee City Hall for their local relief efforts following the devastating flash floods in June.
Of course, February featured another successful Great Cherokee Pancake Day Race and Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. The event raised the visibility of both St. Paul’s and the town of Cherokee, including terrific coverage by KTIV television news, the Sioux City Journal, and local newspaper and radio. It raised several hundred dollars for the two local food pantries and involved dozens of runners. We look forward to next year’s race in March, as hopefully warmer weather will further increase the number of racers and participants.
This year saw the inauguration of our participation in Soles4Souls, an initiative that collects shoes of any size, style, or condition and sends them to needy people around the world. This year has been a tremendous success, as over 400 pairs of shoes have been collected and distributed.

Finally, this past year saw improvements to the campus and plans for the next renovation. We completed the addition of a new parking lot across the south alley that increased the number of handicap-accessible spaces. The Building Committee worked with an architect to develop plans for renovation to the Education Wing, including several feedback sessions with the congregation. What has emerged is an exciting plan for improved energy efficiency throughout the building along with other infrastructural improvements. This project will prepare the eastern part of our campus for state-of-the-art, environmentally responsible ministry for generations to come.
To that end, we are moving into our Capital Campaign titled “Together in Faith” in the middle of November. We hope to raise close to $1 million, so that renovation can begin early 2011. We are eager to see the Spirit move through the congregation’s generosity and faithful commitments.

Once again, these are exciting days to be a part of St. Paul’s UMC. I count it a deep privilege to have served another year as this church’s pastor, and I look forward to another great year of putting God’s love into action.

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

I am currently in Leesburg, Florida, spending a week with the Florida Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. We are reviewing applications of candidates for ordained ministry. Thank you for your prayers for safe travel and discernment for this and other conference boards across the connection as we do this important work.

Join us as we begin this exciting new chapter in the life of St. Paul’s. Our campaign is titled “Together in Faith: Building a Better Future.” As part of our campaign, we are inviting people to bring in pictures and other personal items that share your favorite Thanksgiving and Advent/Christmas memories. Thanksgiving items will be displayed in the narthex on November 21, and Advent items on November 28. You can be bring them to the church office any time before then, and they will be secured for safe keeping and returned to you. For more information, contact Nancy Knapp.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Remembering the Saints

November 2, 2010

Prior to Keith Willis’ funeral service last September, I had never experienced the stirring ritual called “The Last Page,” performed by Keith’s fellow comrades in the Cherokee Fire Department. At the conclusion of his service, about thirty firefighters stood in silent reverence as twenty bells were rung in his honor. The Fire Chief then turned up his communication radio to full volume, so that all in the sanctuary could hear the station dispatcher call out Keith’s “Last Page.” She recited the following, each line separated by a few seconds of silence, and ending with the date of his death:

“Paging Keith Willis….”
“Paging Keith Willis….”
“Last page for Keith Willis….”
“Wednesday, September 22, 2010.”

I looked across the congregation and failed to see a dry eye. This was a stirring tribute to a man who had responded to every call in his life, as an active part of this town, a faithful disciple at St. Paul’s, and a self-giving member of the fire department. When the final bells rang and we heard his name uttered one last time, we knew he had answered his final call: the call to come home.

I’m thinking about Keith as we approach this Sunday, along with the thirteen other members of this church who have died since last November. We will remember each one at the start of our All Saints’ Sunday celebration, by chiming a bell, lighting a candle, calling their names, and standing in their honor.

Worship will include several moments that remind us that we gather in the company of these beloved people, in mysterious communion with Christ and the saints of the church. When we utter the Lord’s Prayer, we will hear their echoes as forerunners to the faith. When we affirm the Apostle’s Creed, we will be illumined by their example as ones who lived out their convictions. And when we gather around the communion table, we will share in their presence, participating in a dynamic remembrance of a Christ who is always with us.

The service will also serve as a springboard into an important moment in the history of St. Paul’s. The following Sunday, November 14, we will begin our Capital Campaign, and prepare our hearts and minds for commitment to the work of God’s church. Let us remember the sacrifice and generosity of our dearly departed loved ones, and carry out their example in the spirit of our campaign theme: “Together in Faith: Building a Better Future.” Just like Keith any many others before us, let us respond to the call, and move forward in faith.

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

All hands on deck! We need lots of volunteers to help make this Saturday’s Ingathering another success. The Hy-Vee truck will be at the Sanford Medical Equipment store to be loaded from 7:30 to 11:30. Please join us for all or part of that time to help pack and load boxes of kits for needy people all around the world. Then, at 2:30, the regional delivery truck will be here and people are needed to help transfer those boxes for delivery. Please contact Roni Timmerman for more information.

Just a reminder, this weekend marks the end of Daylight Savings Time. Please change your clocks back one hour before you go to bed Saturday night.

We will be hosting several area churches this Monday night for our annual cluster charge conference on November 8, at 6:00pm. St. Paul’s will be celebrating another great year of ministry, and we will be voting on this year’s budget, mission priorities, and pastoral compensation package. Every member of the church is a voting member of the charge conference.

As part of our capital campaign, we are inviting people to bring in pictures and other personal items that share your favorite Thanksgiving and Advent/Christmas memories. Thanksgiving items will be displayed in the narthex on November 21, and Advent items on November 28. You can be bring them to the church office any time before then, and they will be secured for safe keeping and returned to you. For more information, contact Nancy Knapp.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How Much Do You Know About the World's Religions?

October 27, 2010

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Pop quiz!

Which Bible figure is most closely associated with leading the exodus from Egypt?
· Job
· Elijah
· Moses
· Abraham

When does the Jewish Sabbath begin?
· Friday
· Saturday
· Sunday

According to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a public school teacher permitted to read from the Bible as an example of literature, or not?
· Yes, permitted
· No, not permitted

These were among the questions included in the recent “Religious Knowledge Quiz” conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Given the generally low level of cultural literacy in our country, it may be no surprise that most Americans did poorly on the quiz. But would you like to know which group scored the highest? Atheists! The people that claim no religious adherence whatsoever were the most knowledgeable about religion. Jews were next highest, followed by Mormons. And Christians? Middle of the pack. That’s a stunning result, given that most of the questions dealt with Christianity. But it’s downright sad that most Protestants could not answer "What was the name of the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation?" And many Catholics (40%) could not explain a basic Catholic teaching about the bread and wine used for communion.

You can take the quiz for yourself and find the answers to the above questions at http://features.pewforum.org/quiz/us-religious-knowledge/index.php. See how you do, then ask yourself: Why is it that Mormons know more about Christianity than many Christians? Why do Jews know more about other religions in the world than we do? And why do agnostics and atheists know more about the relationship between religion and public policy than the very followers of those religions?

I’m not sure what the answers are to those questions, but it is clear that we need to do a much better job becoming familiar with all the world’s major religions, including our own. Here are a few reasons why:

It will clarify our own convictions and deepen a sense of our own spirituality. Are you having trouble observing the Sabbath, or finding rhythm and routine in your life? Learn about the Jewish feasts and festivals. Do you need a new way to pray, and quiet your soul? You may find it by adapting some Buddhist principles. Are you having trouble swallowing your pride and being obedient to God? That’s the basic premise of Islam, whose very name means “submission to God.”

There is no way to fully appreciate some of the world’s most pressing international concerns without a knowledge of their religious contexts. How can we come to understand Al Qaeda without knowing the beliefs of Islam? How can we negotiate through the ongoing mess in Gaza without a firm grasp of Judaism? And how can we appreciate the emerging cultures of India and China without knowledge of Hinduism and Buddhism?

We cannot realize God’s kingdom on earth without being conversant with those around the world who are different from us. When advancing the gospel to the people of Corinth, Paul said, “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews...I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Paul understood that the best way to carry out God’s vision of peace, joy, and love on earth was through partnership with others, not antagonism. Learning to speak the language of other religious people will build bridges of justice and compassion, and help us overcome our tendencies toward jingoism, narrow-mindedness, and intolerance.

So here’s the pitch. Starting this Sunday at 9:00am in the Library, Dr. Jessica deVega, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Morningside College (and the smartest person I know!) will be offering a six-week survey of the world’s major religions. You don’t need to register in advance, and readings will be handed out in class or made available on the web.

Let’s grow in our faith, and in our understanding of others.

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

With Halloween’s observance this Sunday, this Sunday’s sermon is titled “What’s Behind Your Mask?” based on Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Matthew 6:1-21. Trick or treat!

A leadership team of 24 church members has been busy preparing an exciting capital campaign that will start on November 14 and conclude with Commitment Sunday on December 5. It’s titled “Together in Faith: Building a Better Future” and will fund upcoming renovations to the Education Wing. Please be in prayer for the success of the campaign and how you will respond.

As part of our campaign, we are inviting people to bring in pictures and other personal items that share your favorite Thanksgiving and Advent/Christmas memories. Thanksgiving items will be displayed in the narthex on November 21, and Advent items on November 28. You can be bring them to the church office any time before then, and they will be secured for safe keeping and returned to you. For more information, contact Nancy Knapp.

Do you know young people who have fallen away from the church? Then consider attending a lecture at Morningside this Monday night at 7:30 pm by David Kinnaman, author of UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity. He will share how young people today view the church, and how congregations can adapt to these changing times. The lecture takes place in the Olsen Student Center and is free to the public.

Preparations are coming together for the annual fall bazaar sponsored by the United Methodist Women on Tuesday, November 2. Tickets for $7.00 are available for pre-purchase through the church office.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fear Into Fire

October 13, 2010

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

I’m not usually one to pay much attention to manufactured holidays, but today’s second annual “National Face Your Fears Day” caught my eye. [1] I have no idea why the second Wednesday in October was selected for this observance (I would think closer to Halloween makes more spooky sense). But compared to other days this month, including “Be Bald and Be Free Day” (October 14), “Dictionary Day” (October 16), and “TV Talk Show Host Day” (October 23), any invitation to proactively confront our phobias seems like a decent idea.

I don’t know what fears you might be facing, or what the best prescriptions might be for you to overcome them. I would encourage you, however, to practice some sound advice a friend of mine once gave me to overcome my own fears. Get out of yourself. Channel your anxieties into service for people around you, and use your energies to help others’ needs.

Cus D’Amato, the famous boxing trainer who groomed such champions as Mike Tyson and Floyd Patterson, once said, “The hero and the villain both enter the ring with the same kind of fear. But the hero is the one who takes their fear and turns it into fire.”

Consider for a moment all the dire fears that people are facing throughout the world today: Devastation in Haiti. Childhood disease and mortality. Lack of clean water, sanitation, and sustainable agriculture. People living under harsh political and economic oppression. The headlines can overwhelm us and make us feel small. We cower in helplessness, fearful that we can’t ever make a dent against such overwhelming odds.

But what if, on “National Face Your Fears Day,” we decided to channel our anxieties about the conditions of the world and turn them into fire for the Kingdom of God? And what if making a difference in the world was as simple as pointing and clicking on the web?

Rather than getting caught up in some artificial holiday, I would direct your attention to a different kind of internet campaign, this one sponsored by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. It’s called 10-Fold, and it has a very simple premise: For ten days, October 10-19, you can learn more about mission and service projects sponsored by UMCOR. And every day you click for more information about a specific project, a partnering church or agency will donate one dollar to that effort, up to $10,000. That’s right: simply by learning more about the United Methodist Church’s work to combat global hardship and injustice, you will actually raise support for that project.

How much easier could that be?

Here’s the schedule (with, admittedly, the first three days already behind us):

October 10, Day 1: Haiti Recovery
October 11, Day 2: Children’s Health and Wholeness
October 12, Day 3: Missionaries in the US
October 13, Day 4: Missionaries Around the World
October 14, Day 5: Training Church Leaders
October 15, Day 6: Church Planting Worldwide
October 16, Day 7: Justice for Our Neighbors
October 17, Day 8: Clean Water and Sanitation
October 18, Day 9: Healthcare in Africa
October 19, Day 10: Sustainable Agriculture

All you have to do is visit www.10-Fold.org, and click on the project for the day. Using modern communication technologies like Skype, live chat, and streaming video, you can even interact with actual missionaries and agency representatives to learn more about what they are doing around the world. And, of course, you can decide to become an active supporter in their work, in any way you feel led. At the very least, be sure to click on “Support” and sign up for more information via e-mail. And every time you do, someone will donate one dollar on your behalf to that agency.

It really is that simple to make a difference. Let’s not cower in fear in the face of the world’s problems. Let’s get fired up instead.

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

[1] www.faceyourfearstoday.com

Join us this Sunday for a sermon titled “The Power of Persistent Prayer,” based on the story in Luke’s gospel about the judge and the persistent widow.

Attention, youth grades 7-12! Come to St. Paul’s from 4:00-6:00 this Sunday for a fun event called “Clue Night!” We’ll turn the whole campus into a giant, live-action game of “Clue,” and you can help solve a murder! We’ll begin with some light snacks and end with a relevant lesson.

Magrey and his family will be out of town on the weekend of October 23-24, and the Mid-Week Message will be suspended until the following week. Come hear Christian musician Jill Miller on the 24th, who will be performing during the morning service. She is a gifted artist from Sioux City, and you can learn more about her on her website, www.jillmillermusic.com

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Remember, Then Rejoice!

October 5, 2010

Dear St. Paul’s Family,


Lately, that’s been my contented response to this week’s glorious weather. The skies have been a deep shade of sapphire blue, unblemished by even a wisp or puff of clouds. The absence of humidity evokes a buoyancy in the air and a lightness to my step. The temperatures have been Goldilocks perfect – not too cold, not too hot. Just right. And best of all, the rest of the week’s forecast looks to be just as dreamy.

I’ve come to believe that commenting on the weather is a stalwart feature of the Iowan psyche. We depend on it, base our local economy on it, and arrange our schedules by it. We even begin our conversations with it. “Don't knock the weather,” Kin Hubbard once wrote. “Nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while.”

One such conversation I had was with John Chalstrom, back in February. He caught me in my driveway, shoveling snow for what was the hundredth time last winter. We had experienced three blizzards in as many weekends, with rising snow mounds and torrential winds. It had become impossible to see out my front door, and my wife had to cancel more than a handful of classes.

“You know what’s crazy?” John asked me. “Later this year, when the temperatures are in the seventies, and the skies are blue, we’re going to forget all about how awful the weather has been.”

Well, not quite. When the summer rolled around, we had flash floods in June, a 100 mph tornado in July, followed by oppressive humidity in August. Not even the stunning weather of this past week could eclipse the memories of an entire year’s trauma. However, remembering all those episodes has made me – and I suspect all of us – much more grateful for the days we are enjoying this week.

That’s the power of memory, isn’t it? As much as we’d like to forget the pain in the past, we simply cannot. But viewing those sad episodes in retrospect can illuminate the power that got us through those moments, and help us appreciate the blessings of the present. French Catholic bishop Jean-Baptiste Massieu once said, “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” We enjoy the richness of today when we remember the sorrow of yesterday.

That’s the premise behind the healing of the ten lepers, the story from Luke that serves as our scripture lesson this Sunday. After Jesus healed them, only one returned in gratitude. “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?” he replied, clearly puzzled, but perhaps not surprised, by the poor percentage. I’m not sure he was expecting a thank-you card. He probably didn’t need his ego stroked, or any validation for a job well done. What he did know was that though the ten lepers were clean, they were not yet well. It was not until the one came back in gratitude that he experienced the full healing that Jesus intended.

We’ll further explore those nuances of healing this Sunday. But for now, let’s take up the call to remember and rejoice. Recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman captures this challenge in his song, “Remember Your Chains.”

There’s no one more thankful to sit at the table
Than the one who best remembers hunger’s pain
And no heart loves greater than the one that is able
To recall the time when all it knew was shame

So remember your chains
Remember the prison that once held you
Before the love of God broke through
Remember the place you were without grace
When you see where you are now
Remember your chains
And remember your chains are gone

Regardless of what kind of day you are having, let memory be your guide. Recall a time when you were lost, desperate, and confused. When panic ruled and your life was fraught with anxiety. Perhaps now would be the first time – and the best time – for you to look back on those days and say there was no way you could have gotten through it without the grace and power of God. Be the one, and not the other nine.

Then, you can face your future with gratitude and courage. For that same God that was with you then, albeit unbeknownst to you at the time, is with you still today. And, in the words of Jesus, you can “get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Grace and Peace,


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"I'd Like to Thank...."

September 28, 2010

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Admittedly, there are certain passages in the Bible that I buzz through quickly, assuming their meaning to be minimal at best. I do this most often with obscure biblical names, like this list from Colossians 4:

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me; he is a beloved brother, a faithful minister, and a fellow-servant in the Lord….He is coming with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you…..Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner greets you…As does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions….Jesus who is called Justus greets you…and they have been a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you…is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf. Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you. And say to Archippus, ‘See that you complete the task that you have received in the Lord.’ (Colossians 4:7-17)

Have your eyes glazed over yet?

Who are these people, and why does Paul choose to end this letter – like he does most of his letters – with an Oscar acceptance speech? We know virtually nothing about most of these folks, and it is tempting to skip right past their mention.

But this weekend at St. Paul’s has prompted me to write to you with the same personal, endearing spirit. This was as busy a 48-hour stretch as any I have witnessed in my years in ministry. On Saturday morning, we had a memorial service for Keith Willis, then a large wedding hours later in the afternoon. On Sunday, the children led us in worship in our annual Children’s Sabbath, followed by the community-wide Pork Feed fundraiser. Then a few hours later, our weekend concluded with a district-wide training event for area lay leaders. That made for five big events encompassing over 800 attendees from all over Northwest Iowa, all in the span of less than 30 hours.

The emotions of the weekend spanned from grief to celebration, from inspiration to information, and from worship to fellowship. I’d be hard-pressed to remember any other time that a church has had to transition from one distinct program to the next, with very little time in between.

But you all made it happen. With the funeral upstairs, kitchen volunteers were busy downstairs. When the luncheon was served in the Fellowship Hall, volunteers were exchanging funeral sprays for wedding bouquets upstairs (a transition from funeral to wedding that took only fifteen minutes!) When the children were leading us in worship the next morning, a whole new crew was grilling tenderloins and dishing up salads in the kitchen. And when the clean-up from the Pork Feed was over, a new group came in to set up for the Lay Leader Rally.

Every time I turned a corner on Saturday and Sunday, there was a different volunteer from this church, busy filling a role, executing with pinpoint precision their responsibility for the day, all with grace, warmth, and a loving spirit.

Often, preachers like me get all the spotlight. Since my presence appears to loom the largest, people assume that I did the most to make a weekend like this one go so well. But I’d like to dispel that notion, using Colossians 4 as my guide. There is no way – no way – a church could serve this community with such a high degree of excellence and love without beautiful people like you.

So, here we go, in Pauline fashion. Let me conclude this epistle with a personal touch:

I give thanks for Jeff Blum, who worked the sound booth for both the funeral and the wedding, and supervised the set up of the Pork Feed. He was at the church for about fifteen hours over the weekend, giving his time without need for recognition.

I give thanks for Phyllis Parrott, Donna Henrich, Jean Anderson, and the whole kitchen crew, who prepared a luncheon for the huge number of people at Keith’s funeral. They served with efficiency and grace, and quickly cleaned up from the luncheon in order to set up for the Pork Feed Saturday afternoon. That team included Shirley Zembsch, Elsie Lenz, Shelley Lenz, Jeanine Schroeder, Dee Taylor, and Sheree Hausmann.

I give thanks for Blake Burroughs, who traveled all the way from Ames in order to sing at Keith’s funeral, and Jenny Burroughs, who facilitated that connection. And thanks to Sherry Held, for playing the organ at Keith’s funeral, as well as the worship service the next morning.

I give thanks for Evan and Nancy Knapp, who served the critical transition between the funeral and the wedding. They helped clear the funeral flower arrangements and move the large number of wedding decorations in place, so that everything was ready for the bridal party within a span of fifteen minutes. Their work made for a very happy – and quite relieved – bride and groom.

I give thanks for Jill Chalstrom, who led our Children’s Sabbath effort this year. She and Linda Christensen prepared the kids to sing, speak, pray, and offer their talents in worship. Of course, I also thank all the regular Sunday morning volunteers – ushers, greeters, sound and video techs, and the bell ringer (that’s you, Rich Cook), for making worship happen every week.

I give thanks to the Parker family, for providing the delicious pork tenderloins for the Pork Feed, and for being at the church early Sunday morning to start cooking. I am also grateful for Chuck Tolzin and Al Henn, who were here earlier in the week to set everything up for the event, and to Denny Taylor, who put up and took down our publicity banner.

I thank members of the Finance Committee for helping with the kitchen service during the Pork Feed, including Marilyn Leissler and Berna Jenness, as well as John Cook for coordinating their efforts.

I give thanks for Marilyn Brubaker, our lay delegate to Annual Conference and lay leader of the District, for planning the great Lay Leader Rally in the afternoon. She oversaw preparations for the entire afternoon, and led the event with grace. Joyce Pyle served as our greeter and worked the registration table, and Roni Timmerman prepared a wonderful picnic supper for the attendees.

I know there are people I forgot to mention, so pardon me for any omissions. (Plus, I can hear the orchestra urging me to wrap it up.) But first, please note that among this list was not a single paid staff person. All of what we were able to achieve was by volunteers with a servant’s heart, offering their time and energy for the sake of our mission. Thanks to you, I received yet another reminder of why I am grateful to be your pastor. Together, we can achieve great things for the Kingdom, fueled by the faithful, tireless of work of people like you.

Thank you, thank you, St. Paul’s, for putting God’s love into action.

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

Join us this Sunday in this annual celebration of our global connection to the body of Christ. The service will feature breads representing countries around the world, made by Judi Klee of The Spice Rack. We will also be receiving a special offering for World Communion Sunday.

We are challenging every family and household unit in the church to furnish supplies for at least one Ingathering kit this year. You can pick up the supply list at the church, and bring in your donations by next Monday. If you would like to make a financial contribution, please designate it for “Ingathering.”

With the large number of visitors we have been welcoming over the past several weeks, please remember to wear your name tag so we can create a warm, hospitable place together. If you would like a name tag (even if you are just a regular visitor), please request one using the attendance form on Sunday or by contacting the church office.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dear God...

September 22, 2010

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Over forty years ago, authors Eric Marshall and Stuart Hample wrote a small book titled Children’s Letters to God. It contained actual letters revealing a wide range of reflections from children across the country: curiosities, suggestions, complaints, and acknowledgments. The book reminds us of the surprising capacity of children to ask tough theological questions in the midst of life’s harshest realities. Consider these examples:

"Dear holy God: Would you make it so there would not be any more wars? And so everyone could vote. Also every body should have a lot of fun.” - Nancy

"Dear God, Charles my cat got run over. And if you made it happen you have to tell me why.” - Harvey

"Dear God, Do good people have to die young? I heard my mommy say that. I am not always good. Yours Truly, Barbara."

“Dear God, I am writing to you even though you can't write back, I think, and you are not a person. But I wanted to write anyway. Love, Karen"

Decades have passed since the book’s release, but I suspect that these kids, now adults, may still be asking these questions. And so are many of us. We all have that same capacity to ponder the mysteries of God’s activity in the midst of life’s deepest complexities. I think that may be one reason why the gospels record this poignant episode in Jesus’ ministry:

He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. (Matthew 18:2-5)

When Jesus received that child, he was not posing for a cute photo-op. He wasn’t catering to the crowd, or trying to appear adorable. He was performing a radically subversive act, one that flipped the world upside-down. In first-century Rome, children were at the absolute bottom of the cultural hierarchy. Lower than even slaves and prisoners, children had no rights as citizens, and were often bought and sold as property. So when Jesus told the world that children were the “greatest in the kingdom,” he was doing more than praising them for their cherubic complexions. He was inverting the social order, challenging people to re-orient their priorities, in light of a Kingdom that considered the first to be last and the last to be first.

In preparing for this Sunday, I read the following statistics from the Children’s Defense Fund. Every day in America:

· 78 babies die before their first birthdays.
· 404 children are arrested for a drug crime.
· 928 babies are born at low birthweight.
· 1,154 babies are born to teen mothers.
· 2,224 babies are born without health insurance.
· 2,479 children are confirmed as abused or neglected.
· 2,583 babies are born into poverty. [1]

Embodying Matthew 18 today involves a bold assessment of what it means to be a child in the face of such harsh difficulties, and a total commitment to reversing these trends.

This Sunday we observe the Children’s Sabbath, a program sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund and endorsed by the United Methodist Women. It is a worship service led by the children of this congregation and highlights the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of other kids around the world. Come be inspired to do your part in fulfilling this year’s theme: “Blessed to Be a Blessing.” In conjunction with the service, you are invited to bring a used book to donate to the local Women, Infants, and Children group.

For the Children,


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

[1] www.childrensdefense.org

Join us this Sunday for the most delicious fund-raiser of the year! The Parker family will once again be donating some great pork tenderloins, and you are invited to bring a generous side item or salad to share. Desserts will be provided. All proceeds will go to support the Next Generation Fund. The time is from 11:30-12:30, and the community is invited.

Wow! What a response to last Sunday’s special offering! You have contributed $1,322 so far to the PET Project, with money still coming in. That will be enough to purchase almost six new transportation units to people around the world who are immobilized in third-world countries due to disease, birth defect, accident, or war. If you would like to donate to the project, make your check payable to St. Paul’s and designated for “PET Project.”

Judi and David have embarked on a new outreach ministry sharing the message of God’s love through song throughout the community. They are launching this new ministry at the Spice Rack, on October 2, with a night of homemade desserts and Christian music. Doors open at 6:15, with the concert starting at 7:00, and advanced tickets are $15. In addition, if you know of a community group or church that would like to have the Klee’s provide a concert, contact them at 225-0222.

After church on Sunday, I visited with Keith and his family down in Council Bluffs. He has now discontinued further chemotherapy treatments, and Hospice is now actively involved in keeping him comfortable. He was tired but responsive, able to speak a few words at a time. He is determined to keep fighting, and appreciates all your love, prayer, and support.