xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Mid-Week Message: July 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Forty Seconds on Sunday

July 31, 2012

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Every Sunday, following the opening hymn, we remain standing to affirm our faith using the words of the Apostles’ Creed.  It takes less than a minute to recite - forty seconds, by my watch - and we quickly follow it with a time to greet those around us, then sit down to resume the service.  If we’re honest, we’ll admit that our recitation has become rote and robotic, with barely a thought regarding the meaning of its words, let alone its theological and liturgical significance.

But what if I were to tell you that those forty seconds in worship constituted one of the most potent acts of religious expression in Christian history?  And what if I told you that the story of the creed’s development rivals that of any bestselling novel or blockbuster film?  What if you knew that the history of the creeds included political intrigue, bitter rivalries, and bloodshed?  And what if the very act of speaking the creed could bring you a greater sense of identity and community than you could ever imagine?

Maybe then, the words would become more than mumbo jumbo.

That is what we will be exploring for the next four weeks, starting with this Sunday.

  • We’ll learn about the history of both the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds, and how their development in the fourth century came at a time of intense division within both the church and the Roman empire.

  • We’ll learn how the creeds were an attempt to resolve the most heated (and, sadly, most hostile) disagreements in the church: the relationship of Jesus to God.  We’ll remember that the first creedal statement in the early church is not “Jesus rose from the dead,” but “God raised Jesus from the dead,” which occurs fourteen times in the gospels, epistles, and the book of Acts.  So to what degree are “God” and “Jesus” two separate entities, or one in the same?

  • We’ll learn how Roman emperor Constantine the Great, who gave favored status to Christianity, not only ended Christian persecution, but exercised unprecedented political influence in the church by calling himself the pontificus maxiumus (or “high priest” of all state religions) and convening 1,800 religious officials at the first great ecumenical council.  During this saturated political campaign season, we’ll talk about the danger of mixing the church with political power, which has often produced toxic results throughout history.

  • Of course, we’ll take a deeper look at the words of the Creed itself, particularly some of the more troublesome phrases:  What does it mean to believe in the “resurrection of the body?”  What does the “holy, catholic church” mean?  And what about some versions of the Creed that talk about Jesus “descending into hell?”

  • And finally, we’ll learn how reciting the Apostles’ Creed in worship is a profound moment in the life of the church.  While the Creed summarily represents our faith, it is not the same as divine revelation.  Instead, it channels our corporate efforts to bring praise to God, who orders our life and brings us salvation.  In his work Creeds of Christendom, 19th century German American theologian Philip Schaff wrote: “It is not a word of God to men, but a word of men to God, in response to his revelation.”

Admittedly, there’s a part of me that wondered whether it was a good idea to spend the next four weeks on the Apostles’ Creed.  I could imagine the congregation deciding to hit the snooze button until September.  But as our time worshipping in the Community Center draws to a close and we look forward (excitedly!) to returning to worship in our sanctuary sometime at the beginning of September, the Creed reminds us that the church is composed of much more than bricks and mortar.  It is made up of people, united with common belief and purpose, to proclaim Christian truth and love for the world and future generations.

So let’s join together, for forty seconds that can make all the difference, and remember what it means to be the church.

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
Email:  mdevega@sp-umc.org

“I Believe in God: A Friend in High Places”
John 7:16-17; Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 4:11
August 5

“I Believe in Jesus Christ: Jesus, the One and Only”
Philippians 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 15:17-19
August 12

“I Believe in the Holy Spirit: The Invisible, Incomparable God”
John 7:37-39
August 19

“I Believe in Life in the Church:  Forgiven, Free, and Never Alone”
Ephesians 12:1; Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 15
August 26

Join us tomorrow, Wednesday, August 1, at 6:30 pm down in the lower level basement of the church to hear a presentation by the Building Committee.  After nearly four months of regular meetings with the architect and engineers, it is now ready to present to you designs for the new kitchen and dining hall.  Your feedback and insight is welcome, as we look forward to beginning work on the renovations within the month.

Do you or someone you know need a helping hand with chores around the house, on your property, or running errands around town?  The Helping Hands ministry is made up of able and willing volunteers who can give you or someone you know some needed assistance.  Please contact Sheree Hausmann or Marlene Kelly, or the church office, if you would like further information.

To view past editions of the Mid-Week Message, visit http://mdevega.blogspot.com  
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Monday, July 23, 2012

A Defiant Alleluia

July 24, 2012

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

I rarely restate my prior Sunday’s sermon as the content for the next Mid-Week Message, but since many of you were unable to attend the service due to RAGBRAI preparations, and because the memories of last Friday’s shooting in Colorado continue to linger, I have had numerous requests for copies of the sermon.  Rather than reissue the whole sermon today, I’d like to pull out just an excerpt, followed by a new addendum I’ve been pondering since Sunday.

The Scripture text, you’ll remember, was from Mark’s version of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000.  At first, when I finished my earlier manuscript last Thursday, the connection to the passage was mostly about feeding the bicycling crowds of RAGBRAI.  But that perspective shifted dramatically, literally overnight, as we awoke on Friday morning.  At once, the crowds in Mark’s feeding story took on new meaning:

           We know two things about the crowds in the story:  they were numerous, and they were starving.  But Mark would remind us that Jesus perceived one more characteristic of the crowd, even deeper than their number and their hunger.  He detected a deeper pain, a spiritual and emotional anguish in their lives.  He said they were like sheep without a shepherd.
           They didn’t just need a meal, they also needed direction.  Guidance.  Like sheep, they were prone to being lost and confused amid the dangers and snares all around them, and they were seeking a refuge from all that was closing in on them.  Jesus knew that if he didn’t help these people, they would surely suffer a serious fate, and so Mark tells us that he had one chief emotional response to them:  compassion.
            That word “compassion” has multifaceted meaning.  The Greek word there is splagchnizomai, which is derived from the Greek word for “gut,” “bowels,” and “abdomen.” The splanchnic nerve, for example, connects to our diaphragm and controls our breathing.  Truly, what Jesus felt for these people, and what Jesus feels for all of us, is not pity, or empathy, or sadness, but a gut-wrenching concern.  Something that gnawed at him, eating away at him from the inside out, right to his core, even his diaphragm, such that helping needy people like us comes as naturally and as urgently to him as the act of breathing.
            In the wake of all these tragedies, it is natural to ask, “Doesn’t God care?”  Where was God when the gunman opened fire in Aurora?  Doesn’t God care about those missing girls in Evansdale, Iowa?  Why won’t God send the rains to us in the midst of this drought?  Where is God in the midst of my pain, and why doesn’t God care?
            This Scripture is a reminder to us that in all things great and small, God indeed does care.  God does not overlook our sorrows.  God chooses to dwell among us in the midst of them.


The timing of the events of the past few days coincides with my completion of one of the books on my summer reading list, What Shall We Say? by Thomas Long.  Dr. Long is a professor of preaching at Candler School of Theology, and his latest book tackles the timeless question of God’s relationship to suffering and evil.

Among his conclusions is a contention that God is much more than a compassionate, caring, and comforting presence.  God is, in fact, much more powerful and proactive against evil, rather than simply a passive nurturer.  The caveat, however, is that God’s power exists in a way that we neither expect or demand.  The fact that God does not stop a spray of bullets from hitting innocent theater goers does not disprove the existence of God.  It merely disproves the kind of power that we would want God to have.

Instead, God operates in a way that is more subversive and more mysterious than our expectations, but is no less effective in the battle against evil.  Rather than using coercive, intrusive means, God works through the power of a cross, revealed in a person named Jesus, evident through the words of the gospel.  

In short, God possesses a power that is greater than our needs, because it is weaker than our expectations:

God came in tremendous power, but power consistent with the power of the God made known in Jesus Christ, power in the form of loving weakness.  God’s power was not a sword dividing good from evil; God’s power was a mustard seed cast into a garden furrow, a small dash of yeast poured into an overwhelming volume of flour from the hand of an unnoticed woman.  It is seemingly weak, insignificant, and hidden, and yet this power of love works inexorably to vanquish all evil. It is so unlike human exercises of power that we don’t know how to see it, can hardly recognize it.  God’s power is so hidden, so disguised in weakness, that we despair that God is at work to combat evil at all.  We lose faith in God because we have forgotten that “power is made perfect in weakness.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9)  Here it is important to keep in view the image of God as a warrior – a warrior waging love, to be sure, but a warrior nonetheless.  [1]


Christian traditions in the Western world consider it incorrect to include the word “Alleluia” (literally, “Praise the Lord!”) in the liturgies and hymns of Lent.  It is a supposed to be a season of sobriety and somber suffering, after all, thus demanding a removal of expressions of joy.

This is not the case, however, for Christians in the Eastern Orthodox Church.  They not only choose to sing “Alleluia” during Lent, but they offer a distinct series of daily liturgies proclaiming it.  They would remind us, after all, that biblical instances of Alleluia are most concentrated in two places in the Bible where suffering and misery are most prevalent.

The first is in the Psalms, specifically chapters 113-118 and 146-150, in which Hallelu Yah is translated “Praise the Lord.”  Here, the psalmists remind the people of God of the various ways that God has conquered oppression, illness, affliction, slavery, and distress.  In other words, God has entered right into the midst of human suffering and vanquished it.  The second is in Revelation, in which Alleluia occurs four times.  In this context, first century Christians are reminded to sing joyfully of God’s power, even in the presence of intense persecutions by the Roman empire.  The biblical evidence is clear: we are to sing of God’s power in the face of tragedy, not as a denial of evil’s existence, but in confidence of God’s power to overcome it.

The Christian witness to human suffering is a “defiant alleluia.” It boldly and publicly worships a God who will not tolerate the presence of evil, and wages war with love.  [2]  Our declaration of praise to this God is neither a na├»ve ignorance of the realities of  injustice, or a warped, egocentric projection of a God who obeys our every beck and call.  Instead, we praise God because God’s power is as supreme as it is subversive.  It is mighty, yet it is mysterious.  Therefore, we can be comforted, and ultimately defiant, in the face of evil in the world.

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
Email:  mdevega@sp-umc.org

[1]  What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith by Thomas Long.  Eerdmans Publishing, 2011.  Page 150

[2] Credit for the wonderful phrase “defiant alleluia” goes to Nadia Bolz Weber, from her recent blog post: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2012/07/sermon-about-mary-magdalen-the-masacre-in-our-town-and-defiant-alleluias/

Words cannot express how impressed and proud I am of the way you all stepped up and served the massive crowds from last Sunday’s RAGBRAI event.  Between our two feeding sites, you served over 1,000 hungry, exhausted bicyclists, with a diligence and grace that earned kudos from many visitors. We heard so many wonderful compliments from grateful riders, including one who said that he only goes to the Methodist churches for food, because “they’re the best!”  Thanks especially to the coordinators of both feeding sites:  Sherry Held, Jenny Burroughs, and John Cook, and thanks to all of you who contributed hours and hours (and hours!) of tireless service. Well done!

We have some surplus food items from our Cowboy Oasis available for purchase, at cost, from the church office. A package of ten rib-eye steaks costs $25.00 (we have only a handful of packages left.), and a dozen ears of corn costs $4 (ten one-dozen bags in the refrigerator by the office.  We have a few dozen assorted quart bottles of Powerade (75 cents each) and (24 bottle) cases of water are also available at $4 per case. Come to the church office and check out the temporary refrigerator/freezer inside the main entrance, as well as the table in the hallway in front of the Library.   Make checks payable to St. Paul's.

I and the two girls are visiting Mt. Rushmore for a few days, and will be back Friday afternoon in time to perform a wedding this weekend.  Andrea also heads out of town on Tuesday for vacation time up north.  Volunteers will be serving a few hours a day this week to answer phones and take messages.  In the event of an emergency, please contact the church office, or correspond with me by email.

The Trustees of the church have authorized a new renovation project in the main floor bathrooms on the north entrance. There is available personnel and funding to replace the floor, fixtures, lighting, countertops, and doors, and provide the possibility of future restroom expansion into the chapel if the congregation decides to do so at a future time.  Renovation will begin this Tuesday and will be completed by the time we are back in the sanctuary.

During this extended period of heat and drought, I invite you to offer a prayer on behalf of our farmers, both locally and across the country.  You may wish to use this Catholic prayer as a guide:  "O God, in Whom we live and move, and have our being, grant us rain, in due abundance, that, being sufficiently helped with the temporal, we may the more confidently seek after eternal gifts. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen."  (from the Roman Catholic Rural Life Conference.  A prayer in honor of St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers.)

We will conclude our sermon series from Mark’s gospel with the story of Jesus walking on water.  We will also experience the beautiful praise music of David and Judi Klee.  Come and join us, and bring a friend!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Feeding of the 5,000 (Bicyclists)

July 17, 2012

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Well, how’s this for perfect timing?

I typically try to map out my sermon series a few months ahead of time, in order to promote the series and collect sermon material in advance.  Despite my attempts to plan ahead, sometimes the unexpected slips under my radar.  You can imagine my surprise, then, when I realized last week that the text I’m preaching this week perfectly coincides with the major event in Cherokee this Sunday.

Our town is honored to host the first overnight stop of the fortieth annual Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, affectionately known as “RAGBRAI.”  It started back in 1973, when two reporters for the Des Moines Register offered each other a challenge to ride their bicycles across the width of the entire state, from Sioux City to Davenport.  Along the way, they would report on the interesting people, towns, and sites they could only see by putting pedal to the pavement.

That first bicycle ride covered nearly 400 miles and took six days.  Their reporting escalated interested from many readers, such that the next year, 2,700 bicyclists made the trek from Council Bluffs to Dubuque.  Today, the ride has become so popular that RAGBRAI officials have had to cap the number of registrations to 8,500, for the safety of the participants.

In a mere six days, our blessed little town of 5,000 people, nestled among the corn and soybean fields along the Little Sioux River, will be burgeoning with visitors from all around the world.  Many of you who remember when Cherokee last hosted RAGBRAI ten years ago have tried to prepare me for the sight of bicycles around every corner and tents on every green space.  I simply can’t imagine a population increase of 270%, even for just a twenty-four hour period.

Which gets me back to the text for this Sunday. What better gospel story to consider than the one offered by the Lectionary.  Are you ready for this?

It’s Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000!

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus and the disciples had finished a long day of ministry and sought the solace of a private boat trip to a secluded shoreline of the Sea of Galilee.  But rather than experiencing quiet solitude, Jesus was greeted by a huge crowd needy, hungry people.  As if it were a RAGBRAI tour stop!  This led to the critical question from his disciples:

How do you feed a flash mob?


Needless to say, the connections between this story and our RAGBRAI hosting responsibilities are fairly self-evident, and you’ll want to join us in worship this Sunday for a sermon titled “Give Them Something to Eat:  Jesus Caters a Huge Meal.”  Worship that morning will kick off an eventful day of cooking, serving, and welcoming riders into town, as we follow Jesus’ clear command from Mark 6:37: “You give them something to eat.” Specifically, we will be hosting two separate feeding sites in town.


Our church campus is located on the west end of Main Street, which puts us squarely on the front line of welcoming riders from Sioux Center.  That means we’ll be the first to welcome people with our friendly, cowboy-themed feeding site right on our front lawn.  From 9am to 3pm, we’ll have giant grills and cookers kicking out delicious grilled rib eye steak sandwiches, fresh sweet corn, fruit, desserts, and ice cold drinks.  We’ll have plenty of room under our shady maple trees for folks to stop and sidle up to our alfalfa hay bales to sit for a spell.

You can help out by providing individually wrapped brownies, cookies, and bars.  We’re hoping to have about 200 more by this Saturday in order to feel fully prepared for the crowd.  You can also offer to help out from 11am to 2pm on Sunday to set up at church.  (You have this preacher’s permission to skip the worship service if you are helping out with the Oasis!)


Veteran RAGBRAI riders are very clear about the “Magic Trio” that they are hoping to find in every town:  Air Conditioning, Homemade Pie, and a Meal Cooked by Church Ladies.*  Our kitchen and dining hall may be under renovation, but that won’t stop us from offering all three at the Community Center.  From 4-8pm, we will be serving up baked chicken, pasta with alfredo or marinara sauce, salad, bread sticks, pie, and beverages, at a convenient location to the Cherokee Symphony Concert at the high school.

Again, your help is appreciated, if you would be willing to bake a pie (we’re looking for an additional fifty pies, of a wide assortment), then you can bring it to the Community Center with you either on Saturday from 1-3pm or on Sunday morning.  (If you would like your pie plate returned, please write your name on the bottom for pick up at the church on Monday.)

And, I haven’t even mentioned that our entire Education Wing will be occupied by 75 bicyclists from the Hawkeye Bicycle Association, who will be using every available floor space among our basement and classrooms (along with a handful of tent campers on our lawn) to stay overnight.  If you’d like to donate a gallon of juice or some boxes of cereal bars to give them for breakfast the next morning, feel free to drop those off at the church office or bring them with you to worship.

Come along and join the fun!  It will be an exciting weekend!


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

(* Thanks to Jenny Burroughs for passing along this insightful article that talks about the “Magic Trio” http://www.midwestliving.com/travel/iowa/ragbrai-bike-ride/

Mark 6:30-44

30  The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.
31  He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
32  And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.
33  Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.
34  As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
35  When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late;
36  send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.’
37  But he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?’
38  And he said to them, ‘How many loaves have you? Go and see.’ When they had found out, they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’
39  Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass.
40  So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.
41  Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all.
42  And all ate and were filled;
43  and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.
44  Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

Sanctuary – We are anticipating that the new carpet will arrive for installation around the first week of August, and Carey’s Electronics will be reinstalling the audiovisual and computer equipment during the second half of August.  Sometime around the first of September, the new pew cushions will arrive and New Holland Furniture will be installing the pews.  We now expect to be back in the sanctuary sometime around the first or second week of September.  In the meantime, members of the Chancel Choir are looking into the replacement of choir robes, and the Worship Committee is researching new pew hymnals and Bibles.

Kitchen and Fellowship Hall – We expect to have completed plans from the architect by the end of this month to present to the congregation for your feedback.

During this extended period of heat and drought, I invite you to offer a prayer on behalf of our farmers, both locally and across the country.  You may wish to use this Catholic prayer as a guide:  "O God, in Whom we live and move, and have our being, grant us rain, in due abundance, that, being sufficiently helped with the temporal, we may the more confidently seek after eternal gifts. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen."  (from the Roman Catholic Rural Life Conference.  A prayer in honor of St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Death of John the Baptist

July 10, 2012

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard 
with orders to bring John’s head.
He went and beheaded him in the prison, 
brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl.
Then the girl gave it to her mother. (Mark 6:27-28)

How’s that for a happy story?

I had been reluctant to preach the lectionary text for this Sunday ever since I put the current Mark sermon series together weeks ago.  I have managed to avoid preaching on the beheading of John the Baptist for the past fifteen years, but this time it seemed inescapable.

Aside from its obviously disturbing elements, this narrative is bizarre in its placement.  Mark awkwardly wedges it in the midst of a string of about a dozen miracle stories, even utilizing an odd segue: a flashback scene into the mind and memory of King Herod.  The story appears to serve little purpose in advancing the story of Jesus, as it interrupts the disciples’ first missionary venture and has nothing to do with Jesus’ message or mission.   Given that Mark is widely known for his crisp, efficient storytelling, this story feels like an unnecessary slog.

It was not until last week’s conversation with Grace, my supremely intelligent 11-year old, that I gained an entry point into the story.  The girls and I had gone downtown to watch the latest Spiderman movie, and she later peppered me with questions about the death of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben.  Why did he have to die, she wondered.  And why are there so many stories in which the hero loses a loved one?

She and I quickly came up with other examples: Bruce Wayne loses his parents prior to becoming Batman.  Luke loses Yoda before his final battle with Darth Vader.  Harry Potter loses his godfather Sirius, then his beloved headmaster Dumbledore, prior to fighting Voldemort.  The Avengers lose their friend Agent Colson, which motivates them to band together.

I told Grace about an author named Joseph Campbell, whose book A Hero with a Thousand Faces is one of the most illuminating analyses of Western culture ever written.  Campbell theorized that all heroic stories have common elements, including the presence of a trusted mentor or guide.  That person is responsible for transitioning the hero into their extraordinary adventure, preparing them for the dangers and risks that lie ahead.  Often, it is the death of that mentor that prompts the hero’s crossing of the threshold into the start of the heroic quest.

John the Baptist plays a prominent role in Mark’s gospel from the beginning, as early as the second verse of the whole book, where John’s ministry is introduced.  Mark would have us believe that John plays no ancillary role in the life of Jesus.  He is as significant to the Messiah as Yoda was to Luke, Sirius was to Harry, and as Uncle Ben was to Spiderman.  In his cousin John, Jesus could ground his identity and remember his primary purpose on earth.  And his death, while tragic and grotesque, becomes a critical moment in advancing the quest of the Messiah to save humanity.

There is more to say, of course, about this enigmatic story from Mark’s gospel.  This Sunday, we’ll dig deeper into its meaning, beyond the shock and gore.  But for now, this story prompts a question:  Who are the John the Baptists in your life?  Cicero said, “The life of the dead is placed in the heart of the living.”  You and I journey along our own heroic quests to embody the love and power of God to transform the world.  We walk in the wake of loved ones whose sacrifice illuminates the way of faith.  Take a moment to think about those loved ones who have gone before you, whose example and guidance continue to mentor you in the “heart of your living.”  Give thanks to God for these saints, whose ongoing influence accompanies you along your way.

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
Email:  mdevega@sp-umc.org

Mark 6:14-29

14  King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’
15  But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’
16  But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’
17  For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her.
18  For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’
19  And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not,
20  for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.
21  But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee.
22  When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.’
23  And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’
24  She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’
25  Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’
26  The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.
27  Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison,
28  brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother.
29  When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

Thank you to all those who have already volunteered their time and materials to help both of RAGBRAI hospitality efforts get off to a good start.  To date, we still have need in the following areas for the big event on Sunday, July 22:
·     Four or five individuals to volunteer at the “Cowboy Oasis” on our church property, serving sandwiches, corn, desserts, and drinks from 11am-3pm.
·     Bakers to help bake an additional 200 individually wrapped brownies, bars, and desserts, following specific recipes to be provided.
·     Folks to help bake an additional 50 homemade pies, to help broaden the variety of the many apple pies already baked by the church Pie Ladies.
If you care to help in any of these areas, please respond to this email or contact the church office, and we’ll get you further details.  

Once we move back into the sanctuary, we will be needing additional volunteers to help run the video and computer equipment in the back of the sanctuary.  No experience is necessary, and you will help make enhance worship for many people each and every Sunday.  If you are interested, please contact Bob Simonsen or the church office.

There is once again a large box in front of the bathrooms at the main north doors of the church to receive your used shoes of any size, style, and condition.  Your contributions will be sent to people in need all around the world.

Sanctuary – The new carpet is being manufactured and will be installed by the end of the summer.  The same is true for the pew cushions, which are being rebuilt by the original manufacturer and will be reinstalled around the first week of September.

Kitchen and Dining Hall – The Building Committee and Trustees have had many long, extensive meetings with the architects and engineers to finalize the last of the plans for the new kitchen and dining hall.  We suspect that sometime by the end of July or early August, we will bring to the congregation these plans for your feedback.  We expect that sometime after or around our return to the sanctuary, we will be ready to begin construction in those areas.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Prayer for Independence Day

July 4, 2012

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

“A Prayer for Independence Day”
by Peter Marshall
Chaplain of the US Senate, 1947-1949

O God our Father,

We pray that the people of America, who have made such progress in material things, may now seek to grow in spiritual understanding.

For we have improved means, but not improved ends.  We have better ways of getting there, but we have no better places to go.  We can save more time, but are not making any better use of the time we save.

We need Thy help to do something about the world’s true problems –
   the problem of lying, which is called propaganda;
   the problem of selfishness, which is called self-interest;
   the problem of greed, which is often called profit;
   the problem of license, disguising itself as liberty;
   the problem of lust, masquerading as love;
   the problem of materialism, the hook which is baited with security.

Hear our prayers, O Lord, for the spiritual understanding which is better than political wisdom, that we may see our problems for what they are.

This we ask in Jesus’ name.


(printed in The Milwaukee Journal, July 4, 1948)

On behalf of the staff and lay leadership at St. Paul’s UMC, I wish you and yours a happy Independence Day.  Take a moment to inventory your freedoms, and give thanks for those whose sacrifice has enabled and ensured them.   And commit today to greater “spiritual understanding,” that the will of God may be done here on earth, as it is in heaven.