xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Mid-Week Message: May 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Flood Response

May 28, 2013

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

We are currently living through what may be the single greatest flooding event to hit the town of Cherokee in recent memory, eclipsing the record-setting flood of 2010, and the memorable floods of 1965 and 1993.  With the Little Sioux River at 26 feet yesterday (nine feet above flood stage) and with rain in the forecast through this week, we are all understandably living on edge and bracing for more to come.

I have been in regular conversation with Ben Shuberg, Cherokee County Emergency Response Director, and Catie Newman, the Northwest Iowa District Disaster Relief Coordinator for the United Methodist Church.  With their guidance, the following is our church’s initial response to the disaster, including ways you can help:

This morning, the UMC disaster response team from the district will be delivering fifty cleaning supply buckets assembled by churches from around Northwest Iowa and dropping them off at the fire station, which is serving as the staging area for folks to call in their emergencies and pick up supply buckets.  If you would like to assemble a bucket and drop it off at the fire station, a complete list of items can be found at the link below. [1]  In addition, the district has numerous pallets of additional supply buckets that can be transported should the need arise later this week.  If you have a large vehicle and would be willing to be a part of a caravan to go pick up those buckets later this week if needed, please let me know.

Given the shortage of pumps available in local stores, I have also requested the donation of pumps from Methodists around the district to be delivered to our church for us to borrow and for anyone in our community to use.  I expect to receive a few of those later today.  If you or someone you know is need of one, please contact me or the church office.  If you have one that you are not using, please consider writing your name on it and allowing it to be loaned out through the church.

If your home has been affected by water in your basement and are in need of assistance in “mucking out,” contact City Hall.  They are compiling a master list of folks who need help.  If you are one of the fortunate folks who escaped major flooding in your home, I would encourage you to contact the church office to make yourself available to help someone else in the church or the community.  I have already received a few requests for help, in anticipation of waters receding from their basements to begin cleaning out items.  While it may be yet premature to go in and start cleaning out houses until water levels go down, it is not too early to put your name on a volunteer list and start assembling response teams.

In the early hours of yesterday morning, some twenty-five houses were evacuated due to rising flood waters, and a number of them are expected to find temporary housing at MHI.  I have asked Ben Shuberg to keep me apprised of the needs of those in emergency housing, so that we can be part of their assistance.  If you are willing to provide a hot meal for one of those families, or are willing to provide children/infant care items to any families with kids, let the church office know and we will contact you as those needs arise.

I intend to use the St. Paul’s UMC Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CherokeeSPUMC) for the latest updates on the church’s disaster relief efforts.  You do not need to be a member of Facebook to access this information via the internet.  In addition, check out the Cherokee County Emergency Facebook site (link below) for the latest official news from the county.  [2]

I am aware that many of you have been keeping vigilant watch over your homes the last two days, fighting against rising waters in your basements and caring for your loved ones and your possessions.  Some of you on the outskirts of town using Cherokee Rural Water are without running water and will not be operational for another week.  Many of you now feel isolated from the heart of town, given that three of the six main roads into Cherokee are submerged and inaccessible, rendering your usual short commutes now an immeasurably long one.  This is all to say that many of you are running on fatigue and little sleep, with two nights of growing anxiety. 

In addition to the typical reminders to eat, drink, and rest regularly, I suggest that you take some regular time to quiet your heart and your mind, gather your thoughts, and connect with God.  Find an opportunity today to create a peaceful moment to sit still, perhaps using the following words from Isaiah 43:2.  You may choose to repeat these words several times, separating each repetition with a minute of simply listening to your breath:  But now, says the Lord—the one who created you, Jacob, the one who formed you, Israel:  Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;  when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you.

Of course, the St. Paul’s sanctuary is open and available for you to come and find a quiet place to pray, and I am more than happy to listen and offer you counsel.  Remember, you are not alone.  We are blessed by a town that really pulls together in moments of crisis, a church that knows how to be the church, and a God who promises never to leave you or forsake you.

Moments of crisis afford us opportunities to be clear about the mission of this church, which is to put God’s love into action.  Yesterday, after learning of a need for debris cleanup at the home of church member Dennis Bahr, thirteen of you showed up with less than an hour’s notice by responding to my plea on Facebook.  Words could not capture the grateful look on Dennis’ face when he saw the St. Paul’s team show up at his house and clear out his accessibility ramp so he could get into his home and pack his belongings and medications for evacuation.  There will be more opportunities like these ahead.

Let us steel ourselves for the storms ahead, and unite together in courage, camaraderie, and compassion.  We are the church, and we are called to be part of such a time as this.

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]  http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/print/kits/floodbucket.stm
[2]  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cherokee-County-Emergency-Management-Agency/152108156402

We begin our summer worship schedule this Sunday, with services beginning at 9:30.  We will resume our normal Sunday schedule the week after Labor Day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Shall We Dance?

May 21, 2013

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

I nearly miss the flying harness from A Christmas Carol.  Nearly.

By and large, rehearsals for The King and I have been going well.  We have nearly finished blocking the entire play, I have more than half of my lines memorized, and I just about have my featured solo under control.  The cast has gelled together, we are having lots of fun, and the girls and I are making memories every night.

And then, there was last Tuesday night.

For those of you who have seen Yul Brenner and Deborah Kerr’s timeless film, you know that the pinnacle of the musical is King Mongkut and Anna Leonowens’ grand, glorious number, “Shall We Dance?”   The King and Anna hold each other close, with her dress billowing at every exhilarating pivot and his bare feet gliding across the floor.  It is altogether romantic, hypnotic, and iconic.  The highlight of the show.

Last Tuesday, we tried out the dance for the first time.  Becky Elemond (who plays Anna) and I received a crash course in choreography, and attempted our first dance steps on stage.

So how can I best describe what happened ….

Do you remember that scene in Return of the Jedi, when a band of musicians is playing some upbeat, jazzy riff in the palace of Jabba the Hutt, and Jabba is thumping his tail and wiggling his arms with jerky, random movements?  I made him look like Fred Astaire.  And Jabba doesn’t even have legs.  I discovered pretty quickly that I am to dancing what a tree stump is to dancing.  A sure bet to appear in an upcoming episode of Dancing with the Scars

Perhaps I’m being too hard on myself.  I’ve got a month to work out the moves, and the rehearsal two nights later was an improvement over the first.  “You did better tonight,” Grace told me.  “You looked less like a walrus.”  That was helpful perspective.  If the animal kingdom is my sliding scale, then I’ve graduated from walrus to, perhaps, elephant seal.  A few more days and I can hopefully get up to manatee.  And then, I believe the grading scale goes caribou, kangaroo, dolphin, butterfly, and finally, swan

I’ve got a month to get to swan.

Preachers often utilize a self-therapeutic technique for dealing with embarrassing moments:  we turn them into sermon illustrations.  It just so happens that these last few dance rehearsals coincide with my own preparations for this Sunday, in which the wider church observes Trinity Sunday.  I’m reminded that my feeble, developing skills as the next Asian Gene Kelly pale in comparison to the grand, mysterious, and cosmic dance describe by the great C.S. Lewis, in his marvelous book Mere Christianity:

And that, by the way, is perhaps the most important difference between Christian and all other religions: that in Christianity God is not a static thing - not even a person - but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance. The union between the Father and the Son is such a live concrete thing that this union itself is also a Person.”

Brian McLaren, who writes at the forefront of a new postmodern, post-evangelicalism, builds on Lewis’ metaphor by reminding us of how early church theologians conceived of the trinity as a dance:

The early church leaders described the Trinity using the term perichoresis (peri-circle resis-dance):  The Trinity was an eternal dance of the Father, Son and Spirit sharing mutual love, honor, happiness, joy and respect… God’s act of creation means that God is inviting more and more beings into the eternal dance of Joy.  Sin means that people are stepping out of the dance… stomping on feet instead of moving with grace, rhythm and reverence.  Then in Jesus, God enters creation to restore the rhythm and beauty again.”  (from A Generous Orthodoxy)

My foray into the world of dance has given me a much deeper appreciation for Lewis and McLaren’s metaphor.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit work separately but simultaneously as one movement, one free-flowing energy of divine love.  It is one dance, with three dancers, all in such perfect synchronicity that their separateness is indistinguishable from the other. 

The dance metaphor reminds us that God is intrinsically a relational being.  Built into God’s very nature is both the capacity and the necessity to be in a relationship.  It begins with the relationships that God maintains within the Godhead, and it extends outwardly, inviting all of creation to take part of that dance, so that we are both the recipient and the reciprocate of all of God’s love.  C.S. Lewis wraps up the metaphor with a beautiful invitation:

And now, what does it all matter? It matters more than anything else in the world. The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way round) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that dance.”

Join us this Sunday, on Memorial Day Weekend, to remember together the beautiful artistry of the Holy Trinity.  We will acknowledge both its mystery and its accessibility, as we celebrate the God who invites us to step in, learn the moves, and take the stage in a glorious movement of harmony and love.

So, St. Paul’s family … Shall We Dance?

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

We join together in prayer for the grieving families, victims in waiting, and first responders in the wake of yesterday’s horrifying tornado in Moore, Oklahoma.  Our United Methodist Committee on Relief is monitoring events in the area and preparing a swift and comprehensive response.  The following is their latest twitter statement:

“Please hold the people of #Oklahoma in prayer. Support relief efforts with a gift to #UMCOR http://bit.ly/10Isrzf. 100% of your gift will be used for US Disaster Response. Volunteers are not yet needed. Thank you.”

You can donate through the website listed above.  Or, if you wish to make an immediate donation, you can text message the word RESPONSE to 80888.  We will also receive any contributions you wish to give this Sunday in worship and send them to UMCOR.

To view past editions of the Mid-Week Message, visit http://mdevega.blogspot.com.
To unsubscribe from this e-mail distribution list, please reply to this e-mail and write "UNSUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.
Visit us on Facebook at facebook.com/cherokeespumc.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Spirit Shower!

May 14, 2013

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

The greatest Pentecost hymn you’ve never heard of was written by Dr. Henry More, an 18th century British theologian and philosopher that one contemporary called “the most holy man he ever knew.”  [1]  Dr. More was a practical theologian, focusing the effects of his religious studies on implications for evangelism, missions, and pastoral ministry.

Despite his zealous study and prolific writing, history has been largely unkind to Dr. More, as his works have faded into obscurity.  The exception is a few of his poems that caught the attention of a young Anglican preacher named John Wesley, who chose to include them in Hymns and Sacred Poems, the first hymn book he and his brother Charles put together for public worship in 1739. [1]

Among them is a Pentecost poem called “On the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost,” which one Methodist magazine writer described in this way in 1867:

Its theme is so eminently evangelical, the treatment of it so compendious, the temper so eminently in accord with the theme, that as the dispensation of the Spirit comes to be better understood, and more fully enjoyed, it cannot be but that the Hymn must rise in estimation.  [2]

Henry More’s original version had fifteen verse, but when the Wesleys were putting together their standard A Collection of Hymns for the People Called Methodist in 1780, they chose only to include these last four verses.  [3] (You may choose to hum these lyrics to the tune of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” or the “Old 100th” Doxology.)

On all the earth Thy Spirit shower;
The earth in righteousness renew;
Thy kingdom come, and hell’s o’erpower,
And to Thy scepter all subdue.

Like mighty winds, or torrents fierce,
Let it opposers all o’errun;
And every law of sin reverse,
That faith and love may make all one.

Yea, let Thy Spirit in every place
Its richer energy declare;
While lovely tempers, fruits of grace,
The kingdom of Thy Christ prepare.

Grant this, O holy God and true!
The ancient seers Thou didst inspire;
To us perform the promise due;
Descend, and crown us now with fire!

The hymn became a standard selection for Methodist Christians throughout the early part of the movement’s history.  We can imagine Christians just like us, gathering together on Pentecost Sundays like the one forthcoming, singing this hymn and praying for the earth to receive a “Spirit shower” which will renew the earth in righteousness, overpower hell, reverse the law of sin, and make all people one. 

However, here is where the story of this hymn gets really interesting.  Wesley, the consummate perfectionist, did more than a bit of tinkering to Henry More’s original poem, choosing to insert two verse of his own in the original 1739 songbook:

Father!  If justly still we claim
To us and ours the promise made,
To us be graciously the same,
And crown with living fire our heard.

Our claim admit, and from above
Of holiness the Spirit shower.
Of wise discernment, humble love,
And zeal and unity and power. 

The reasons for Wesley’s two-stanza addendum seem self-evident.  It is not enough simply to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit to shower the earth and unleash the Kingdom of God on earth.  For Wesley, the Pentecostal work of the Spirit requires nothing less than our full participation.  It was just as critical to Wesley that Christians stake a personal claim on the work of Pentecost, and fulfill the calling each of us receive as followers of Jesus Christ.  Those last two lines summarily capture what for Wesley was to be the five-fold outcome of Pentecost for every Christian:  wise discernment, humble love, zeal, unity, and power. 

So, as we pray for another “Spirit Shower” this Sunday, ask yourself:  How are you measuring up to those five standards? 

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]  http://archive.org/stream/hymnsandsacredpo00wesliala#page/n3/mode/2up
[2]  The Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine, 1867
[3]  http://www.ccel.org/w/wesley/hymn/jw.html

Join us this Sunday as we celebrate one of our largest graduating senior classes in recent memory.  We will celebrate their achievements and pray God’s blessing upon them as they embark on this new chapter of their lives.  And in observance of Pentecost Sunday, you are invited to wear red, in recognition of the tongues of flame that descended on the earliest followers of Jesus and gave birth to the church.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Mother's Day Prayer

May 7, 2013

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

for this Sunday, May 12, 2013

God of Provision and Unconditional Love,

On this day when we acknowledge the importance of motherhood among us, we first give thanks that you are a loving parent to us all.  From your being all life was born, and in your bosom all creation is nurtured.  You have formed us in your image as your children, and gathered us together as a brood under your wing.  You have united us as kindred members of one human family, and we are grateful to be your offspring together.

We celebrate your divine love, reflected in human expressions of motherhood.  We give you thanks for the mothers among us, and ask that you strengthen them in their daily tasks.  Grant them wisdom in the lessons they teach, patience in the discipline they foster, and persistence in their promotion of decency and compassion, both by word and example.  May they be given the honor and thanks they deserve but often do not receive. 

We thank you for all motherly figures:  grandmothers, aunts, sisters, wives, step-mothers, foster mothers, guardians, babysitters, teachers, health care providers, neighbors, friends, loved ones, and many others, who practice self-sacrifice and embody compassion to all who are privileged to be in their influence.  Grant them vigor to carry on their work, and the satisfaction that the holy privilege of their task affords. 

We acknowledge to you, O God, that even amid our grateful celebration, many of us come with restless spirits, reluctant to name the difficulties of this day.

For some, this day brings the sorrowful awareness of their own inability to conceive biological children.  Draw your tender spirit near their feelings of self-betrayal, impotence, and grief, and remind them that those who struggle with infertility have always shared a special place in your heart.  We pray for those who have suffered miscarriages, those fatigued by fertility treatments, and those struggling through the process of adoption.  May they remember that in your power and through your church, they can still leave a lasting legacy beyond themselves. 

For some, this day is marked by loneliness and grief, as they spend this first Mother’s Day as a widower, an orphan, or a parent who has lost a child.  To those who today live in the wake of the death of a loved one, grant glimpses of the resurrection.  Bring to them a steady restoration of their broken hearts, allow them to live into their future with hope, and empower them to carry out the legacy of lessons instilled within them.

For some, this is a day that surfaces ongoing tensions that exist within our personal relationships and family dynamics.  We ask for healing from the wounds of our past, a path of forgiveness for wrongs both experienced and committed, and the rebuilding of trust forged in honesty, authenticity, and love. 

We give you thanks for the wide spectrum of motherhood represented among us today:  new mothers and young mothers whose children are in their most tender years; mothers of grown children who transition into empty nests and a new chapter of self-discovery; mothers and grandmothers of advanced years, whose twilight of life is marked by frailty of body but a potency of spirit.  Theirs is a cumulative reminder that though our lives are marked by transition and change, your nurture and affection for all your children remains the same.

Therefore, remind us to live with a child-like faith, curious to every wondrous mystery, attentive to your every instruction, obedient to your every command, and willing to share with every one of your children.  We give you thanks, O God, who is a loving Mother and Father to us all, and in whose name we pray,


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

In addition to Mother’s Day, this Sunday is a special one for our church family as we observe the confirmation of the faith for our seventh grade class.  Join us as we celebrate their profession of faith in Jesus Christ, affirming the vows that were taken on their behalf at the time of their baptism.  In addition, we will be receiving a special offering for our Camp Fund, in which you can help fund a scholarship for a young person to attend one of our United Methodist camps in Okoboji this summer.

St. Paul’s will once again be participating in the Cherokee Hot Dog Day this Thursday.  If you would like to help set up, serve, or clean up on our north lawn, please let the office know or come this Thursday.  The event goes from 5:00pm until we run out of hot dogs.