xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Mid-Week Message: November 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Proclamation, a Poem, and a Prayer

November 25, 2014

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

For this week in which we gather with family and friends to give thanks to God for the many blessings in our lives, I offer to you a trifecta of passages to guide you in your gratitude.  The first is the presidential proclamation in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, officially designating the last Thursday of every November as the day of Thanksgiving.  You will want to listen to our local KCHE radio station at 9:15am today (Tuesday) and 1:15pm Wednesday for a five-minute broadcast by myself, Rev. Ethan Sayler (Memorial Presbyterian) and Rev. Larry Ostercamp (Meriden Evangelical Free).  We did a joint recording of our reading of this proclamation, to remind residents of this community of the sacred focus of this secular holiday. 

The second is a poem by the great e.e. cummings, whose trademark playfulness with punctuation and grammar is evident in this immersive description of a life centered in gratitude to God.

The final selection is a prayer of thanksgiving, adapted from the Book of Common Prayer, which is suitable for use at your Thanksgiving gatherings this Thursday with family and friends.


By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

2.  POEM

“i thank You God for most this amazing”
by e.e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


A Thanksgiving Prayer – adapted from the Book of Common Prayer

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you’ve done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for our successes, which satisfy and delight us — but also for the disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ — for the truth of his Word and the example of his life.

We thank you for his dying, through which he overcame death — and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your Kingdom.

God, may we — at all times and in all places — give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

On behalf of the staff and lay leadership of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!


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

The following time slots are still available to ring bells for the Salvation Army.  With Black Friday this weekend, this is a prime time for you to help raise money to help local people in need.  For those concerned about the cold weather, Fareway has allowed us to be inside the store this year, rather than in the entryway.  Please contact Mary Jo Carnine to sign up. 

Fareway -10am- 2pm
Kmart – 12:00 to 1:00pm
Hy-Vee 12:00 to 1:00pm

Fareway -10:00-1:00pm
Kmart – 10:00-1:00pm
Hy-Vee – 11:00-2:00pm

Go to www.lecfamily.org/advent to sign up for #pictureadvent, which will deliver daily devotions to your inbox, along with family-oriented crafts and activities for you and your children.  You can also participate by uploading pictures for the daily key words and joining hundreds of people across the country in this special journey.

Thank you to all who have already submitted your commitment cards for our most recent “Building the Kingdom” stewardship campaign.  You can still turn in your cards to the church office or the Sunday morning offering plate. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The War on ... Advent?

November 18, 2014

Brace yourselves, everyone.  The “War on Christmas” is coming.

It seems like we go through this every year.  Self-appointed cultural critics bemoan the replacement of Christmas trees with “Holiday Trees,” the renaming of school Christmas concerts as “Winter Concerts,” and the removal of nativities and crèches from public display.  Never mind the fact that these same critics may be among the millions on Black Friday battling for bargains and slugging it out with fellow shoppers for big screen televisions.  Little do they realize that their mad dash for the checkout lines will do more to demean the sacredness of this season than the store clerk who wishes them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” 

For my part, I choose not to get involved in this alleged “War on Christmas.”  For one thing, I really admire the words of my Florida Bishop Ken Carter, who once advised followers of Jesus today to be “pacifists in the culture war.” 

Besides, this whole hullabaloo over “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas” is really a false choice to begin with.  As far as the church is concerned, Black Friday does not begin the Christmas season, so wishing each other “Merry Christmas” before Christmas Eve is quite the misnomer.  And it’s not even accurate to say “Happy Holidays,” since the “holy days” of Christmas and Epiphany are also further down the road. 

The most accurate thing we can say, really, is “Blessed Advent.”  (Imagine the look on the face of the store clerk when you say that.)  Advent is the season that we observe starting November 30.  It is the four weeks of preparation that we mark with the themes of hope, peace, joy, and love, with symbols of wreath candles and Chrismon trees. 

Despite what cultural zealots might want us to believe, the real war going on is not against Christmas.  It’s against Advent.  It is waged by an instant, on-demand society that wants to skip right past Advent, right past the preparation, right past the waiting, and observe Christmas much too soon. 

The bottom line:  do you want to "keep the Christ in Christmas?”  Then observe Advent first. 


So here’s a practical way I’m inviting all of us to observe Advent together.  I would love for you to participate in a new project that I have been working on with some fellow clergy friends over the past few months.  It is called #PictureAdvent, and we have written a collection of daily devotional readings that can be sent directly to your email inbox starting the first day of Advent, on November 30.  Each reading is centered on a key word for the day, such as “light,” “prepare,” “darkness,” “share,” and “Immanuel,” that will focus your heart and mind on your own spiritual preparation for Christmas. 

In addition to reading the daily message, there is a family activity that you and your kids or grandkids can do together for a hands-on experience of the daily key word.  Sometimes it will be a craft, other times it will be an act of kindness or service for others.  This will be a great way to remind everyone in your family that this season is not just about purchasing and wrapping presents:  often, the best gift you can give is yourself, and quality time with your family.

Finally, you are invited to participate by sharing a photo on Facebook or Twitter that captures your creative imagination and your own artistic interpretation of the daily key words.  The resulting "cyber gallery" will be a collective conversation among hundreds of other Advent pilgrims, sharing the ways that the Spirit is moving each of us in hopeful anticipation of Christ’s birth into our lives.

All you need to do is sign up with your name and email address, on the website www.lecfamily.org/advent or by simply clicking here.  The cost, of course, is totally free. 

To date, there have been over two hundred individuals from about ten different states who have jumped on board, and the number is expected to grow over the next two weeks.  I am hopeful that many of us in this congregation will sign up, as it will form the basis of our Advent sermon series this year, simply called “Picture Advent.”  It will be a great way for each of us to connect with God (through the daily devotional readings) and each other (through the shared pictures) as we journey to Bethlehem once again.

 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

This Sunday is the culmination of our stewardship campaign and our “Kingdom of God” sermon series.  You are invited to bring your completed commitment card to worship, if you haven’t turned it in already.  And after the service, join us in the dining hall for our annual Thanksgiving Luncheon, featuring turkey and all the trimmings.  You don’t need to bring a dish to share, and a free will donation will be received. 

To view past editions of the Mid-Week Message, visit  http://mdevega.blogspot.com
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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The 2014 Pastor's Report

November 11, 2014

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

It was a great privilege to host last night’s Charge Conference for the congregations of Alta-Schaller, Hinton-Merrill, Marcus, Aurelia, Sutherland-Larrabbee, and Hostein.  It was especially gratifying to hear the many positive comments about our new kitchen and dining hall from the large crowd of attendees, and I was pleased by how the technological capability of our new audio/video system enhanced the experience for everyone.

Thanks to the many folks from our own congregation who attended, and for the good work we did in charting a course for our future ahead.  And for those who didn’t make it, the following is my Pastor’s Report, celebrating another great year of putting God’s love into action.

Pastor’s Report
St. Paul’s UMC Charge Conference
November 10, 2014
The Rev. Magrey R. deVega

“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”

This year marked a significant moment in the life and history of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, as we finally returned to a fully restored and renovated Kitchen, Shuldt Dining Hall, and Feller Lounge following the devastating fire of 2012.  After many long months of planning, pondering, watching, and waiting, we can rejoice that our campus is not only back to normal, but better than ever before, and prepared to serve the mission of this church for years to come. 
But there is even more to celebrate:  Following the four-fold mission statement of the church adopted in 2008, we give thanks for another great year of putting God’s love into action. 

WORSHIPWe worship with joy, because Christ is among us and deserves our praise.
            St. Paul’s continued to offer vibrant and vital worship services that attract people of all ages.  Our music ministry is as strong as ever, with the Bell Choir and Chancel Choir served by faithful volunteers and the capable direction of Joe Vannatta.  Our children’s choir sings faithfully once a month, thanks to volunteer director Crystal Samsel, and the Memorial Committee recently purchased a new set of children’s handbells, which debuted during our recent Children’s Sabbath.  Our Christmas Eve service drew the largest crowd any one of us can remember, with over 450 in attendance, and we look forward to the capability of offering closed circuit, overflow seating in the Dining Hall for even larger crowds. 
            Overall, worship continues to be the work of the people, with faithful teams of volunteers serving as lay liturgists, children’s sermon providers, greeters, ushers, musicians, and audio-visual support.
We have experienced several sermon series throughout the year, the highlight of which was an extensive exploration of the life of Joseph, which carried us through Epiphany and Lent.  Others included “Hearing God,” “Alive,” “The DNA of the Church,” and “The Kingdom of God.”

DISCIPLESHIP: We grow in our faith, practicing every day what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
            We give thanks for our dedicated Sunday school teachers who provide excellent care and ministry to our children every week.  Last Spring, they offered a wonderful end-of-the-year Sunday school celebration to conclude a great year of ministry, and worked very hard to offer another terrific Vacation Bible School, serving over seventy-five children in our community.  Our senior high students are once again fortunate to be served by Craig and Monica Schmidt, and their wonderful Wednesday night “Teen Time” program.  They continue to see strong, active participation, with over twenty youth attending per week, many of whom are invited friends.  They went on their annual Ski Trip, did their December missions outing to the Midwest Christian Children’s Home, and helped with our recent Ingathering.
Many of our adults continue to be actively engaged in small group discipleship opportunities, with our Friday morning men’s group, a Thursday night Bible study led by Jenny Burroughs, three active United Methodist Women’s Circles, and our wonderful Sunday morning Adult Class.

FELLOWSHIP:  We care for each other as an encouraging, supportive, and growing family.
            One of the major developments in the area of fellowship and membership care is the recent revision of our membership directory.  This painstaking process, coordinated by Andrea Cook and a few of our volunteers, involved a detailed audit of our entire membership record, dating back to the earliest years of our church.  They were able to reconcile our membership books with our new computerized church database, enabling us to modernize the way we keep track of all of our congregational information.  This culminated in the production of our most recent church directory, which will serve our congregation for some time to come. 
We can also celebrate another good year in gaining church members.  We added twenty-one new members, by Profession of Faith (7), Transfer of Membership (9), and Confirmation (5).  After accounting for members that we lost through death and transfer, we saw a net overall increase in membership this past year.
             Membership care continues to be a high priority for this congregation.  Our Visitation Team continues to link lay visitors with shut-ins and homebound persons.  They distribute audio recordings of the service and a bulletin to members, and check on them for pastoral and personal concerns.  We are grateful for the wonderful team of visitors who make these connections every week. 
            This has continued to be an important church for providing funeral services and ministry to grieving families.  Since the last Charge Conference, I performed sixteen funerals, most of which were for people who weren’t members of the church.  Our Funeral Luncheon Team continues to provide an amazing level of generous hospitality for families grieving the loss of loved ones.  With great grace and efficiency, they provided wonderful luncheons throughout the year.  Thanks to Phyllis Parrott, Jean Anderson, Shelley Lenz, and Linda Rutter for their coordination.
            Finally, St. Paul’s remains an epicenter of care for people seeking wholeness and health.  We now host several Alcoholics Anonymous groups throughout the week, as well as Moms on Meth, Narcotics Anonymous, and a weight loss group.  The church also hosts a monthly gathering of the Foster Care Review Board. 
SERVICEWe share with others to meet their physical and spiritual needs, and invite all people to faith in Christ.
            There is no doubt in my mind that this congregation takes seriously its call to put God’s love into action.  The recent closing of the Tyson production plant in town prompted tremendously generous giving by our congregation, raising over $1,500 for our local food pantries, the Ministerial Assocation, and the Salvation Army.  That is coupled with another terrific bell-ringing effort last December, where we raised over $3,500 for the Salvation Army, 90% of which stays in town to help local people in need.  Our Ingathering effort produced a record number of kits that were distributed to people all over the world, and we have donated hundreds of shoes to our ongoing Soles4Souls collection program.  The sum result is that we once again achieved Third-Mile status in the Conference’s Rainbow Covenant Missions giving program.  Thanks to Carolyn VanAmberg and her team on the Missions Committee for prompting our giving and raising awareness of these worthy causes.  And of course, we give thanks for the amazing work and constant vitality of our United Methodist Women, who raise money for ministries to children, women, and missions around the world through projects such as the recent Election Day Luncheon and Bake Sale.    
            We rejoice in the faithful stewardship of the people of St. Paul’s.  We have been blessed with a remarkable year of financial giving, ending the summer with income ahead of expenses for the first time in recent memory.  Giving continues to be strong and on pace to end the year once again in the “black,” which of course includes paying our apportionments in full. 

But the best news of all is that our future together looks even brighter.  With our campus back to normal, we look forward to the return of the Great Cherokee Pancake Day Race this February, and the hosting of several events for the community and the district.  We can also turn our focus on the repayment of the debt related to the renovations to the kitchen and dining hall, and our Trustees and Finance Committee have a solid plan to aggressively pay down that debt in a short period of time.  2015 will see a new roof for our sanctuary, finally addressing the numerous leaks in our ceiling with a solution that will fix it once and for all.  Our Administrative Board has just approved goals for next year that will expand our small group offerings, explore the addition of a Christian Education director, extend care to our less active members, and extend hospitality to community groups through the use of our new kitchen and dining hall.  And we will keep a watchful eye on further progress to be made on renovations for energy-efficiency in the Education Wing, according to our long-term strategic plan adopted six years ago.

            It has again been my deepest privilege to serve as your pastor, and I give thanks for all that we have been able to accomplish together.  We trust in the movement of God’s Spirit as we claim our mission of putting God’s love into action by transforming lives, improving the community, and changing the world.

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Magrey R. deVega

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

Mark your calendars to join us for our annual Thanksgiving meal after the service on November 23.  You will not need to bring any dishes to share, as turkey and all the fixings will be provided, and a free will donation will be accepted.  That is also the day for us to bring in our commitment cards for the upcoming year, as part of our Commitment Sunday celebration.  

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.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Three Challenging Notions for Election Day

November 4, 2014

Dear St. Paul's Family,

Today, citizens around the country will be heading to their local voting precinct to exercise their civic duty.  Regardless of your party affiliation, we can all celebrate that by day's end, we will have a welcomed respite from the barrage of negative ads that have snuck into our airwaves and bandwidths.  I think I can speak for many of us out of my own weariness of politicians who have slung mud, polarized us with their rhetoric, and catered to our least common denominators.   Most wearisome are campaigns that lobby for the Christian vote by feigning theological language and thinly veiled religious values.  

As a salve to such pandering, and to prepare myself spiritually for the day, I took some time to re-read what has become my go-to gospel text for stemming civil religion and redefining the relationship between the state and the church:

          When Jesus went to Capernaum, a centurion approached, pleading with him, “Lord, my servant is flat on his back at home, paralyzed, and his suffering is awful.” 
          Jesus responded, “I’ll come and heal him.” 
          But the centurion replied, “Lord, I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof. Just say the word and my servant will be healed. I’m a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and the servant does it.”
          When Jesus heard this, he was impressed and said to the people following him, “I say to you with all seriousness that even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this. I say to you that there are many who will come from east and west and sit down to eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom will be thrown outside into the darkness. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.” Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it will be done for you just as you have believed.” And his servant was healed that very moment.  (Matthew 8:5-13)

Matthew portrays the centurion as a man of the state, with extraordinary influence and power.  He was a soldier, a defender of the kingdom, and a servant of Caesar.  He commanded about one hundred soldiers and many servants, not for frontline combat or conquering new territory, but for maintaining law and order as a peacekeeping force throughout the empire.  He was a constant visual reminder to all citizens of the power of the state.   

As modern-day hearers of Matthew's story, we might see the centurion as a symbol for all the political kingdoms of our world, including those of our own country.  Matthew would want us to see the meeting of the centurion and Jesus as one of cosmic significance:  it is the State meeting the Church.  It is the kingdoms of this world confronting the Kingdom of God.  It is political, economic, and military power, man to man with the Son of Man.   

This compelling cage match follows suit with some of the great religious-political confrontations throughout the Bible:

Moses challenging the Egyptian Pharoah.
Nathan condemning the great King David.
Elijah confronting evil King Ahab.
And now, this centurion talking to Jesus.

Except there is one major difference in this story from the others.  Here, the centurion comes to Jesus, and not the other way around.  This story is also in Luke, but there, the centurion sends some messengers, they talk to Jesus, and they carry his message back to the centurion.  It’s a back and forth game that continues until the servant is healed.  Jesus and the centurion never meet in Luke, but they do in Matthew. 

I think we know why:  Matthew wants to suggest that even the greatest kingdoms of this earth, including those in this country – are in need of Jesus.  And here we learn the first of three challenging notions we would do well to remember on this election day:

Challenging Notion #1:  Despite all our power, we are ultimately powerless.

The centurion comes to Jesus begging for his paralyzed servant’s life, and asks for help by acknowledging the paradox of his own existence:  he is extremely powerful, but he is so utterly powerless.  Listen again to the impressive resume he offers Jesus:

“Lord, I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof. Just say the word and my servant will be healed. I’m a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and the servant does it.”

Pretty impressive.  But what is compelling here is not that the centurion shares his resume with Jesus, but why.  Not to impress him with his power.  Not to intimidate him with his influence.  Not to coerce Jesus into helping him. 

The centurion is simply recognizing the ambiguity of his own existence.  All of this power at his disposal was not enough to conquer death and disease.  He had ascended to prestige and influence among his peers, amassing countless numbers of subjects below him, yet when faced with evil, tragedy, and chaos, he could do nothing.

Likewise, this country is so powerful, yet it remains so powerless.  We, too, must recognize the ambiguity of our existence.  Only when we humbly acknowledge that our own political, economic, and military power alone is not sufficient to build God’s kingdom on earth will we ever find a solace to our suffering.

And like the centurion, we need to go to God, rather than demand that God come to serve us.  When politicians coerce the faith for political expedience, it's like trying to get God on their side.  Instead, we should ask if we are on God's side. 

After all, remember that this story comes directly on the heels of the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."  And here is a man who embodied just that.

Challenging Notion #2:  We must care for the oppressed.

The second surprising thing we learn is that the centurion had compassion for his subjects.  It would have been very easy for the centurion to just go find someone else to replace his ailing servant.  People died under his command all the time, and he could have sought a quick substitute.  But not this centurion.  He cared about the powerless.  He cared about the oppressed.  He saw someone under his authority who was suffering, and he felt compelled to do everything he could to ensure that he would live.  He risked his reputation as a strong, self-sufficient Roman official by going to a Jew - an outsider - for help.

It means nothing to have all the power in the world if you don’t care for the powerless.  The only way to true greatness comes when we take all of the manufactured power of our human energies and channel them toward the benefit and restoration of all those who are left out in the cold.  Our country, and all the political systems within it, is called to exercise not the power of dominance, retribution, and aggression, but of justice, mercy, love, and healing.  To pursue the former is fleeting.  To pursue the latter is kingdom-building.

Again, this story immediately follows Jesus’ challenge that “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”  And the centurion exhibited that very quality.

The actions of this centurion were so astonishing.  He came to Jesus, when he could have ordered Jesus to come to him.  He was humble and meek, when we'd expect him to be self-aggrandizing and self-sufficient.  He was caring and compassionate, though we'd expect him to be authoritarian and insensitive.  

No wonder Jesus was so impressed by this centurion.  “I say to you with all seriousness that even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this."

Challenging Notion #3:  God’s reign knows no human boundaries.

But we have one more surprise in this text.  Not only do we discover that human institutional power is ultimately powerless against evil.  Not only do we learn that true power comes in caring for the well-being of the oppressed.  But listen to this radical vision of the kingdom of God:

"I say to you that there are many who will come from east and west and sit down to eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom will be thrown outside into the darkness. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.”

Now it’s fair to say at this point, “Aw, Jesus, why did you have to say that?”  Wouldn’t it have been easier, and a whole lot cleaner, to simply go ahead and heal the servant after acknowledging the centurion’s faith? 

Instead, Jesus is so amazed by this Gentile’s faith that he describes a vision for the kingdom of God that knows no political, ethnic, or social boundaries.  This is a radically inclusive vision of the kingdom that is wide enough and big enough to include both Jew and Gentile.  To include both oppressed and oppressor.  To include both saint and sinner.  To include both male and female, Democrat and Republican, gay and straight, poor and rich, American and foreigner.  It is an expansive, exhaustive, and ultimately tireless vision of a God who will go from east to west to find residents of this kingdom. 

The kingdom of God is not confined by human institutional political boundaries.  God is not tied to obedience to any one throne, does not belong to any one political party, does not pledge allegiance to any one flag, and does not favor any one people group over another.  It is not a question of which country God blesses the most.  Because God wants them all. 

This, after all, is the same Jesus who had just said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  The centurion is someone who understood that the kingdom of heaven was available for even him, a foreigner and an outsider.

Then, this powerful story ends simply and abruptly.  Jesus says to the centurion, “Go; it will be done for you just as you have believed.” And his servant was healed that very moment.  Nothing fancy.  No elaborate rituals, no mysterious performance.  The powerless centurion acknowledged the power of Jesus.  He exercised compassion for his servant, and learned about the radically inclusive love of God.  So, according to his faith, his servant was healed.

Today, as we head out to the polls and perform our civic duties as citizens of this country, let us acknowledge that we are foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God.  And let us remember that true and lasting healing for the brokenness of our world rests in humble surrender to the compassionate heart and radically inclusive love of God. 

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

For those who did not pick up their packet of stewardship material after church last Sunday, look for it in the mail this week.  It contains important information regarding our campaign to reduce the kitchen and dining hall debt, as well as our budget for next year.  Prayerfully consider your financial commitments for 2015 and return your pledge card to the church by Commitment Sunday, November 23.