xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Mid-Week Message: Your Pastor Just Committed a Crime

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Your Pastor Just Committed a Crime

April 14, 2015

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Last week, I committed a crime.  And I learned about grace in a most difficult, most embarrassing way.  

While on the south end of town last Wednesday, I stopped at the Cherokee Country Store gas station to pick up a bottle of iced tea before returning to the office.  The attendant rang up my purchase, took a look at me, then paused.

He said to me, “You need to know that you drove off last week without paying for your gas.”

“What?” I said, completely incredulous.  “You’re kidding!  I did that?”

“Yes,” he said.  Apparently, at some point last week, I had come in, pumped gas, and then driven off without paying for it.  He recognized both my face and my vehicle, and was certain that it had been me.

I was absolutely shocked to hear the news.  But what he said next totally floored me.

“Just wanted you to know that I paid for your gas out of my own pocket.”

I was stunned. I thanked him profusely for not calling the police, or reporting it as theft.  I quickly imagined my name in the next Cherokee Chronicle Times in the criminal report section, and then thanked him again.

“It’s okay,” he told me.  I knew you would be back here someday for me to tell you.  So I covered you.

I walked away from that conversation feeling the most sheepish I’d felt in a long time.  But I was also filled with immense gratitude.  I had not gotten what I deserved.  And this man had given me something I could not earn. 

Then the preacher instinct in me kicked in.  

There have been a lot of theories postulated by theologians over the centuries about what Jesus exactly did on that cross.  Some prefer to think that he paid a ransom for the sin that held us captive.  Or that he took the punishment of sin in our place.  Or that he conquered sin and was victorious.  Or that his blood satisfied the penalty of our sin.  

Regardless of one’s preferred theory of atonement (which is a fancy word theologians use to describe how Jesus saved us), one thing is perfectly clear: Jesus did something for us that we did not deserve.  

There’s a point to which my gas station metaphor breaks down, of course.  In the end, I quickly repaid the gas station attendant the $21.63 that he used to cover my crime.  In truth, I should have given him a lot more in gratitude.  But I at least was able to make things right.

That’s not something we can do with God.  We won’t ever be able to repay God for the immense grace shown to us through Jesus. And what’s amazing is, God will never expect us to.  Instead, God expects us to live a life of obedience and gratitude, not in order to receive God’s grace, but because of it.  

So, from now on, I’ll be extra careful to make sure that I pay for my gas before driving off (I swear this is the only time I’ve done this … that I know of!)  And I’ll be a grateful fan for life of the Cherokee Country Store gas station.

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


Vacation Bible School plans are well underway for this year’s event from June 8-12, 9am-12noon.  We have a terrific team of leaders putting it together, but we still have a critical need for adult volunteers in order for this year to be successful.  Please consider serving in one of two ways:

1)  Be a small group chaperone.  This involves simply walking a small group of older elementary children around from station to station throughout the morning.  It requires no preparation, and you will have a great time with the kids.

2)  Be a preschool lesson provider.  The team has all the material you need to lead a simple, 30-minute Bible story lesson for the preschool children.  It is really fun and easy to make the Bible come to life for the kids.

If you can’t serve all five days, the team would love to have you help for the days that you can.  If you are interested, please contact one of the following co-leaders of VBS this year:  Melissa Schlenger, Natasha Timmerman, Korrie Waldner, Laura Benson, or Crystal Samsel.


Over these next several weeks, I will need to be devoting a significant portion of my energy to tending to the various pastoral transition issues necessary for preparing the next pastor for his arrival.  I will therefore be taking a brief hiatus from writing the Mid-Week Message for the next several weeks, and will resume writing it before I depart at the end of June.  Should there be any important words I need to communicate to the congregation, I will do so through this format, but for now, I look forward to preparing the soil for the next season of ministry at St. Paul’s (a metaphor I know many of you farmers can appreciate right now!)  

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