Christmas and Easter- a day and a season

manger-tomb-icon

A Christmas icon next to an Easter icon. The artist reminds us that in both stories Jesus is wrapped in bands of cloth, laid in stone (manger and tomb), visited, brought myrrh, and announced by angels. 

The most beloved Christian holy-days are both days and seasons.

Christmas

We celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day and for a season of 12 days leading to Epiphany when we remember the wise ones following the star and finding the infant Jesus. Their arrival reveals the truth that Jesus is Lord and Messiah for all people in every place.

  • The stories of the Christmas season include:
    • Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1, Luke 2)
    • The angels announce the birth to the shepherds (Luke 2)
    • The shepherds visit the infant Jesus and then spread the good news of the Messiah’s birth (Luke 2)
    • Jesus’ circumcision and naming (Luke 2)
    • The prophets Simeon and Anna meeting Jesus and his family in the temple (Luke 2)
    • The wise ones seeing the star and traveling to Herod and then to Jesus and his family (Matthew 2)
    • Herod murdering the children of the region in hopes of killing the newborn King of the Jews (Matthew 2)
    • Mary/Joseph/Jesus escaping to Egypt (Matthew 2)
    • Mary/Joseph/Jesus returning from Egypt and settling in Nazareth (Matthew 2, Luke 2)

Click here for a detailed chronology of the events between Jesus’ birth and his family settling in Nazareth.

Easter

We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Easter and for a season of 50 days leading to Pentecost when we remember the first followers receiving the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to carry on Jesus’ witness and work throughout the world. Again, Jesus is Lord and Messiah for all people in every place.

  • The stories of the Easter season include:
    • Mary, with other women, visits Jesus’ tomb. Jesus’ body is missing. She/They run to tell the disciples, two of which come to investigate and then leave.
    • Heavenly messengers announce the resurrection of Jesus to Mary and the women.
    • Mary encounters Jesus risen from the dead and runs to tell the disciples Jesus is alive.
    • Later on Easter, the Risen Christ appears to two disciples as they are traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus. After realizing it’s Jesus, they return to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples.
    • Even later on Easter, Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room. He reveals his wounds and breathes the Holy Spirit upon them. Thomas isn’t present and doubts the disciples’ story.
    • The Jewish leaders make up a story to explain why Jesus’ body is missing
    • A week later, Jesus appears to the disciples again, this time with Thomas present. Thomas believes.
    • Jesus appears to Peter and other disciples as they are fishing in Galilee. Jesus restores Peter to a place of leadership amongst his followers.
    • Jesus appears to the disciples on a mountain in Galilee
    • Jesus appears to his half-brother James.
    • In Bethany, Jesus instructs the disciples to continue his witness and work to all people and to return to Jerusalem to pray for the Holy Spirit.
    • Jesus ascends into heaven.
    • The disciples pray and on the 10th day the Holy Spirit comes in great displays of power at Pentecost. Peter preaches and over 3000 persons place their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
timeline of post resurrection appearances

Timeline by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell. Check out her article here

Three reflections on the woman with the alabaster jar (Matthew 26, Mark 14; Luke 7, John 12)

Mary anoints the feet of jesus by Frank Wesley

Mary Anoints the Feet of Jesus by Frank Wesley

Anointing by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Beloved,
may everything I do today
be my anointing of you;
every thought, word and deed
a pouring out of myself for you,
a gift of service, adoration and thanks.

May every act comfort you,
receive your sacred story,
join me to you in your suffering,
embrace your dying
and prepare for what will follow.
In your death may you be wrapped
in the balm of my own heart.

Give me courage to give my gifts
no matter how others may judge them.
May my life give off the aroma
of gratitude and love.
Accept the anointing of my tears,
my prayers, my being.
In your love
I carry the alabaster jar of my life
into this new day.

Why This Waste? by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
The oil is poured
The criticism comes
even while the scent is still thick in the air

Why this waste?

Why worship?
Why take the time?
Why spend the money?
The poor, remember the poor
There’s so much work to be done

Yes beloved, remember
Remember the poor and remember her
The way is And not Or
Worship and Work
Loving God and Loving Neighbor
Looking Up and Looking Out For
The cross-shaped life

The work doesn’t work without the worship
The worship’s unfinished without the work

Pour Forth by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
There… beyond the feasting circle
A woman
Who are you? What is your story?
No name, no voice
Yet coming close with your gifts

Some are easy to see
An alabaster jar full of exotic perfume
Boldly broken,
And you pour forth more gifts
Out pours your heart
Your adoration
Your gratitude
Your passion
Your sacrifice
The air is thick with your story
It oozes down your Beloved’s beard, pooling on his callused hands

The shattering brings the circle silent
The aroma, meant for all to enjoy
Instead draws an angry answer
They will not bear your story

Cutting remarks fly at you through the fragrant veil
Indignant daggers thrust into your offering
How dare you! Who do you think you are?
Too generous
Too extravagant
Too intimate
We have a better way
Such a waste… code for waste her
Shatter her spirit
Quick, to the stones
A broken body is the cure

Stop! Leave her alone declares the Anointed One!
Misspent? Misused?
No! You misunderstand!
You miss the mark!
She did what she could- all that she could
Balming my body for burial

You have loved Me
Censing my sacrifice
Grace made fragrant
An act beyond words
A silent song for the ages

Pour forth

It is blessing. It is beautiful.
You are blessing. You are beautiful.

Soak it in

You there, religious ones
You berate, rebuke and bombard
While she… she breaks open
She breaks through bearing the Good News

Your words will fall forgotten
Her story will stand… remembered

***********
The anointing of Jesus is mentioned in all four gospels and probably recounts two different events. Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8

Matthew, Mark, and John mention the location of Bethany and the woman as Mary, the sister of Matha and Lazarus. Mary is criticized for the extravagance of anointing Jesus with the costly nard rather than selling it and the proceeds given to the poor.

In Luke, the location seems to be in the region of Galilee in the north. The woman is unnamed. Jesus himself is brought into question and criticized for allowing a sinner to touch him.

In Matthew and Mark, Jesus’ head is anointed. In Luke and John it is Jesus’ feet.

The details are interesting, but do not miss the main points- the extravance, the courage, the thanksgiving, the grace, the blessing, the welcome. This is why we remember.

You Can Read the Bible: Three Approaches

South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons

South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons

I. You Can Read the Bible by Steve Harper
One of the biggest mistakes we have made with the Bible is leaving the impression that only scholars can correctly interpret it. Everything is made so layered, nuanced, and complex that many folks instantly feel they lack the “training” and “horsepower” to make it through all the mazes.

So, they either stop trying or they become passive and wait for the “experts” to tell them what’s “right.” But the fact is, the Bible is intended to be understandable! The original languages do contain levels of insight, but their essential meanings are accessible to us all.

Here is a way to make it so in your personal reading and in your conversations with others. Take a passage, read it, and ask:
(1) What is the big idea?
(2) Why is it important?
(3) Where does it presently connect with my life–or–why is it not a part of me?
(4) Should it be part of me? If so, how can I continue (or begin) to put it into practice?

Most Bible passages will “bear fruit” when these questions are applied to them, either in private or in a group. And when you add to your own inductive study the additional resources of concordances, dictionaries, maps, and commentaries, you will find the messages of scripture influencing your life day after day.

II. SOAP
The SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal is practiced by thousands of Christians. I first learned of it from Wayne Cordeiro, pastor New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, click here for the video on their website.

Here’s a brief summary of the process.
S = Scripture
Read the Bible passage for the day. Copy the verse which catches your attention word for word in your journal.

O = Observation
Write a brief description of what is going on in the passage you read.

A = Application
Write about how your life will be different today because of what you have read.
• Lessons to be learned
• Examples to be followed or avoided
• Promises to be claimed and enjoyed
• A character trait of God revealed

P = Prayer
Write out a prayer for yourself and others based on what you read today.

III. Lectio Divina explained by Whitney R. Simpson in his book Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit
The words Lectio Divina are Latin for “holy reading.”

This ancient prayer practice includes the following steps:
lectio (“to read”)
meditatio (“to reflect”)
oratio (“to respond”)
and contemplatio (“to rest”).

Lectio Divina allows you to listen for God’s activity using scripture and to connect to God through the ancient Word while delving into a particular passage.

The practice of Lectio Divina focuses on formational reading of scripture, as opposed to informational reading. Formational reading invites the text to shape you, while informational reading invites you to understand the text. Though both types of reading can be useful on a spiritual journey, the art of Lectio Divina allows you to interact with God’s Word through meditating on a passage and listening for God’s leading.

My personal journey has been shaped by spending time in the Word using Lectio Divina. Through this practice, I have realized how scripture can speak to my life regardless of what I am facing. Lectio Divina has allowed me to see and hear God in new ways.

*************

So, let’s get reading. Here are three simple reading plans to get you started. Each will take you through the New Testament in one year. It’s especially helpful to start with the New Testament if you are new to Bible reading.

1. New Testament Reading Plan- Bible order
This plan will take you through the New Testament in the order in which it is printed in the Bible. Easy. Just read straight through.

2. New Testament Reading Plan- event order
This plan will take you through the New Testament in the order in which the events most likely happened. You’ll jump from chapter to chapter in different books in this plan. Is it scholarly perfect, no, but it is helpful for those of us who want a chronological approach to Jesus’ life and the lives of the first believers. (We aren’t getting caught in the perfectionism trap. If this sounds interesting, go for it.)

3. New Testament Reading Plan- mixed
This plan spreads the Gospel readings throughout the year with the other books mixed in between. Even though you skip around the New Testament in this plan, you will read a book at a time.

Click Here for more information on today’s featured image, South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans

Prayer and Reflections for Holy Saturday

holy saturday 2

Hymn text from the Holy Saturday Divine Office

Selection from Holy Week Message by Bishop Sue Harper Johnson, North Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (3/28/2018)
I have found that each year I tend to focus on one aspect of Holy Week, usually one reflecting the current circumstances in my life. This year I have been fixated on Holy Saturday. Let’s face it, Holy Saturday doesn’t get much airtime in the Protestant church. No Easter vigils, baptisms, bonfires, etc. We tend to move quickly from the drama of Good Friday to the joy of Easter morning, and often use Saturday for Easter Egg hunts and children’s events.

I don’t think we are giving Holy Saturday its due. It is a day of silence and waiting, a day when the disciples must have contemplated the horror of the crucifixion, agonized over their fear and betrayal, and succumbed to the depths of despair. All must have seemed lost.

But while the disciples wandered around in a fog of despair, God was doing God’s finest work. Within the dark and silence of the tomb, God’s resurrection power was bringing life out of death. The tomb became a womb of new life and possibility. And Jesus, firstborn from the dead, laid aside his grave clothes and neatly folded up the cloth from his head. He then headed to hell to proclaim that death had been conquered. And that’s that. The mystery of the ages, the miracle of all miracles, completed in a Saturday.

Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience,
for to wait is often harder than to work. – Peter Marshall

Selection from Worship in the Light of the Cross by John Indermar
Holy Saturday awkwardly interrupts the church’s calendar. We read in Luke of the women who rest on this day in sabbath observance. But we find it hard to replicate their rest in our day.

The prior week’s preparations for palm processions, Passion Week cantatas, and/or seven last word recollections leave little time for decorating sanctuaries and making ready for Easter breakfasts and final practices of brass quartets for Sunday’s allelulias – not to mention eggs to dye and family banquets to prepare. So much to do on Saturday and so little time.

But Holy Saturday offers this advice to activist-bent individuals and congregations and denominations like my own: Don’t just do something, stand there. Sometimes, our busyness cocoons and insulates us from deep consideration of why we think our lives require constant motion. Busyness has often been a prescription for overcoming grief. Do this, do that, work your way out of it. But once the activity dies down, when exhaustion inevitably sets in, the questions and the pain remain, perhaps aggravated by delay in their contemplation.

The women in Luke [23:55-56] actively engage in the immediate aftermath of crucifixion. They follow to see where the body has been taken. They prepare spices and ointments for anointing the corpse. But instead of pressing ahead in a rush to get things done ASAP, they stop. They keep sabbath. In Luke’s terms, they rest. Luke’s word Heschazo carries dual meanings of “to keep quiet” and “to cease from labor.” The women keep Saturday’s vigil in stillness and quietness.

Reflection on Waiting by Henri J. M. Nouwen
To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.

Prayer for Holy Saturday by Lisa Degrenia
Lord of the Sabbath, Lord of Hosts,
There are so many things we do not understand

Help us to trust you
even when the situation is desperate and out of control

Help us to follow you
even when the way unclear

Help us to wait and rest
even when every bit of us screams to act

Build in us a faith that perseveres
Even when we can’t see you
Or feel you near
Or understand

Your power and goodness are never diminished
Morning is coming

*************
Click Here for a video of an ancient homily for Holy Saturday, author unknown

Prayer for Holy Saturday © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
(by Lisa Degrenia, revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording- Face to Face, The Thief and Jesus (Luke 23.32-43)

thief on cross remember me paradise

Message: Face to Face, The Thief and Jesus
Scriptures: Luke 23:32-43
This message was offered Sunday, 3/18/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. It was inspired by the book Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire. No recording is available due to a technical error.

The opening illustration is sourced and adapted from an interview in The Guardian by Saeed Kamali Dehghan on Friday, April 25, 2014, entitled Iranian mother who spared her son’s killer: ‘Vengeance has left my heart’

In Iran, it is standard practice for families of murder victims to oversee the execution of the murderer. In May 2014, Samereh Alinejad watched as a noose was slipped around the neck of Balal Gheisari, her son Abdollah’s killer. This was her chance to have the vengeance she’d wanted for seven long years.

Iran’s Islamic penal code allows the victim’s heir – in this case, his parents – to personally execute the condemned man as retribution. By pushing away the chair Balal was standing on, Samereh would hang and kill him.

Seconds away from what could have been his final breath, Balal pleaded for his life and called out for mercy. “Please forgive,” he shouted, “if only for my mum and dad,” Samereh recalled. “I was angry, I shouted back how can I forgive, did you show mercy to my son’s mum and dad?”

Samereh clambered up on a stool and slapped Balal across the face.

“After that, I felt as if rage vanished within my heart. I felt as if the blood in my veins began to flow again,” she said. “I burst into tears and I called my husband and asked him to come up and remove the noose.” Balal now finishes serving his prison sentence.

Balal’s mother Kobra, sobbing, reached across the fence separating the crowd from the execution site. She embraced Samereh before reaching to kiss her feet – a gesture of respect and gratitude. “I didn’t allow her to do that, I took her arm and made her stand up … she was just a mother like me, after all.” The two later went to visit Abdollah’s grave.

One week after pardoning Balal, Samereh found a peace lost since her son’s death. “Losing a child is like losing a part of your body. All these years, I felt like a moving dead body,” she said. “But now, I feel very calm, I feel I’m at peace. I feel that vengeance has left my heart.”

Samereh remembers “We couldn’t sleep the night before the execution, we were all awake until morning. Until the last minute, I didn’t want to forgive. I had told my husband just two days before that I can’t forgive this man, but maybe there would be a possibility, but I couldn’t persuade myself to forgive… My husband said, look to God and let’s see what happens.”

Look to God and let’s see what happens

Luke 23:32-39  
32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with Jesus. 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

Jesus is crucified between two criminals. The KJV calls them thieves. The word used in Matthew’s gospel refers to violent armed robbers. The word used in Luke’s gospel refers to one who does evil.

In Matthew’s account, both criminals mock Jesus. Luke’s account provides more detail. The leaders scoff, the soldiers mock, one of the criminals derides Jesus.

  • The leaders in verse 35- He saved others let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one
  • The soldiers in verse 37 – if you are the King of the Jews, save yourself
  • The criminal in verse 39- Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!

All three parties question Jesus’ identity. (If he is the Messiah, if you are the King of the Jews, are you not the Messiah?) Prove yourself Jesus with a display of great power. Jesus’ been hearing this demand from the beginning, starting with the devil in the wilderness. Jesus refuses the temptation yet again.

All three parties call for Jesus to save. (He saved others let him save himself, save yourself, save yourself and us) It’s an echo of the Palm Sunday “Hosannas”, which literally mean “Save Now!” Yes, Jesus will save. It is his mission. He has come to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10) He will do this not by saving himself, but by freely offering himself.

Luke 23:40-43
40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

What if Matthew and Luke are both giving us needed details. What if both criminals were mocking and deriding Jesus and then one changed. Why the change? Why the change from mocking Jesus to the heroism of defending him? Why the change from deriding Jesus to the self-aware humility of confession and asking for salvation?

Look to God and let’s see what happens. What did the second criminal see? In the midst of the pain, the brutality, the shouts, the death the criminal saw:

1. Jesus didn’t return hate for hate.
Jesus didn’t threaten. Jesus didn’t retaliate even though he had the right and power to do so.

2. Jesus forgiving
Verse 34 reports Jesus saying, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus was consistent in his life, in his message, in his mission. The Pharisees never accused Jesus of not practicing what he preached.

Matthew 5:43-45
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven

Matthew 9:11
Jesus said, “I desire mercy not sacrifice for I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

3. Jesus unjustly crucified
Could seeing the injustice open the criminal to seeing a greater spiritual truth- God in Jesus freely laying down his life to take upon himself the poison of the world’s sin? Could the criminal see the depth of God’s love and grace and determination to save the world?

What do you see? Look to God and let’s see what happens!
The criminal is rethinking his life in response to seeing the truth of who God is in Jesus’ words and actions. The same can be true for you.

You too can speak the words of the criminal, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” It is available for you. Jesus help me, deliver me from death, save me.

God remembering is God helping, delivering, and saving.

  • In Genesis 8, God remembers Noah and saves him from the flood
  • Genesis 19, God remembers Abraham and saves him and his nephew Lot
  • Exodus 2, God remembers the Hebrews and saves them from slavery in Egypt

Jesus remembers the criminal and Jesus will remember you. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Today you can be fully present to Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Today, every day, and on into eternity.

Look to God and let’s see what happens

  • Look to Jesus on the cross for you, for your loved ones, for your enemies, for the world
  • Look to Jesus on the cross. Look at the compassion in his eyes. Hear his voice of forgiveness.
  • Look to Jesus on the cross. Cry out, “Remember me, help me, deliver me, save me” and it will be heard and it will be so.

From Paradise Now by Steve Garnaas Holmes, adapted
Jesus, remember me.
Make me again a member of your realm.
Make me part of your healing of the world.
Remember me.
I surrender to your absolute love.
Remember me.
In your hope for the world, remember me.
Even in your suffering, remember me.
In your entering the pain of the world, remember me.
In your love, remember me.
Jesus, I bow in wonder at the expanse of your embrace
the breadth of your inclusion
the surprise of your grace

You seek and seek and seek
Including those I write off as beyond hope
the outcasts
the public sinners
the self-serving
those who collaborate with evil and oppression…

Why am I surprised?
You desire mercy not sacrifice
You are the Great Physician coming to those most in need of healing

Forgive me
Forgive me for forgetting who you are
Forgive me for forgetting my own sin
and isolation
and collaboration

Forgive me for judging
Forgive my self-righteousness
Forgive me for limiting you
when I am so desperately in need of you
I am one of “those most in need” as well
Create in me a clean heart and renew your Holy Spirit within me
Lord have mercy
Lord have mercy on us all

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording- Face to Face, Peter and Jesus (Luke 22, Job 1, James 1)

peters-denial

Message: Face to Face, Peter and Jesus
Scriptures: Luke 22:31-34
This message was offered Sunday, 3/11/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. It was inspired by the book Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire

Simon Peter was The Rock long before Dwayne Johnson

  • Peter started the last supper strong and sturdy. Jesus starts talking about his death and to love as I love. Peter replies, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
  • After the supper, when Judas and the mob of soldiers arrive in Gethsemane, Peter pulls his sword to defend Jesus. Did he make the first strike? Peter cuts off a slave’s ear. Jesus stops the fight, heals the slave, leaves with the soldiers under arrest.
  • When all the other disciples scatter, Peter and beloved disciple trail Jesus. Still solid as a rock.
  • But before dawn, Peter will crumble. Denial-Denial-Denial. Peter isn’t even able to stand up to the stares of a young servant girl.

What happened? Why do deeply faithful people blow it? Can you recover from it?

  • Sometimes we blow it because we make a self-centered choice, like Judas
  • Sometimes we aren’t prepared. We don’t have enough information. We don’t have the skills or connections we thought we did.
  • Sometimes we might be well prepared on a human level, but we aren’t spiritually prepared
    • In Mark 9:29, Jesus healed a child his disciples couldn’t. Jesus said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”
    • Ephesians 6:12 say, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Sometimes we blow it because it’s the evil one at work

Luke 22:31-34. At the Last Supper, Jesus says to Simon Peter
31 “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33 And Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”

Why did Peter blow it? One reason, Satan demanded to sift Peter like wheat. Satan demanded an extraordinary time of testing.

Look closely verse 31, Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat.

You ever felt this way? Life is crushing- health issues, strained relationships, financial stress, what’s safe now feels unsafe.

Satan made the same demand of Job in Job 1:9-12
9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.”

God doesn’t bring the trial. God allows it. Satan demanded a crack at Job and now wants a crack at Peter. If he could break Peter, Peter the Rock, Peter the Gibraltar among the disciples, it would break the spirit of the movement.

Satan’s not going to repeat Job’s hell of losing everything- family, health, wealth, home, reputation. Satan chooses a different tactic for Peter- sift him like wheat.

3 Parts of Wheat
Straw = stock on which the heads of grain grow
Chaff = husk that holds the kernels
Wheat = Nutritious kernels themselves, the part you can eat

Get to that kernel, you have to sift it. That means 1. Threshing it and 2. Winnowing it

You can beat the heads of wheat with a stick. But for larger production you need

  • Threshing floor- a large, circular, flat, hard area to scatter the wheat.
  • Then an ox to pull a sledge- a large piece of wood (3×5 feet) with stones or iron spikes inserted into the bottom. This cuts and crushes and breaks the wheat all at the same time.
  • After that, the winnowing = using a large pitchfork or basket to throw the threshed grain into the air. The chaff will blow away and the good kernels fall to the floor.

Peter’s on the threshing floor

  • Do I grab a sword and fight? No, Jesus rebuked me for that in the garden.
  • Do I testify on his behalf? A lot of good that would do. I’m a fisherman and they’re influential, educated leaders.
  • Do I just watch and listen so I can rally the disciples in the morning?

Peter’s spotted and questioned again and again and again. The grinding of the sledge. Denial- Denial- Denial.

Peter hears the rooster crow. Peter turns his head and sees Jesus looking at him. Now it’s the winnowing. It’s all up in the air. Peter wants to catch everything that’s been flying out of his mouth and try again take a stand. It’s too late. He’s already falling.

The cutting, crushing, breaking, everything up in the air, the falling

It’s a time of extraordinary testing. We will face it, too. The good news is we can make our way through it and come out the other side stronger and better for it, just like Peter. How?

31 “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Seeing Peter fail and fall, the Savior utters no words.

  • No “I told you so.”
  • No shaking of the head in disappointment
  • No lowering of the head in disgust

Jesus’ look is sympathetic, compassionate. It is a look of one who knows what it’s like to fall under the threshing of Satan. Jesus has been there, too. For forty days in a barren wilderness. He knows how crushing it is, how hard, how painful, how ruthless the adversary.

Jesus also knows God works it for good, for victory. Jesus shares that victory with us.

Why do deeply faithful people blow it? Sometimes it’s the evil one at work. Can you recover from it? Yes, yes and yes. God doesn’t bring the trial. God allows it. God works it for good.

31 “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

James 1:2-4
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

Quote by John R. Wimmer in his book Blessed Endurance
The rejoicing we find here is not a shallow, syrupy, or optimistic refusal to admit that problems exist; instead, it is the realistic recognition of struggle bolstered by the decision to rejoice in knowing that God is working to bring us through strife to greater spiritual depth. James proclaims that suffering may be considered as joy when the encounter produces the spiritual virtue of steadfastness. And steadfastness, when allowed to flower into fullness, produces the most attractive bloom of all qualities: Christian maturity.

Peter is a smaller man now, without the thick husk that once surrounded his life. He is broken and he is bare. The chaff and the straw have been blown away. The good, heavy wheat remains and is collected for use.

In the time of testing, Jesus will see us through. We will be stronger and better for it.  Hold on to hope.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording- Face to Face, Judas and Jesus

Judas coins

Message: Face to Face, Judas and Jesus
Scriptures:  Matthew 26:14-16
This message was offered Sunday, 3/04/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. It was inspired by the book Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire

Holy Week is so special, most of the days have a name

  • Palm Sunday- The day Jesus entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna” and a crowd waving palm branches (Matthew 21:1-11; Luke 19:29-44; Mark 11:1-11; John 12:12-19)
  • Fig Monday – The day Jesus cursed the fig tree for not bearing fruit (Matthew 21:18–22; Mark 11:12–14 and 11:20–25)
  • Tuesday is unnamed. It is the day Jesus turned over the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple, was confronted by the Jewish leadership, and witnessed the widow making her offering in the temple treasury
  • Maundy Thursday – The day Jesus gives a new commandment, a new mandate, a new mandatum. “Love one another just as I have loved you.” (John 13:34-35)
  • Good Friday- The goodness and love of God seen in the death of Jesus
  • Holy Saturday, sometimes Silent Saturday- Jesus is in the tomb
  • Easter Sunday- The resurrection of Christ

Wednesday is one of my favorites. Spy Wednesday, the day Judas betrays Jesus. (cue the James Bond music)

Matthew 26:14-16 NRSV
14 One of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

Jesus chose Judas to be one of his closest disciples- one of the twelve. They were together for three years, yet it seems Judas never placed his trust in Jesus. He never crossed the threshold of faith.

How could this be? All that time in the very presence of Jesus, all he heard, all he saw.
How could this be?

  1. He had no choice. Judas was predestined to betray Jesus. No, we believe in free will
  2. Judas was driven by his own agenda- driven by greed, driven by power
  3. Maybe it was something more subtle. Judas was just being practical.

Judas was the disciple with the head for business. Jesus put him in charge of the money. When the woman with the alabaster jar anointed Jesus with costly perfume, Judas complained about the extravagance. “You should have sold that perfume and given the money to the poor.”

Judas was being practical in thinking of himself. He often kept some of the money he was to watch for himself, so the extravagant gift was money out of his pocket

When the tide of popularity began to turn against Jesus, Judas started looking ahead, taking precautions to protect himself, socking away a little more money here and there. Just in case.

To Judas, he wasn’t being greedy, it wasn’t stealing, it wasn’t a betrayal. He was just being practical. “I’ve left everything. I’ve done so much. I earned that money. I need to take care of myself.”

Then Jesus starts confronting the religious leaders, people with influence, people with power. The leaders are like a huge pot of stew- bubbling with hate, jealousy, and paranoia. Judas gets wind of what’s cooking- the leaders are plotting to kill Jesus. Judas’ mind starts calculating- if they kill Jesus, they’ll come after his followers next.

To Judas, his shift in loyalties wasn’t a power grab, it wasn’t a betrayal. He was just being practical.  “If Jesus was determined to dig his own grave, I’ll just help him with the shovel. He’s asking for it. It’s inevitable. I need to look out for myself. There’s no dishonor in jumping from a sinking ship. And the thirty pieces of silver? Well, that’s just a life preserver, a little something to keep me afloat until I land somewhere.”

So on Spy Wednesday, Judas makes the deal with the Jewish leaders

Now it’s Thursday, time to celebrate the Passover

A time to look back-back to the nation’s deliverance from four hundred years of Egyptian slavery. A time to look forward— forward to the time when the Messiah will bring peace, freedom, and salvation.

Jesus and the disciples gathered around a low-lying table to celebrate the feast. They recline on padded mats, propping themselves on the left arm, leaving the other free to handle the food.

Each type of food reminds them of the nation’s first Passover.

  • The bowl of herbs, vinegar, and salt is a reminder of the bitter years of slavery
  • The flat cakes of yeast-less bread are a reminder of their hurried departure
  • And finally, there is the roasted lamb, a symbol of deliverance.

What broke Pharaoh’s oppressive fist that first Passover was a final, climactic plague—
a visit from the angel of death to kill every firstborn son. To spare the Jews from that fate, God instructed them to kill a lamb and sprinkle its blood on the sides and tops of the doorframes outside their homes. When the angel of death saw this evidence of faith, it passed over that house and traveled on to another.

Tonight, heaven will be preparing its Passover Lamb- an innocent lamb, without spot or blemish. Jesus’ blood will mark a wooden cross outside the city. A perfect, once for all sacrifice. All Jerusalem will behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

What God in Jesus was choosing to do was anything but practical

Earlier in the upper room, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, teaching them a final lesson about love and serving. Two of those feet belonged to Judas. Dusty and calloused. How could Judas bear it? How could Jesus? What Jesus was choosing to do was anything but practical.

Jesus has so much to tell his disciples. But so little time. A hush falls over the room as he speaks, “He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.”

Many things have been said against Jesus. Never once did But the Pharisees accused him of not practicing what he preached. In these last minutes with his betrayer, the Savior lives his own words from the Sermon on the Mount,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

It is anything but practical

Now it is time for Jesus to unmask his betrayer. “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”

At the mention of a traitor in their midst, the disciples begin to ask, “Is it I?”

“It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”

It was customary for the master of the feast to put bits of lamb onto a piece of unleavened bread, dip it into the bitter herb sauce, and hand it to his guests. And it was customary to offer the first piece to the most honored guest. Jesus hands the bread to Judas . . . to take . . . and to eat. Jesus honors Judas. Jesus offers bread to lips whose kiss would betray him. It is anything but practical.

The dramatic moment is not only an unmasking of the traitor but a final offer of salvation. Does Judas feel regret? Does he question his choice? There’s still time to choose another path, but he doesn’t.

“What you are about to do, do quickly.”

With those words, Jesus acknowledges Judas’ choice. They would both go their separate ways to separate trees.

Judas makes the practical choice.
The choice Jesus makes is anything but practical.
What choice will you make?

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.