Sermon Recording – Jesus, The Light of the World (John 3, John 8)

I am Jesus

Message: Jesus, The Light of the World
Scriptures: John 3:16-21John 8:12
I’m catching up on some 2017 sermons which haven’t been posted. This is message 2 of 6 in a Lenten sermon series entitled I AM Jesus. It was offered 3/12/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

What is your favorite kind of light?
Sunlight, Moonlight, Firelight, Fireflies
Candlelight, Christmas Lights, Spotlight, Nightlight
Light is a primal, universal experience
And one of the most important themes of the Bible

Quote by Rob Fuquay, The God We Can Know: Exploring the “I Am” Sayings of Jesus
You could say the story of the Bible is one of moving from darkness to light.
Shadow to Salvation

  • Look at the way the Bible begins in Genesis: “The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep . . . Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light” (1:2-3). The first thing God spoke into existence was light.
  • Go to the book of Revelation, to the description of the new heaven and earth: “There will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light” (22:5).
  • Many of the OT prophecies of a coming Messiah use the image of light: “Arise, shine; for your light has come” (Isa. 60:1). “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isa. 9:2).
  • The Bible constantly affirms that when God comes on the scene, there is light.
  • God makes staying in darkness a choice.

How? By coming as Jesus

John 8:12
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Jesus said these words in Jerusalem while attending Sukkot, often called the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. Passover is celebrated in the Spring to commemorate God freeing the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. Sukkot is celebrated in the Fall to commemorate God leading the people through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

The opening night of Sukkot was a huge celebration. People would sing and dance until morning. The first evening began with The Grand Illumination. Giant torches lined the courtyard of the temple burning so brightly it lit up all of Jerusalem. Imagine this at a time with no electricity!

It’s reasonable, even likely, it was at this moment Jesus said to the crowds, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Jesus is saying, “Place your trust in me, I will be your pillar of fire leading you through the darkness of the wilderness… I will lead you to the Promised Land. I will lead you home.”

Staying in darkness is a choice. What have you chosen? Have you said, “yes” to Jesus?
Have you placed your trust in his light and direction to lead you now and to lead you home?

1. Sometimes our dark wilderness is circumstance beyond our control
We cannot see the path. We freeze, afraid we’ll fall off the edge or into a pit.
Jesus, I choose your light- lead me and guide me now and always

It’s like having a flashlight in the deepest night. We trust Jesus for the next step, the next step, and the one after that. Jesus promises he will lead us step by step to a blessed end.

2. Sometimes our dark wilderness is a result of our own actions
Jesus is the light of the world and the light of life. Because Jesus loves us, Jesus shines a light on our sin, all those things we want to keep in the dark. It can be painful to see it. It can be painful to acknowledge our need for forgiveness and healing and salvation.

My friends, it’s hard, but it’s good. It’s grace. Claim it as an “ah-ha” moment of hope. It’s Christ working within us so we may have the light of life. We are not been abandoned. We are not condemned. We are not beyond grace.

John 3:16-21
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Staying in darkness is a choice. Come into the light.

Washing Windows Illustration
A teenager went to visit his grandmother one summer. While there, she asked him to wash the windows of her old Victorian home. She gave him instructions in the morning and said she’d be back to check on him in the afternoon. He laughed to himself- This job won’t take that long. So he washed the windows. They looked great and he spent the rest of the morning playing video games on his phone.

The afternoon came and the grandmother pulled back the curtains to see how he’d done. The windows were full of streaks and the corners were full of dirt. The young man was shocked. In the morning everything looked fine. What happened? Nothing happened. The afternoon sunlight revealed more truth than the morning light.

The grandmother did not condemn her grandson. She loved him and helped him to clean what he could now see.

Staying in darkness is a choice. Come into the light.

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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 © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Quotes: Deny Yourself

Quotefancy-217426-3840x2160Matthew 16:24-26, Mark 8:34-37, and Luke 9:23-25 (NRSV)
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

Self-denial is not a mask for self-contempt, but the necessary means for achieving self-mastery; for self-mastery makes possible our self-giving and self-fulfillment. Sin is not wanting too much, but settling for too little. It’s settling for self-gratification rather than self-fulfillment. -Scott Hahn

You will soon be asked to let go of some part of your false self, which you foolishly thought was permanent, important, and essential! You know God is doing this in you and with you when you can somehow smile and trust that what you lost was something you did not need anyway. In fact, it got in the way of what was real. – Richard Rohr 

Follow me. One of the most compelling sentences in the Bible. Two words, when spoken by Jesus, create a sense of power and mystery and awe. To follow is to enter into the unknown, to give your life over to another. We rarely want to do this. Yet at the same time it is exactly what we desire: to be led into a better place, a better world, a better life. – Daniel Wolpert, Leading a Life with God

Following Jesus does not mean imitating Jesus, copying his way of doing things. If we imitate someone, we are not developing an intimate relationship with that person. Instead, following Jesus means to give our own unique form, our own unique incarnation, to God’s love. To follow Jesus means to live our lives as authentically as he lived his. It means to give away our ego and follow the God of love as Jesus shows us how to do it. – Henri J. M. Nouwen, A Spirituality of Homecoming

The point of following Jesus isn’t simply so that we can be sure of going to a better place than this after we die. Our future beyond death is extremely important, but the nature of the Christian hope is such that it plays back into the present life.
~ N. T. Wright, Simply Christian

Lord, spare me from my wishes, that I may be free for you.
Spare me from my little self, that I may be my divine self.
Spare me from my life, that, dying, I may become yours.
– Excerpt of a prayer entitled Spare Me by Steve Garnaas-Holmes. For more on the ideas of denying our “little self”, ego, and false-self click over to another reflection by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Deny Yourself

“Denying yourself” in its Jewish context means resting in the righteousness of Jesus and denying yourself of the righteousness that comes from performance of the law.
– Simon Yap, What is the meaning of “denying yourself”? 

Yap invites us to consider Leviticus 16:29; Numbers 29:7; Leviticus 23:32; Leviticus 23:27; Leviticus 16:31.

What we are all searching for is Someone to surrender to, something we can prefer to life itself. Well here is the wonderful surprise: God is the only one we can surrender to without losing ourselves! The irony is that we actually find ourselves, but now in a whole new and much larger field of meaning. – Richard Rohr

In the spiritual life, the word ‘discipline’ means ‘the effort to create some space in which God can act’. Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied… to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on. -Henri Nouwen

Extended Quote from Steve Garnaas Holmes
To deny yourself is not to punish yourself, or to take on misery. It’s not to live in denial, to turn your back on who you are, but the opposite. We falsely see ourselves as finite, discreet individuals, separate from the world, in danger at any moment of disappearing back into the abyss. It’s not the real truth, but an image of our “self” that the ego uses to manage our consciousness. And we believe it. We spend our lives—mostly unconsciously— protecting that little “self,” and in particular its power, security and esteem. (Hence Jesus’ temptations in the desert.) It’s what St. Paul calls “the flesh.” He doesn’t mean our body; he means something even smaller, contained within our body, limited by our fears and appetites.

But we aren’t such little “selves.” We are part of something infinite. By the life of Holy Spirit in us we are members of the infinite Body of God, who dwells in us and we in God. We are sustained not by our own protection of our little lives but by the life-giving fountain of grace welling up within us to eternal life, flowing with perfect, infinite compassion.

To “deny ourselves” is to deny whatever fears keep us from loving fully. It is let go of our self-centeredness, to say no the illusion, to transcend our ego, to abandon our little skull-caged, death-leashed bit of fear and desire and instead become the infinitely alive and loving children of God we truly are. As those who embody God’s love we give of our lives for love; we are not afraid even of death, because we trust that with love and grace God overabundantly renews life in us. So we follow Jesus out of our selves and into infinite life: without fear we take up our cross, practice compassionate self-giving and join Jesus in loving the world into its newness. You are love; you are Beloved. Deny anything less, and love without limit.

Extended Quote from Nadia Bolz-Weber
Sermon on Losing Your Life and How Jesus Isn’t Your Magical Puppy

This saying of Jesus that we are to deny the self and lose our life to gain it has been abused and perverted. Perverted into messages like “If you want to be a follower of Jesus you must deny your Queerness, pick up your cross of heterosexuality and follow him.” Or “deny your dignity and pick up your cross of continued domestic abuse and follow him.” Or “deny your experience and pick up your cross of trusting religious authorities to tell you what to believe.”

I wanted to convince you that when Jesus says deny yourself, that maybe it’s really denying the self that wants to see itself as separate from God and others. Deny the self that believes that spirituality is a suffering avoidance program. Deny the self that does not feel worthy of God’s love. Deny the self that thinks it is more worthy of God’s love than it’s enemy is. Deny the self that thinks it can do itself. Deny the self that is turned in on the self.

Because I really want you to know that dying to that false self no matter how painful, will bring you real life.

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Click here for another incredibly honest and faithful sermon on the “deny yourself, take up your cross” passage by Nadia Bolz-Weber, entitled “A Sermon on Addiction and the Problem with our Me-based Solutions.”

Click here for a reflection on how denying yourself intersects with social justice by Steve Garnaas Holmes.

For quotes on “taking up your cross”, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please leave a comment

Sermon Recording – The Sunday After the School Shooting (Repent and Believe the Gospel)

Message: The Sunday After the School Shooting, Repent and Believe the Gospel
Scriptures: Genesis 3:19; Mark 1:15
Offered 2/18/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida, the Sunday after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL.

douglas high school shooting victims

Victims of the School Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL. 17 murdered, 15 more injured
Chris Hixon, 49
Nicholas Dworet, 17
Aaron Feis, 37
Gina Montalto, 14
Scott Beigel, 35
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
Joaquin Oliver, 17
Jaime Guttenberg, 14
Martin Duque, 14
Meadow Pollack, 18
Alex Schachter, 14
Peter Wong, 15
Helena Ramsay, 17
Alaina Petty, 14
Carmen Schentrup, 16
Cara Loughran, 14
Luke Hoyer, 15

douglas high school shooting loved ones

I’ve been haunted by the picture of a woman holding another woman with a cross of ashes on her forehead. The school shooting occurred Valentine’s Day, which was also Ash Wednesday. This woman had been to worship earlier in the day with no idea how her day would end.

As the ashes were applied to her forehead, this is what she heard, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the Gospel.”

Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return (Genesis 3:19)
Remember you are earthy, humus. Remember God gave you the gift of life, that you are made in the image of God, that you are strong, gifted, and beloved of God.

Remember it with humility, for you are humus, human. You are just like everyone else. You are frail, mortal. You are capable of great love and great sin.

The online mass shooting tracker defines mass murder as 3 or more people murdered in one event. They define a mass shooting as 4 or more people shot in a single shooting spree.

From January 1- February 17, 2018, the first 48 days of the year, there have been 43 mass shootings. 83 persons were killed and 151 persons wounded.

Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent…
We wear ashes to remind us of our mortality, our frailty, our humanness, and our need for humility. The ashes also remind us of sackcloth and ashes. In the scriptures, persons would wear sackcloth and ashes when they were grieving the loss of a loved one or the loss of freedom. They would also wear sackcloth and ashes when they were grieving their sin.

My intentional inventory related to all these shootings. I repent and seek God’s forgiveness.

  • I repent of sympathizing with the bereaved families and then too quickly moving on
  • I repent of offering “thoughts and prayers” which cost me nothing instead of risking and caring and working for peace
    • Faith without works is dead
    • Sermons without action is hypocrisy
  • I repent of my participation in our culture of death
    • The violence I tolerate in the name of entertainment
    • The weapons I tolerate in the name of safety and freedom
    • The hard conversations about guns and children I am afraid to have, afraid to lead in our church family because there’s already enough pain in my life,  and I don’t want to add more
  • I repent of the harm I do to others
    • With my words and with my silence
    • With my actions and with my inaction

Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent and believe…
I believe

  • I don’t have to become numb or overwhelmed in the face of wave after wave of violence
  • That we can all have safe schools
  • That we can all have access to great mental health care provided by gifted professionals
  • That it is my responsibility to hold our leaders accountable and to help them be courageous
  • That we can have honest, faithful conversations on difficult topics and still remain brothers and sisters in Christ
  • That we can/must lay aside our divisions to end the plague of gun violence

Why?
Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return: time is short and valuable, life is valuable. Repent: there is time to turn in a new direction, that new direction is toward God.

I don’t just believe, I believe in the Gospel

  • God is good. God is strong. God is love.
  • Our Jesus, the One who healed, taught, prayed for us, understands our pain because he was tortured and murdered, senselessly, unjustly.
  • And our Jesus rose victorious, our Savior and Lord, our Peace, our Hope

I claim the Gospel, the power of the cross and resurrection

  • That breaks the power of grief, despair, and death itself
  • That breaks the cycle of violence, retaliation, fear, apathy

I claim the Gospel, the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me

  • To speak the truth in love, to work for the common good, to pray and to act
  • To seek the wisdom of Almighty God to end the bloodshed because Jesus shed enough for all of us

Ann Voskamp testimony from her blog post
When I stand in the kitchen, stacking dishes on the third day of Lent, our littlest girl flies by me on her wooden push bike, “Looooveeeee you.”

And a heart hurting for a hurting world, I mutter it more to her than to me,
“What in this world does love even mean?”

And our little girl comes to a full stop. Slides off her little Red Rider. And comes back to me.

“You wanna know what Love means?”
She cocks her head, parrots back my words in her high-pitched 3-year-old lisp.

And I look over to her standing there in her mismatched socks and a lopsided ponytail.

“I know what love means, Mama!” She gently laughs like a laying on of hands that heals the rawest wounds.

“Love means this —— “ And she flings her arms open as wide as they can reach.

That wisp of a 3-year-old girl, she’s standing there with her arms stretched wide open — cruciform. Not wearing a cross on her forehead — yet making all of her — arms, hands, body — into a cross. “Yeah, you’re right baby girl — Love means exactly this.”

Remember You are Dust and to Dust, You Shall Return (Genesis 3:19)
Repent and Believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15)

An Invitation to Observe a Holy Lent
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
the early Christians observed with great devotion
the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection,
and it became the custom of the Church that before the Easter celebration
there should be a forty–day season of spiritual preparation.

In this way, the whole congregation was reminded
of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ
and the need we all have to renew our faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Jesus Christ and His Church,
to observe a holy Lent:
by self–examination, and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self–denial;
by acts of generosity, compassion, peacemaking, and service;
and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.

To make a right beginning of repentance,
and as a mark of our mortal nature,
let us now come and bow before our Creator and Redeemer.

Thanksgiving Over the Ashes
Almighty God, you created humanity from the dust of the earth. Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality, our humility, and sorrow for our sin. We admit our eternal need of you and claim the greatness of your eternal grace and forgiveness, in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Imposition of Ashes
Persons are invited forward to receive ashes on their forehead and kneel in confession. The following words are traditionally spoken by those applying the ashes as the ashes are received
Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return. (Gen. 3:19)
Repent, and believe the gospel.

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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 – Jesus, The Bread of Life (John 6, Matthew 4)

I am Jesus

Message: Jesus, The Bread of Life
Scriptures: John 6:28-40
I’m catching up on some 2017 sermons which haven’t been posted. This is message 1 of 7 in a Lenten sermon series entitled I AM Jesus. It was offered 3/05/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’m sorry, no recording is available, just the notes.

Lenten Sermon Series – I AM Jesus
Who does Jesus claim to be? Join us this Lent as we explore his seven I AM statements from the Gospel of John.

Click Here for a Reader’s Theatre version of John 6:28-40, which includes a contemporary or traditional sung response.

Late Night Snack
Ever go to the refrigerator, open the door and stare. You’re hungry but you don’t know what you want. So you nibble on something, but it just doesn’t do the trick.

You close the door, you’re still hungry, at least you think you’re hungry. You could actually be bored, stressed, sad, exhausted, thirsty, lonely… You walk away, but a few minutes later you’re back. You open the door again hoping something new has magically appeared. You nibble some more of this and some of that, but you’re not satisfied.

Hunger is a good gift of God. It’s built into us to remind us we need something- food and water. Without hunger, we will die.

Hunger in our stomach is a good gift of God. There’s a deeper hunger which is also a good gift of God- a hunger in our souls. As the hunger in our stomachs reveals we need food, so the hunger in our souls reveals we need something. That something is a someone, Jesus the Bread of Life, the only One who can satisfy.

This is what Jesus was trying to explain to the huge crowd in today’s scripture reading. The day before, Jesus was teaching, sharing the Good News of God’s grace and hope. It grew late in the day. Rather than send everyone away for dinner, Jesus performed a miracle. A child offered his lunch, 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus received them, gave thanks, blessed them, and they were multiplied to feed over 5000 people.

So the next day, did the crowd come to saving faith? No. The crowd didn’t follow Jesus out of devotion and thanksgiving. They followed Jesus around the Sea of Galilee for another meal. They only wanted Jesus as consumers- entertain us again with your stories, feed us again for free.

Jesus, be like Moses
Moses freed the people from their oppressors
Moses brought down bread from heaven
Moses fed an entire nation for decades

John 6:32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

The classic temptation is to turn something into something it’s not, including Jesus

We turn food into something it’s not

  • We eat for comfort instead of for hunger.
  • We self-medicate with food and suffer from eating disorders in hopes of finding some control.
  • We have food insecurity and food deserts in a culture of plenty
  • We overprocess food, twisting a healthy blessing into something that makes us sick
  • We’re served huge portions and at the same time huge amounts of food is wasted

Professor and Author Jeffrey Sachs reminds us, “For the first time in history, we have as many people dying of obesity as dying of starvation.”

The classic temptation is to turn something into something it’s not and to seek temporary things for what only Jesus can supply
Need rest, buy sleep- best bed, sheets pillows
Need joy, buy entertainment
Need relationship and belonging, buy companionship
Need a home, a safe place, buy a house
Need satisfaction, buy food and drink

It the classic first temptation of the Devil to Jesus in the Wilderness
Jesus, turn something into something it’s not meant to be to satisfy your need
Jesus, fulfill the need in your own strength
Jesus, become a consumer

Matthew 4:1 Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness- to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

4 But he answered,
“It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Moses didn’t supply the freedom and the bread, God did
Jesus wasn’t sent to be dinner and a show
Jesus came to satisfy the deepest needs and the deepest hungers of all time

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…. 40… All who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day

Come. Lent is the season where

  • We come face to face with your deepest need- salvation.
  • We come face to face with the truth, asking God to reveal what is false, create in us clean hearts, and to fill us with what truly satisfies.
  • Where we refocus our appetites on God and what pleases God, rather than ourselves.
  • Where we feast on Jesus and are nourished by his grace.

We receive bread into our body and it sustains life. We receive Jesus into our soul by grace through faith and it sustains life forever. Jesus is the bread of life. Come to him.

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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 © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Take a Stand, inspired by Jeremiah 1.17-19

stand up speak out

Extended quote from Ragamuffin Reflections by Brennan Manning
The prophet Jeremiah is a striking example of the Biblical paradox that surrender means victory, that in losing our life we find it. (Jesus Christ identifies with Jeremiah more than any other prophet and quotes him most frequently.) In the year 625 BC, the Lord summoned Jeremiah to a prophetic career. Jeremiah’s immediate response was reluctance. “Alas, Sovereign LORD,” he said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young” (Jeremiah 1:6). He was nineteen at the time. Jeremiah was not the confident, self-assured type like Amos or Isaiah. Sensitive, accustomed to the quiet of small-town life, he was temperamentally unsuited for public life and the harsh treatment that is the customary “reward of the prophets.”

Timid and afraid, Jeremiah had no ambition for such a mission. In no way did he want to preach God’s Word to his fellow Israelites. Nothing pleased him more than to be Mr. Nobody, ignored by the ruling clique of royal counselors and priests. How content he would have been to live in the tiny world of his own heart. And so he remonstrated with God, “Ah, Lord God. I am only a boy.” Each of us can sympathize, because Jeremiah is Everyman and Everywoman.

Take a Stand, a devotion inspired by Jeremiah 1:17-19 (NIV)
The words from scripture are found in regular type.

Get yourself ready!
There are things God leaves up to you
Your part of the preparation
Prayer and study and silence
Clearing out the crap so there’s space for what is coming

Stand up and say to them whatever I command you.
Rise now from the green pasture
From the still waters of comfort and slumber
Preparation leads to action
Sanctuary to Taking a Stand

Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.
God alone is God
They do not deserve your reverence
Your awe
They are human
Dust and ashes, just like you

Today I have made you a fortified city,
an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land –
against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.
The call is beyond you
So God makes you more than you
Steadfast
Enduring
Rock and Refuge
Living Stone
Rejected in the Redeeming
Like your Christ
Your Jesus

They will fight
But the battle is the Lord’s

They will fight against you but will not overcome you,
for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.

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On this same theme, consider also reading The Stream of Justice, a stirring encouragement to continue our efforts for peace, freedom, and justice. Written by Steve Garnaas Holmes for Martin Luther King remembrances and similar occasions.

Take a Stand © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Stand Up Speak Out graphic by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Prayer for Violent Times

call to prayer and action

It breaks my heart to be posting this prayer yet again in the face of another mass shooting. The school shooting in Parkland, Florida marks the 29th mass shooting in the US in 2018, in just 45 days.

Yes, we need to pray.

The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

But we must not stop there. James 2:14-17 reminds us

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.Prayer changes things and changes us. It calls us, leads us, and empowers us to join Jesus in his saving work.

It is time to pray and to act
To seek God’s wisdom and empowerment to respond
To call on God for peace
and to care for bodies before they are zipped into body bags.

This Lenten season I invite you to break from the usual custom of fasting or other form of self-denial and, instead, to fast from apathy. That means you set aside all your noncaring attitudes and move closer to the caring love of God. Even in its mildest form, apathy is a spiritual illness. The cure for apathy is also a spiritual one. … We must move from prayer to action.
– George Hovaness Donigian, A World Worth Saving

How are you responding in prayer and action? – Lisa <

Psalm 46:1 NRSV
God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble

God our Refuge, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They run to lonesome places, screaming an alarm
Calm our hearts so we can find you above the fear

God our Strength, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They race to revenge, pounding with anger
Calm our hearts so we can hear you above the hammering

God our Help, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They rush to human strength, grasping for control
Calm our hearts so we can hold to your way, your truth, and your life

Calm our hearts so they may beat in unison with yours
So healing may flow over bodies and spirits broken by the chaos
So hope may fill families and communities devastated by violence
So compassion and peace and unity may rise up among all people

God our Strength, our Refuge, our Help
We entrust our lives to you
We step forward with you in your saving work
Amen

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Prayer for Violent Times © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording – The Firey, Unquenchable Love of Christ (Song of Solomon 8.5-7)

flaming-heart song of solomon 8

Message: The Firey, Unquenchable Love of Christ
Scriptures: Song of Solomon 8:5-7
Offered 2/11/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

It’s our Tradition at Trinity, Sarasota to offer couples the opportunity to renew their wedding vows the Sunday before Saint Valentine’s Day. Click Here for the liturgy we use.

Testimonies of the love between a couple, between friends, between a mother and son.

Joy Voyles quote: Chris is trying to keep under control while caring for his mom. It has been very hard on him. What a beautiful creation God blessed Nancy with. Though the time has been stressful for both Chris and Nancy, it also has allowed one on one time for them to share, pray and bond even more… maybe that was a blessing in disguise if you can call “pain” a blessing. Although, as I think about it… the pain of childbirth is a blessing… you reap the reward of a beautiful newborn in your arms and heart to love forever… Could it be the pain of leaving your body and moving into the arms of our Lord is a blessing of love to last thru eternity…

Song of Solomon 8:5-7
5 Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?
1. Coming up from the wilderness

  • Wilderness of the time before we know Christ
    • We wander in the desolation. Then we accept God’s love, are buried with Christ in baptism and we come up out of the wilderness. We are raised to new life.
  • Wilderness of an awful time in our lives
    • dry, barren, desolate, deadly. Christ is will us. Christ helps us to come through and come up out of the wilderness. We are raised to new life.
  • Wilderness of life this side of heaven.
    • Like the Hebrew slaves in Exodus, we cross the wilderness of this life to the promised land of heaven. We come up, raised to new life, eternal life

2. Leaning upon our Beloved Christ
Why do you lean?

  • For strength because you are weak
  • For support because the journey is long
  • For steadying because the footing is unsure
  • Because you just want to be near the one you love, your beloved

Charles Spurgeon Quote, Adapted
Beloved, there is no part of the pilgrimage of a saint in which we can afford to walk in any other way but in the way of leaning. … at the first, and at the last, still leaning, still leaning upon Christ Jesus; ay, and leaning more and more heavily upon Christ the older we grow.

Under the apple tree, I awakened you.
There your mother was in labor with you; there she who bore you was in labor.
Consider the details, the specifics, the intimacy with which Jesus knows us

  • Knows us within our mother’s wombs
  • Knows us at our first breath
  • Knows the hairs on our head, our every experience, the deepest longing of our heart

6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm;
A Seal

  • Makes an impression
  • Ensures something is real, authentic
  • Reminds us the reality is binding. There’s a permanence to commitment, a sense of security
  • Jesus desires to be the seal on heart (call to be) and the seal on arm (call to do)

for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave.
1. What makes death strong?

  • Death comes for all people, just as Christ comes for all people
  • There’s a permanence to death. Total. Irreversible. The same is true for Christ’s love which is even stronger than death. Christ’s love overcomes sin and death and the grave with sacrificial love and resurrection love.

2. The Passion of Christ’s Love

  • The unrelenting longing and desire of Christ is to have an intimate, saving relationship with us
  • In his passion (healthy jealousy) Jesus doesn’t want to see anything come between us and our relationship with him.

Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame.
7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.
Christ’s passionate love is compared to fire

  • Fire has great power
  • It is alive
  • It is useful
  • It is unchanging, unquenchable, unstoppable
    • Nothing can put it out. Not even wave after wave of trouble. Not night after night of darkness. Not even death.

If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned.
All people are made in the image of God. In this God gives us the ability to love and be loved. Love cannot be bought or sold; it is not a piece of merchandise. Only objects can be bought and sold. Love is not an object. People are never objects.

  • This is why human trafficking, pornography, and prostitution are scorned. They are outside God’s will because love and people are objectified.
  • Love is of infinite value. We cannot buy it or earn it.

Love of God in Christ Jesus  

  • Saves us from the wilderness
  • Something we lean upon always
  • More intimate than our first breath
  • Real, Authentic, Makes a lasting impression
  • Strong, Fierce, Passionate
  • Unchanging, Unquenchable, Unstoppable
  • Of Infinite Value
  • Offered to you as a gift

Accept the gift of God’s love

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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.