Sermon Recording: Camels, Needles and Who Shall be Saved (Mark 10:17-27; 1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Needle Gate, Camel Pose, Needle and Thread

Needle Gate, Camel Pose, Needle and Thread

Message: Camels, Needles and Who Shall Be Saved
Scriptures: Mark 10:17-27; 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Offered 4/19/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

I’m indebted to my friend Martha Mackey for sharing with me how the camel pose in yoga opened this passage of Scripture for her.
camel pose 1-4

Mark 10:17-27 NRSV
17 As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments:’You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

1 Timothy 6:17-19
17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me. And what you want to give me is love, unconditional, everlasting love. Amen. – Henri Nouwen

Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put met to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by you or laid aside for you,
Exalted for you or brought low for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
You are mine, and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon 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 drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

© 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Peace, Be Still: Five Prayers Based on Mark 4:35-41

“Calming the Storm” by Jim Janknegt. Used with permission.

Mark 4:35-41 NRSV
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Prayer by Junius Dotson, The Africana Worship Book, Year B
You who are weary

Do not be afraid!

You who are fed up

Do not be afraid!

God is present in your suffering.
God will calm the winds and waves of your soul!

Prayer by Patricia Wilson, Quiet Spaces
Ever-present God, thank you for being here with me right now.
In the chaos of my life, I often forget that you are always with me,
always seeking to bring me peace. …

I feel overwhelmed, as if the world around me
is a heaving, crashing sea;
and I am adrift in a small boat,
unable to keep the waves from closing over me.

Only you can bring order out of this chaos.
Say the word, All-Powerful God,
and I know that the seas will be calmed,
and I will be safe.

Even as I say these words,
I can hear how foolish they are.

You, the God of my life, are also the God of order.

Bring order to my life, and in doing so,
take care of all those concerns that rise up
around me like storm waves.
Calm the seas of my busyness;
still the waters of my “doingness.”
Let me drift on the gentle swells of your love and care.

Prayer by Mark Dugger, devozine, November/December 2012
Peace. Be still. And the winds obeyed.
Be now as the winds.
You are my child.
I knew you long before you were knit in your mother’s womb.

Peace. Be still. My breath brings form to dust.
You were created a little lower than the angels,
created in my image.
You are my child. Peace. Be still.

Be as these winds, exhaled.
Wait on me, and I will give you rest.
The ninety-nine I would leave to find you.
The fall of a sparrow catches flight in my loving eye.

With my words, the worlds were.
My voice is small, still.
The waters know the sound of my voice and are stilled.
Wait on me, be renewed, and rise.

Calm the Storm in Me by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
The words in regular print are spoken by one voice.
The words in bold print are spoken by all.

When the waves rise high above our ability to see your face…
Still my soul, Lord Jesus,
Calm the storm in me

When the howling wind and the pouring rain drown out the sound of your voice…
Still my soul, Lord Jesus,
Calm the storm in me

When the thunder and the lightning distract us from Your presence in every circumstance…
Still my soul, Lord Jesus,
calm the storm in me

A Prayer for Storm Survivors by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
The words in regular print are spoken by one voice.
The words in bold print are spoken by all.

Jesus, we see you calming storms-
storm tossed seas and stormy lives.
Extend your power and grace again,
especially upon these most recent storm victims.
Speak peace and healing over bodies and spirits broken by the chaos.
Jesus, speak peace.

Speak peace and hope over families and communities devastated by sudden loss.
Jesus, speak peace.

Speak peace and unity over diverse groups of people
so they would come together for greater provision,
just distribution, and effective rebuilding.
Jesus, speak peace.

Speak peace and protection over rescue workers
as they reach out to those who are suffering.
Jesus, speak peace.

You are the Prince of Peace.
You are the Resurrection and the Life.
You are strong to save.
Our hope and trust are in you. Amen.

Click Here for Prayer: In the Midst of the Storm, a longer prayer sequence using elements of A Prayer for Storm Survivors and Calm the Storm in Me plus optional sung responses.

For more wonderful, moving work by today’s featured artist, James B. Janknegt, click here. Please consider patronage of him and other artists.

For a reader’s theatre version Mark 4:35-41, click here

A Prayer for Storm Survivors © 2011 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Calm the Storm in Me © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use these works in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish these works in any form.

Reader’s Theater: Jesus Drives Out an Unclean Spirit (Mark 1:21-28)

A Demoniac in the Synagogue by James Tissot

A Demoniac in the Synagogue by James Tissot

Reader’s Theatre: Jesus Drives Out an Unclean Spirit
Based on Mark 1:21-28 (NRSV)
Parts: Narrator One, Narrator Two, Man, Jesus
With optional singing

Jesus and his followers went to Capernaum.
When the sabbath came, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
They were astounded at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit,

MAN – Crying out
What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are, the Holy One of God.

JESUS- Rebuking him
Be silent, and come out of him!

NARRATOR ONE- MAN cries out as crying is referenced
And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

Optional- Instrumentation begins and continues through the singing of the song.

They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another,

What is this? A new teaching—with authority!
He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.

At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

I’m so Glad Jesus Lifted Me
The Faith We Sing #2151

Adapted from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I’m so Glad Jesus Lifted Me. African American Spiritual, Public Domain
Found in The Faith We Sing #2151

Reader’s Theater: Jesus Drives Out an Unclean Spirit (Mark 1:21-28)
© 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Mark Day 14: Worship Fully

Freedom by Froyle Neideck

Gospel of Mark Reading Plan
Day 14 Reading:
Mark 14

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”
– Mark 14:6 (NIV)

Mark 14:1-9 The unnamed woman who blesses and anoints Jesus a few days before his death, teaches us three important things about worshipping fully.

1. Intimate Reverence
Worship is a response to who Jesus is and what he has done for us. They know each other but we don’t know how. Had Jesus healed her? Did she hear his teaching a decide to follow? What we do know is that she dares to touch him. She comes close. She is totally focused on Jesus. Her goal is to bless him. She is looking for nothing in return. She is intimate, yet her actions are reverent, full of respect. She models the right balance. Intimacy needs reverence or its just gushy emotion. Reverence needs intimacy or worship becomes cold, mechanical and detached.

2. Unashamed Abandon
Worship is about outpouring, overflow. It’s Miriam and the women celebrating the liberation of the slaves with tambourines and singing. It’s David dancing in the street with abandon as the Ark of the Covenant is finally safe and in the midst of the city so all may come and worship. It’s the woman breaking into the party and breaking into the circle where Jesus was seated. Crack. Shatter. She boldly breaks open the alabaster jar, pouring out the perfume, her heart, her adoration, her passion, her gratitude. Those gathered are going to see it, hear it, and smell it. She holds nothing back. She makes no excuses. She is focused on blessing Jesus, not what others might say.

3. Extravagant Sacrifice
Worship is more than just what we can get from God. Yes we received when we worship, but to worship fully we must focus on giving to God, blessing God, adoring God. In the ancient world you didn’t show up to worship without a sacrifice- an animal, a drink offering, or a grain offering. Your motivation for the offering was also critical to acceptable worship. Worship isn’t consumer driven. From a consumer perspective, true worship is an impractical, extravagant “waste” of time, energy and resources. The alabaster jar was full of very expensive, rare perfume. The woman does all that she can. She gives her best; her most prized possession. The onlookers say it’s a waste- throwing away her time and money. Jesus says no- it is a beautiful thing and it will be remembered.

What am I bringing to worship as an offering and blessing to Christ?

Our love for God is tested by the question of whether we seek Him or His gifts.
-Ralph W. Sockman

Some people want to see God with their eyes as they see a cow, and to love Him as they love their cow- for the milk and cheese and profit it brings them. This is how it is with people who love God for the sake of outward wealth or inward comfort. They do not rightly love God when they love Him for their own advantage. – Meister Eckhart

Imagine how awful it would feel to have your child say to you, ‘I don’t really love you or want your love, but I would like m allowance, please.’ Do you love this God who is everything, or do you just love everything He gives you? Do you see and know God as Abba, Father?”- Francis Chan, Crazy Love

Glorious One, heal our stingy, greedy ways.
Teach us to worship you with abandon.
Draw us into intimacy and extravagance,
Unashamed and alive with praise.
Free us for joyful obedience,
through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

For an original poem based on this text, click here

For Froyle Neideck’s description of his powerful worship painting Freedom, click here


For more information on the Gospel of Mark Reading Plan, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Mark Day 13: Signs of the End

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ by Ron DiCianni

Gospel of Mark Reading Plan
Day 13 Reading:
Mark 13

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Jesus said to them: “Watch
out that no one deceives you.
-Mark 13:5 (NIV)

Christ had died,
Christ is risen,
Christ will come again.
– The Memorial Acclamation

Mark 13 is full of teaching on the time between now and the end of the age. (Christ’s second coming)

  • Human philosophies and institutions pass away, but the
    Word of God and the Promises of God are eternal (vs. 1-2, 31)
  • Many will pretend to be Christ returning (vs. 5-6, 21-22)
  • There will be much violence and persecution of Christians
    before Christ’s return (vs. 7-9, 12-19)
  • The persecution of Christians will help spread the Gospel
    (vs. 10-11)
  • No one will mistake the return of the true Christ. It will be
    magnificent and obvious to all (vs. 24-27)
  • No one but God the Father knows the hour of Christ’s
    return (vs. 32-37)
  • The faithful are alert and ready at all times for the
    return of Christ (vs. 9, 23, 33-37)

It is interesting to note what is said and what isn’t said about Christ’s return. There are so many who want to predict the return and in doing so add layers of interpretation to what Jesus said. The message is far simpler: Christ will come again. Be steadfast against deceivers. Be always ready, because no one knows when it will happen.

Jesus, my heart is heavy. There’s so much violence and so much deception. You warn us to expect it, yet it still hurts. We weep together. Encourage your people to remain steadfast and true. Help us to stand, strong and faithful. Renew in us a determination to persevere and to represent you with integrity and truth, no matter what is going on around us. You will see us through. You are with us. Glory and honor are yours, now and forever. Amen.

For an original hymn text on being prepared for the coming of Christ, click here
For more quotes on active waiting, click here
For another devotion based on Mark 13, click here
For yet another devotion based on Mark 13, click here


For more information on the Gospel of Mark Reading Plan, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Mark Day 12: Asking the Right Questions

Questioning by Amber Perrodin

Gospel of Mark Reading Plan
Day 12 Reading:
Mark 12

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Jesus said, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”
– Mark 12:27(NIV)

During the last week of Jesus’ life, he enters into a series of debates with the Jewish religious leaders headquartered in Jerusalem. Mark 12 gives us a glimpse of these adversarial discussions. Each question posed by the leaders is designed to trap Jesus. Jesus counters with wisdom, insight, and questions of his own, exposing their motives and foolishness.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams

In Mark 12:18-27, the Sadducees ask an incredibly detailed question, attempting to trap Jesus in his views on the resurrection, something they themselves do not believe exists. Jesus responds by telling them they do not know the Scriptures and are thus asking the wrong questions. Concerning their question he replies that our eternal natures will be so different from what they are now that they will be beyond the concerns of marriage. He then criticizes the Sadducees for being so concerned about what will happen after death, that they have forgotten the important matters of living a God honoring life.

The Kingdom of God is a present and future reality. God is at work in the present and desires people to believe, follow, and be about God’s saving work in the here and now. The leaders are spending their time arguing over minuscule points of theology rather than giving their energy to what is far greater- loving God, loving their neighbor, and helping others to do the same.

When we discern the will of God, we have not captured something.  The will of God is dynamic—alive—ongoing. One thing leads to another.  Accurate and faithful discernment will create a new platform for subsequent discernment.  Or to say it another way, our previous discernment will inform and direct our current and future discernment. – Steve Harper, Ministry Musings: Discernment is Not (2)

To sin literally means to miss the mark. The religious leaders are missing the mark- mistreating God’s Word, misdirecting those in their care, mispending their time and energy, misunderstanding the big points of walking with God, and literally missing God’s Messiah.

It’s such a waste of time, energy, thought, resources… I wonder how often I make the same mistakes.

If asking good questions is so critical,why don’t most of us spend more of our time and energy on discovering and framing them? One reason may be that much of Western culture, and North American society in particular, focuses on having the “right answer” rather than discovering the “right question.” Our educational system focuses more on memorization and rote answers than on the art of seeking new possibilities. We are rarely asked to discover compelling questions, nor are we taught why we should ask such questions in the first place. Quizzes, examinations, and aptitude tests all reinforce the value of correct answers. Is it any wonder that most of us are uncomfortable with not knowing? – Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs; The Art of Powerful Questions: Catalyzing Insight, Innovation, and Action

God of Truth, I see the mistakes of the religious leaders in the Scriptures and I shudder. I see the mistakes of the religious leaders down through the ages, and I wince. I seek the mistakes of the religious leaders in this very age, this very week, and I weep.

Lord have mercy.

I feel the weight of responsible leadership in your Name. I want to serve you well and follow you faithfully. How often have I made the same mistakes? How often have I misrepresented you and misled others to do the same?

Lord have mercy.

Forgive us Lord and set us a right. Help us to ask the right questions. Help us to spend our time well. Grant us discernment and insight. Open our eyes to the error of our ways and to see when we are on track. Keep us and all who you have called to lead in the center of your love, your protection, and your will.

Lord have mercy. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done. Amen.


For more information on the Gospel of Mark Reading Plan, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Mark Day 11: The Fig Tree

The Accursed Fig Tree by James Jacques Tissot

Gospel of Mark Reading Plan
Day 11 Reading:
Mark 11

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.
– Mark 11:20 (NRSV)

Mark 11:12-14, 20-25 On his way to the Temple, Jesus looks for figs on a fig tree. Not finding any, he says, “May no one every eat fruit from you again.” (vs. 14) The next day, Peter notices the fig tree has withered from the roots. Jesus uses the fig tree to illustrate how the nation of Israel is not bearing fruit for God, especially the religious leaders who are especially charged to do so. Jesus also uses the opportunity to encourage the disciples to pray specifically, boldly, and in faith, believing that they have already received what they have asked for. (vs. 24)

Many scholars agree that Jesus would have had in mind such passages as Jeremiah 8:13: “When I wanted to gather them, says the LORD, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them.” The fact that Jesus was hungry and approached the fig tree looking for fruit illustrates his identity and authority as the Judge of Israel who finds that the nation, despite its “leafy” appearance, has not produced the fruit God desired…. The destruction of the fig tree stands as a continuing testimony to any nation, institution, church or person that God demands fruit of his creation. – Dr. Mike Feazell

God expects fruit- the fruit of faith, the fruit of believing and praying and trusting and seeking and serving. This is an active faith, alive and growing and multiplying. This is a deep faith, anchored in eternal truth.

Lord Jesus,
You welcome us and give us the joy of welcoming others.
You pour grace into our hearts and give us the joy of extending grace to our neighbors.
You share good news and give us the joy of spreading your news throughout the world.

We lack nothing.
Our trees are full of leaves.
We seem to blossom, but where is the fruit?

Where are the bodies healed for your glory?
Where are the minds enlightened by your majesty?
Where are the captives rejoicing in your freedom?
Where are the saved crying out in thanksgiving?

We want to bear fruit for you.
Fruit that is good.
Fruit that will last.
Fruit that comes season after season after season.

Something is wrong, but we don’t know what.
You know. Give us the courage to hear and to act.
Show us before our time has passed.
Show us before we wither and die.
We believe. Help our unbelief. Amen.


For more information on the Gospel of Mark Reading Plan, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.