Two Pockets: Healthy, Faithful Perspective

A well respected and beloved Polish Rabbi named Simcha Bunim used to say,
“Every person should have two pockets.
In one, there should be a note that says ‘for my sake was the world created.’
In the second, there should be a note that says, ‘I am dust and ashes.’”

Rabbi Bunim went on to say one must know how to use the notes, each one in its proper place and at the right time.

He knows us well

When misused, we hunker down in one pocket and make a home
We use a note to justify, judge, and deflect self examination

For my sake the world was created- I’m all that and a bag of chips
I am dust and ashes- Eeyore is my best buddy

But, when we open to the wisdom of the notes, we accept we are not one or the other. We realize we are both notes. Both pockets. We see the wisdom of the notes in the wisdom of God’s Word which goes back and forth, naming us and reminding us who we are- beloved and dust. We are both and we need both.

I am dust and ashesWhen we are too proud, too entitled, too full of ourselves, too self-sufficient, we reach in a pocket and remember anokhi afar va’efer, I am dust and ashes
I am small
I am worthless
I am mortal
I am unclean
I miss the mark, I stray from the path- that’s what the word sin literally means in Greek
I am like everyone else who has ever lived and who will live
I need a savior

Psalm 90:3 NRS
You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”

Ecclesiastes 3:20b NIV
All come from dust, and to dust all return.

Luke 9:41 NRSV
“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?”

In Luke 3, John the Baptist is right to remind us we are a “brood of vipers” and of our need of repentance, to turn back to God’s path, not just with our words but our actions.

for my sake was the world createdThen, when we are discouraged, overwhelmed and losing faith (when we feel like dirt) we reach in the other pocket and remember bishvili nivra ha’olam, for my sake was the world created.
I am a unique and beloved child of the King of kings
Christ loved me enough to die for me and raise me to new life
I am fearfully and wonderfully made
I am called
I am gifted
I am empowered by the Holy Spirit to do great things for God
God is using me in the salvation and transformation of the world

Psalm 8:4-8 NRSV
What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Psalm 139:14 NRSV
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

We stand with Jesus in our baptism, water washed, anointed with the fiery dove of the Holy Spirit, named and claimed by God as beloved children.

Jesus stepped into the water not out of his need but of ours
To remind us of our great need- I am dust and ashes
To remind us who we are in Him- For my sake the world was created

Prayer for Perspective
Eternal and Beautiful God,
The One who births us and names us
Grant us perspective
A holy centering
of truth, humility, and our belovedness

Not too high that we fall away from you
our need of you
our need of others

Not too low that we fail to trust
to reach out for you
to reach out with you

In you, with you, for you we are
humble and powerful
unique and alike
common and regal
priceless and dust

Grant us perspective, Merciful One
A holy centering
Let no voice be too loud
Or too soft
So we may persevere in faith
in hope
in following
in becoming
Amen

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I am indebted to Rabbi Jack Moline for a blog post which provided much of the information and inspiration for this reflection.

Two Pocket Devotion and Prayer for Perspective © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are very welcome to use this in a worship or group setting with proper attribution.

The Story of the Scars, a Sermon for Easter Sunday

The Story of the Scars, a Sermon for Easter Sunday
Scripture: John 20:1-20; Isaiah 53:5

Offered Sunday, 4/4/2021 via Facebook Live at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Gates of heaven joke

Mary goes to the tomb early in the morning. Can you imagine the conversation that’s happening the rest of the day! Jesus shows up in the evening. He shows up with “Peace be with you.” He shows up with his scars.                                

Where they nailed his hands and feet. Where they pierced his side with a spear. Where they slapped him and pulled out his beard. Where the flogged him on his back. Where they placed a crown of thorns on his head.

Every one of his scars tells a story- Injustice. Betrayal. Denial. Grace. Truth. Love. Victory.                  

What scars have you brought with you today? What stories do they tell?

Maybe they aren’t scars yet,  maybe they’re still wounds.

Scott Erickson, quote adapted. It starts with our own wounds. Because to bring your own wounds is to ask the Divine “Are you involved in my life at all?” Then we will encounter the wounds of those we love, and ask “are You here too?” Friends, strangers, every wound in the world begs the same question…. IS NEWNESS POSSIBLE?

Yes, newness is possible. This is the story of Jesus’ scars.

Isaiah 53:5, NIV UK. He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; (wrongdoings) the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

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You can find us live on Facebook Sundays at 9 AM and 10:30 AM, and Wednesdays at 8 AM.

© 2021 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

I Thirst- Prayer Prompts for Good Friday

Jesus knows the gift of water

The refreshment of being spoken in the beginning
as waters were separated from waters

Of guiding a rudderless ark on the vastness of the ocean
and a rudderless people through two seas and on to freedom

The warm waters of his birth and the obedient waters of his baptism

He knows the feel of spittle on his hands
while making mud so a blind man may see
and the feel of spittle on his face from those who mock him

Only a short time before,
Jesus talks with a man seeking answers in the night
Be born again of water and the Spirit

Only a short time before,
Jesus talks with a cast down woman at a public well
Drink the water I give you and never thirst again

Now, Jesus cries out in the midst of the festival
Let anyone who is thirsty come to me
Let the one who believes in me drink
Streams of living water will flow from within you

Soon he pours himself out for the world… I thirst

I thirst for you
because you cannot drink the bitter cup I must drink
I thirst for you
because I desire that none should be lost
I thirst for you
so that you may drink of me, the living water

Drink deeply
I become in you and all who believe a spring of water gushing up to eternal life

Holy Jesus, my Lord and my God,
I thirst for____________
Refresh ___________
Sustain ___________
I drink deeply so that ____________

Finish the sentence again and again…
Leave your prayer below

© 2021
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. (by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, http://www.revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Bless Christ, Through Whom All Things are Made

Fresco of Christ creating the sun, moon and stars from the St. Paraskevi Shrine, Greenlawn, NY

This hymn text was born during my seminary days during some quiet time spent with Colossians 1:15-18.

Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. (NRSV)

In this passage, creation is described as an ongoing act. The fullness of Trinity is found: Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer; yet all things are created and are held together through Christ, the Word spoken in creation, the eternal Word made flesh.

I woke up this morning surprised to be reminded of this song. I haven’t thought about it in years, but it wants to accompany me this holy week. I pray it is a welcome companion to you as well. – Lisa <><

Bless Christ Through Whom All Things Are Made
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
a hymn text based on Col. 1:15-18
Meter 88.88 (LM)
Suggested Tune- POXON

Bless Christ through whom all things are made.
Join seen and unseen in their praise
of One who both creates, sustains
who goes before, in justice reigns.

Who makes the lion and the lamb
the farthest star, the smallest hand
dominions, rulers, and their pow’rs
the steadfast mount, the fleeting hours?

Who made the ore for blood soaked nails?
Who made the thorns and whipping tails?
Who made the sun that would not shine
and made the tree on which Christ died?

Who makes the waters of our birth?
Who makes the dust where we return?
Who makes the way for us to die
and rise to everlasting life?

Bless Christ though whom all things are made.
Join seen and unseen in their praise
of One who both creates, sustains
who goes before, in justice reigns.

This text was selected to be part of a United Methodist worship resource entitled Worship and Song. Each lyric or liturgy I write feels like a gift. I am excited and thrilled that this gift will be shared with so many.

For a PDF of the hymn as it will appear in the Worship and Song pew edition, click here Bless Christ, Through Whom All Things are Made

© 2000, revised 2009
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. (by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, http://www.revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The King is Coming, a Sermon for Palm Sunday

The King is Coming, a Sermon for Palm Sunday
Scripture: John 12:1-19; Zechariah 9:9-10

Offered Sunday, 3/29/2021 via Facebook Live at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

The King is coming
The people announced it.
It filled the streets like the perfume filled the house the night before.
“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!”

The King is coming.
The disciples remembered it.
Zechariah 9:9
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Hosanna! The King is coming, triumphant and victorious
Riding into Jerusalem just like Solomon did centuries before
Ending the dispute over who’s the one true King

Jesus, Jesus is the King of kings
Greater than the Roman war machine
Greater than the Pax Romana
With Jesus its Eternal Peace-
wrong made right through humility, and vulnerability, and sacrifice
Eternal Peace- Pax Eterna

Zechariah 9:10
He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Hosanna! The King is coming. The Anointed One- the Christ
Anointed by Mary in gratitude and love for raising her brother Lazarus from the dead
Anointed by Mary, blessed to reign as King forever
Anointed by Mary, blessed to bear God’s grace as high priest forever
Anointed by Mary, a holy sacrifice anointed for death
The last sacrifice ever needed
A sacrifice so great it overcomes all sin, all death, for all time

Hosanna! The King is coming. The King over death.
Jesus raised Lazarus
Only a few days later he’ll lay down his own life and take it up again
Hosanna! The King over death. And he will raise us up as well.
Hosanna! The King over death.
All the little deaths. All the little injustices.
All the big deaths. All the big injustices.
Hosanna to the King over death.
Hosanna! Save now.

This is why so many are going after him.
He raised Lazarus from the dead.
This spectacular miracle.
This quick, spectacular fix.

This is what the people were testifying to.
Hosanna to the King of Israel. Hosanna to the King over death.

How many will go after him when his work becomes small?
When his work becomes slow?
When his work becomes sacrifice?

How many will go after him when his work includes our work?
When his work includes our “yes” – our time, our prayer, our money, our hands, our sacrifice
When the hungry come and Jesus says, “You feed them”
When the night of anguish comes and Jesus says, “stay awake, watch and pray with me”
When it’s time to deny ourselves, and take up our cross, and follow
Follow the King- the King of kings, the King of death, the King of sacrifice

Hosanna! The King is coming
The leaders said, “what can you do, the world has gone after him
Have you gone after Him?
Are you following him?
testifying to him?
serving him?
trusting him?

The King is still coming
The gracious King
The King of kings
The King of death
The King of sacrifice

Our humble King
Our King, triumphant and victorious
Let us go after Him

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You can find us live on Facebook Sundays at 9 AM and 10:30 AM, and Wednesdays at 8 AM.

© 2021 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.