You are the Resurrection and the Life, an affirmation and prayer based on John 11

I am resurrection and life 1000x

John 11:25-26
Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

In the midst of
hunger, disease, and great need
You are the Resurrection and the Life

In the midst of
conquest, prejudice, and oppression
You are the Resurrection and the Life

In the midst of
water, bread, and wine
You are the Resurrection and the Life

In the midst of
questions, promises, and prayers
You are the Resurrection and the Life

In the midst of
loneliness, hot tears, and agonizing decisions
You are the Resurrection and the Life

In the midst of
betrayal, saving your own skin, and abandonment
You are the Resurrection and the Life

In the midst of
injustice, brutality, and the misuse of power
You are the Resurrection and the Life

In the midst of
mocking, torture, and excruciating pain
You are the Resurrection and the Life

In the midst of
grave clothes, spices, and stone
You are the Resurrection and the Life

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This affirmation/prayer was inspired by Jesus final hours. It is amazing to me how his situations speak to our modern experience in fresh and relevant ways.

Consider adapting this affirmation/prayer for a group setting by having all present speak “You are the Resurrection and the Life.”

You are the Resurrection and the Life © 2017 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.

Two Reflections on Betrayal, Denial, and Forgiveness

peter judas betray deny

Extended Quote from Destination: Known, Readings for Holy Week in the Upper Room Disciplines (2012) by Thomas R. Steagald
Sometimes our familiarity and haste we bypass verses of scripture. Because we already know the story of who “betrayed” Jesus, our attention in this passage [John 13:21-32] jumps quickly ahead to the conversation between Jesus and Simon Peter, the piece of bread, and Judas’s leaving the meal to meet with the religious officials.

But what of verse 22: “The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking?” …

Could it be that each of the disciples is humble enough, uncertain enough, to know that given the right set of circumstances or stressors, any one of them has it within him to do what Judas would in fact do?…

For only those who love Jesus can betray him. His enemies might hate him; others might disregard or ignore him; but only those who sit at the table can get up and leave, and only those close enough to kiss him can give the kiss of death. That Judas is the one who guided the soldiers to Gethsemane on fresh-washed feet, his breath smelling of sacrament, is a particular instance of what is possible for all disciples.

It is unfortunate that we so quickly rush to blame Judas, so quickly leave him and this verse of scripture behind; for indeed, this Holy Week calls us to examine ourselves, to hear Jesus’ prediction, uncertain of whom else he might be speaking.

Forgive me, Lord, when I turn away from you and your purposes. Amen.

Matthew 26:21-35
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” … Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night.” Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.

The Seat of Greatest Grace by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Jesus, my Friend,
my Beloved, my Person,
I love you, and I will falter.
I will deny you. I will betray you.
Three times ten thousand times
I will deny you.
The silver pieces lie in my pocket.
I have the nails.
And you, knowing, invite me to your table,
to the place of honor even,
this seat of greatest grace,
beside you,
to share your bread with me,
and lay down your body for me.
I can hardly look into the sun
of such forgiveness,
love’s empty tomb
that defeats me,
re-makes me.

I confess. I return.
Knowing, I follow,
drawn in your grace,
this burden that is light.

Be sure to also check out Denial, by Steve Garnaas Holmes

Two Reflections on Jesus Praying in Gethsemane

christ-in-gethsemane-pExtended quote from Max Lucado, The Upper Room Disciplines 2010
It is a stark scene. Jesus praying in Gethsemane, saying, “My heart is ready to break with grief. …” Does this look like the picture of a saintly Jesus resting in the palm of God? Hardly. We see an agonizing, straining, and struggling Jesus. We see a “man of sorrows.” We see a man struggling with fear, wrestling with commitments, and yearning for relief.

We see Jesus in the fog of a broken heart.

My, what a portrait! Jesus is in pain. Jesus is on the stage of fear. Jesus is cloaked, not in sainthood, but in humanity.

The next time the fog finds you, remember Jesus in the garden. The next time you think no one understands, reread the fourteenth chapter of Mark. The next time your self-pity convinces you that no one cares, pay a visit to Gethsemane. And the next time you wonder if God really perceives the pain that prevails on this dusty planet, listen to the pleading among the twisted trees.

Seeing God like this does wonders for our own suffering. God was never more human than at this hour. God was never nearer to us than when God hurt. The Incarnation was never so fulfilled as in the garden.

Jesus, may I watch with you in your pain and so come to understand that you watch me in mine. Amen.

Matthew 26:40-41
Could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

We must have faith during the period of our grief. We think that our afflictions will be greater than we can bear, but we do not know the strength of our own hearts, nor the power of God. – François Fenelon

Stay Awake by Steve Garnaas Holmes
I slip into sleep,
a deadness I seek,
a trance of avoidance,
distraction’s pleasant coma.
I am numb to your world, O Christ,
to your suffering, your love,
unconscious of you here.

Awaken me.
Breathe yourself into me
and rouse me
from my fearful distance.

Let even pain keep me awake,
attentive to your pain
in all who hurt,
your love keep me alert
to love in all your forms.

Grant me this simple gift,
all you ask:
that I may stay awake,
trusting I am not orphaned,
and pray with you,
so earnestly praying for me
and all the world.
just stay awake my little time
and pray with you.

Let all my waking hours
be wakeful hours.

Sermon Recording- It is Finished

it is finished

Sermon Series: Final Words from the Cross
The Scriptures record Jesus speaking 7 phrases as he hung upon the cross- important and powerful final reminders of who he was and what it means to follow him.

Message: It is Finished
Scripture: Luke 24:1-10; John 19:30
Offered 3/27/16, Easter Sunday, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Extended Quote from Listening at Golgotha by Peter Storey
It is a strange and bitter irony that the instruments used to bring this agony should be those with which Jesus is most familiar. Wood and nails were once the tools of his trade. The sound of hammer blows was part of his life. He was accustomed to the feel of nails in his hands. He was a shaper of wood- a carpenter.

Every carpenter holds in mind a vision of the finished product, a picture of what the rude timber eventually will become. Through all the work, the wrestling and sweating over stubborn timber, the patience and strength and determination, the shaping and smoothing, that vision remains. At last comes the moment when the carpenter stands back and views the completed work. It is finished.

Study Resources for this Message
Final Words From the Cross by Adam Hamilton
Listening at Golgotha by Peter Storey
Dryness and Darkness, Thirst and Desire: Why Lent Matters a sermon by Bishop Ken Carter based on Psalm 63

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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.

© 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer Station- Crown of Thorns

crown of thorns

Prayer Stations are interactive experiences with Scripture or devotional prompts. A simple, creative gesture can help us slow down and listen for what God reveals. The gesture likewise opens us to respond.

For me, utilizing the sense of touch in prayer takes me to a child-like place. I’m reminded of a less complicated time- a time of wonder, imagination, and play. It gets me out of my head and into my heart. I’m often surprised by the ease and depth of God’s interaction in these encounters.

I pray this idea encourages you to set aside some time to meet God in interactive prayer. If you choose to use this idea, or better yet create one of your own, I’d love to hear from you. – Lisa <>< 

Items Needed

  • small grapevine wreath, approximately 6 inches across
  • wooden toothpicks. You could tea dye them if you wanted them to better match the wreath.
  • Scripture with instructions

Matthew 27:27-31 NRSV
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Below you will find several options. Choose one or create one of your own. Whatever you choose, read the scripture first and then pray through the prescribed actions. If you’re writing your own option, be sure to be clear what the gesture represents and what the prop represents.

Option 1- The soldiers mocked Jesus without mercy. He understands our pain. Place toothpicks in the wreath for people or groups of people who are bullied, verbally abused, and stereotyped. Be specific. Remove the toothpicks as you pray healing and new life for the victims and their abusers.

Option 2- The soldiers mocked Jesus without mercy. He was brutally bullied. Place toothpicks in the wreath as you think about instances when you have been the bully and when you have been bullied. Remove the toothpicks as you ask for forgiveness and extend forgiveness. When the wreath is empty, hold it in your hands as you accept God’s gift of new life and pray for an end to all bullying.

Option 3- Place toothpicks in the wreath as you confess your sins. Remove the toothpicks as you ask God to forgive you in Jesus’ Name. When the wreath is empty, hold it in your hands and claim the Good News of 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Option 4- Place toothpicks in the wreath as you name the various ways Jesus suffered. When complete, spend a few moments in wonder and worship at the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice and love. When you are finished, remove the toothpicks to reset the station for the next person.

Option 5- Supply a recording of a song or a person reading the lyrics of a song or a poem. Below are some suggestions. Persons place toothpicks in the wreath as they listen to the recording. When finished, the toothpicks are removed to reset the station for the next person. Here are some suggestions-

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Prayer Station- Crown of Thorns by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia © 2016
You are welcome to use this service with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa directly for publishing and posting consideration.

Prayer Guide: Hourly Scriptures and Prayers for Good Friday

words_from_the_cross_nivIt’s a long standing practice for many Christians to pray from 9am-3pm on Good Friday as they remember the six hours Jesus spent on the cross. Some pray the entire six hours, some pray on each hour, and some pray sometime during the six hours.

Another option would be to pray for 30 minutes, starting when the minute hand reaches 9 and continuing in five minute intervals till the minute hand reaches 3.

The amount of time isn’t as important as the remembering- setting aside time to watch and wait with those few faithful followers who did not abandon Jesus.

Below you will find a guide for praying on Good Friday. It includes the scriptures relating Jesus’ words from the cross plus some sentences to focus your prayer time. The more formal prayers come from the book Listening At Golgotha by Peter Storey. (Click here for a review of the book and purchasing information. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!)

May this guide be a blessing to you as you seek the deeper graces of God this holy season. Your comments for its continued improvement are appreciated. – Lisa <><

Good Friday is not about us trying to “get right with God.” It is about us entering the difference between God and humanity and just touching it for a moment. Touching the shimmering sadness of humanity’s insistence that we can be our own gods, that we can be pure and all-powerful. – Nadia Bolz-Weber

PRAYER GUIDE: HOURLY SCRIPTURES AND PRAYERS FOR GOOD FRIDAY
The 9am Reading and Prayers
Luke 23:32-38 NRSV

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 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. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 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!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

Holy Jesus,
Your forgiving love saves and disturbs me.
Without it, I am lost,
yet, if I receive it, I must practice it.
By your mercy, make me merciful;
by your forgiveness, help me to forgive as I have been forgiven. Amen.

Continue by praying for all who are trapped in bitterness, revenge, and resentment so that all may know the freedom of forgiving as Christ did. Include yourself, as needed.

The 10am Reading and Prayers
Luke 23:39-43 NRSV

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Holy Jesus,
Love held you to the cross for my sake, but not mine alone.
Your love is frightening in its breadth and depth;
When I embrace it, it stretches my poor spirit.
Enlarge my heart to make space for your friends;
Let me love as one forgiven. Today. Amen.

Continue by praying for the salvation of family and friends who do not know Christ,
For those living in our community, in our nation, and across the world

If you would like to extend your prayer time this hour, click here for an incredibly beautiful prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Jesus, Remember Me.

The 11am Reading and Prayers
John 19:25-27 NRSV

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Holy Jesus,
I give thanks for your mother
and all like her who have borne the pain of loving too deeply.
Thank you for your gift the church.
Help me receive as your gift all whom I encounter, whoever they are,
And to become family to them in Your name. Amen.

Continue by praying for Christian unity,
For the dividing walls between denominations to come down
For congregations in the midst of misunderstanding, pain and conflict
For protection from the evil one and all that distances God’s people
That your congregation, and every congregation, would love as Christ loves
Embodying the hospitality and welcome only Christ can provide
Sharing His Word and ways with grace, compassion and boldness

The Noon Reading and Prayers
Matthew 27:45-46 NRSV

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Begin by praying for all who are suffering,
For our brothers and sisters across the globe who are persecuted for their faith
For those who are suffering because they do not have access to daily needs-
clean water, housing, education, medical care
For those who are suffering due to war, injustice and tyrannical leaders
For those who are suffering due to mental or physical illness, addiction, or grief

If you would like to extend your prayer time this hour, click here for an incredibly beautiful prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani 

Holy Jesus,
There was no suffering like yours.
I am silent in the darkness, Your darkness.
There can be no words, only worship. Amen.

The 1pm Reading and Prayers
John 19:28-29 NRSV

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.

Holy Jesus,
All the longing of God,
Through all the ages, for all humanity,
Cries out to me from your cross.
Give me a heart to hear that cry
And a longing to be found by your love. Amen.

Pray today for all who are longing,
Longing for love
Longing for answers
Longing for healing
Longing for daily bread
Longing for justice
Longing for hope

The 2pm Reading and Prayers
John 19:30 NRSV

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.”

Silent adoration and wonder

The 3pm Reading and Prayers
Luke 23:44-43 NRSV

Darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

Rest now, Holy Jesus
Hero of the Cross
Your work is done.
The world has done its sinning,
And you have done your loving
Each beyond limit.
And, at the end, limitless love prevails.
Your dying becomes my hope and the hope of the world. Amen.

Offer prayers of surrender, commitment and thanksgiving

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Prayer Guide: Hourly Scriptures and Prayers for Good Friday compilation
© 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting or church setting with proper attribution. Proper attribution would include references to Peter Storey’s book, Listening at Golgotha, the source of the formal prayers. (Published by The Upper Room – October 1, 2004)

Sermon Recording- I Thirst

crucifixion pierce flow thirstSermon Series: Final Words from the Cross
The Scriptures record Jesus speaking 7 phrases as he hung upon the cross- important and powerful final reminders of who he was and what it means to follow him.

Message: I Thirst
Scripture: John 19:28-29
Offered 3/20/16, Palm Sunday, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Click Here for a blog post with my poem I Thirst, which is referenced throughout this message.

I Thirst
Holy Jesus, our Lord and our God, is thirsty as he hangs on the cross.
This is not an everyday dryness that is easily satisfied by turning a faucet,
This is a deep, deadly thirst few of us have known.
A burning, raging thirst of exposure and dehydration

By this time in His torture, Jesus’ body is a festival of pain

  • Cramps sweep through his muscles, knotting them, and yet he must use them to lift himself to breath
  • His back, bloody and open down to the bone from the scourging, scrapes against the craggy tree every time he moves
  • The lacerated veins and crushed tendons of his wrists and ankles throb with incessant anguish
  • There’s a deep, crushing pain in the depths of his chest (it’s his pericardium slowly filling with fluid). As the heaviness closes in, his heart struggles to pump what little is left of his thick, sluggish blood.

Each variety of misery goes on and on and on, increasing with every moment that passes – hour after hour and he’s nearing hour 6.

How does he choose to describe this?
How does he describe the reality of his pain and passion?
He says– I Thirst

He could have quoted Psalm 22 again, the one that begins, “My God My God why have you forsaken me…”
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws
You lay me in the dust of death.

But that is too much.
All his swollen tongue can say is… I thirst

Yes, Jesus is physically thirsty, but it’s more than that.
To thirst is also to long for something that is essential.

It’s this thirst, this longing that is consuming him
Is he longing for revenge?
Longing for companionship?
Is he longing to come down from the cross? No
It’s his longing that’s keeping him on the cross, in the place of pain and sacrifice

What are you thirsty for? You ever had a thirst that kept you somewhere painful?
A longing that consumes you?
Stuck in the past because you long for the good old days
Unable to put down roots because you long for a more perfect place
Never enjoying the moment because you’re longing
to finish the project  – finish school – finish the treatment – finish looking for true love

To thirst is to long for something that is essential.
Is what you are thirsting for essential?
If you get it, will it satisfy you?
Or like cool water on a hot day will it meet the need only for your to need more soon

Consider Gollum in Lord of the Rings. He stays in the place of pain thirsting, longing for the ring. But it never satisfies.
Our longings can become distorted, even destructive
We can long for things that do not matter do not last
Our longings can steal our time, our attention, our money, our relationships, our life
At their worst, they get twisted into compulsions or even addictions

Jesus says, “I thirst.” But because it’s Jesus we know it is a perfect, holy longing.
(longing can be good, beautiful, and worthy of the place of pain)

What is so essential to Jesus that he’s allowing it to consume him?
He’s longing for righteousness (fancy church word alert)
that crossed-shaped, right relationship with God, others, yourself, your stuff, the earth.

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

Jesus, the Living Water, flows because he drank the cup and is now being poured out

Only a few hours before, Jesus gathers his closest followers for a meal, he raises a cup and says, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Only a few hours before, as Jesus was being arrested, Peter drew his sword; but Jesus told him, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Jesus drinks the cup and pours himself out on the cross … I thirst, I thirst for you

Jesus’ thirsting, his essential consuming longing, is for righteousness and that we would drink deeply of it- so that he would become in you, me, and all who believe a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

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 an downcast woman at a public well
Drink the water I give you and never thirst again

Only a short time before, Jesus cries out in the midst of a festival
Let anyone who is thirsty come to me
Let the one who believes in me drink
Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water

Holy Jesus, our Lord and our God, is thirsty as he hangs on the cross.
Not the everyday dryness that is easily satisfied by turning a faucet,
but the deep, vital thirst all of us may now know because of his saving work
The cleansing, satisfying thirst for righteousness
Take the cup- drink deeply

2 Corinthians 5:21
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Psalm 63:1         
O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 42:1-2 NIV             
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Matthew 5:6 NIV            
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Resources for this sermon
Final Words From the Cross by Adam Hamilton
Listening at Golgotha by Peter Storey
Dryness and Darkness, Thirst and Desire: Why Lent Matters a sermon by Bishop Ken Carter based on Psalm 63

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I Thirst © 2001 Lisa 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.

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.

© 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.