Sermon based on Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss (1 Peter 1)

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Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 1 of 6: Horton Hatches the Egg

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3-7
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 1/20/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Why are Dr. Seuss books classics?

  • Rhythm and Rhyme
  • Inventive Illustrations
  • Universal Themes
  • Modern Parables- Stories with a deeper meaning. Those deeper meanings are often Biblical truths.

horton hatches the egg bookReading of Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss

Horton makes a courageous commitment. He remains faithful to that commitment even when doing so leads to

  • Frustration
  • Inconvenience
  • Pain
  • Sickness
  • Ridicule
  • Sacrifice
  • Threat of death
  • Sold into slavery

What breaks my heart is the return of Lazy Mayzie and her reclaiming the egg she abandoned. The story has a happy ending (Elephant Bird!) Even so, Horton would have remained true even without reward. He’s courageously committed.

“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent!”

Does anyone do this anymore? Have you ever made a Horton level commitment? What prevents you?

  • What if I commit to the wrong thing?
  • What if I miss out on something better? I’ll be trapped!
  • I’ve got plenty of time to make a commitment later
  • What if the commitment impacts the way I want to live my life like it did Horton?
  • As Lazy Mayzie says, “It’s work, how I hate it, I’d much rather play!”

Commitment is easy to come by when it is superficial, doesn’t cost us anything, temporary, or new. (How are those New Year’s resolutions going?) Commitment takes work. The work is to keep at it- day after day, year after year after year.

Eugene Peterson wrote a book entitled A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. It’s hard but it’s worth it.

Keys to Making a Horton Level Commitment. (Adapted from 5 Keys to Commitment by Ryan Dunn)

1) Define “The Why”, the deep reason for the commitment. I am committed to my sobriety because… I am committed to my marriage because… I am committed to starting this business because… I am a committed follower of Jesus Christ because…

2) Remember “The Why.” Keep it in front of you, especially when the commitment becomes hard work and sacrifice.

3) Live the commitment moment to moment. I’m going to eat healthy for the rest of my life. No! I’m going to make the best next faithful choice. Little choices add up to a big and lasting commitment.

4) Expect some failure. It will happen. Choose to fail forward: practice forgiveness, learn from the failure, keep showing up.

5) Don’t go it alone. We need the gift of each other and we need God.

Who can you think of who’s made a Horton level commitment? Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We think of the super saints. Ordinary people can make a Horton level commitment as well.

Have you made a Horton level commitment to Jesus?    

When we decide to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow Him, we become nothing more than fans.- Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan

Reading of 1 Peter 1:3-7. “The Why” of making a Horton level commitment to Jesus.

  • His great mercy
  • New birth
  • A living hope
  • Jesus already made a Horton level commitment to us in his coming, homelessness, ridicule, torture, death, and resurrection
  • an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. No situation or evil can touch it.
  • Salvation and Heaven
  • God’s protection

This is why we rejoice and keep to a courageous commitment in the midst of suffering and trials for the sake of Christ.

Have you made a Horton level commitment to Jesus? You can. Anyone can.   

  • Not a nominal Christian- in name only
  • Not a CEO (Christmas Easter only)
  • Not a commitment of convenience
  • Not a fair-weather Christian
  • Not a fan

WORSHIP RESOURCES
For Courage to do Justice by Alan Paton
O Lord,
open my eyes that I may see the needs of others;
open my ears that I may hear their cries;
open my heart so that they need not be without succor;
let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong,
nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
and use me to bring them to those places.
And so open my eyes and my ears
that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee.
Amen.

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Horton Hatches The Egg Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording: Faith Doubt and Lament (Psalm 130)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624

Message 3 of 5
Scripture: Psalm 130
These are the notes from a message offered 10/28/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

This message and recording also include our annual All Saints Remembrance, where we thank God for our departed loved ones and friends, especially those who have helped us to find faith or grow in our faith. 

Resilience Series Review: Resilience isn’t so much bouncing back from adversity but moving forward in the midst of it. Romans 5 reminds us of the path to hope. Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

Psalm 130: 1-2, The Message. The author of this translation of the Bible died this week, Pastor Eugene Peterson.

Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.

When an old wound is triggering unhealthy responses, I seek the help of a counselor to address it. When life is overwhelming, it’s also helpful to speak with a spiritual director. A spiritual director asks, “How’s your soul? How’s your relationship with God during this situation?” After some prayerful listening, a spiritual director often suggests a spiritual practice to help you stay connected to God.

At a session a few months ago, after sharing, the spiritual director asked me if I practiced lament. I didn’t. I hadn’t even thought about the spiritual practice since seminary. I started practicing lament and it helped greatly.

Common Fears of Expressing our Anguish to God (Fear of practicing Lament)  

  • Appear weak. I have to be strong for myself and others.
  • Burden my loved ones and friends
  • Only increase my pain leading me down the path of despair rather than the path of hope. What if I can’t stop the floodgates once I get started?
  • Seems unfaithful to question, complain, doubt. It isn’t!

Lament in the Scriptures

  • We find laments from the beginning to the end of the Bible. From the ground crying out over the murder of Abel in Genesis to the martyrs crying out for justice in the book of Revelation.
  • 1/3 of the Psalms
  • The book of Job
    • Job 3:11 Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?”
  • The Old Testament Prophets often lament. The prophet Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet.
    • For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no healer there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? –  Jeremiah 8.21-22
    • If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.” (Jeremiah 9:1)
  • An entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations- written concerning the fall of Jerusalem

Jesus Lamented

  • Weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. Reminds us we can lament our personal pain.
  • Weeping over Jerusalem. Reminds us we can lament people not recognizing the gift of grace/salvation and the brokenness of society.
    • If they only knew the things that make for peace (Luke 19:42)
  • Weeping all night in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Crying out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.

Lament is not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God is real. God cares. God understands our pain. God can and wants to help. 

What is Lament?
“Lament is not despair.  It is not whining.  It is not a cry into a void. Lament is a cry directed to God. It is the cry of those who see the truth of the world’s deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace. It is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are.” – Emmanuel M. Katongole, Reconciling All Things, p. 78

We teach preschoolers how to pray using simple words. Help. Thanks. Wow! (praise) (A big shout out to Anne Lamott for her book of the same title). We need to also teach them Sorry (confession) to lament- Ouch! Us big kids need the same lessons.

How to Practice Lament

1. Rest

  • To lament, we must stop. Feel it fully. Recognize what we’re up against.
  • We medicate with activity. Busyness keeps us distant and the pain at bay.
  • Rest is “not an invitation to become unconcerned about the conflict and chaos in the world but to imagine that the salvation of the world does not ultimately depend upon us.”
  • Rest enables us to cease from grasping, grabbing, striving, trying to be God

2. Direct our cries to God

  • “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1)

3. Make your Complaint

  • express your anger, pain, heartache, sadness- Uncensored feelings
  • ask heartfelt questions
    • “How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:2-3)
    • I do not understand what is going on. This makes no sense. How long? Why?”
    • Questions can be more than requests for information, they can also be cries of pain.

4. Make Your Request

  • Describe the affliction. It might include rage against your enemies
  • Look toward me, and have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.  Put an end to my affliction and my suffering, and take away all my sins. Behold, my enemies are many, and they hate me violently. Preserve my life, and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. (Psalm 25:16-20)

5. Affirm your trust in God

  • God’s presence
  • God’s power in the past
  • The attribute/character of God
  • The promises of God that you’re thankful for and that you are claiming

Psalm 130:5-8           
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord!  For with the Lord, there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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: It Begins With Baptism (Matthew 3)

Message: It Begins in Baptism
Scripture: Matthew 3:11-17
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 1/13/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. On the first Sunday after Epiphany (January 6), many Christians remember the Baptism of Jesus Christ. As part of the celebration, the faithful renew their baptismal vows.

Rev. Janet Wolf telling the story of Fayette
In new members’ class we talked about baptism: this holy moment when we are named by God’s grace with such power it won’t come undone.

Fayette was there—a woman living on the streets, struggling with mental illness and lupus. She loved the part about baptism and would ask over and over, “And when I’m baptized, I am . . . ?” We soon learned to respond, “Beloved, precious child of God, and beautiful to behold.” “Oh, yes!” she’d say, and then we could go back to our discussion.

The big day came. Fayette went under, came up sputtering, and cried, “And now I am . . . ?” And we all said, “Beloved, precious child of God, and beautiful to behold.” “Oh, yes!” she shouted as she danced all around the fellowship hall.

Two months later I got a call. Fayette had been beaten and raped and was at the county hospital. So I went. I could see her from a distance, pacing back and forth. When I got to the door, I heard, “I am beloved . . . ” She turned, saw me, and said, “I am beloved, precious child of God, and. . . . ” Catching sight of herself in the mirror— hair sticking up, blood and tears streaking her face, dress torn, dirty, and rebuttoned askew, she started again, “I am beloved, precious child of God, and . . . ” She looked in the mirror again and declared, “ . . . and God is still working on me. If you come back tomorrow, I’ll be so beautiful I’ll take your breath away!”

In a world that pronounces so many of us “not good enough,” what might it mean to believe that our true identity is chosen, precious, and beloved?

It begins with baptism

Reading: Matthew 3:13-17 NRSV

Chosen, Beloved, Blessed. It all begins with Baptism.

Where do we find our Identity?             

  • What family, country, neighborhood we were born into
  • Our job, school, the team we follow

We can find our identity in so many different places. But those measures of identity will fade away. They are not lasting. This is lasting. “This is my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased. This is my daughter, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

This is who you are in Christ. It so strong, so rooted, it goes beyond circumstance. It goes beyond disease. It goes beyond death.

Identity begins with baptism. But there’s more!

Empowerment

  • Verse 16, The heavens were opened to him
  • Verse 16, The Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him
  • Verse 11, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire

It all begins with baptism. This naming, claiming, and identity begins with baptism and empowering begins with baptism.

It doesn’t stop or end with baptism. It begins with baptism. This is where Jesus begins his public ministry, the three years leading up to his death and resurrection. The healing, the preaching, the welcoming, the teaching, the work of justice and saving.

It’s not just the beginning for Jesus, it’s also the beginning for us. Baptism is the ordination of every follower of Jesus Christ into the priesthood of all believers. 

Jesus didn’t come and die and rise again so you could be a member of a church. Jesus came and died and rose again so you could be a missionary. A missionary in whatever way that looks like for you. A missionary to your family, co-workers, neighborhood, the folks you hang out with… whatever that looks like.

It’s so important and it will take so much of us we too must remember who we are and we too must be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Baptism of Christ with Dove by Daniel BonnellThe Baptism of the Christ with Dove by Daniel Bonnell. What do you notice? What does it remind us of?

  • movement of the painting
  • power of the colors, fire colors
  • light radiating
  • submission and humility of Christ
  • you see the crucifixion
  • the dove representing the Holy Spirit
  • Jesus’ arms match the dove wings
  • One Christ’s hands are down and one is up, death and victory/resurrection, fully human and fully divine
  • of ripples of water radiating out into the world

What if every time we washed our faces, or stood beneath the shower, or were caught in a rainstorm, we remembered and reaffirmed our baptism- our identity and our empowerment.   

There’s so much being said in this powerful painting because there is so much going on in the waters of baptism. When we come forward to the waters, there’s so much we are reaffirming, recommitting to, and being thankful for.

On the recording, the message transitions into the Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows

Worship Resources
Holy Spirit, Holy One
Holy Spirit, Descending Dove
Alight on me that I may know your presence
Anoint me that I may know your call
Fill me that I may know your power
Guide me that I may know your path
Name me that I may know, that I know, that I know who I am
Amen

Be Still, Remember
a hymn for reaffirming the baptismal covenant
Suggested Tune- ONE BREAD, ONE BODY (United Methodist Hymnal #620)

Refrain-
Be still, remember, who you are.
Come touch the water
of your birth.
Be dead to sin, alive to God.
Remember who you are in Jesus.

Verses-
You are beloved.
You are an heir.
You are a child of God.

You are claimed.
You are marked.
You are named by God.

Chosen and blessed
Gifted by God
Witness through word and deed

Check out a poem/devotional entitled The Beloved by Steve Garnaas Holmes

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Holy Spirit, Holy One © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Be Still, Remember © 2000 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
It Begins in Baptism © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording: The Path to Hope (Romans 5)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624
Growing in Resilience: When Suffering Stays
Message 2 of 5
Scripture: Romans 5:1-5
These are the notes from a message offered 10/21/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

Resilience isn’t so much bouncing back from adversity but moving forward in the midst of it

The Story of Asha Mevlana

Asha Mevlana cancerWhen Asha Mevlana was 24, she had a great job at a start-up, an apartment in New York’s SoHo, lots of friends, a beautiful head of hair, and a pearl-shaped problem in her left breast. She thought it was a cyst. Her mom had a cyst around the same age. It turned out to be breast cancer.

The defining moment of her suffering, however, wasn’t the diagnosis, or the biopsy, or the eight months of chemo, or her baldness. The life-altering moment came when her doctors announced that she was cancer-free.

Something had changed. Everyone around her had gone on blithely living their lives, talking about the crummy weather, the long lines at Starbucks, and American Idol. They seemed to value such inconsequential things, and she found herself yearning for a time when she did as well. Life seemed empty. She wasn’t religious, but she found herself praying: “Just give me a second chance and I’m going to change my life.”

Asha did. She took a new path. Asha risked leaving her safe job to pursue a lifelong dream of being a professional musician.

Asha now plays an electric 7-string viper violin. She’s toured with many well-known artists, played in the American Idol Band, appeared on The Tonight Show, the Ellen Show and the Grammy’s. She currently plays with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Asha Mevlana TSO

We often think suffering will end us. Instead, it can open us to a new path. For followers of Jesus, suffering is part of the path to hope: suffering to endurance to character to hope

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we are justified by faith…

Sin separates us from God. We cannot bridge the gap- no amount of good deeds, generous gifts to charity, kindness, rule following. We can’t get there in our own strength. God knows this and sends Jesus to bridge the gap. When we place our trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our Leader and Forgiver, we cross the bridge of faith. We are saved. Its Just-as-if-I’d never sinned. We are no longer separated from God. It is a gift of grace to be received. And there’s more…

Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

Those who are justified also receive peace, grace, the ability to stand before God and with God, and hope. We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. We have a future full of hope. The word “boast” (kauchometha) also means “rejoice” or “exalt in.”

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know, He holds the future and life is worth the living just because he lives. – Bill Gaither

Hope is not optimism

  • Optimism involves the expectation that things are eventually going to get better – we will bounce back
  • It’s easy to candy coat situations with Optimism
  • Hope is rooted in the real, in the truth
  • Hope asserts that no matter what may come, no matter how bad things may get, God’s word and promises will prevail
  • There is a hope in Christ located beyond our immediate circumstances
    • Example: A terminally ill patient may not be optimistic about the treatment he is undergoing but may remain hopeful that God keeps God’s promise of resurrection.

Romans 5:3
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, (what?!?!)

We do not boast/rejoice because we are suffering. We boast/rejoice in the midst of suffering. Suffering cannot squash our boasting/rejoicing because it is anchored in hope of the future.

  • A future sharing God’s glory
  • A future which transcends suffering
  • Suffering is temporary grace is eternal, salvation is eternal

Romans 8:31-32
31 … If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? … 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:3-5
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

And there’s more! Endurance, character, hope, love. There’s more than one kind of hope. A hope of the future and a hope of the now. Hope in things above and hope for things here below.

THE PATH TO HOPE: SUFFERING, ENDURANCE, CHARACTER, HOPE
God does not delight in suffering and God does not cause suffering. God’s presence and power bring good out of suffering. We can experience that goodness right now.

  • God creates a path from suffering to hope- suffering to endurance to character to hope
  • We can move forward down the path in the midst of the suffering
    • Moving forward with energy and motivation to act, to dare, to keep trusting
    • We can move forward with a sense of growth in resilience and resolve in the midst of the suffering
  • God is creating a greater and greater capacity in us for hope and for the outpouring of God’s love
    • Like a potter gently opening up the clay to make a vessel, God opens up our heart for God’s love to be poured in
    • This love isn’t sentimental and sweet. The love pouring in is Agape. It’s the sacrificial, resurrection, sin eating, death defeating, love of God in Christ which saves us is now.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;  struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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.

The Songs of Christmas: What Child is This? (Matthew 2)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
January 1: What Child is This?
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12
These are the notes from a message offered Epiphany Sunday, 1/6/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

History of What Child is This?
William Chatterton Dix was born in Bristol, England in 1837. In 1865, Dix was working as the manager of a maritime insurance company in Glasgow, Scotland. He was suddenly struck by a severe illness that confined him to bed and brought on severe depression. He began to read the Bible with great fervor and to write spiritual poetry.  His near-death experience raised him to new life physically and spiritually.

What Child is This? By William C. Dix (UMH #219)
What child is this who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,  while shepherds watch are keeping?

Refrain:  This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing; Haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary.

Why lies he in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christians, fear, for sinners here the silent Word is pleading. (Refrain)

Additional Verse: Nails, spear shall pierce him through; the cross he bore for me, for you; Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the babe, the Son of Mary!

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh, come, peasant, king, to own him; The King of kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone him. (Refrain)

What makes a great gift?

Story of Laura and Kevin’s engagement

Laura and Kevin engagement

A great gift is thoughtful, surprising, takes time and effort, is given from a place of love. A great gift has a deeper meaning. 

The deeper meaning behind the gifts brought by the wise men/Magi (Matthew 2:1-12, NRSV)

gold frankincense myrrhThe gifts of the wise men/Magi are precious, expensive, have a deeper meaning.

  • Gold
    • They expect to find a king.
    • They were searching for a leader who is worthy to be followed, worthy to give our allegiance.
  • Frankincense (dried tree sap)
    • Used as medicine or to offer prayers.
    • They were searching for something greater than themselves, the Holy, the Divine, one who is worthy to be worshiped.
  • Myrrh (dried tree sap)
    • Used for cleaning wounds and embalming.
    • They were looking for one who would bring them healing and wholeness.

The gifts point to who Jesus is and what he will do

Last Verse of We Three Kings by John Henry Hopkins: Glorious now behold Him arise, King and God and SacrificeAlleluia, Alleluia, Earth to heaven replies

Last Verse of In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti: What can I give Him, poor as I am. If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

So much more than just bringing our heart or even your money Bring You, the entirety of you, You are the treasure. Bring it all, give it all.

Jesus, you are King and God and Sacrifice
We bring you our gold: our prosperity, our possessions, our productivity
We bring you our frankincense: our worship, our reverence, our prayers
We bring you our myrrh: our brokenness, our grave clothes, our dust

Invitation to join one of the Reaching Ministries of the church. 

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CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.

The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.

This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.

Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:

  • Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is the big idea?
    • Why is it important?
    • How does this truth connect with my life?
  • Have a conversation with God about this truth.
  • Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.

Additional Ideas:

  • Journal your reflections
  • Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
  • Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
  • Sing or listen to the song
  • Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face

I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <

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What Child is This © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording: When Suffering Stays (2 Corinthians 12)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624
Growing in Resilience: When Suffering Stays
Message 1 of 5
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:6-10, The Voice
These are the notes from a message offered 10/14/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

CINDY CAGLIUSO’S TESTIMONY
As most of you know I work at the Central Florida Pregnancy Center. We accept donations of baby items. About 6 weeks ago a man came by with cases of formula. Of course, we accepted them. He went on medical mission trips to Africa, but the formula would expire before his next trip. After he left, we realized the formula was only for use in feeding tubes. We could not use it. We were disappointed. Ugh. Now to find a place for which to give it. I put the cases in the back room and figured I’d have to call around at some point to find a place to donate them….  

On Friday, October 12th, a caseworker called from Jacksonville. One of her clients had quickly moved to escape the hurricane and left with barely enough formula for her child for one day. They were living 2 towns over. She said the family had no money. Did we have any formula to give her – she needed feeding tube formula. WHAT???!!!! We were about to close for the night, but couldn’t imagine making the woman wait until Monday. 5 phone calls later and the very young woman came by and walked out with 8 cases of feeding tube formula for her child. I kept trying to tell both her and the caseworker “You don’t understand! We are not medical! We don’t carry this stuff – we took it in by mistake! This is God! God did this!” I told the executive director and she said: “I thought you got rid of that stuff.” I said “No! Why did we have this? Why did we take it?” – and she said, “Because God knew you would need it.”

Home from work late on a Friday after a long week. All of us had smiles on our faces. God is so good. God has provided for me personally in amazing ways this week. God loves us all. Those who know Him and those who don’t. Praise God!

It’s easy for us to think this is what life should be like all the time for the faithful. Everything working out for the best in powerful and miraculous ways. But life isn’t like that. When it isn’t, it’s easy for us to begin to question –  Is there something wrong with me? Am I doing something wrong? Is God fickle?

VIDEO: When God Doesn’t Make Sense from Explore God

Sometimes it’s easy to identify the why of our suffering. We’re experiencing the consequence of our own choices or we get caught in the backwash of someone else’s choice. Sometimes we don’t know why. It’s just the brokenness of this world.

RESILIENCE
Resilience as bouncing back from adversity, like a rubber ball

  • Easy for us to connect resilience with Restoration of what was lost
    • I lost my home in the hurricane, but I just have to hang in there till it’s rebuilt
    • 3 major Florida storms in 3 years:
      • Matthew (2016 to the Atlantic coast)
      • Irma (2017 to the southern Gulf Coast)
      • Michael (2018 to the panhandle)
  • Easy for us to connect resilience with Recovery like from an ailment
    • I broke my leg and just have to soldier on until it’s better

What if the house doesn’t get rebuilt? What if the leg doesn’t get better? (Like a rubber ball with no air) What if the suffering stays? What does that say about me and my faith, what does it say about God?

What if resilience isn’t so much about bouncing back, it’s about moving forward in the midst of adversity (Like tossing the ball. It works even if there’s no air in it. )

This is the resilience we the Apostle Paul talking about in 2 Corinthians 12:6-10.

  • Paul wrote most of the New Testament
  • Nurtured churches from Turkey in Asia Minor all the way to Italy on the other side of the Mediterranean
  • Had a face to face encounter with the Risen Christ
  • Experienced divine revelations of the mysteries of heaven
  • Paul had reason to boast, but he didn’t. He had every reason to experience the favor and blessing of God in a life without adversity, but he didn’t.

2 Corinthians 12:6, The Voice
6 So if I want to boast, I won’t do so as a fool because I will be speaking the truth. But I will stop there, since I don’t want to be credited with anything except exactly what people see and hear from me.

Paul only wanted people to see what he did in Jesus’ strength and hear his testimony of who Jesus is.

2 Corinthians 12:7-8, The Voice
7 To keep me grounded and stop me from becoming too high and mighty due to the extraordinary character of these revelations, I was given a thorn in the flesh—a nagging nuisance of Satan, a messenger to plague me! 8 I begged the Lord three times to liberate me from its anguish;

Paul was a man of extraordinary faith, courage, and fruitful service to Christ. Yet he had a “Thorn in the flesh.” Some think it may have been an eye problem, limp, bad temper, or even mean-spirited person constantly criticizing him. He describes it as anguish, a nagging nuisance. He also knew his thorn was not from God.

Paul prayed, no begged, three times for God to deliver him. Just like Jesus praying three times in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion. The answer for Paul and Jesus was the same – The suffering is staying. But…

2 Corinthians 12:9-10, The Voice 
9 and finally God said to me, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on—I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me. 10 I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong.

God’s grace is sufficient! God’s power is made perfect in our weakness!            

Paul came to see God doing good in the midst of the thorn

  • It kept Paul humble and close to God
  • It made for an even greater testimony because people could easily see Paul couldn’t do it in his own strength
  • The affliction didn’t leave but Paul became resilient in Christ.

God’s grace is sufficient! God’s power is made perfect in our weakness!

Paul continues to move forward in the midst of adversity (2 Corinthians 11)

  • 5 times flogged, 39 lashes each
  • Beaten with rods
  • tried to stone him to death
  • Shipwrecked- over 24 hours in the water
  • Robbed
  • Hunger and thirst
  • Cold and nakedness
  • Constant persecution and debating from those who oppose Jesus
  • Care of all the church

Does Paul or Jesus wait till everything’s right before continuing their mission? No!

Does anyone doubt Paul’s faith or Jesus’s faith because they experience suffering? No!

Does anyone doubt God is at work in powerful ways in Paul’s life or Jesus’ life because they experienced opposition? No!

No one doubts you either!         

God’s grace is sufficient! God’s power is made perfect in our weakness!

Lay aside the excuse of “I’ve got to get my act together first” and move forward with Christ

  • Say yes to placing your trust in Jesus
  • Say yes to a commitment to Christ
  • Say yes to baptism
  • Say yes to joining that small group
  • Say yes to stepping out with Christ to serve
  • Say yes to sharing your need with others

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NRSV         
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed

In Christ we are resilient!

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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.

The Songs of Christmas: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 21: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Scripture: Luke 2:8-14; John 14:27
These are the notes from a message offered Christmas Eve, 12/24/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn the households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  • One of most celebrated men of his age
  • People read and memorized his poems and still do so today

Longfellow was also a broken man, struggling to hold on to his faith in God in the midst of tragedy after tragedy after tragedy. The celebrity and renown did not help.

Longfellow’s Personal Pain

  • His first wife and daughter both died
  • His second wife died in a tragic home fire. She was working with candlewax and her dress caught fire. He heard her screaming and came running. He was badly burned while trying to save her, too burned to attend her funeral. He grew his trademark beard because he couldn’t shave due to the scars.
  • His son entered into service during the Civil War without his father’s knowledge or permission and was significantly wounded in battle.

Maybe you’ve experienced some personal tragedy as well. Maybe you are feeling the same way as Longfellow

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Longfellow’s Painful Culture
• Longfellow wrote this at the height of the civil war, no end in sight
• Neighbor slaughtering neighbor in each other’s backyards
• Written only a few months after the battle of Gettysburg (46,000-51,000 casualties)

Maybe this Christmas you are feeling hate is strong in our time as well. Maybe you are carrying the weight of our divisiveness and brokenness as a nation. Maybe it’s hard to sing Joy to the World this year.

It was hard back when Jesus was born, too. There was the Roman occupation. The people were oppressed. Mary and Joseph had personal troubles. They were forced to travel while Mary was “great with child.” When they arrived in Bethlehem there was no room to be found. Jesus is born in the midst of animals. There is no crib. He’s laid in a manger. There is no peace on earth.

And yet what do the angels sing? “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth peace, goodwill! God favors you!”

Mary heard it- God favors you. The shepherds, the bottom of the social order of the day, heard it from the angels- God favors you. Over and over again the scriptures tell us you are beloved, you are known.

God made that so real in coming as a babe. God could have come as a king- triumphant, valiant. God could have come as a warrior- laid waste to all the enemies. But God comes as a baby. Who doesn’t love a baby? Who can’t approach a baby? Beautiful, frail, fresh, innocent… into a world that so very much needed it.

God came back then in Bethlehem. God came that Christmas when Longfellow was struggling to hold on to his faith. God comes for us, now. Whether we are joyful and celebrating. Whether we are heartbroken and facing another medical treatment. Whether we are broken and sobbing over the destruction of homes or the building of dividing walls between all of us. God comes.

There’s another stanza of this poem:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; 
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Generation after generation is tempted to loneliness and division and shame and hopelessness. But again and again, the bell rings out, the song is sung, “Peace on earth goodwill to men.”

This is why we can hold on. This is why we can hope. This is why we can sing, “Peace on earth goodwill to men.”

Jesus on the night before he gave himself up for us said to those few gathered around the table with him…

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you
I do not give to you as the world gives
Do not let your hearts be troubled
Do not let them be afraid

Peace be with you.

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CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.

The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.

This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.

Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:

  • Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is the big idea?
    • Why is it important?
    • How does this truth connect with my life?
  • Have a conversation with God about this truth.
  • Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.

Additional Ideas:

  • Journal your reflections
  • Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
  • Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
  • Sing or listen to the song
  • Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face

I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <

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Hark! The Herald Angels Sing © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.