Social Distancing, Community, and Five Barley Loaves (John 6)

Sermon Series Bread 1110 x 624Lenten Sermon Series: Bread
This sermon series was inspired by the book Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers by Margaret Feinberg.

Message 3 of 5: Five Barley Loaves- Community and Social Distancing
Scriptures: John 6:1-15
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/15/2020 via Facebook Live for Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of me leading worship from my home office, including the message which starts at the 26-minute mark.

The Feeding of the 5000 is one of the few stories mentioned in all four gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The story of Jesus’ resurrection is in all four gospels. This story is that important.

John 6:1-15    
1 Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.

The Sea of Galilee is actually a lake. You can see the other side of the lake no matter where you’re standing. It goes by many names in the Gospels, so if you’re confused, no worries. It’s confusing.

2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.

In the previous messages, we’ve spoken about the Passover- freedom from slavery in Egypt, unleavened bread (Matzo), manna in the wilderness- so this may seem familiar.

5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus always knows what he’s going to do!

7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.

This time of year, in March before the Passover, Galilee is beautiful. It’s lush with green with grass. There are yellow and red wildflowers. You can imagine the sheep grazing in the grass. Jesus is gathering the people like flocks of sheep in order to feed them.

11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.

14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Last Wednesday feels like the tipping point in the pandemic

  • A little before 9:00 pm: Tom Hanks posts on Instagram that he and his wife contracted COVID-19
  • At 9:00 pm: President Trump announces a ban on foreign nationals traveling to the US from much of Europe
  • At 9:46 pm: The NBA announces it had suspended all games indefinitely

And the hits just kept on coming. All our common rituals and rhythms disrupted.

  • The NCAA March Madness Tournament- Cancelled
  • The Boston Marathon- Postponed
  • All the Smithsonian Museums and Broadway Shows and Disney World- Closed

Then the hits got closer to home.

  • Our schools closed which meant we were canceling all our church gatherings
  • No more access to assisted living facilities and nursing homes. We can’t see our dear ones who live there. Our faithful nursing home teams can no longer offer worship at Brookdale and Cabot Reserve.

I spoke with a friend in Seattle online. She said, “Greetings from Ground Zero.” Their schools are closed for at least 6 weeks.

That started me lamenting-

  • What about the kids who’s school is their safe place because their home or their neighborhood isn’t?
  • Are kids going hungry because they eat breakfast and lunch at school?
  • What about the parents who can’t afford to take time off work or pay for childcare?
  • What about folks who are forced to take time off and can’t afford it?

It just ripples. Imagine dropping a pebble in a calm pool and watching the rings as they expand.

The world is having this big ah-ha moment on how interconnected we are, how interdependent we are on one another. We’re having it. I’m having it. 

I was watching something on TV last week which was filmed a while ago. There was this big crowd of people laughing and enjoying being together. Then they started hugging and holding on to one another. I literally gasped. They were touching.

I’m missing touching. Will we ever be like that again or will social distancing and elbow bumps be our new norm?

Big things matter- Pandemics, Global Markets, Vaccines

Little things matter- Gathering for worship, having a face to face conversation, handshakes, and hugs

They matter because community matters.- It’s little, as intimate as a touch. But it’s also big- big as the world.

Community is tied to the word common. Common is usual, ordinary. The common good, common ground, the customary blessing of having one another.

It is a good gift from God. We as Christians believe God is One, and yet God is three. God is community. It’s in the fabric of creation, of God, of us.

As we think about John 6, there are 50 sermons, 100 sermons. But all I can see today is the community. Five thousand people gathering. Where can we do that these days?

Jesus asks how they’re going to feed all the people. I’ve preached in the past about this young boy comes forward and generously offers his lunch. He isn’t offering his lunch. He’s offering the groceries for his family. Five barley loaves and two fish.

This child isn’t a solo heroic leader. He’s not saving the day in his rugged individualism. He represents an entire community. The work of a community feeds an entire community. taste and see

This sermon series is based on a fantastic book by Margaret Feinberg entitled Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers.

I highly recommend it to you. Its foodies and recipes meet travelogue meets Bible study. She looks at the Bible through the food of the Bible. She’s the one who opened my eyes to the truth of the community it takes to bring a loaf of bread from seed to your table.

“In ancient Israel, the whole family shared the hard labor. The work began in a field, plowing the soil and planting last year’s kernels. Together, the family tended the field and prayed away famine and pests, in hope the stalks would sprout, lengthen, and yield a bounty of food.

The family endured sunburn and sweat, aching muscles and strained backs, to harvest the grain with sickles. When the yield was at hand, the work had just begun. Then they must pound and winnow (blow air) through the grain to remove the outer husk. Those who couldn’t afford access to a mill used their own mortar and pestle to grind their grain.

Since the harvest had to carry the family through an entire year, only a small scoop of the flour was mixed with water and kneaded in a bread trough, while the bulk of the flour was safely stored away. The dough was then taken to the oven—but not a family oven. Most families couldn’t afford their own stove. Instead, they used a communal oven.”

Community. Communal. Common. That’s what we need right now.

coronavirus vulnerable high riskSomeone asked if we were canceling church events because we were afraid. It’s a reasonable question. There are many folks who are afraid right now. I recognize that truth. It’s a reasonable fear about a very dangerous virus, especially if you’re in a high-risk portion of the population.

The reason we canceled all our church events is not because we’re afraid. We’re canceling because we care. We’re willing to disrupt our lives, learn new things, and do things in a different way because we believe it will save lives.

What you are doing is not a small thing. You are saving lives.

We believe in a Mighty God and we pray mighty prayers. We believe we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. But there’s an and to that. And we should love your neighbor as yourself. Social distancing is faith and action.

John Wesley’s priorities are summarized this way-
Do No Harm
Do Good
Stay in Love with God

Brainstorm: How can we build and bless our community in this time of social distancing? You’ve got cell phones, computers, Instagram, and Facebook. Be creative.

I challenge you right now to call five friends just to check-in. “I’m thinking about you. I’m praying for you. You’re not alone.” If you’re tech-savvy, make it a video call.

Just like this little child, like the disciples, our job is to do our part and to remember our part is part of a greater whole. Give of your resources and give of yourself without embarrassment, worry, or shame. Give generously. Give joyfully.

We give what we have no matter how small it may seem trusting Jesus to bless it and multiply it for the common good, for the community.

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Social Distancing, Community, and Five Barley Loaves © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon- Bread Alone (Matthew 4, Deuteronomy 8)

Sermon Series Bread 1110 x 624Lenten Sermon Series: Bread
This sermon series was inspired by the book Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers by Margaret Feinberg.

Message 2 of 5: Bread Alone
Scriptures: Matthew 4:1-4; Deuteronomy 8:1-3
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/8/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire contemporary worship service, including the message which starts at the 35-minute mark.

Jesus still wet from his baptism in the Jordan. With the affirmation of the Father ringing in his ears, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) Heads into the Judean wilderness before beginning his public ministry.

Here’s one of the surprises I had in Israel- The Mount of Temptation is really close to Jericho. Everyone for thousands and thousands of years has wanted Jericho because it’s an oasis. It’s rich in people, water, fruits, and vegetables. If you go there be sure to try the dates and bananas and kabob. Jericho is rich in bread.

Jesus chooses to fast for 40 days on the next hill. I suspect he could hear the laughter from Jericho. He could smell their cooking, see the crops growing. I suspect it gave him quite an appetite.

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

The Wilderness
The wilderness will humble you. It will show you how frail and needy and lonely you can be.

Jesus not only chooses to go into the wilderness, he chooses to fast in the wilderness. Fasting is the spiritual discipline for getting serious with God. It’s the spiritual discipline for testing your heart, your motivations. Fasting removes the filters and brings up all the junk. Fasting is roto-rooter for your soul.

The wilderness is also a place to meet the tempter

Temptation #1- Identity
If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

The Devil slides in and questions Jesus’ identity. The Devil does the same to us. If you are a good parent… Are you really a good parent? Are you really a writer? Are you really a ____________? Are you really a beloved child of God? You’re a pretender. You’re an imposter. Those are the words of the tempter.

Jesus knows he’s the Son of God. He was just reminded at his baptism. The Devil knows who Jesus is, too. The question is, do we know who we are?

Jesus is reminded at his baptism as so are we every time we reaffirm our baptismal vows. Look how closely the vows relate to this scripture.

The United Methodist Baptismal Vows
I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of my sin.

I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

I confess Jesus Christ as my Savior, put my whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as my Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.

According to the grace given to me, I will remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world.

If you are a beloved child of God… Yep, that’s who I am!

Jesus knows who he is and the Devil knows who Jesus is. So the Devil double-dog dares Jesus to prove who he is.

Temptation #2- Power
If you are the Son of God command these stones to become loaves of bread

Simple, practical, diabolical

Ok Son of God, prove who you are with a display of your power. Command. Fix the situation. You’re hungry. Force the situation, turn stones into bread. Serve yourself. Satisfy your appetite.

Then the Devil turns to us. Ok so you’re a Beloved Child of God, use your power to command. To fix and force. Serve yourself. Satisfy your appetite. Be the god of your needs.

Then there are times we turn to God with a devilish demand. Ok God, you say you love me. Use your power to fix and force this situation. Fix and force to serve me, to satisfy my appetite. Lord have mercy.

Matthew 20, Mrs. Zebedee does this. Her sons are two of Jesus’ most trusted disciples, James and John. The sons of thunder. Can you imagine these guys, much less mama!

Mrs. Zebedee asks Jesus to fix and force, satisfy her appetite. She requests her sons to be given the highest positions in Jesus’ kingdom. Serve me, Jesus, by serving my boys. This naturally upset the other disciples. Here’s his reply.

Matthew 20:25-28
25 Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

It’s not about us being served by fixing and forcing in our own power. It’s not about expecting God to fix and force on our behalf. It’s about humility and service. That’s who I am as a child of God.

Temptations = Misuse. In this case the misuse of our God-given identity, power, and blessings.

bread-and-stone-whittemoreTemptation #3- Blessings
If you are the Son of God command these stones to become loaves of bread

It is sin and idolatry to twist the blessings of God into something they were never meant to be. Stone was never meant to be bread.

It’s twisting God’s good gift of work into a workaholic.
Love into lust, abuse, pornography, prostitution, enmeshment
Excellence into perfectionism
Food into gluttony, over-processing, eating disorders

In the wilderness, you meet the tempter but it’s also the place to meet God. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness just like the slaves leaving Egypt were led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Into the wilderness and in wilderness.

The wilderness is both dangerous and holy. The Spirit doesn’t just drop Jesus off and say, “Bye-bye. See you in a few weeks.” Imagine how many encouraging, inspiring, intimate conversations the Father, Son, Spirit have those 40 days in the wilderness. I want to see that on the jumbotron when I get to heaven.

Jesus, affirmed by the Father, led by the Spirit, answers the tempter with the word of God. “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 and Deuteronomy 8:3)

Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 8:1-3
God speaking through Moses, 1 This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.

Notice the command is not self-serving. It’s not about control. It is for our good so that we may live.

2 Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.

People of God were led by the Spirit in the wilderness from slavery to freedom.
The same is true for us through the life death and resurrection of Jesus. The wilderness humbles us. Fasting tests what’s in our hearts and reveals it.

God tests us to reveal what’s in our hearts so we may draw closer to God. It’s always for our good. Testing calls us to the higher road and to life. God never tempts. The Devil tempts us away from God and our true selves.

3 He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Am I Living Life by Bread Alone?
My appetites rule my life. I’m misusing my identity, my power, and the blessings of God.

My Motivation is to satisfy my appetite. I will use my power to get what I want. “I need it. I want it. I crave it.”

I control. I force. I cut corners. I manipulate. I will justify my actions as practical, “just doing business.”

It’s idolatry and sin to separate the practical from the spiritual when it’s all spiritual. It’s idolatry and sin to take my God-given identity, power, and blessing and twist it into something it was never meant to be.

No! I’m not going to live by bread alone. I live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord!

I know who I am in Christ. Do you know who you are in Christ?

Have you recognized the power God gives you and are you using it for the glory of God?

Do you respect God’s blessings? Can you see them all around you? Are you using them for the common good?

Prayer
Jesus, help us to see who we truly are. To see the power and blessings you’ve entrusted to us. Give us eyes to see. Help us to see how we are misusing these gifts. We confess it. We ask for your forgiveness. Turn us right. Untwist us. Do not let the Devil deceive or tempt us.

Jesus, thank you for the ways we are cooperating with you. Using what you entrust to us for good. We know there’s good in us because of you. Overcome the evil with the good. Overcome the temptation with your power, your resurrection power, your new life. Forgive us and make us new, Jesus. Use us for your good. I am a Child of God. Glory to God. Amen.

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Sermon- Bread Alone © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

When the Spirit Chases You With the Message You Need to Hear

Freedom - A sculpture by Zenos Frudakis

Freedom by Zenos Frudakis

Themes of slavery and freedom keep chasing me this Lenten season.

The message seems to come from random places, but I’m confident this isn’t random. I trust the Holy Spirit is working all of this together for my good. There’s something I need to know and I need to know it now.

First, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 came up in my Scripture Reading Plan
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

This got me thinking about shrouds and shackles and slavery. How am I bound? It also got me thinking about the Spirit’s promise of seeing clearly and freedom.

In my morning sacred reading, I’m making my way through Jesus, a Pilgrimage by James Martin, SJ. It’s glorious and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

A couple of days after the Corinthians passage, my book reading discusses the raising of Lazarus from John 11. More shrouds and shackles! Lazarus is wrapped up like a mummy. The first scripture talked about slavery to condemnation and the law. Now it’s expanded to include slavery to sin and death.

And again the Good News- New Life, Resurrection, and Freedom in Christ! Unbind him!

Selections from John 11:34-44
34 Jesus said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” … 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. … 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

soar by scott erickson

Soar by Scott Erickson

Then came the scriptures associated with Sunday’s sermon on God freeing the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. We serve a God who saves, a God who delivers us from shackles and shame and sin and death. That is our God!

Check out this promise from Exodus 16:6-7. In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord. 

Then this picture came my way. Soar by Scott Erickson. Isn’t it fantastic! All of his work is fresh and powerful.

This piece says to me, “Freedom in the Spirit.” I love the color, the movement, the joy, the flow, the overshadowing companionship.

This reminds me of what my friend Jenny Gehman said the Spirit told her about her word for the year, SOAR. The Spirit said to her, “SOAR- Sweetheart, Open And Rise.”

grit and virtue kimberly mead freedomThen this quote from Kimberly Mead via the great folks at Grit and Virtue. In freedom there is rest. Slaves don’t rest. Sabbath rest, Soul rest, is the fruit of freedom.

So here I am, praying for eyes to see and ears to hear as the Spirit continues to reveal what this means for me. What might all this mean for you, dear one? – Lisa <><

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When the Spirit Chases You With a Message You Need to Hear
© 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
(by Lisa Degrenia, revlisad.com)
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

What I Learned Making Matzo

Sermon Series Bread 1110 x 624Lenten Sermon Series: Bread
This sermon series was inspired by the book Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers by Margaret Feinberg.

Message 1 of 5: Matzo and Manna
Scriptures: Deuteronomy 16:1-3; Exodus 16:13-15
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/1/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire contemporary worship service, including the message which starts at the 33-minute mark.

Andrew McGowanThis is Andrew McGowan. He’s Australian. He’s an Episcopal priest and seminary professor. He’s the Dean of the Divinity School at Yale and an expert in ancient bread making.

Last week we passed out copies of one of his recipes. Andrew’s 18-Minute Kosher Matzo

If we’re thinking about bread in the Scriptures, we have to start at the beginning with the unleavened bread of those running for their freedom from slavery under Pharoah. The Bread of Affliction.

Deuteronomy 16:1-3, The Passover Remembrance Instructions
1 Observe the month of Abib by keeping the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 You shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock and the herd, at the place that the Lord will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3 You must not eat with it anything leavened. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it—the bread of affliction—because you came out of the land of Egypt in great haste, so that all the days of your life you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt.

matzo ingredientsWhat I Learned Making Matzo-
The Bread of Affliction

Last night at about 10:00 pm, I decided to make matzo. I had to come over to the church to get a rolling pin. We didn’t have one. I don’t bake.

Prepare- I had to gather the ingredients. How different was my experience than that of folks in the ancient world, especially slaves? They had to grind the grain into flour by hand. They had to gather the water by hand in the heat of the desert. Was it bitter? Was it nearby? They had to gather whatever they used to make fire by hand.

All I had to do was turn on the oven. But I had to wait for the oven to heat to 490°. A blazing, oppressive 490°. As I waited, I began to imagine the slaves waiting for freedom. The longing. The praying for deliverance for hundreds of years, for generations.

What deliverance have I been praying for for a long long time? My weight. My perfectionism. Who else this very night is longing and praying for deliverance? What’s on their heart?

As I’m waiting, I’m looking at the ingredients. There’s only two- water and flour. No oil. No spices. Not even salt. It is the bread of affliction. I’m baking old fashioned paste.

For the slaves, there was never enough. They were always scraping, always hungry. They made do with so little.

The oven is ready and its time to begin. Real matzo is finished in 18 minutes or less, start to finish. I wound my old school tick, tick, tick timer. On your mark, get set, go.

I began working the water and flour together with my hands like they would have. I used spelt flour, a flour of the ancient world. It has a darker color and rougher texture than refined, white flour. It’s brown. The color of mud.

My mind went to the slaves working the mud into bricks. With tools. With their hands. It the heat of the desert. Soul-breaking as well as back-breaking work.

18 minutes- tick tick tick tick. It’s just sitting there on the counter laughing at me. Will there be enough time? For the slaves, there was never enough time. Never enough time to do all the work for Pharaoh. Tick Tick Tick Tick. Lash of the whip. Shouts of the overseers.

Never enough time. Never enough time. Tick tick tick tick. Never enough time to rest. Rest? There was no rest, you’re a slave.

Exodus 1:13-14
The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

We can’t begin to imagine how bad it was – ruthless is in there twice. Bitter water. Bitter bread. Bitter lives. I can’t think too much. Tick tick tick tick

matzo doughTime to divide the dough into 4 pieces. Division. The divide between the rulers and the slaves. Power and oppression. Division due to fear, injustice, prejudice. God calls us to be peacemakers, to end division. I can’t think about that too much. Time is moving, tick tick tick tick

Time to roll out the dough. Push and pull and push and pull. This is work. I don’t bake. Push and pull and push and pull tick, tick, tick tick.

Work harder. Work faster. Make bread. Make bread without salt. Make bricks. Make bricks without straw. Tick tick tick tick

Then I realized, I am making slave food! I am literally making slave food. Thousands of years later and slavery hasn’t ended. Thousands of years later. Cant’ think about that too much. Tick tick tick tick

The dough became so thin, so fragile. How fragile life is. How fragile life was. Would it tear as I lifted it from the counter to the parchment paper?

Once it’s on the parchment paper you have to take a fork and pierce it. Stab, stab, stab, stab. It’s brutal. The brutality of the slave drivers, of their lives, even their food. Where in my life am I using my words and power in a brutal way?

Mocking, whipping, injustice, stab stab stab stab- a crown of thorns, stab – a spear in the side. My Jesus! The brutality Jesus experienced that we might be free from slavery to sin and death and shame.

matzo finishedI get it into the oven and wonder- what will happen?

Exodus 2:23-25
The Israelites groaned under their slavery and cried out. Out of the slavery, their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.

What’s going to happen with all the slavery, shackles, division, and brutality? God takes notice. God hears our cries.

At first, there was not enough time to work, not enough time to rest. Then there was not enough time to prepare to leave. The Israelites are going. God is saving them. They’re heading out through the sea and through the wilderness and into the promised land.

It is time to leave. Leave, leave now. Tick tick tick tick. In the middle of the night, leave this slavery for freedom. Leave this slavery for home.

That’s what happened to them and that’s what can happen for us. It’s time to leave the slavery for freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom…

Exodus 16:13-15
13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”

What is it? It is manna which literally means, “what is it?.” God frees us and provides for us.

This is manna, not matzo.

Matzo is the bread of Pharaoh. The bread of affliction, slavery, brutality, prejudice, division, exploitation, fear…

God gives manna, the bread of heaven. So different I can’t even wrap my head around it.

What is it?
It’s manna, the bread of heaven.
It’s sweet. It’s flaky. It’s freely given.
I don’t have to push and pull and strive.

It’s rest, freely given.
I’m no longer a slave.
I can sabbath.

Freedom, freely given.

Grace, freely given.

New life, freely given.

New every morning,
day after day after day after day…
for them and for us

Exodus 16:6-7
“…In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning, you will see the glory of the LORD…”

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Sermon- Matzo and Manna © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon- Stillness (Psalm 46)

Sermon Series Seeking God 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Seeking God
Message 5 of 5: Stillness
Scriptures: Psalm 46
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/23/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire contemporary worship service, including the message.

From Screens to Stillness: Challenge of the Screens, a selection from Becky Eldredge’s terrific blog
Our world drastically changed on January 9, 2007. What happened on this date? Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, stood at a press conference and announced that Apple had reinvented the phone. He said it had software for everything, the world’s best media player, the world’s best telephone, and the world’s best way to get on the web, and in addition to that, it had a camera.

Just a few months prior to this announcement in January 2007, Facebook opened its doors to all above the age of thirteen in September 2006. Later in 2007, Twitter began. Google launched the Android phone in 2007 as well. Amazon came out with the Kindle. Mobile traffic drastically increased- 100,000% from 2007 to 2014.

So much changed in a short amount of time about how we communicate, how we interact, and how we go about building relationships. An article I read once in Forbes magazine stated that on average we get 121 emails a day, and we check our phones every twelve minutes. That’s over 80 times a day! The article said that for every interruption it takes us fifteen minutes to refocus. Our brains are exhausted from continually pulling in and out of focus all day….

While there is a gift to technology, the advent of the handheld screen is impacting our bodies, our health, our creativity, our mental health, and so much more. As I follow business literature I am seeing more and more being written about the value of pausing, of silence, and of being still. Every time I read a new book or article about this, I chuckle. The “medicine” they are offering people is the tried and true contemplative prayer practices our Christian faith has lauded for hundreds of years. It’s the medicine people taught me these past two decades, and I passionately want to share with others. I believe people are longing to live a different way and to have tools to help them combat the busyness and embrace the gift of stillness and silence.

I believe this, too. In the midst of trouble, stress, need, and a big pile of work, my last instinct is to be still. God invites me to cultivate stillness as my first instinct.

I’m learning how to do this and I hope you are learning right along with me. Since we began this sermon series, I established a new morning rhythm of Sacred Reading, Scripture, and Stillness. Already it’s making a huge difference.

I am different on the days I practice my morning rhythm than when I don’t. It’s simple. It’s classically Christian. It is Biblical and available for all of us.

Psalm 46:10-11
“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge

Definition of Contemplative Prayer by Becky Eldredge, From Screens to Stillness: Embracing Silence and Stillness in the Day-to-Day
Contemplative prayer in the Christian tradition is about being still and silent with someone-God. We do not enter silence, stillness, and solitude alone. We go to be with someone.

For me, stillness is about recognizing the presence of God who is already there. This is what makes our practice of stillness different than practices outside the Christian tradition. Other practices seek answers within a person’s own self or seek to connect to larger energies or “universe.”

We seek the person and presence of God. We become still enough to realize the Lord of Hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is not angry or distant but is our refuge.

Jennifer Gehman’s Testimony. Find Jenny at www.jennygehman.com
I’m part of an online group of Christian authors know as Bookwifery. We meet for an hour on Fridays to encourage one another, resource one another and pray for one another.

Jenny and her family have been praying about a major life change for her family- moving to a new city and a new job. Her word for the year is SOAR, yet all she could visualize was an eagle protecting its young. The wings folded over, wrapped around.

It makes sense. She cares for an adult child with special needs. She also has a strong hospitality calling, so she’s constantly welcoming people into her home.

She kept going to God in stillness. The Holy Host as she describes God. This past week this is what she heard- SOAR, Sweetheart, open and rise.

Do you hear the invitation in that? The affirmation. Not condemnation or mocking. An invitation to a new adventure, a new perspective, a bigger picture. They have decided to move and take on the new job.

There are a zillion questions yet to be answered, yet as she told the story her face lit up. She was almost giggling giddy. We all felt the lift, the soar of it.

It all came from stillness. This is for all of us.

Psalm 46
God’s Defense of His City and People. To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
    though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah

Selah-(See-lah), it’s like breath. We’re not sure exactly what it means, but we suspect it means “stop and listen.” Stop and listen to the instruments? Stop and listen in the silence? Whatever it was, it was “stop and listen to God and let this promise sink in.”

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
    God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
    see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
    I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Three times the Psalmist reminds us that God is our refuge and strength. (Psalm 46:1, 7, and 11) Our Deliverer. Our Savior.⁠

Three times the Psalmist reminds us God is near. A very present help- well proved.⁠

Knowing this we can be still and know God is God⁠
I AM, exalted among the nations⁠
I AM, exalted in the earth (Psalm 46:10)⁠

Knowing this we can be still⁠
⁠There’s no need to self-medicate with busyness and distraction
There’s no need to hustle for our self-worth or salvation
⁠There’s no need to fear our dependence on God
⁠There’s no need to fear what might come up in the stillness

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Knowing this about God brings us to stillness and brings us stillness.

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Sermon- Stillness © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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