Pinpointing Your Passion (Titus 2)

Sermon Series Spiritual Gifts 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Many Gifts, One Spirit. Discerning Our Calling From God. 
Message 4 of 5: Pinpointing Your Passion
Scripture: Titus 2:11-14, The Voice
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 10/20/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. This message was inspired by the Network Curriculum by Bugbee, Cousins, and Hybels.

Reflection Questions
What do you notice repeatedly that breaks your heart?

Now let’s get honest. What annoys you, angers you? We’re not talking about an inconvenience. We’re talking about righteous anger. We’re talking about something that if it were changed, it would bring glory to God and new life to others.

Whatever you named is probably your passion.

Passion is the God-given desire that compels us to make a difference
Passion is like gasoline, it drives us. It’s energy, the movement of the Holy Spirit in our life, faith in action.

Passion is a good gift of God that can drive us to good. If the good gift gets twisted it can drive us to trouble. So we seek the Godly gasoline, the Godly passions- truth, justice, healing, belonging, empowering. Seek the things that bring life, things that matter. Making the wrongs right. Making the broken whole.

Passion is often described as hunger. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” – Matthew 5:6

Passion will keep you up at night and get you up in the morning.

Titus 2:11-14, The Voice
11 We have cause to celebrate because the grace of God has appeared, offering the gift of salvation to all people. 12 Grace arrives with its own instruction: run away from anything that leads us away from God; abandon the lusts and passions of this world; live life now in this age with awareness and self-control, doing the right thing and keeping yourselves holy. 13 Watch for His return; expect the blessed hope we all will share when our great God and Savior, Jesus the Anointed, appears again.

Passion is associated with zeal and enthusiasm
en theos – possessed by God, “God within us”

When we come to faith we repent, we turn from our selfish ways to follow Jesus. This passage instructs us to “run away from the passions of this world, abandoning anything that leads us away from God.” We place our trust in Jesus, we turn to run towards God- aware, awake, alive in Christ, watching for the movement of God, expecting the movement of God.

We choose self-control so we may better help others. We live intentionality because we value the time, energy, and resources we’ve been given. We want to do the right thing. God calls us to follow Jesus in this adventure of the Christian life, the saving of the world.

14 He gave His body for our sakes and will not only break us free from the chains of wickedness, but He will also prepare a community uncorrupted by the world that He would call His own—people who are passionate about doing the right thing.

Passion is from the Greek root path meaning “to suffer.” That’s why the period from Jesus’ arrest to his crucifixion and death is called His Passion. Jesus suffers to end suffering.

Compassion- with passion, with those who are suffering. Most of the time our passion is to end some kind of suffering.

Jesus suffers and dies and rises again because he’s passionate about saving the world- ending evil, injustice, sin, death, shame for all time. He comes alongside us in his great compassion so that our suffering may end.

When we become Christians, when we become “little christs,” we say yes to compassion, yes to suffering so that suffering will end.

There’s good news, we don’t have to do it alone. Jesus prepares a community. As you think about what suffering God is calling you to do something about, who’s on your team? Who will you bring together or what group will you join? A single person can’t end malaria, but together we can.

We’re better together, stronger together. Different people each bring their spiritual gifts. We come together, we become the Body of Christ, and the world is made new. The Kingdom comes.

What suffering is God calling you to end and who is on your team?

Eleanor Josaitis, co-founder of Focus: Hope, in downtown Detroit, and she shared what caused her to become passionate about reaching the inner city.

While watching TV one evening in the late 1960s, the program was interrupted by a news bulletin about the March on Mississippi. She saw the brutality being committed against African Americans and decided something had to be done. She and her family moved from the suburbs to the inner city and began Focus: Hope, to dedicate the last 43 years of her life to “intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty, and injustice.” Eleanor had found her passion and she followed through with her words and deeds.

This past week Tee and I spent a great deal of time talking and it prayer over deaths of desperation. Deaths of desperation are a gentler way to talk about suicide.

There were three murder-suicides in Sarasota county last week. One seems to be a situation of domestic violence. The others are spouses caring for an incredibly ill spouse. The situation was overwhelming. The only way out seemed to be death.

ListeningCare to push back against the epidemic of loneliness, isolation, despair. Folks need someone to listen. It’s not counseling, brainstorming solutions, or fixing. It’s creating space for a person to be heard and received just as they are.

The topic isn’t important. Joys or needs could be shared. It’s about making connections.

We’re praying about how we can be trained more deeply so we can offer this deep training to the congregation. This may be something you’re passionate about. Lowering the suicide rate. Lowering the number of people who feel alone or in despair.

Acts 9:36-43. Tabitha/Dorcas  is described as “devoted to good works and acts of charity.” She dies and the community sends for Peter. When he arrives, the widows of Lydda beg Peter to raise her from the dead because she was the one who’d been caring for them when no one else would. She was their safety net when they had none.

Peter raised her from the dead. He answered the call of God to do something way beyond his abilities. Tabitha continued to answer the call to care for the widows of her community.

What would be it like to be so needed, so important to a group of people they begged for you to be raised from the dead?

At the end of your life, you’d like to look back and know you’d done something about … That passion we would name at your celebration of life and give God the glory for because you answered the calling God placed upon your life.

Pinpointing Your Passion Insert
Complete the worksheet to discover your passion. Your passion is where God invites you to serve. Combine your passion with your spiritual gifts, what God invites me to do.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a calling from God
You have a mission, You have a purpose, You are needed
What step will you take today to fulfill your calling?

Prayer: God we honor you and thank you for the spiritual gifts you give us through the Holy Spirit, for the passion and calling your place upon our lives. We are humbled before you, that you would desire us to help you save the world, but you do. You have said I need you and I want you. Help us to hear clearly and see clearly and step out in faith to love and serve alongside you.

Fill us with compassion and empathy. Fill us with fire to see good things come. Fill us Lord because we cannot do this in our own strength. We need you. We always need you.

We ask this in the strong name of Jesus, our Lord, and our Savior. Amen.

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Pinpointing Your Passion © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

One Body, Many Members (1 Corinthians 12)

Sermon Series Spiritual Gifts 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Many Gifts, One Spirit. Discerning Our Calling From God. 
Message 3 of 5: One Body, Many Members
Scripture:  1 Corinthians 12:12-26
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 10/13/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a calling from God,

  • Come follow Me = call to relationship with Christ, call to salvation
  • Come follow Me = call to relationship with others, call to serve

You have a mission from God. You have a purpose.

God gives you spiritual gifts to help you figure out your calling to serve and fulfill your calling to serve. Spiritual gifts are divine enablement, like a superpower. God through the Holy Spirit arranges and empowers the superpowers for us to work together for the glory of God and the common good.

To help us understand this Paul gives us a metaphor- One Body with Many Members. We can understand a human body with many parts fulfilling their purpose, working together well.

This reminds me of Mr. Potato Head. 

  • Feet = spiritual gift of Apostleship, the divine enablement to start new things
  • Ear = spiritual gift Faith, faith comes through hearing (Romans 10:17), the spiritual gift of confidence in God
  • Ear = spiritual gift of Mercy, the divine enablement of being with people in pain
  • Eyes = spiritual gift of Wisdom, the divine enablement of seeing a consequence of choices and applying the scriptures in practical ways
  • Nose = spiritual gift of Discernment, the divine enablement of discerning truth from falsehood, good from evil, right from wrong. “Something smells fishy.”
  • Mouth = spiritual gift of Prophecy, the ability to speak truth to power
  • Hand = spiritual gift of Helps, little things done with great love
  • Hand = spiritual gift of Teaching

There are many more body parts for many more people and spiritual gifts. They work together for the glory of God and the common good.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.

  • Unity in Christ is incredibly important. In three verses, the word “one” is used 6 times. The word “all” is used 3 times. We’re better together.
  • All spiritual gifts are valuable and needed, thus all people are valuable and needed
  • So powerful and important, breaks down how the world divides us – Jews/Greeks, slaves/free (v. 13)
  • 1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

We take the good gift of God and twist it into something it was never meant to be.

People not valuing their own gifts = self-exclusion
15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body.

Story of me freaked out I didn’t have certain spiritual gifts “all pastors have”. I had the false idea that there was a certain gift mix for pastors. 
I didn’t have- leadership, evangelism, shepherding, apostleship
I did have- administration, teaching, wisdom, mercy

The grace and truth- “Everyone in this room is called to be a pastor. Everyone in this room has a different gift mix. You will lead, you will answer your call in the way you are wired. You will bring your gifts to being a pastor.”

We are one body with many members. It’s not about solo-heroic leadership. It’s about us doing it together.

We value each other’s gifts and we do it together. That’s how we make disciples. That’s how we transform the world. That’s how we grow in grace. That’s how we do it- together.

Invitation to discover your spiritual gifts

God’s wired you and given you a mission. It’s good, so don’t self eliminate. God made you you. You’re important and needed.

People not valuing another person and their gifts = exclusion of others
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

We suffer together and we celebrate together. That’s what it means to be the Body of Christ, the Family of God.

Extended Quote by Nadia Bolz-Webber
Sermon on Spiritual Gifts (which, unfairly, doesn’t include snarkiness)
“This ended up being one of my more difficult weeks in recent memory and I found myself having no choice but to rely on the prayers and faith and wisdom and compassion of those brothers and sisters in Christ whom God has put in my life – because frankly I was tapped out. Which is hard because I’d so rather have all the gifts myself and not have to rely on others. But when it feels like a failure on my part that I don’t have the faith or compassion or prayer life or wisdom that I need, I just have to remember that the only real failure is when I fail to recognize that I do actually have all the faith and compassion and prayer and wisdom I need – it’s just that someone else in my life is holding it for me.

See, I believe that it is God’s intention that we need each other. Not in a creepy co-dependent having no boundaries type of way. But in a bearing the face of Christ kind of way because when I cannot see goodness, when I cannot see hope or beauty or the face of Christ in my own heart, in my own life, and through my own eyes I need you to do it for me.”

This is why we’re part of the Body. We need each other. We value each other. We can’t do it alone. We weren’t designed to do it alone.

Accept the invitation to discover your spiritual gifts, to know how valuable you are, how needed you are. God has a purpose for you- to bring glory to God and build up others.

Theme Verse for this series, 1 Peter 4:10-11
10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer- Jesus it is such a great grace that you offer us salvation. Even more so, you offer us the chance to join you in your saving work. You trust us that much. You empower us that much. Reveal to us our spiritual gifts. Reveal to us the calling that you’ve placed upon our lives so we may fulfill it together, so we may fulfill it for your glory, so we may fulfill it for the common good, so we may fulfill it for the building of your Kingdom. Help us to know that we know that we know how valuable we are to you and how valuable we are to each other. God, we ask by the power of your Holy Spirit, that all people would know their value, their purpose, their place in your Body. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

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One Body, Many Members © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon on Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12)

Sermon Series Spiritual Gifts 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Many Gifts, One Spirit. Discerning Our Calling From God. 
Message 2of 5: Spiritual Gifts
Scripture:  1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 10/6/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Each and every one of us as followers of Jesus has a calling from God. We have a mission. We have a purpose for our lives.

The first calling from God is “Come, follow me.”

  • Call to a relationship with God
  • Call to salvation

The second calling from God is also “Come, follow me.”

  • Call to relationship, to follow Jesus out into the world  in relationship and service to others

Upward to God and outward to others- it’s cross-shaped. We have both callings.

The series theme verse is 1 Peter 4:10-11   
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

I have a call to be and a call to do. The big question is, “God, what do you want me to do?” We spend a great deal of time thinking about this and if we’re honest, we’re anxious about this. We’re trying to figure it out and we’re not sure and what if I make a mistake. I want to do the right thing, but it’s a hard thing…

Hear the Good News!
If you are a follower of Jesus, you not only have a calling from God
God gives you spiritual gifts to help you figure out that calling
God gives you spiritual gifts to help you fulfill that calling
God never asks you to do something without equipping you to do it

An easy way to think about spiritual gifts is to think of them like superpowers. Have you ever wanted a superpower? Which one did you want? (When I was little and going through my superhero stage, I wanted to be Lisa Super Steel Nurse.)

We have superpowers, spiritual gifts from God, and we get to join God in saving the world. It’s exciting and God wants us to know about this.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.

God wants us to be informed about spiritual gifts.

Paul then goes into a section about how persons were unbelievers but now they are believers and their lives are to be transformed. You have salvation, you have the Holy Spirit, and you have spiritual gifts.

DESCRIPTION OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

A Spiritual Gift is a Divine Enablement (v. 4-6)

  • A God-given superpower
  • Spirit, Lord, God activates spiritual gifts. This must be important because it’s repeated three times. You don’t have to fall into a vat of radioactive goop. You don’t have to be bitten by a spider. You’re given them for being a follower of Jesus Christ.
  • Variety of gifts, Variety of services, Variety of activities. There’s a great variety of gifts which must be important because it’s repeated three times.
  • Every believer has a least one spiritual gift, many believers have a few- a gift mix that makes you you (v. 7) No human possesses all the gifts. Each person possesses some. The gifts complement one another. We are better together.

Freely given by God

  • Just like salvation is a free gift of God. Just like God’s presence with us in the Holy Spirit is a free gift of God. Spiritual gifts are a free gift of God.
  • Spiritual Gifts cannot be earned or merited or chosen. They are distributed and empowered by the Holy Spirit as the Spirit chooses (v. 11) God is God. We are not.

Given for the benefit of others, the common good (v. 7)

  • Specifically to build up others and to glorify of God. Again, cross-shaped.
  • If you use your spiritual gifts for yourself, it’s like becoming a supervillain.

EXAMPLES OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS
This is the largest list of all the gift lists. There are two other lists plus other miscellaneous scriptures. How many can you find?

8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Wisdom– the divine enablement to apply spiritual truth effectively and practically to meet a need. Folks with the gift of wisdom hear the Spirit providing direction. They see consequences others have trouble seeing. Biblical Example: Abigail in 1 Samuel 25.

The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. – James 3:17

Prophecy– to speak truth to power in order folks can see the truth, in order folks can turn towards God and away from wickedness, in order for folks to be encouraged to do what is right, true, and good. Biblical Examples: Old Testament Prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus in Matthew 23.

Faith- We become followers of Jesus by faith, by placing our trust in Jesus to save us. The spiritual gift of faith is not only faith in God it is confidence in God. Unwavering belief, especially in the face of trouble. Biblical Example: David the shepherd boy facing Goliath.

Isn’t it exciting to think you have some of these superpowers! God has entrusted you with God’s presence. God has entrusted you with the filling of the Holy Spirit. God has entrusted you with a call on your life. God has entrusted you with spiritual gifts in order to know your call and fulfill your call.

Invitation to discover your spiritual gifts

The message concludes with the prayer before Holy Communion. 

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Sermon on Spiritual Gifts © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Come Down The Mountain (Matthew 17)

Sermon Series Spiritual Gifts 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Many Gifts, One Spirit. Discerning Our Calling From God. 
Message 1 of 5: Come Down the Mountain
Scripture:  Matthew 17:1-15
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 9/29/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a calling from God. They go hand in hand. Each and every one of us. It’s not just for the pastor or the missionary.

It’s just like the Blues Brothers when they say, “I’m on a mission from God.” That could be our catchphrase as well.

The series theme verse is 1 Peter 4:10-11   
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

The first calling from God is “Come, follow me.”

  • Call to a relationship with Christ
  • Call to salvation

The second calling from God is “Come down the mountain”

  • Call to relationship with others
  • Call to serve

Matthew 17:1-15, The Transfiguration of Jesus
1Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.

What happened six days before? Jesus gathers the disciples and foretells his death and resurrection. Jesus’ foretells his call to serve

  • Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
  • Jesus reveals his call to serve and says you also have a call. You also have a cross.

Almost a week had passed since this conversation. Do the disciples have any clue that this will be a crazy, powerful, holy experience?

2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

Time shatters and Jesus is revealed glorified. Two of the heroes of the faith are there talking to Jesus like they’re old friends. There’s Moses, the one who was with God on the mountain, who brought down the ten commandments and led the people from slavery into freedom. There’s Elijah the prophet, who had many powerful encounters with God on mountains.

Peter, James, and John are in the middle of all this. They receive a glimpse of glory on the top of the mountain.

It isn’t just Jesus’ glory; it’s Moses’ glory and Elijah’s glory. In glory, we won’t be alone. Jesus shows us we will have companions and that it’s always about relationship.

4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

It’s good to get a glimpse of glory. It’s good to be on top of the mountain.

Why would Peter offer to build Jesus, Moses, and Elijah’s dwellings? That seems weird. It was actually a usual practice of those who worshipped false gods in this time period. You’d see the sides of notable mountains dotted with altars and tents, even buildings.

Peter is so excited. He’s like a puppy. We can do this and we can do that. Let’s stay on the mountain. It’s good for us to be here.

This is the temptation, to stay on the mountain. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. We have this new relationship with God and our hearts are starting to be opened, and our eyes are starting to be opened, and our minds are starting to be opened.

We just want to hang out with Jesus on the mountain. There’s a reason why they call it a “mountaintop experience.” We want to stay with Jesus away from the messiness and pain of life.

The second temptation is to want to capture and control the Glory of God. Jesus, let’s build a box for you and a box for Moses and a box for Elijah and we’ll keep all this glory in the box and hang out together on the mountain.

5 While Peter was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud, a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him, I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.

They are hearing the very voice of God. Yes, it is wonder-full, power-full, marvelous, and glorious. But on the mountaintop in the full presence of God, it is also awe-full, mysterious, holy, and overwhelming. All we can do is fall on our faces before the glory of God.

It’s excitement and joy and it’s on my face, “You are God and I am not.”

Steve Garnaas Holmes said, “Let’s be honest: it’s terrifying to stand too close to a speeding train, to get near to the power of God, the light that can change you into your own unknown, the mystery that will surely consume you, the love that will crack your life open till the light all spills out

Jim Harnish said, “They never expected to see Jesus “transfigured in front of them…his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white.”  They never expected to see Elijah and Moses talking with him like old friends. They never anticipated the voice in the cloud that declared, “This is my Son…Listen to him.”  No wonder they were terrified! They were scared stiff by a startling experience of the sacred.”

What would you do?

Jesus leads as he always does. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”

Jesus comes in the midst of being overwhelmed by the power and goodness. Jesus comes and Jesus touches us. God touches us and speaks. What does God always say, “Do not be afraid.”

Yes, it is holy, powerful, mysterious, but God draws near. God desires the relationship and initiates the relationship. God always draws near.

8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

The glimpse of glory was just that … a glimpse … and it was gone.

The first calling from God is “Come, Follow Me.”

  • Call to a relationship with Christ
  • Call to salvation
  • Call to come to the mountaintop
  • Call to experiences the presence and glory of God

The second calling from God is “Come Down the Mountain”

  • Call to relationship with others
  • Call to engagement
  • Call to serve

14 When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, 15 and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water.

The four come down the mountain, down into the valley. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me. (Psalm 23)

We come up the mountain and experience the light, the glory, the goodness of God and we bring that light down the mountain with us so we can come into the shadows, the darkness, the pain, the mess and we can push it all back with the light.

Jim Harnish asks, “Which is more frightening for us? The possibility of some unexpected, overwhelming experience of the sacred? Or the challenge of following Jesus into the shadows and needs of our ordinary lives?”

Hear the Good News Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”

Prayer:
Jesus, give us your glory and give us grace
Grace to follow you up the mountain and down into the valley
Thank you for every loving invitation
You shine. You are glorious. You are Light, O Christ.
Fill us with light.
Grant us a glimpse of your glory.

Save us, O God,
From every temptation
From every false understanding and motivation

Save us from the temptation to just stay on the mountain
Save us from the temptation to never engage
Save us from the temptation
of trying to capture and control your power and glory

You are Mystery, You are Holy, You are God
We bow in wonder and worship

Help us listen
Help us follow
Help us listen
Help us follow
Help us know your touch, your voice
Help us follow you in grace, goodness, light, and service
Amen.

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Come Down the Mountain © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Be the Beatitude, Be the Blessing (Matthew 5)

Sermon Series beatitudes 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: The Beatitudes, God’s Surprising Blessing
Message 4 of 4: Be the Blessing
Scripture:  Matthew 5:1-12
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 9/15/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

The Ladder of the Beatitudes by Jim Forest was inspired by a beautiful, sacred painting from the late 1100s entitled The Ladder of Divine Ascent. It’s a painting of monks climbing a ladder towards Jesus in Heaven illustrating the journey of faith.

The angels, saints, siblings in Christ are praying for us and cheering us on in the faith as we make our way to be more and more like Jesus, as we make our way to heaven. The devil and demons are working hard to distract us and tempt us so we fall off the path.

Jim Forest sees this painting and thinks- that ladder is like the Beatitudes. We climb the Beatitudes, step by step, one after another. The Beatitudes are the natural progression of a faithful life.

(I got a stunt double to climb the ladder for me this week! One step for each Beatitude.)

5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

This is the first half of the Beatitudes. It seems the first two Beatitudes and the third and 4th Beatitudes are paired. The fifth and sixth are also paired, as are the seventh and eighth. (Like taking two steps at a time.)

First two are paired in recognizing our need of God. I recognize I am poor in spirit. I recognize I am a spiritual beggar. I cannot save myself. I am in need of salvation and God provides it. Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Blessed are those who mourn. As I begin to look at myself I get honest with my sin, my shame, my guilt, my mistakes. I get honest with the mess I’m in and recognize I need forgiveness. I need new life. The first two Beatitudes are about recognizing our need.

The second two Beatitudes are about recognizing our strengths. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. I recognize I am strong and I have gifts. I place it under the authority and discipline of God.

I recognize I have the Holy Spirit living in me, I have hungers, thirsts, passion, fire, appetites. I ask God to focus all of that good energy into righteousness- right relationship with God, with others, between others, with myself, and with creation. God focus that good energy so I don’t use it in ways that are weapons, in ways that don’t last, in ways that are false.

The first two steps are about bowing in humility to God. The next two steps are about standing in the truth of who God made me.

In the first two steps, I recognize I am dust and ashes. In the next two steps, I claim I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

The first four Beatitudes prepare us for the last four Beatitudes. There’s a great deal of internal work going on in the first four Beatitudes. The higher we climb, the more external this blessing becomes, the more action-oriented.

The first 4 prepare us so we’re in the right soul place to join Jesus in the adventure of saving the world. I am named blessed so that I can be a blessing. 

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
I remember back all the way to the first step when I needed mercy. In fact, there isn’t a time when I don’t need mercy. The Beatitude checks all the passion, fire, hungering and thirst strength to make sure I am not using it as a weapon. I am using it in a merciful way.

God is all-powerful. God is strong to save. Does God wield that as a weapon? No. God wields God’s power mercy-fully.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Checks our motivation. Is my motivation to have Jesus sitting on the throne of my heart, to see the world as Jesus sees it? (How’s the view from up there?

God, I want to want what you want. I want your motivation to be my motivation. “Pure in heart” is about having an undivided heart. A divided heart has one foot with Jesus and one for our selves. It’s like having two people trying to sit on the throne at the same time. It’s not going to happen.

If we’re really honest we can’t multitask. We can’t do two things at the same time with any kind of skill or accomplishment. We can’t serve 2 masters.

Do I want to build myself up or am I building up others, building the Kingdom? Jesus, I want to see you and join you and glorify you.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. As we step out in faith to be a blessing to others, we begin to see Jesus in the folks we are with. We see God right here, right now.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
How often do we pray for peace? We want peace of mind and heart, in our family, safety, security, calm, comfort.

Jesus is Jewish. When he’s thinking about peace he’s thinking about Shalom. Shalom is about the well-being of all creation. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, the right relationship of everything.

When I do this, folks will see Jesus in me and say, “that must be a child of God.”

The well-being of persons, the earth, systems so they are just and fair, governments so they have the best interest of all people. It’s big picture. The higher we go, the more we can see.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
The followers of Christ have been called to peace. … And they must not only have peace but also make it. And to that end, they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ, nothing is to be gained by such methods. … His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce hatred and wrong. In so doing they overcome evil with good and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus is raising us up to be prophets. Jesus is raising us up to be like him in his power to heal and to be ready for the persecution when it comes.

There’s a long history of persecution and harassment for God’s children. Placing our trust in Christ and living a life that looks more and more like his stirs things up.

When you start practicing mercy, peacemaking, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, your life is going to look different and people are going to notice. Not all of that notice is going to be positive. This Beatitude is honest enough to admit it.

We climb the ladder of the Beatitudes. It’s all leading up to so loving Jesus and desiring to follow him, that I will risk persecution. The higher you go on the ladder, the more risk there is.

Closer and closer to Jesus. I want to see thinks as you see them. I want to do things as you do them. Closer and closer to heaven- your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In order to get to heaven, you have to die. In order to be fully a part of heaven on earth, you have to die to self and be raised to new life in Jesus Christ. 

The higher we climb, the more we die to self.

  • Blessed are the Poor in Spirit- God, help me to die to trying to save myself and doing things in my own strength.
  • Blessed are those who Mourn- God, help me to die to sin and self-centeredness.
  • Blessed are the Meek- God, help me die to unbridled strength. I never want my power, talents, and strength to be used as a weapon.
  • Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness- God help me die to division, to prejudice, anything which keeps apart from one another.
  • Blessed are the Merciful- God, help me to die to revenge, resentment, and payback.
  • Blessed are the Pure in Heart- God, help me to die to trying to serve two masters. Be the leader of my life. Sit on the throne of my heart. Give me an undivided heart, a heart after your own heart.
  • Blessed are the Peacemakers- God, help me to die to evil, injustice, oppression. Help me to die to violence and hate. Help me to die to me and mine, us and them, because in your kingdom it is only us.
  • Blessed are the Persecuted- God, help me to die to approval, popularity, and safety. Help me to die to hiding my faith and risk aversion. God make me courageous in wherever you would lead me.

The main symbol of Christianity isn’t the star of Bethlehem or the empty tomb. It’s the cross- an instrument of injustice and mocking and torture and death.

If you’re going to be a Christian, be a Christian, fully alive in Christ. Christian literally means “a little Christ.” Everything that goes along with following Jesus. If you’re going to be a Christian, then be a Christ. Be the blessing.

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Be the Beatitude, Be the Blessing © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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