Prayer: Making Room (Luke 2:1-7)

change sheets
Reading: Luke 2:1-7

She gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
– Luke 2:7

Prayer: Making Room
No room in the inn
I can understand this
There’s only so much space
And it’s already taken
It’s simple
Factual

But your blessed Word says more
No room for them in the inn

Them
Joseph and Mary are them
Unlike me and mine
Suspicious strangers
With complicated needs

I can’t bring them in
No time
No room

I won’t bring them in
Give them access to all I have
All I’ve worked for
All I love

It isn’t wise
It isn’t safe

The stable is for them
Stay there
Over there
that hidden place
that place in the back
that place for animals
away from where I live
not here with me and mine

But
I want Jesus
and
Jesus is them

There’s no room for him
if there’s no room for them

That’s who Jesus is
That’s what Jesus does
He makes room

Born in a stable
making room
for the humble and the homeless

King of kings
making room
for the rich and the royal

An outsider
making room
for those who’ve been
turned away
left out
rejected

An insider
making room
for the distinguished and established

A laborer
making room

Well educated
making room

A migrant, a refugee
making room

making room
making room
always making room

That’s who you are Jesus
That’s what you do
You make room

You’ve even made room for me

Now make room in me
Forgive me
Change me
Teach me
To do what you do
To make room

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Prayer: Making Room  © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Blessing the Calling

anointing confirmation This is the season in the United Methodist Church for commissioning, ordination, and pastoral appointments. I offer this blessing for all who lead God’s people and in celebration of the priesthood of all believers. To God be the glory! – Lisa <><

Psalm 133 (NRSV)
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

Precious oil
A luxurious, extravagant outpouring
Running, skipping upon your head
Flowing down your face
Pooling on your clavicle
Seeping into your bones
Signifying to all your calling
Reminding you of you
God’s chosen instrument
God’s anointed beloved
God’s fragrant presence
Being made holy
and whole
Overflowing with all that you have found
With all that has found you
Bearer of Blessing
Forevermore

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For a devotion and prayer based on Psalm 133 entitled Psalms of Peace, click here

Blessing the Calling © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Tell Me, Dear Tree: A Lenten Hymn of Sacrifice

Crucifixion Tree outside the walled city of Mdina. Photo by Antoine Pace via TrekEarth.com

Jesus’ suffering on the cross was a correct diagnosis and revelation of the human dilemma. It was an invitation to enter into solidarity with the pain of the world, and our own pain, instead of always resisting it, avoiding it, or denying it. Lady Julian of Norwich, my favorite Christian mystic, understood it so well, and she taught, in effect, that “There is only one suffering and we all share in it.” – Richard Rohr

Tell me, Dear Tree
A Lenten hymn of sacrifice
Meter- 86.86 double (CMD)
Suggested tune: KINGSFOLD (United Methodist Hymnal #179)

Tell me dear tree on which my Lord, my blessed Lord did hang,
How could you hold the spotless Lamb, be party with the gang?
That cheerless day, that shadowy hour, my blessed Savior died,
to free my soul for heavenly things, O tree, you must have cried.

Yes all your fibers must have screamed for you one time did live
a green and growing tree, alive, but your whole self did give
to be the instrument of death, to be the very tree
to be the place for Christ to die upon dark Calvary

Wait! Do I hear a shout of joy from somewhere deep within?
Your duty done; the battle won so all the world might win.
How beautiful your love for Him. He sewed it long ago
You bore the weight. You took the stain, and now the world must know

The tree of death felt every wound, felt all the pain and loss.
She loved her maker through it all, was glad to be His cross.
Teach me dear tree on which my Lord, My precious Lord did die
To treasure grueling duties done so Christ is lifted high

© 1992, revised 2009 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form. Lisa is especially interested in collaborating with someone to set this text to original music.

Retreat or Rejoice: Responding to God’s Presence (Psalm 114)

Detail of a photo from a set of photos of the Sinai 100 years ago.

Detail of a photo from a set of photos of the Sinai 100 years ago.

Psalm 114 NRSV
When Israel went out from Egypt,
The house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.
Why is it, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back?
O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.

In the presence of God
Do you flee like the Red Sea?
Back away like the Jordan?
Repelled by The Holiness
Cowering amongst your own shortfall, sin, and brokenness
in the presence of The Judge

Or

In the presence of God
Do you rejoice with the ancient mountains?
Skipping and dancing like spring lambs?
Quaking with excitement at Your Creator’s companionship
Shuddering in surprise
at the deliverance
the grace
the nurture
of the Divine One
Who makes of you a sanctuary
and home

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Today’s featured photo and many more will be found at Go Tell it on the Mountain, a blog from the mountains of the Sinai

Retreat or Rejoice: Responding to God’s Presence (Psalm 114)
© 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Reflection and Prayer: Seed, Wheat, Bread (Psalm 1, Matthew 3:8-12, Matthew 13:24-30, John 6)

wheatThere are times when a line from scripture opens up a path through other scriptures to a new place with God.

My most recent trip began with Psalm 1, a comparison of those who follow and delight in the ways of God and those who choose their own path, which is often destructive for themselves and others. The first are like trees “planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.” The second “are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”

Chaff is straw- withered, brittle stalks remaining after a grain harvest. Nothing like a tree. Trees take longer to produce fruit, but remain season after season.

Chaff is also the discarded casing around the grain itself. Wheat and chaff, for example. The wheat is separated from the chaff by throwing it into the air. The heavier wheat falls to the ground while the chaff is “driven away” by the wind.

This led to Matthew 3:8-12 and the sharp, prophetic voice of John the Baptizer. I knew I’d find references to the division of wheat and chaff, but also found references to trees and fruit. “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.” (v. 8) Repentance means to do a u-turn, to do a 180 from walking in our own ways to walking with God. Our lives should show this change season after season in delicious (from the Latin words for delight and entice) and nutritious (life-giving) words and actions.

A tree must be nurtured to continue to bear fruit, just like our relationship with God must be nurtured. Presumption, apathy, legalism, entitlement, and judgmental attitudes bear no fruit. Barren trees represent a withered, brittle, barren being. The Baptizer reminds us trees can be cut down the same as crops.

The wheat theme led to Matthew 13:24-30, a parable of Jesus about a field of wheat and weeds. Life is a mixture of good and evil this side of heaven. We are a mixture as well. Will we cooperate with God to nurture the wheat or will we go our way and nurture the weeds? Will we embrace God’s patience with all that is in and around us, knowing we may not recognize it’s truth now, knowing there is still time for change?

Images of seeds, wheat and harvest led to bread which led to John 6, where Jesus reveals his divine person and purpose using the metaphor of bread. This is where my imagining opened my heart again to God’s great love and grace in Jesus.

Jesus- the seed of eternity sewn in a humble womb
Growing in strength and wisdom
Irrigated in water and the Spirit
Bearing much fruit

Jesus- cut down in a harvest of hate
Sifted in the wind of accusation and mocking
Broken between the stones of injustice and fear
Seasoned with spices
and salty tears
Covered in cloth
and set in a dry cool place
In time… risen
The Bread of Life

John 6:32-35
Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

And we come full circle to the water promises of Psalm 1. Wow!

Now, more wow. If we are followers of Christ, we become like our Jesus. The scriptures even name the followers of Christ his Body. Our journey is too one of seed, wheat and bread for the world.

Take a breath and let that nourish your soul. – Lisa <><

Jesus we want to be wheat,
But we are so often weeds
Sewn in self deception
Driven by winds beyond our making

Take away our bent to sinning
Our twisted torture
Our dry disorder
and dis-ease

Take us
Plant us anew
Nurture us to fruitfulness

Take us
Harvest us anew
Deliver us from evil

Take us
Make us anew
Your Body
Your Bread
Blessed and broken
Risen and redeemed
A mystery
A meal of grace
For our hunger
And our hungry world
Amen

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Click here for a collection of quotes on the theme Jesus, The Bread of Life

Reflection and Prayer: Seed, Wheat, Bread © 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the art and the use of this post in other settings,
please refer to the copyright information page.

Prayer Poem: God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain (Matthew 2:19-23)

walking home road2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas
Day 31 Reading: Matthew 2:19-23
Returning From Egypt

He made his home in a town called Nazareth
– Matthew 2:23

Prayer Poem: God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain
God who brings the cleansing rain
saturate our thirsty bones
with the milk of mercy sweet
with the blood that brings us home

God who rules the fiery sun
kindle now our brittle hearts
set ablaze our tender lives
forge our ways till sin departs

God who rides the winds of change
anchor us against its wrath
set our face toward holy ends
fix our walk upon your path

God who sends the silent snows
quiet us against your breast
cover us with hope-filled wings
whisper soft your word of rest

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This post is part of the 2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas. Click here for more information, including a list of all the readings.

Prayer Poem: God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the art and the use of this post in other settings,
please refer to the copyright information page.

Poem: Blood Trail (Luke 2:21)

blood drop on finger2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas
Days 20 and 21 are set aside for worship and rest
Day 22 Reading: Luke 2:21
Jesus is Circumcised

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child;
and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb.
– Luke 2:21

Poem: Blood Trail
Where did the bloodshed begin?
Follow the trail to its start

The last shall be first

A centurion’s spear
used in an indifferent stab,
declaring he’s done

A few steps back,
his rings are found
glistening like garnets,
each still moist
a ring of jagged nails
a ring of stinging thorns
a ring of prickly ridicule

More clues emerge
A spattered stone that made him stumble
Monstrous cast off from a ravenous whip
Trace from a Sadducee’s slap

Outside Jerusalem, salty crimson evidence
in the dark earth of a lonely garden
beside a vandalized tomb
atop a hill overlooking the city

An awl tests positive in Nazareth
Perhaps he was pierced while working with his father
A knife tests positive in Bethlehem
Sharp enough for Abraham’s mark on an 8 day old son
Sharp enough to cut the cord

First blood found

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This post is part of the 2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas. Click here for more information, including a list of all the readings.

Poem: Blood Trail  © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the art and the use of this post in other settings,
please refer to the copyright information page.