Three reflections on the woman with the alabaster jar (Matthew 26, Mark 14; Luke 7, John 12)

Mary anoints the feet of jesus by Frank Wesley

Mary Anoints the Feet of Jesus by Frank Wesley

Anointing by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Beloved,
may everything I do today
be my anointing of you;
every thought, word and deed
a pouring out of myself for you,
a gift of service, adoration and thanks.

May every act comfort you,
receive your sacred story,
join me to you in your suffering,
embrace your dying
and prepare for what will follow.
In your death may you be wrapped
in the balm of my own heart.

Give me courage to give my gifts
no matter how others may judge them.
May my life give off the aroma
of gratitude and love.
Accept the anointing of my tears,
my prayers, my being.
In your love
I carry the alabaster jar of my life
into this new day.

Why This Waste? by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
The oil is poured
The criticism comes
even while the scent is still thick in the air

Why this waste?

Why worship?
Why take the time?
Why spend the money?
The poor, remember the poor
There’s so much work to be done

Yes beloved, remember
Remember the poor and remember her
The way is And not Or
Worship and Work
Loving God and Loving Neighbor
Looking Up and Looking Out For
The cross-shaped life

The work doesn’t work without the worship
The worship’s unfinished without the work

Pour Forth by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
There… beyond the feasting circle
A woman
Who are you? What is your story?
No name, no voice
Yet coming close with your gifts

Some are easy to see
An alabaster jar full of exotic perfume
Boldly broken,
And you pour forth more gifts
Out pours your heart
Your adoration
Your gratitude
Your passion
Your sacrifice
The air is thick with your story
It oozes down your Beloved’s beard, pooling on his callused hands

The shattering brings the circle silent
The aroma, meant for all to enjoy
Instead draws an angry answer
They will not bear your story

Cutting remarks fly at you through the fragrant veil
Indignant daggers thrust into your offering
How dare you! Who do you think you are?
Too generous
Too extravagant
Too intimate
We have a better way
Such a waste… code for waste her
Shatter her spirit
Quick, to the stones
A broken body is the cure

Stop! Leave her alone declares the Anointed One!
Misspent? Misused?
No! You misunderstand!
You miss the mark!
She did what she could- all that she could
Balming my body for burial

You have loved Me
Censing my sacrifice
Grace made fragrant
An act beyond words
A silent song for the ages

Pour forth

It is blessing. It is beautiful.
You are blessing. You are beautiful.

Soak it in

You there, religious ones
You berate, rebuke and bombard
While she… she breaks open
She breaks through bearing the Good News

Your words will fall forgotten
Her story will stand… remembered

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The anointing of Jesus is mentioned in all four gospels and probably recounts two different events. Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8

Matthew, Mark, and John mention the location of Bethany and the woman as Mary, the sister of Matha and Lazarus. Mary is criticized for the extravagance of anointing Jesus with the costly nard rather than selling it and the proceeds given to the poor.

In Luke, the location seems to be in the region of Galilee in the north. The woman is unnamed. Jesus himself is brought into question and criticized for allowing a sinner to touch him.

In Matthew and Mark, Jesus’ head is anointed. In Luke and John it is Jesus’ feet.

The details are interesting, but do not miss the main points- the extravance, the courage, the thanksgiving, the grace, the blessing, the welcome. This is why we remember.

Soft and Steadfast, a prayer based on Hebrews 3:7-14

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Hebrews 3:7-14, The Voice

Merciful One, soften my heart

Save me from hardheartedness
From evil and deceit
From mutiny and unbelief

Turn and return me
From wandering away
From petrifying slowly

Make my heart pure
Open to you
Wanting what you want

Make my heart true
Confident in you
Holding fast

Make my heart noble
Quick to listen
Rejoicing in your direction

Jesus
Heart of my heart
Keep me soft and steadfast in your nail scarred hands

Extended quote by John R. Wimmer, Blessed Endurance
The words joy rejoice as they appear in James and First Peter do not mean what they seem at first glance. The rejoicing we find here is not a shallow, syrupy, or optimistic refusal to admit that problems exist; instead, it is the realistic recognition of struggle bolstered by the decision to rejoice in knowing that God is working to bring us through strife to greater spiritual depth. Yes, it may be tough if not impossible to rejoice when suffering, but such joy will not take the form of emotional jubilance or elation.

James proclaims that suffering may be considered as joy when the encounter produces the spiritual virtue of steadfastness. And steadfastness, when allowed to flower into fullness, produces the most attractive bloom of all qualities: Christian maturity.

Authentic Christian maturity, then, is a steadfastness that we attain not by denial. It is a quality that, like any other kind of maturity, accrues with age, hard work, and a lot of bruising experience. It is the ability to redirect our thoughts beyond immediate woes in order to realize the spiritual growth that results from tests of faith.

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Prayer: Soft and Steadfast © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Receive, a call to faith based on Galatians 3

holy-spirit-outpouring-deborah-brown

Holy Spirit Outpouring by Deborah Brown

Receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. – Galatians 3:14

Receive the promise of a covenant kept
Timeless, Steadfast
Anchor your soul in it

Receive the promise of a covenant fulfilled
You are a descendant of Abraham by faith
Heir of the blessing, God’s glorious riches, and a home forever

Receive the promise of life
No curse can name you, claim you
Christ bore it all for you
Nothing shall prevail against it
Nothing shall separate you from it

Receive the promise of belonging
Worldly labels and limits break down
In God’s presence and saving love

Receive the promise of the Spirit
God’s constant companionship
Leading, Mentoring, Correcting
Fire, Favor, Empowerment, Provision
Meaning and Purpose and Light
Unending Light

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Receive © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this prayer in a worship or devotional setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for publishing and posting consideration.

Prayer: For Yours Alone (Mark 16)

speak witness good news

Based on the short ending of the Gospel of Mark, The Voice Translation
Later, Jesus himself commissioned the disciples to take the sacred and eternal message of salvation far to the East and the West.

Jesus,
Your message is sacred
Holy, Set Apart, Treasured

Your message is eternal
Timeless, Lasting, a Firm Foundation

Your message is salvation
Deliverance, Wholeness, Grace

We bow before your commission to receive and bear your message into the world

Show us when to speak and give us the words
Never for our agenda, for yours alone

Show us what to do and give us the strength
Never for our achievement, for yours alone

Show others we are from you by your power at work through us
Never for our glory, for yours alone

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For Yours Alone © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this prayer in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment to contact me directly for publishing and posting consideration.

Prayer: In Our Unbelief (Mark 9.14-29)

help my unbeliefBased on Mark 9:14-29, Jesus healing a boy with a destructive spirit. If you’re using this in a group setting, consider having one voice on the regular print and all voices on the bold print. 

Jesus, we ask with half a heart
One eye open
Fingers crossed

The situation is so impossible
So great
So desperate

Have mercy on us in our unbelief

The suffering is so deep
So dangerous
So complete
So far beyond control for so long

We’re so heartbroken
So tired
So disappointed
So hopeful, only to fall again
Nothing works
Nothing changes
We have tried and failed and tried and failed and tried…

Have mercy on us in our unbelief

We come with our if’s
If you can save
If you can heal
If you can do anything

Have mercy on us in our unbelief

Give us courage to trust and hope
To try again
To come and ask expecting something new

Give us courage to believe
Fully
Faith-fully
Again

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In Our Unbelief © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this prayer in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment to contact me directly for publishing and posting consideration.

Send Us Forth, a prayer based on Mark 6.6-13

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Based on Mark 6:6-13 NRSV

Jesus,
In the midst of our changing times
In the midst of our brokenness
Our division
Our violence
Our prejudice
Draw us again to your side
Call us and send us in your name

Give us the courage to travel light
To divest and downsize
And embrace the freedom that it brings

Give us the blessing of being fully present
Of trusting you for provision for ourselves
And your saving work
In the moment it is needed

Give us the wisdom to know our role
To move on from failure and rejection
To move on from accomplishment and welcome
The authority you give us does not dictate response
Nor is our faithfulness measured by the response

Ours is to go and to offer
To proclaim your deliverance and offer healing for body and soul
To proclaim your welcome and offer blessing no matter the location
To proclaim your repentance and offer your salvation and hope

We bow, humbly, before the honor of you choosing us
Grant us the authority and grace and strength we need
Send us forth to do your bidding

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Send us Forth © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this prayer in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment to contact me directly for publishing and posting consideration.

Four Prayers Based on the Parable of the Soil-Sower (Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8)

overflowing

Overflowing by Feboarah Koff-Chapin

Today I realized how often Jesus’ parable of the soil/sower makes its way into my devotional life. The story is simple, yet rich with wisdom and truth. I’ve learned so much and yet there is so much more to discover. Leave a comment with what you’ve discovered. I’d love to hear from you. – Lisa <><

The Parable of the Soil/Sower is found in three of the four Gospels, Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:1-15.

I. We Cry, “Glory!”
Lord of Life
You sow extravagantly
Generously

Some would cry, “Foolish”
We cry, “Glory!”

You sow your Word
Your Promises
Your Salvation
Your Self
“Glory!” to your grace and mercy

You save us from the stealing
The shallow
The choking thorns
“Glory!” to your deliverance and power

You make our lives good rich soil
Ready for your seed
In you we grow up and increase and yield
“Glory!” to your goodness and faithfulness

We rejoice in you and in being your harvest
Help us to ever bear your good and lasting fruit
for the honor and glory of your name. Amen

II. Good, Good Soil
Jesus, you sow yourself
The Word of Truth, generously
The Word of Life, graciously

Defend us from the Evil One
Who seeks to snatch us away

Fortify us for hard times and costly discipleship
That we may endure

Deliver us from distraction
From worldly desires and
All that would lure us and choke us with false promises

Till us
Turn us
Enrich us with every blessing of your Spirit
That we may be good, good soil
Forever faithful and fruitful for you
Amen

III. Save My Soul, Good Gardener
Save my soul, Good Gardener
Evil flies in wanting to steal my hope
Work piles up, insecure boulders ready to crash, leaving no room to root
My faith begins to wither as does our relationship
Distractions grow, choking my gratitude
my perspective
my spirit

Guard me
Guide me
Deliver me
Clear the land
Weed then seed
Nourish the soil of my soul
I long to blossom and bring forth your fruit, a hundredfold

IV. Prayer of Confession: Break Through
This prayer of confession was commissioned for the opening worship service of the 2016 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church.

ONE:
As we gather on your good earth,
before the bounty of your Word and Table,
and the majesty of your holy presence,
We remember and repent

ALL:
Forgive us, Abiding One,
We keep you at a distance
We defy your bidding
We make it harder for people to know you

Forgive us, Saving One,
We deny our weakness
We wallow in our weakness
We take advantage of the weakness of others

Forgive us, Holy One,
We refuse your counsel
We waste your gifts
We withhold your compassion from others

Break through
Break through our hardened views,
lest the evil one win the day
Break through our gravelly hearts
lest we have no root and wither to nothing
Break through our thorny ways
lest our agendas and fears
choke the promise of your word
and smother a harvest worthy of your Name

Silent Confession

ONE: Psalm 103:8-14 CEB
Hear the good news-
The LORD is compassionate and merciful,
very patient, and full of faithful love.
God won’t always play the judge;
he won’t be angry forever.
He doesn’t deal with us according to our sin
or repay us according to our wrongdoing,
because as high as heaven is above the earth,
that’s how large God’s faithful love is for those who honor him.
As far as east is from west—
that’s how far God has removed our sin from us.
Like a parent feels compassion for their children—
that’s how the LORD feels compassion for those who honor him.
Because God knows how we’re made,
God remembers we’re just dust.

ALL:
We remember and rejoice.
Glory to God! Amen!

Click Here for a reader’s theatre version of the parable of the soils/sower

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We Cry, “Glory!” © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Good, Good Soil © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Save My Soul, Good Gardener @ 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Prayer of Confession: Break Through © 2016 by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use these prayers and resources in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment to contact me directly for publishing and posting consideration.