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.

Up a Pole: the Serpent and the Savior (John 3:14-18)

The Brazen Serpent Monument atop Mount Nebo in Jordan, is a serpentine cross sculpture created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni. It incorporates the bronze serpent created by Moses, the pillar of fire which led the people of God through the darkness of the wilderness, and the crucifixion of Christ. Photo by David Bjorgen via wikimedia commons.

John 3:14-18 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, (Numbers 21:4-9) so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

What was to be done with the brazen serpent? The text says, “Moses lifted it up;” and we read he was to lift it up upon a pole. Ah, dear friends, and Christ Jesus must be lifted up. He has been lifted up; wicked men lifted him up, when, with nails on an accursed tree, they crucified him! God the Father hath lifted him up; for he hath highly exalted him, far above principalities and powers.
– Charles Hadden Spurgeon, The Mysteries of the Brazen Serpent

“Look to Christ.” For remember the brazen serpent was lifted up, that every one in the camp who was bitten might live; and now Christ is lifted up to you, that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Sinner, the devil says you are shut out; tell him that “whosoever” shuts out none. Oh that precious word, “whosoever.” Poor soul, I see thee clutch at it and say, “Then, Sir, if I believe, he will not cast me away.” I see the harlot in all her guilt bemoaning her iniquity; she says it is impossible that Christ should save. But she hears it said, “Whosoever,” and she looks and lives! Remember, it mattered not how old they were, nor how much bitten they were, nor whereabouts in the camp they lived; they did but look and live. And now ye that have grown grey in iniquity, whose hairs might rather be black than white, if they showed forth your character, for it has been blackened by years of vice. Remember there is the same Christ for big sinners as for little sinners; the same Christ for grey heads as for babes; the same Christ for poor as for rich; the same Christ for chimney sweeps as for monarchs; the same Christ for prostitutes as for saints: “Whosoever.”
– Charles Hadden Spurgeon, The Mysteries of the Brazen Serpent

Just as they who looked on that serpent perished not by the serpent’s bites,
so they who look in faith on Christ’s death are healed from the bites of sins.
– Augustine of Hippo

“Lifted up,” honored, looked up to.
We keep our yes on Jesus, and it gives us life.
“Lifted up” like the bronze serpent: on a pole.
Lifted up on a cross, not in honor but disgrace.
Jesus exposes our violence by suffering it
without cause, without recrimination,
exposes our fear
and our poor, snake-bitten need for healing.
Just suffers and forgives.
And that grace brings us to life.
– Steve Garnaas Holmes, Lifted Up

He must be lifted up, that hereby he may purchase salvation for all believers: all those who look to him by faith recover spiritual health, even as all that looked at that serpent recovered bodily health. – John Wesley

If the solution in Numbers was a snake raised up on a pole — because the problem was poisonous serpents on the ground; so in John if the solution is a human (the Word made flesh) on a pole, the problem must be the humans on the ground.
– Brian P. Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes at Crossmarks

Maybe the problem isn’t the humans on the ground; it’s that humans are of the ground. We are the children of Eden. We are dust and to dust we shall return. We are common, soiled, short-lived, and snake bit. On our own, our condition keeps us more with the serpent than the Savior. Yet, God’s creative love reaches out to us in Christ, supplying what our earthiness needs. The kiss of eternal life is blown our way. Will we reach out and catch it? – Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia <><

The event of the cross isn’t just an advertisement, or a show. It actually does something. The cross is effectual. Just like when the Israelites looked at the brazen serpent they were able to be healed, the cross has the power to heal and give life too. But, according to John, gazing upon it isn’t enough. You need to have faith. You need to be moved to believe. – Rick Morley, Lifted High- a relfection on John 3:14-21

The Cross bridges the gap, heals the breach, and ignites the reconciliation.
In every way, we are “saved.” – Steve Harper

Jesus was hung on— and held together —the cosmic collision of opposites (revealed in the very geometric sign of the cross). He let it destroy him, as his two nailed hands held all the great opposites safely together as one: the good and the bad thief, heaven and earth, matter and spirit, both sinners and saints gathered at his feet, a traditional Jew revealing a very revolutionary message to his and all religion, a naked male body revealing an utterly feminine soul. On the cross, Jesus becomes the Cosmic Christ.
Richard Rohr

Lord Jesus,
You are my righteousness, I am your sin.
You took on you what was mine; yet set on me what was yours.
You became what you were not, that I might become what I was not.
– Martin Luther

The Devil speaks:
Now then, Hades, mourn
And I join in unison with you in wailing.
Let us lament as we see
The tree which we planted
Changed into a holy trunk.
Robbers, murderers, tax gatherers, harlots,
Rest beneath it, and make nests
In its branches
In order that they might gather
The fruit of sweetness
From the supposedly sterile wood.
For they cling to the cross as the tree of life.
-Romanos, as translated by Marjorie Carpenter.

Tell me, Dear Tree
A Lenten hymn of sacrifice
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Meter- 86.86 double (CMD)
Suggested tune: KINGSFOLD (UMH #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

But 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.

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For more information on the scripture translation, photo and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Prayer: Glorious One (Luke 2:8-14)

Sheep in Winter Sunlight by Steve Partridge via Wikimedia Commons

Sheep in Winter Sunlight by Steve Partridge via Wikimedia Commons

2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas
Day 16 Reading: Luke 2:8-14
Angels and Shepherds

the glory of the Lord shone around them
– Luke 2:9

Prayer Poem: Glorious One
Glorious One
Let your kingdom come
Pervading, designing
Creating, surprising
Glorious One

Tender One
Beckoning home the lost son
Embracing our sighing
Accepting, abiding
Tender one

Generous One
Arms open wide in welcome
Adopting, providing
Protecting, residing
Generous One

Peacemaking One
Saving the world without guns
Dying, arising
Healing, uniting
Peacemaking One

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hearts are reviving
Vision is widening
Praises are rising
Thanksgiving flying
Glorious, Glorious, Glorious One!

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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: Glorious One  © 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.

I’m very interested in setting this text music. Contact me to collaborate.

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

Poem: With You (Matthew 1:18-25)

walking with god2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas
Day 11 Reading: Matthew 1:18-25
God With Us

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel– which means, “God with us.”
– Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23

Jesus said, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:20

Poem: With You
With you there is safety
With you there is peace
With you I am never alone
With you there’s a light for the long journey home
With you there is healing and hope

With you I can slumber
With you I can stand
With you I can run and play
With you I can walk through the valley some day
With you there is healing and hope

With you I see sickness
With you I see need
With you I see souls to embrace
With you I can meet every wrong face to face
With you there is healing and hope

With you there is purpose
With you there is life
With you there is courage and truth
I’m finally me because I am with you
With you there is healing and hope

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Click here for an interesting post by Steve Garnaas Holmes where he explores why God chose to be incarnate human rather than another member of creation.

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: With You  © 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.

Prayer Poem: The Fullness of You (Luke 1:57-80)

heart lights2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas
Days 6 and 7 are set aside for worship and rest
Day 8 Reading: Luke 1:57-80
Zechariah’s Prayer

Even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.
– Luke 1:15, Gabriel describing John the Baptist

The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you”
– Luke 1:35

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.
And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
– Luke 1:41

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy
– Luke 1:67

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:14-19

Prayer Poem: The Fullness of You
I desire the fullness of You
The height and the depth
The length and the breadth
Oh God I desire the fullness
Of Your love, Your love in Christ Jesus

Root me in Your love
Establish those roots to the core of Your heart
Root me in Your love
Grow them deep, grow them true
Tapping into the fullness of You

I desire the fullness of You
The height and the depth
The length and the breadth
Oh God I desire the fullness
Of Your love, Your love in Christ Jesus

Grant me Your power
Together with all who choose to believe
Grant us Your power
Light our minds, Shine right through
Till we grasp the vast fullness of You

I want to know Your love
A love that surpasses all knowledge
The full measure of Your love
You are Love, my Love, our Love, our first Love

We desire the fullness of You
The height and the depth
The length and the breadth
Oh God we desire the fullness
Of Your love, Your love in Christ Jesus

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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: The Fullness of You © 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.
Lisa is especially interested in collaborating with someone to set this text to music.

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

#LukeActs2014: Come Sup With God (Luke 14)

World Communion Altar Table, photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

World Communion Altar Table, photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Luke 14:12-14 NIV
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

In the story of the feeding of the 5,000 we see Jesus once again addressing the most essential, physical needs of his fellow human beings – hunger, thirst, companionship – and once again, breaking down every socially-constructed barrier that keeps us from eating with one another. He did the same thing when, much to the chagrin of the religious leaders, he dined with tax collectors and prostitutes and told his more well-to-do hosts that “when you give a banquet, invite the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” The English word companion, is derived from the Latin com (“with”) and panis (“bread”). A companion, therefore, is someone with whom you share your bread. – Rachel Held Evans, 5000 Companions

Luke 14:15-24 NRSV
One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, “I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’ ”

Sadly, the way we as Christians have historically responded to the gift of the Eucharist is to make sure that we understand it, then to make sure we put boundaries around it and then to make sure we enforce both the correct understanding and the correct boundaries. But on the night Jesus was betrayed he didn’t say “this is my body broken for you…UNDERSTAND this in remembrance of me….he didn’t say ACCEPT this or DEFEND this or BOUNDARY this in remembrance of me he just said do this in remembrance of me. – Nadia Bolz Weber, “This teaching is HARD, who can accept it” – a sermon on the Eucharist

The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fattened; let no one go forth hungry! Let all partake of the Feast of Faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness. Let none lament their poverty, for the Universal Kingdom has been revealed.
– John Chrysostom

Come Sup With God
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Meter 88.88 (LM)
Suggested tunes:
HURSLEY (United Methodist Hymnal #339) or
GIFT OF LOVE (United Methodist Hymnal #408)

Come sup with God all you who thirst
All you who hunger be the first
Feast on Christ’s Body and his Blood
O taste and see this meal of Love

Come children, elders, blind, and spent
Come foolish, able, indigent
Confess, repent, and then receive
Forgiveness flows abundantly

Come often, friend, for here is grace
made manifest in time and place
Christ’s mercy floods our brokenness
with healing balm and righteousness

Come to be changed. Come to be fed.
Come savor Christ, the Life, the Bread.
Drink deep the gift of healing poured
and leave a vessel of our Lord.

Sing Praise to Christ our Host and meal
Whose saving work provides the seal
for us once bound, now freed from death
to live for Christ with every breath

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Come Sup with God © 2000 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.

Original Hymn Text: Wind of the Spirit

Pentecost baptism holy spirit by Estella CanzianiWind of the Spirit
Meter 9 10.9 9 with refrain
Suggested Tune: ASSURANCE (United Methodist Hymnal #369)

Wind of the Spirit, blow on your child
Reveal the fiction now hidden by style
Self centered passions hold all control
Feeding me falsehood, withering my soul

REFRAIN:
Great Holy Spirit. Sweet Mystery.
Pour forth your glory eternally
Life’s Liberator. Death’s Enemy.
Come Holy Spirit, set your child free*

Wind of Salvation, breathe on my bones,
Resurrect life where destruction was sown,
Flow through my nature, parched now by sin
Pour out forgiveness, cleanse me again (Refrain)

Breath of the Savior, soft on my face
whispers a message of love, peace, and grace.
Constantly calling, helping me turn,
offering a life I never could earn. (Refrain)

Bright Blazing Spirit, Tongues of Pure Fire
Dance on your children, ignite our desire
Forge our devotion purer than gold.
Shining for all the world to behold. (Refrain)

* alternate texts:
Come Holy Spirit, set your church free
Come Holy Spirit, sanctify me

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Click here for a powerful reflection on the Holy Spirit as wind and breath of life by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Conspiracy.

© 4/1999, revised 2011 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.