Sermon Recording – Remember You Are Dust (Joel 2, Psalm 51)

ash wedensday with palms

Message: Remember You Are Dust
Scriptures: Joel 2:12-17; Psalm 51:1-12
I’m catching up on some 2017 sermons which haven’t been posted. This sermon was offered 2/26/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Breath in, Breath Out
Which is more important? Inhaling or exhaling?
Which is more important? What we believe or how we behave?

Belief and behavior both matter, just like inhaling and exhaling.
What we believe shapes how we behave.
How we behave demonstrates what we believe.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been walking through the book of James.
It’s a book which focuses on how the followers of Jesus are to behave.
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.
Faith without works is dead.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.

Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) also focuses on behavior.
Turn the other cheek
Go the extra mile
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Do not judge
Do to others as you would have them do to you

Likewise, Jesus’ parable of the final judgment (Matthew 25), as illustrated by the separating of sheep and goats, focuses on behavior. Those welcomed into the kingdom are those who
Feed the hungry
Give the thirsty something to drink
Welcome the stranger
Give clothing to the naked
Care for the sick
Visit those in prison

John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” This isn’t a sentimental, candy-coated feeling. This is love made real in our words and actions. In our sacrifices and steadfastness.

And yet, belief is critically important.
Without it, we are merely humanists
Without it, we are unplugged from the eternal
Unplugged from the “why” of our actions
Unplugged from the “how” of our strength to act

Placing our trust in Jesus Christ opens the way for the Holy Spirit to lead us and transform us: our behavior, our motivation, our perspective on what’s important, our love.

Our belief allows the Holy Spirit to shape us into the very likeness of Jesus.

Following Jesus is about the integration of belief and behavior. By cooperating with God’s grace, we become people of integrity. Integrated. We who are broken become whole. We are “re-membered.”

The integration of belief and behavior is so important we set aside time every year to reflect and focus on it.

  • We face our true selves in the light and love of Jesus.
  • We face our failures, our shortcomings in the grace of Jesus
  • We commit to continued growth in the likeness of our Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit

To help us do this, we use a symbol: ashes
The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder that we are all dust. We are all mortal. We are all imperfect people. Our time here is short. Make it count.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder of our humility. Humility, human and hummus are all from the same root word meaning “of the earth.” We have a common bond with all people and all living things. We are no better or worse.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder of our sorrow, a modern expression of the days’ people displayed their grief by wearing sackcloth and ashes. We grieve the spoiling and wasting of God’s good gift of life. We lament how we’ve hurt God, others, the earth, and ourselves. We mourn our sin.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is in the shape of a cross. A tangible sign of the infinite grace of Jesus Christ that meets us wherever we are and loves us too much to leave us there.

Psalm 103:13b-14, The Voice
The Eternal shows His love for those who revere Him.
For He knows what we are made of
He knows our frame is frail, and He remembers we came from dust.

Jesus accepts us with all our contradictions between what we believe and the way we behave. Jesus draws us, invites us, and empowers us toward new life: A transformed life, a whole and holy life, where belief and behavior are fully integrated with his good and divine will.

Come, see how the ashes and the grace are good.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer of Confession- Break Through (Matthew 13; Psalm 103)

flower breaking through concreteThis prayer of confession was commissioned for the opening worship service of the 2016 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church. It borrows imagery from Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, found in Matthew 13.

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!

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Prayer of Confession- Break Through by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia © 2016
You are welcome to use this in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa directly for publishing and posting consideration.

Repent and Return, a prayer of confession based on Joel 2

Repent and ReturnThis confession was inspired by a passage from Pauses for Lent by Trevor Hudson and the traditional Ash Wednesday reading from Joel 2.

Repent and Return, a prayer of confession
ONE VOICE: Joel 2:13
Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful

ALL:
We drift away from our true home
We forget we are Your beloved
We forget we are not God
Rend our hearts, O God, as we repent and return

ONE VOICE: Joel 2:13
Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful

ALL:
We succumb to the temptations of money, sex, and power
We ignore the cries of our sisters and brothers
We focus only on ourselves
Rend our hearts, O God, as we repent and return

ONE VOICE:
Remember who you truly are
Let God be God in your life
Begin again with God

ALL:
No despair, for there is mercy
No fear, for there is grace
We return with all our heart
Lead us home, Lord
Lead us home

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Repent and Return © 2016 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.

Ash Wednesday Worship Resources and Sermon Starters

ash wedensday with palmsModern Ash Wednesday Service
A simple, fresh combination of modern visuals, ancient scripture, the imposition of ashes, and the haunting song O So So.

Blended Ash Wednesday Service
Classic scriptures, hymns, and the imposition of ashes come alongside music by Chris Tomlin and Gungor.

Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust
Jan Richardson offers a beautiful and grace-filled perspective on God at work in us and our world. Post includes an original work of art and blessing.

Dust and Ashes
Steve Garnaas-Holmes offers reflection and prayer on the many meanings of the imposition of ashes.

Two Pockets: Healthy, Faithful Perspective
A reflection based on a parable by the well respected and beloved Polish Rabbi Simcha Bunim. “Every person should have two pockets. In one, there should be a note that says ‘for my sake was the world created.’ In the second, there should be a note that says, ‘I am dust and ashes.’”

Lenten Art: Reflecting Dust
A multimedia piece to inspire the creation of your own works of art for the season of Lent

Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience
A set of four interactive prayer stations designed for use on Ash Wednesday. They could of course be used anytime when the themes for self-reflection and prayer include our mortality, our sorrow for our sin, and re-commitment to living in alignment with God’s holy will.
Prayer Station 1
Prayer Station 2
Prayer Station 3
Prayer Station 4

Two Pockets: Healthy, Faithful Perspective

A well respected and beloved Polish Rabbi named Simcha Bunim used to say,
“Every person should have two pockets.
In one, there should be a note that says ‘for my sake was the world created.’
In the second, there should be a note that says, ‘I am dust and ashes.’”

Rabbi Bunim went on to say one must know how to use the notes, each one in its proper place and at the right time.

He knows us well

When misused, we hunker down in one pocket and make a home
We use a note to justify, judge, and deflect self examination

For my sake the world was created- I’m all that and a bag of chips
I am dust and ashes- Eeyore is my best buddy

But, when we open to the wisdom of the notes, we accept we are not one or the other. We realize we are both notes. Both pockets. We see the wisdom of the notes in the wisdom of God’s Word which goes back and forth, naming us and reminding us who we are- beloved and dust. We are both and we need both.

I am dust and ashesWhen we are too proud, too entitled, too full of ourselves, too self-sufficient, we reach in a pocket and remember anokhi afar va’efer, I am dust and ashes
I am small
I am worthless
I am mortal
I am unclean
I miss the mark, I stray from the path- that’s what the word sin literally means in Greek
I am like everyone else who has ever lived and who will live
I need a savior

Psalm 90:3 NRS
You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”

Ecclesiastes 3:20b NIV
All come from dust, and to dust all return.

Luke 9:41 NRSV
“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?”

In Luke 3, John the Baptist is right to remind us we are a “brood of vipers” and of our need of repentance, to turn back to God’s path, not just with our words but our actions.

for my sake was the world createdThen, when we are discouraged, overwhelmed and losing faith (when we feel like dirt) we reach in the other pocket and remember bishvili nivra ha’olam, for my sake was the world created.
I am a unique and beloved child of the King of kings
Christ loved me enough to die for me and raise me to new life
I am fearfully and wonderfully made
I am called
I am gifted
I am empowered by the Holy Spirit to do great things for God
God is using me in the salvation and transformation of the world

Psalm 8:4-8 NRSV
What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Psalm 139:14 NRSV
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

We stand with Jesus in our baptism, water washed, anointed with the fiery dove of the Holy Spirit, named and claimed by God as beloved children.

Jesus stepped into the water not out of his need but of ours
To remind us of our great need- I am dust and ashes
To remind us who we are in Him- For my sake the world was created

Prayer for Perspective
Eternal and Beautiful God,
The One who births us and names us
Grant us perspective
A holy centering
of truth, humility and our belovedness

Not too high that we fall away from you
our need of you
our need of others

Not too low that we fail to trust
to reach out for you
to reach out with you

In you, with you, for you we are
humble and powerful
unique and alike
common and regal
priceless and dust

Grant us perspective, Merciful One
A holy centering
Let no voice be too loud
Or too soft
So we may persevere in faith
in hope
in following
in becoming
Amen

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I am indebted to Rabbi Jack Moline for a blog post which provided much of the information and inspiration for this reflection.

Two Pocket Devotion and Prayer for Perspective © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are very welcome to use this in a worship or group setting with proper attribution.

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

Ash Wednesday Worship Resources and Sermon Starters

ash wedensday with palmsModern Ash Wednesday Service
A simple, fresh combination of modern visuals, ancient scripture, the imposition of ashes, and the haunting song O So So.

Blended Ash Wednesday Service
Classic scriptures, hymns, and the imposition of ashes come alongside music by Chris Tomlin and Gungor.

Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust
Jan Richardson offers a beautiful and grace-filled perspective on God at work in us and our world. Post includes an original work of art and blessing.

Dust and Ashes
Steve Garnaas-Holmes offers reflection and prayer on the many meanings of the imposition of ashes.

Two Pockets: Healthy, Faithful Perspective
A reflection based on a parable by the well respected and beloved Polish Rabbi Simcha Bunim. “Every person should have two pockets. In one, there should be a note that says ‘for my sake was the world created.’ In the second, there should be a note that says, ‘I am dust and ashes.’”

Lenten Art: Reflecting Dust
A multimedia piece to inspire the creation of your own works of art for the season of Lent

Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience
A set of four interactive prayer stations designed for use on Ash Wednesday. They could of course be used anytime when the themes for self-reflection and prayer include our mortality, our sorrow for our sin, and re-commitment to living in alignment with God’s holy will.
Prayer Station 1
Prayer Station 2
Prayer Station 3
Prayer Station 4

Modern Ash Wednesday Service

AshWednesday1PRELUDE
People are encouraged to enter in silence. Lights are dim.
As people gather, words appropriate to the day appear and disappear on the screen.
You can create your own presentation or find one here.

INVITATION TO THE OBSERVANCE OF LENTEN DISCIPLINE
The Pastor reminds the congregation of the origins of Lent and Ash Wednesday, following it with an invitation to observe a holy Lent through various Lenten disciplines. An excellent invitation to use or model your invitation after may be found in the United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 322.

SCRIPTURE AND SONG
At the end of the invitation, an acoustic guitar and djembe begin to play the introduction to the first song. We are indebted to Taylor Burton-Edwards, compiler of an excellent Contemporary Service for Ash Wednesday, for the idea of alternating the reading of scripture with the haunting song O-So-So from The Faith We Sing, #2232.

ALL SINGING: O-So-So (The Faith We Sing, #2232, Verse 1 twice)
Following the singing, a shofar blows.
A recording will work if you are unable to locate and play one live.
A person stands in the midst of the congregation and reads.
Do not project the words to the scripture as it is read.
The instruments continue during the reading.

ONE VOICE Joel 2:1-2, 12-17a (NRSV)
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near— a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.

ALL SINGING: O-So-So (The Faith We Sing, #2232, Verse 2 twice)
Following the singing, a person stands in the midst of the congregation and reads.
Do not project the words to the scripture as it is read.
The instruments continue during the reading.

ONE VOICE 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:2 (NRSV)
We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

ALL SINGING: O-So-So (The Faith We Sing, #2232, Verse 3 twice)
Following the singing, a person stands in the midst of the congregation and reads.
Do not project the words to the scripture as it is read.
The instruments continue during the reading.
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 may be substituted for the verses from Psalm 103.

ONE VOICE Psalm 103:8-14 (Adapted from the New Jerusalem Bible)
The Lord is tenderness and pity, slow to anger and rich in faithful love;
His indignation does not last forever, nor his resentment remain for all time;
He does not treat us as our sins deserve, nor repay us as befits our offenses.
As the height of heaven above earth,
so strong is his faithful love for those who revere him.
As the distance of east from west, so far from us does he put our faults.
As tenderly as a father treats his children, so the Lord treats those who revere him;
He knows of what we are made, he remembers that we are dust.

ALL SINGING: O-So-So (The Faith We Sing, #2232, Verse 4 twice)
Instruments and singing end before the next prayer

THANKSGIVING OVER THE ASHES
The Pastor offers a prayer of thanksgiving, calling to mind the many meanings associated with ashes: our creation out of dust, mourning our sin (sackcloth and ashes), and our mortality (eventual return to dust). An excellent prayer to use or model your prayer after may be found in the United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 323.

IMPOSITION OF ASHES
Persons are invited forward to receive ashes on their forehead, place their offering on the altar table, and pray at the altar rail. The words projected as persons gathered are again projected. The guitar plays softly.

The following words are traditionally spoken by those applying the ashes as the ashes are received:
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Gen. 3:19)
Repent, and believe the gospel.

CONFESSION AFTER THE IMPOSITION OF ASHES
Show the video Confession Starter from Shift Worship.

TIME OF SILENT CONFESSION
After a few minutes of silent confession, project the words to the following scripture.

ALL SPEAKING: Psalm 51:1-3, 7, 10-17 (NIV)
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.
Save me from blood-guilt, O God, the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

WORD OF GRACE AND PARDON

SONG: Come Thou Fount (United Methodist Hymnal, #400)
Or another song of your choosing

BENEDICTION

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First Offered at Community United Methodist Church, DeBary FL
Modern Ash Wednesday Service Compilation
© 2012 Nicole Sallee and Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Nicole and Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The United Methodist Book of Worship
(The United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville. 1992)

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NRSV are taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.