Two Reflections on Jesus Praying in Gethsemane

christ-in-gethsemane-pExtended quote from Max Lucado, The Upper Room Disciplines 2010
It is a stark scene. Jesus praying in Gethsemane, saying, “My heart is ready to break with grief. …” Does this look like the picture of a saintly Jesus resting in the palm of God? Hardly. We see an agonizing, straining, and struggling Jesus. We see a “man of sorrows.” We see a man struggling with fear, wrestling with commitments, and yearning for relief.

We see Jesus in the fog of a broken heart.

My, what a portrait! Jesus is in pain. Jesus is on the stage of fear. Jesus is cloaked, not in sainthood, but in humanity.

The next time the fog finds you, remember Jesus in the garden. The next time you think no one understands, reread the fourteenth chapter of Mark. The next time your self-pity convinces you that no one cares, pay a visit to Gethsemane. And the next time you wonder if God really perceives the pain that prevails on this dusty planet, listen to the pleading among the twisted trees.

Seeing God like this does wonders for our own suffering. God was never more human than at this hour. God was never nearer to us than when God hurt. The Incarnation was never so fulfilled as in the garden.

Jesus, may I watch with you in your pain and so come to understand that you watch me in mine. Amen.

Matthew 26:40-41
Could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

We must have faith during the period of our grief. We think that our afflictions will be greater than we can bear, but we do not know the strength of our own hearts, nor the power of God. – François Fenelon

Stay Awake by Steve Garnaas Holmes
I slip into sleep,
a deadness I seek,
a trance of avoidance,
distraction’s pleasant coma.
I am numb to your world, O Christ,
to your suffering, your love,
unconscious of you here.

Awaken me.
Breathe yourself into me
and rouse me
from my fearful distance.

Let even pain keep me awake,
attentive to your pain
in all who hurt,
your love keep me alert
to love in all your forms.

Grant me this simple gift,
all you ask:
that I may stay awake,
trusting I am not orphaned,
and pray with you,
so earnestly praying for me
and all the world.
just stay awake my little time
and pray with you.

Let all my waking hours
be wakeful hours.

Sermon Recording- Meeting Your Match (Genesis 29)

Jacob Sermon Series

Sermon Series – Jacob, Punk to Patriarch
Jacob’s journey to faith and accepting his place in God’s plan is full of schemes, betrayal, and family dysfunction. Yet, in the midst of the mess, God remains steadfast- offering relationship, provision, purpose, and new life. In Jacob’s story, we see our own mess and God’s saving grace for us as well.

Message: Meeting Your Match
Scriptures: Genesis 29:1-30
Offered 9/18/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

Something is going on in Jacob’s life. He’s learning to love and sacrifice for another person. He’s gaining an honest work ethic. When he’s deceived by Laban he takes the high road, maybe for the first time in his life. He could have killed Laban, he could have rejected Leah, he could have run home taking Rachel with him. Instead, Jacob stays husband to Leah (who’s been cruelly used by Laban) and works another seven years for Rachel. Could Jacob be connecting his pain to the pain he caused his brother and father? Could he be learning empathy as well as love? Could it be, when Jacob awoke from his dream, God also awakened him from the selfish, manipulative nightmare of his early years?
– Lisa Degrenia <><

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon 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 drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

© 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer: As Our Brother Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25)

sunlight bedroom window2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas
Day 10 Reading: Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph’s Dream

Joseph, being a righteous man
– Matthew 1:19

Prayer: As Our Brother Joseph
Emmanuel
God with us
and for us
and in us

You are there when the plans and promises
detonate and disappear

You are there
in the confusion
the pain
the unexpected and unthinkable

You are there when the dream dies

Help us cling to you
as our brother Joseph did
who laid down the stones
to walk your quiet path

Dignity over publicity
Courage over convention
Solidarity over scorn

Speak in our sleep
Awaken us to
Righteousness
Obedience
Restraint

To trusting your ways
and you

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Click Here for a reflection on this same passage by Steve Garnaas Holmes

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: As Our Brother Joseph © 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.

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

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 6, Awake

awake eyeThe thought behind the photo:
SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 5:13-14 NRSV
Everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

We’re like kids whining in the back seat, “Are we there yet?” Well, we are there yet. We are here now. But we’re so busy being busy, and whining about it, that we don’t notice. Our busyness is not fruitfulness; it’s fear. We’re afraid of the stillness, afraid of the dark, afraid of what might come up in the silence. We’re afraid of not being in control and of being dependent, afraid of not knowing. We keep busy to stay unconscious. Advent invites us into the dark, into the silence, into wakefulness.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Pregnant Pause

Unexpected God, your advent alarms us.
Wake us from drowsy worship
From the sleep that neglects love
From the sedative of misdirected frenzy
Awaken us now to your coming,
and bend our angers into your peace. Amen.
Steven W. Manskar, A Disciple’s Journal 2014

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 57:7-8 NIV
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

For a worship resource incorporating Psalm 57 and the song Awakening by Chris Tomlin and Reuben Morgan, click here

The December 6, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 24:40-44 CEB
At that time there will be two men in the field. One will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken and the other left. Therefore, stay awake! You don’t know what day the Lord is coming. But you understand that if the head of the house knew at what time the thief would come, he would keep alert and wouldn’t allow the thief to break into his house. Therefore, you also should be prepared, because the Human One will come at a time you don’t know.

The work the Christian does is to be accomplished in a spirit of wakefulness or watchfulness. That’s not something we hear often is it? We live in a culture where we are judged by our productivity and accomplishments, and not how attentive we are.

But in this text that continues from yesterday, we are reminded that sometimes more important than our doing, is our keeping watch on the here and now for signs of God’s kin-dom breaking forth here on earth.

Perhaps if we can stay alert and awake, we might not just catch those glimpses of heaven, but help usher it in. – Mark E. Yuris, Feasting on the Word: Year A, Volume 1

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Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 4, Time

timeThe thought behind the photo:
How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness
how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?
– Dr. Seuss

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein. – H. Jackson Brown

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 90:12 NRSV 
Teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.

Time is too slow for those who wait,
too swift for those who fear,
too long for those who grieve,
too short for those who rejoice,
but for those who love, time is eternity.
– Henry Van Dyke

The God who often takes eons to bring about a particular result also works moment by moment, constantly revealing Godself, taking flesh in the everyday unfolding of our lives. – Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 39:4-5 (NIV)
Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.

The December 4, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: Romans 13:11-14 The Message
But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!

We cannot escape time. Social media reminds us of what’s happening real time. Many operate on a 9-5 schedule. We can watch a clock tick and literally watch time pass us by.

Don’t get too caught up in your day-to-day obligations that you lose track of time, Paul writes. In other translations it says, you know what time it is. These images of night and day, sleeping and waking, doing and squandering are Paul’s way of saying, be ready, Christ is coming any day now.

Paul’s admonition to pay attention isn’t unlike what we might hear today: What are you going to do with your life? Stop wasting time. Wake up. Snap out of it.

Have you woken up to see what God is doing now in your life, and anticipate what God will do in the future? Be up and awake to what God is doing! 

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Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><

Prayer: Unstop Us, Jesus

water down drain 2Mark 8:17b-18 CEB
Don’t you grasp what has happened?
Don’t you understand?
Are your hearts so resistant to what God is doing?
Don’t you have eyes? Why can’t you see?
Don’t you have ears? Why can’t you hear?
Don’t you remember?

The only way you can contemplate is by recognizing and relativizing your own compulsive mental grids— your practiced ways of judging, critiquing, blocking, and computing everything. This is what we are trying to do by practicing contemplative prayer, and people addicted to their own mind will find contemplation most difficult, if not impossible. Much that is called thinking is simply the ego’s stating of what it prefers and likes—and resistances to what it does not like. Narcissistic reactions to the moment are not worthy of being called thinking. Yet that is much of our public and private discourse.
– Richard Rohr

Now is a good time to remember that the grace given to us by God to become contemplative comes to us at great cost–namely, Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of the world. We are redeemed and made “response-able” (contemplative) because on the Cross, Jesus re-opened the way to God which original sin had closed. That’s the main reason why contemplatives are among the most humble people in the world. We can never take credit for our spirituality. Life is Gift. Jesus has accomplished what we never could. We must never separate our attentiveness to God from the atonement. Through Christ our “sight” has been restored, our “hearing” repaired, and our spirits returned to the condition where deep communion with God is possible. – Steve Harper

Jesus, you are so very patient
Yet there are times
when you’ve had it with our selfishness
our hard hearts
our dim wits and petty agendas
New life received at a snail’s pace
instead of mounting up with eagle’s wings
Help us to run to you and with you
Opening, Growing
Flowing, Grasping
Claiming, Living
Unstop us, Jesus
Unstop us for good
Our own good
Other’s good
Good without end
Amen and Amen

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Click here for a post entitled 7 Letters of Revelation: Alive and Awake

Click here for a post entitled Being Present to God

Click here for a post entitled Keep Awake!

Unstop Us, Jesus © 2013 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, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Keep Awake!

alive awake awareMark 13:31-37 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake— for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

It is usually over time and with patience that we come to see the wonderful patterns of grace, which is why it takes most of us a long time to be converted. Our focus slowly moves from an initial preoccupation with perfect actions (“first half of life” issues), to naked presence itself. The code word for that is simply “prayer,” but it became cheapened by misuse. Jesus will often call prayer “vigilance,” “seeing,” or “being awake.” When you are aware and awakened, you will know for yourself all that you need to know. In fact, “stay awake” is the last thing Jesus says to the apostles—three or perhaps four times—before he is taken away to be killed (Matthew 26:38-45). Finally, continuing to find them asleep, he kindly but sadly says, “Sleep now and take your rest,” which might have been his resigned, forgiving statement to the church itself. It is not that we do not want to be awake, but very few teachers have actually told us how to do that in a very practical way. We call it the teaching of contemplation.
– Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

All forms of meditation and contemplation teach some form of compartmentalizing or limiting the control of the mental ego— or what some call the “monkey mind,” which just keeps jumping from observation to observation, distraction to distraction, feeling to feeling, commentary to commentary. Most of this mental action means very little and is actually the opposite of consciousness. In fact, it is unconsciousness. – Richard Rohr

They watch for Christ who are sensitive, eager, apprehensive in mind, who are awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in honoring him, who look for him in all that happens, and who would not be surprised, who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if they found that he was coming at once…. This then is to watch: to be detached from what is present, and to live in what is unseen; to live in the thought of Christ as he came once, and as he will come again; to desire his second coming, from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of his first. -John Henry Newman

Extended quote by E. Glenn Hinson from his post Fasting from the Internet
found in Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life

I don’t think I exaggerate when I say that it is not easy to learn how to pray or to keep at it when we have learned how. Teresa of Ávila, the first woman named a “Doctor of the Church,” in the main because of her contribution to a Christian understanding of prayer, confessed that she spent twenty years learning how. Admittedly, she didn’t get serious in her effort to learn until a three-year illness and a near-death experience put some pressure on. What she discovered is what everyone who takes prayer seriously will discover, that prayer is, above all, response to the prior love of God.

As Bernard of Clairvaux reminded his fellow monks, “…every soul among you that is seeking God should know that it has been anticipated by [God], and has been sought by [God] before it began to seek [God]. It couldn’t happen any other way, could it?”

How could we mortals get God’s attention, the attention of the God of a universe of 150-plus billion galaxies? We can’t yell loud enough, build a Babel tower high enough, or send a spaceship far enough to get God’s attention unless God has chosen to enter into our consciousness. If we pray, then, we have to learn how to pay attention. We have to cultivate wakefulness.

Ephesians 5:11-16 NRSV
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.

The sin of inadvertence, not being alert, not quite awake, is the sin of missing the moment of life. Live with unremitting awareness; whereas the whole of the art of the non-action that is action (wu-wei) is unremitting alertness.
– Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth

We’re like kids whining in the back seat, “Are we there yet?” Well, we are there yet. We are here now. But we’re so busy being busy, and whining about it, that we don’t notice. Our busyness is not fruitfulness; it’s fear. We’re afraid of the stillness, afraid of the dark, afraid of what might come up in the silence. We’re afraid of not being in control and of being dependent, afraid of not knowing. We keep busy to stay unconscious. Advent invites us into the dark, into the silence, into wakefulness.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Pregnant Pause

Unexpected God, your advent alarms us.
Wake us from drowsy worship
From the sleep that neglects love
From the sedative of misdirected frenzy
Awaken us now to your coming,
and bend our angers into your peace. Amen.
Steven W. Manskar, A Disciple’s Journal 2014

Here, then, stands the newly awakened self: aware, for the first time, of reality, responding to that reality by deep movements of love and of awe. She sees herself, however, not merely to be thrust into a new world, but set at the beginning of a new road. Activity is now to be her watchword, pilgrimage the business of her life.
-Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism

Psalm 57:7-8 NIV
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

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Click Here for a powerful poem entitled Sleeper, Awake by Steve Garnaas Holmes

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