A Tale of Two Baptisms (Romans 6)

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A Tale of Two Baptisms
Scripture: Romans 6:3-11
Notes from a message offered Easter Sunday, 4/28/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Reading: Romans 6:3-11

Testimony: Timothy’s Baptism in the ICU

Testimony: Towery Boys’ Baptism on Siesta Key

Recommitting to a robust faith, awake, alive, thankful for all God has and is doing for us in our baptism.

We commit to living our baptismal vows:
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sins?

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in His grace, and promise to serve Him as your Lord, in union with the church, which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

According to the grace given to you, will you remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world?

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A Tale of Two Baptisms © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

There’s More to Life Nicodemus (John 3.1-17)

Nicodemus coming to christ

Nicodemus Coming to Christ by Henry Ossawa Tanner 

Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 1 of 5: Nicodemus

Scripture: John 3:1-17
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/24/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

It would make sense that you get to a point where you’ve been studying and training in something and you feel you don’t need a coach or teacher anymore. You have mastered the topic or skill.

But the truth is we always need teachers, mentors, and coaches. I have a masters of divinity, but I in no way have mastered divinity.

Who pastors the pastor? I have a spiritual director named Pam. A spiritual director is different from a counselor or teacher. A spiritual director asks, “How is your soul?” and then recommends spiritual practices to keep me connected to God and spiritually healthy.

In January, Pam reminded me of this promise: The fullness of Christ is ours. What would it be like to continue to ask for more and more? There’s always more!

That took us to Ephesians 3:16-21. This Lent, we’re using this beautiful prayer to pray for the fullness of Christ to be made real in the lives of others. (individuals or groups of people)

Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen ___________. Fill ___________’s soul with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in his/her heart. May love be the rich soil where ________’s life takes root. May it be the bedrock where ___________’s life is founded, so that together with all of Your people, he/she will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God may Your fullness flood through __________’s entire being. Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.

The theme of power is repeated 3 times in this prayer:                 

  • Power for strength
  • Power to know Christ and understand the depth of his infinite love
  • Power at work in us to do awe-inspiring things

This is what I long for, what I’m seeking, more and more of the Spirit, Savior, and the Father. Maybe you do, too. Would you pray this prayer for me sometime this Lenten season? I know I can’t receive the infinite gifts of God in my own strength. What would it be like for you to walk up to someone and say, “Would you insert my name this week in the prayer?” Anyone would be delighted to do that for you.

Nicodemus was longing for and seeking this as well. He appears 3 times in the Gospel of John. The beginning of Jesus’ ministry, in the middle defending Jesus, and at Jesus’ burial. A person who grows in his faith and the infinite love of God.

John 3:1-2, Nicodemus is introduced 

Pharisee- literally “Separated One”

  • Separated himself out for God, distinguished himself, by strict discipline in the study of God’s Word and applying the lessons of the Scriptures through rituals that he might lead a pure, holy, clean life
  • No separation between what he does for a living and who he is as a follower of the One True Living God, integrated life
  • Seeker of truth, Seeker of God, dedicated his entire life to this
  • Rabbi, Teacher of Israel, maybe even THE teacher
  • Pharisee of Pharisees
  • One of the best minds in Israel and it has served him well as he rose to an elite position
  • We don’t know if he was born into a family of advantage or if he worked his way up to his position of power, influence, respect, prosperity, security

Member of the Sanhedrin – the Great Sanhedrin of 71 judges in Jerusalem, the ruling council of all Israel

Nic at Night

  • Did Nicodemus come on his own to see Jesus?
  • Did the Sanhedrin send him in an official capacity?
    • “We know you are a teacher who has come from God”
    • They heard of the miracles
    • They heard his teaching
    • Turned over the tables in the temple
    • Sanhedrin sends Nicodemus, their brightest, best, most respected to check out Jesus
    • Root out people pretending to be the Messiah to maintain the fragile peace with Rome
    • Go at night. This is how the Sanhedrin does things, sneaky things – under the cover of darkness. Don’t go in the daytime, it might legitimize Jesus.

He’s come to find out who Jesus is- and Jesus tells him. But Jesus is also going to tell Nicodemus about Nicodemus. Jesus is going to look into his soul and see his seeking and trying and how it’s falling short. Nicodemus, there is more. Nicodemus, even after all you have earned, learned and achieved there is more.

Quote from Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire A lifetime of studying and teaching the word, and now Nicodemus is face to face with the Word incarnate. He comes in darkness, now he stands in the glowing presence of the Light of the World.

Reading John 3:1-10

If religious training were enough then Nicodemus would have all he needs for the fullness of God. If self-discipline were enough… If power and position were enough…

How many times do we strive after the things of God like Nicodemus? We pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and put on our big girl pants and we stand and we learn, learn, learn and practice, practice, practice.

Jesus says you can’t have the Kingdom of God in your own strength. There is more and it is available to you.

Nicodemus is baffled because this is what he thought would work and it hasn’t. It won’t. He’s baffled to find what does work in this poor, homeless, uncredentialed rabbi from nowhere.

Imagine yourself listening to Jesus alongside Nicodemus.

  • The cool of the night, the quiet of no modern noises, wind
  • Where are you? In old Jerusalem? On the Mount of Olives?
  • You must be born from above. You must be born again. You must be born of water and Spirit.
  • Sence of openness and delight and invitation.
  • Come, sit at my feet. Let me be your rabbi, your master. Come, let me be your Messiah, Savior. You do not need to strive this way to save yourself.
  • Come and know me, and know true power- the life-transforming power of the Spirit
  • Come and know me, and receive the power to understand that God’s divine love is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced
  • Come and know me for I am Love

John 3:16-17 16 “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. 17 “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.”

The life of a Pharisee was a life of struggle and condemnation. Jesus was offering Nicodemus life. Just as Jesus is offering us life. ‘

You must be born from above. You must be born again. You must be born of water and Spirit.

Many of us do not remember our baptism. We were carried into the arms of the church by a loved one. Baptism is always about recognizing God’s grace more than recognizing our work.

But there must be many moments, when we say, “Yes, I’ve been born of water. I’ve been named and claimed by God in my baptism. But God I desire to be born of Spirit as well. Your holy presence alive in me, awakening me, saving me from me trying to save myself.”

Invitation to be baptized for the first time or reaffirm your baptism and to ask God to be born of water and Spirit. 

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Nicodemus Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording: It Begins With Baptism (Matthew 3)

Message: It Begins in Baptism
Scripture: Matthew 3:11-17
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 1/13/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. On the first Sunday after Epiphany (January 6), many Christians remember the Baptism of Jesus Christ. As part of the celebration, the faithful renew their baptismal vows.

Rev. Janet Wolf telling the story of Fayette
In new members’ class we talked about baptism: this holy moment when we are named by God’s grace with such power it won’t come undone.

Fayette was there—a woman living on the streets, struggling with mental illness and lupus. She loved the part about baptism and would ask over and over, “And when I’m baptized, I am . . . ?” We soon learned to respond, “Beloved, precious child of God, and beautiful to behold.” “Oh, yes!” she’d say, and then we could go back to our discussion.

The big day came. Fayette went under, came up sputtering, and cried, “And now I am . . . ?” And we all said, “Beloved, precious child of God, and beautiful to behold.” “Oh, yes!” she shouted as she danced all around the fellowship hall.

Two months later I got a call. Fayette had been beaten and raped and was at the county hospital. So I went. I could see her from a distance, pacing back and forth. When I got to the door, I heard, “I am beloved . . . ” She turned, saw me, and said, “I am beloved, precious child of God, and. . . . ” Catching sight of herself in the mirror— hair sticking up, blood and tears streaking her face, dress torn, dirty, and rebuttoned askew, she started again, “I am beloved, precious child of God, and . . . ” She looked in the mirror again and declared, “ . . . and God is still working on me. If you come back tomorrow, I’ll be so beautiful I’ll take your breath away!”

In a world that pronounces so many of us “not good enough,” what might it mean to believe that our true identity is chosen, precious, and beloved?

It begins with baptism

Reading: Matthew 3:13-17 NRSV

Chosen, Beloved, Blessed. It all begins with Baptism.

Where do we find our Identity?             

  • What family, country, neighborhood we were born into
  • Our job, school, the team we follow

We can find our identity in so many different places. But those measures of identity will fade away. They are not lasting. This is lasting. “This is my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased. This is my daughter, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

This is who you are in Christ. It so strong, so rooted, it goes beyond circumstance. It goes beyond disease. It goes beyond death.

Identity begins with baptism. But there’s more!

Empowerment

  • Verse 16, The heavens were opened to him
  • Verse 16, The Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him
  • Verse 11, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire

It all begins with baptism. This naming, claiming, and identity begins with baptism and empowering begins with baptism.

It doesn’t stop or end with baptism. It begins with baptism. This is where Jesus begins his public ministry, the three years leading up to his death and resurrection. The healing, the preaching, the welcoming, the teaching, the work of justice and saving.

It’s not just the beginning for Jesus, it’s also the beginning for us. Baptism is the ordination of every follower of Jesus Christ into the priesthood of all believers. 

Jesus didn’t come and die and rise again so you could be a member of a church. Jesus came and died and rose again so you could be a missionary. A missionary in whatever way that looks like for you. A missionary to your family, co-workers, neighborhood, the folks you hang out with… whatever that looks like.

It’s so important and it will take so much of us we too must remember who we are and we too must be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Baptism of Christ with Dove by Daniel BonnellThe Baptism of the Christ with Dove by Daniel Bonnell. What do you notice? What does it remind us of?

  • movement of the painting
  • power of the colors, fire colors
  • light radiating
  • submission and humility of Christ
  • you see the crucifixion
  • the dove representing the Holy Spirit
  • Jesus’ arms match the dove wings
  • One Christ’s hands are down and one is up, death and victory/resurrection, fully human and fully divine
  • of ripples of water radiating out into the world

What if every time we washed our faces, or stood beneath the shower, or were caught in a rainstorm, we remembered and reaffirmed our baptism- our identity and our empowerment.   

There’s so much being said in this powerful painting because there is so much going on in the waters of baptism. When we come forward to the waters, there’s so much we are reaffirming, recommitting to, and being thankful for.

On the recording, the message transitions into the Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows

Worship Resources
Holy Spirit, Holy One
Holy Spirit, Descending Dove
Alight on me that I may know your presence
Anoint me that I may know your call
Fill me that I may know your power
Guide me that I may know your path
Name me that I may know, that I know, that I know who I am
Amen

Be Still, Remember
a hymn for reaffirming the baptismal covenant
Suggested Tune- ONE BREAD, ONE BODY (United Methodist Hymnal #620)

Refrain-
Be still, remember, who you are.
Come touch the water
of your birth.
Be dead to sin, alive to God.
Remember who you are in Jesus.

Verses-
You are beloved.
You are an heir.
You are a child of God.

You are claimed.
You are marked.
You are named by God.

Chosen and blessed
Gifted by God
Witness through word and deed

Check out a poem/devotional entitled The Beloved by Steve Garnaas Holmes

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Holy Spirit, Holy One © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Be Still, Remember © 2000 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
It Begins in Baptism © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Holy Spirit, Holy One- a prayer based on the Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3)

the_baptism_of_the_holy_spirit-769x1024

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit by Rebecca Brogan

Matthew 3:16-17
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Holy Spirit, Holy One
Holy Spirit, Descending Dove
Alight on me that I may know your presence
Anoint me that I may know your call
Fill me that I may know your power
Guide me that I may know your path
Name me that I may know, that I know, that I know who I am
Amen

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Click Here for Be Still, Remember, an original hymn text for the renewal of baptismal vows

Holy Spirit, Holy One © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this prayer in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish them in any form.

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.

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.

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 to high that we fall away from you
our need of you
our need of others

Not to 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

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

Two Pocket Perspective 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.