Sermon- Bread Alone (Matthew 4, Deuteronomy 8)

Sermon Series Bread 1110 x 624Lenten Sermon Series: Bread
This sermon series was inspired by the book Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers by Margaret Feinberg.

Message 2 of 5: Bread Alone
Scriptures: Matthew 4:1-4; Deuteronomy 8:1-3
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/8/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire contemporary worship service, including the message which starts at the 35-minute mark.

Jesus still wet from his baptism in the Jordan. With the affirmation of the Father ringing in his ears, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) Heads into the Judean wilderness before beginning his public ministry.

Here’s one of the surprises I had in Israel- The Mount of Temptation is really close to Jericho. Everyone for thousands and thousands of years has wanted Jericho because it’s an oasis. It’s rich in people, water, fruits, and vegetables. If you go there be sure to try the dates and bananas and kabob. Jericho is rich in bread.

Jesus chooses to fast for 40 days on the next hill. I suspect he could hear the laughter from Jericho. He could smell their cooking, see the crops growing. I suspect it gave him quite an appetite.

Matthew 4:1-3  
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

The Wilderness
The wilderness will humble you. It will show you how frail and needy and lonely you can be.

Jesus not only chooses to go into the wilderness, he chooses to fast in the wilderness. Fasting is the spiritual discipline for getting serious with God. It’s the spiritual discipline for testing your heart, your motivations. Fasting removes the filters and brings up all the junk. Fasting is roto-rooter for your soul.

The wilderness is also a place to meet the tempter

Temptation #1- Identity
If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

The Devil slides in and questions Jesus’ identity. The Devil does the same to us. If you are a good parent… Are you really a good parent? Are you really a writer? Are you really a ____________? Are you really a beloved child of God? You’re a pretender. You’re an imposter. Those are the words of the tempter.

Jesus knows he’s the Son of God. He was just reminded at his baptism. The Devil knows who Jesus is, too. The question is, do we know who we are?

Jesus is reminded at his baptism as so are we every time we reaffirm our baptismal vows. Look how closely the vows relate to this scripture.

The United Methodist Baptismal Vows
I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of my sin.

I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

I confess Jesus Christ as my Savior, put my whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as my Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.

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

If you are a beloved child of God… Yep, that’s who I am!

Jesus knows who he is and the Devil knows who Jesus is. So the Devil double-dog dares Jesus to prove who he is.

Temptation #2- Power
If you are the Son of God command these stones to become loaves of bread

Simple, practical, diabolical

Ok Son of God, prove who you are with a display of your power. Command. Fix the situation. You’re hungry. Force the situation, turn stones into bread. Serve yourself. Satisfy your appetite.

Then the Devil turns to us. Ok so you’re a Beloved Child of God, use your power to command. To fix and force. Serve yourself. Satisfy your appetite. Be the god of your needs.

Then there are times we turn to God with a devilish demand. Ok God, you say you love me. Use your power to fix and force this situation. Fix and force to serve me, to satisfy my appetite. Lord have mercy.

Matthew 20, Mrs. Zebedee does this. Her sons are two of Jesus’ most trusted disciples, James and John. The sons of thunder. Can you imagine these guys, much less mama!

Mrs. Zebedee asks Jesus to fix and force, satisfy her appetite. She requests her sons to be given the highest positions in Jesus’ kingdom. Serve me, Jesus, by serving my boys. This naturally upset the other disciples. Here’s his reply.

Matthew 20:25-28
25 Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

It’s not about us being served by fixing and forcing in our own power. It’s not about expecting God to fix and force on our behalf. It’s about humility and service. That’s who I am as a child of God.

Temptations = Misuse. In this case the misuse of our God-given identity, power, and blessings.

bread-and-stone-whittemoreTemptation #3- Blessings
If you are the Son of God command these stones to become loaves of bread

It is sin and idolatry to twist the blessings of God into something they were never meant to be. Stone was never meant to be bread.

It’s twisting God’s good gift of work into a workaholic.
Love into lust, abuse, pornography, prostitution, enmeshment
Excellence into perfectionism
Food into gluttony, over-processing, eating disorders

In the wilderness, you meet the tempter but it’s also the place to meet God. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness just like the slaves leaving Egypt were led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Into the wilderness and in wilderness.

The wilderness is both dangerous and holy. The Spirit doesn’t just drop Jesus off and say, “Bye-bye. See you in a few weeks.” Imagine how many encouraging, inspiring, intimate conversations the Father, Son, Spirit have those 40 days in the wilderness. I want to see that on the jumbotron when I get to heaven.

Jesus, affirmed by the Father, led by the Spirit, answers the tempter with the word of God. “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 and Deuteronomy 8:3)

Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 8:1-3
God speaking through Moses, 1 This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.

Notice the command is not self-serving. It’s not about control. It is for our good so that we may live.

2 Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.

People of God were led by the Spirit in the wilderness from slavery to freedom.
The same is true for us through the life death and resurrection of Jesus. The wilderness humbles us. Fasting tests what’s in our hearts and reveals it.

God tests us to reveal what’s in our hearts so we may draw closer to God. It’s always for our good. Testing calls us to the higher road and to life. God never tempts. The Devil tempts us away from God and our true selves.

3 He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Am I Living Life by Bread Alone?
My appetites rule my life. I’m misusing my identity, my power, and the blessings of God.

My Motivation is to satisfy my appetite. I will use my power to get what I want. “I need it. I want it. I crave it.”

I control. I force. I cut corners. I manipulate. I will justify my actions as practical, “just doing business.”

It’s idolatry and sin to separate the practical from the spiritual when it’s all spiritual. It’s idolatry and sin to take my God-given identity, power, and blessing and twist it into something it was never meant to be.

No! I’m not going to live by bread alone. I live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord!

I know who I am in Christ. Do you know who you are in Christ?

Have you recognized the power God gives you and are you using it for the glory of God?

Do you respect God’s blessings? Can you see them all around you? Are you using them for the common good?

Prayer
Jesus, help us to see who we truly are. To see the power and blessings you’ve entrusted to us. Give us eyes to see. Help us to see how we are misusing these gifts. We confess it. We ask for your forgiveness. Turn us right. Untwist us. Do not let the Devil deceive or tempt us.

Jesus, thank you for the ways we are cooperating with you. Using what you entrust to us for good. We know there’s good in us because of you. Overcome the evil with the good. Overcome the temptation with your power, your resurrection power, your new life. Forgive us and make us new, Jesus. Use us for your good. I am a Child of God. Glory to God. Amen.

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Sermon- Bread Alone © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Reflection: The Arms of Christ (Psalm 36)

I am grateful for the writer of Psalm 36, one of my favorite bands- Third Day, and Daniel Bonnell for his powerful work The Baptism of the Christ, for helping me home to Christ today.

Psalm 36:5-7 (NRSV)
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
Your judgments are like the great deep;
You save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Your Love, oh Lord by Third Day
Your love, oh Lord, reaches to the heavens
Your faithfulness stretches to the sky
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains
Your justice flows like the ocean’s tide
I will lift my voice to worship You, my King
I will find my strength in the shadow of your wings

baptism of the christ by daniel bonnell

Baptism of the Christ by Daniel Bonnell

In Bonnell’s piece, Christ’s arms are extended in an explosion of color and welcome. One is raised in victory over sin and death. One is lowered in suffering, the price of our salvation. Christ’s body mirrors the shape of the Holy Spirit Dove, for he is the very image of God, the grace and truth of God made flesh. Christ’s body mirrors the shape of his crucifixion. His arms take the shape of wings because it is only within Christ’s embrace that we can find lasting shelter and safety.

What do you see in the painting? Leave a comment below.

Christ is bathed in light; let us also be bathed in light.
Christ is baptized; let us also go down with him, and rise with him.
-Gregory of Nazianzus

Psalm 33:11 (NRSV)
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.

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For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this resource in other settings, please leave a comment.

Be Still, Remember – a Hymn for Reaffirming Baptismal Vows

nolan-lee-baptism-by-fire

Baptism by Fire by Nolan Lee

Every year, on the second Sunday in January, Christians all over the world read the story of Jesus’ baptism and reaffirm their baptismal vows. I pray this hymn text is helpful to you as you remember who you are in Christ. – Lisa <><

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

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© 2000 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia (revlisad.com)
Please leave a comment 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.

Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Truth (John 14)

Sermon Series spirit filled 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Spirit Filled
Message 4 of 5: Pour Out Your Truth
Scripture: John 14:16-17, 25-26
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 6/30/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Saints QB Drew Brees Shares his testimony

John 14:16-17
Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

  • The Holy Spirit is the Presence of God with us right now.
  • The Spirit is with you and in you. Now and Forever!
  • God’s presence, sustaining, and blessing is all around us. You have the power to ignore and push away the Spirit. You have a choice. The Spirit will not be forced upon you.
  • The Holy Spirit is the Advocate = Helper/Counselor/Parakletos. One set from the Father. Exactly like the Father and Christ.
  • The Presence of God is a Help. The Presence is for you.

John 14:25-26
Jesus said, “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

The Spirit Teaches us and Reminds us
One of Jesus’ main missions was to teach. Jesus would refer back to the Old Testament, reminding his hearers what it really meant and really said. Jesus brought the promises of God into his time period and thus our time period. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will continue to do that.

What the Spirit teaches us and reminds us is seen in how the Spirit is revealed in the Scriptures. Think 4 B’s: Bird, Breath, Blow, Burn.

holy spirit bird breath blow burn

Bird – Click here for the sign language motion

  • We are named and claimed by God in our baptism. Our true identity is found in Christ Jesus, rooted in the eternal, not in how the world wants to label and stereotype us.
  • The Love Dove of Jesus’ Baptism- The heavens were opened to Jesus. He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. This is my Son the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:16-17)

Breath- Click here for the sign language motion for breath

  • We are made alive in Christ, awakened and empowered to love and serve
  • Holy Spirit as the sacred, life-giving breath of God
  • the gift of life in Genesis 2:7
  • God instructs Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones to prophesy to the breath (Ezekiel 37:9-14)
  • After his resurrection, Jesus breathes on the disciples, offering the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 20:19-23)

Blow- Click here for the sign language motion for wind

  • The Holy Spirit is God, and thus beyond our control. Like the coming and going of the wind, the movement of the Holy Spirit is unseen and mysterious.
  • We hesitate to surrender to the Spirit because we want to be in control. We’re afraid of change and loss. We know our normal and we want to keep it.
  • In the Beginning, a wind from God swept over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2)
  • “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
  • Pentecost- The coming of the Spirit was like the sound of the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire house (Acts 2:2)

Burn- Click here for the sign language motion for fire

  • The fire of God reminds us of passion, our mission/calling from God, and the refiner’s fire which burns away what isn’t good for us so the gold is revealed.
  • Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3)
  • The pillar of fire leading God’s people through the darkness and across the wilderness to the promised land (Exodus 13-14)
  • God consuming the offering in the battle between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18)
  • Isaiah’s lips being cleansed by a lump of burning coal from the heavenly altar
  • God companioning and rescuing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)
  • God described as a Refiner’s Fire (Malachi 3)
  • John the Baptist’s prophecy that the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3, Luke 3)
  • The tongues of fire dancing on the disciples’ heads at Pentecost (Acts 2)

When you think of Fire, what comes to mind?

  • Fire takes- burn down the house, forest fire, burn my skin- sunburn, radiation treatment. Devastation. Destruction. Consuming. Devouring. If I surrender to the Spirit, what will he take from me?
  • Fire gives- candles on Christmas Eve, campfire, warmth, light.
  • We get scared of the Spirit. Not sure if we want it.

What the Fire Gives by Jan Richardson, from her book Circle of Grace
You had thought that fire
only consumed,
only devoured,
only took for itself,
leaving merely ash
and memory
of something
you had believed,
if not permanent,
would be long enough,
enduring enough,
to be nearly
eternal.

So when you felt
the scorching on your lips,
the searing in your heart,
you could not
at first believe
that flame could be
so generous,
that when it came to you—
you, in your sackcloth
and sorrow—
it did not come
to consume,
to take still more
than everything.

What surprised you most
were not the syllables
that spilled from
your scalded,
astonished mouth—
though that was miracle
enough,
to have words
burn through
what had been numb,
to find your tongue
aflame with a language
you did not know
you knew—

no, what came
as greatest gift
was to be so heard
in the place
of your deepest
silence,
to be so seen
within the blazing,
to be met
with such completeness
by what the fire gives.

Holy Spirit, Pour out your truth
“That flame could be so generous.” I needed that reminder.

What we believe about God matters. If we believe God is angry, ready to punish, always watching, distant it will color everything. But if we believe God is generous, strong, good, and near, then the gift of the Holy Spirit is generous, good, and near.

We have our normal we know really well. It’s comforting and comfortable in a world that’s always changing. But, what God offers us is a new normal beyond circumstance. It is generous.

The first thing God always offers is to be heard and seen. Being before doing. God knows me just as I am. God sees me just as I am. God loves me just as I am. God invites me into all I can be.

I long to be known and seen and understood like this. That’s what I find in the presence of God. No need to hide. This knowing and seeing are so generous you can surrender to it. It is trustworthy and it is truth.

What do you most need today from the Spirit?
What do you most need to be reminded of?

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Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Truth © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Presence (John 14)

Sermon Series spirit filled 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Spirit Filled
Message 3 of 5: Pour Out Your Presence
Scripture: John 14:15-18, 23
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 6/23/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

2007 Experiment
Washington Post columnist, Gene Weingarten, and world-famous violinist Joshua Bell worked together to answer this question: If one of the world’s greatest musicians played some of history’s most beautiful music on one of the world’s most expensive instruments, but in an ordinary place, would anyone notice?

Video of Joshua Bell playing in a Washington, DC metro station

What did you notice?

  • Bell played for 45 minutes, playing 6 or 7 classical pieces, earning $32
  • Very few people stopped. 1,097 people passed by. Only 7 people stopped. One stayed for 3 minutes. One stayed for 9 minutes. The woman who recognized him stayed the last 2 minutes of his performance.
  • Everyone was busy.

7 years later, in 2014, Joshua Bell played in Union Station again. What do you think happened?

Why was it different this time?

  • Both times he played the exact same music
  • He had more people helping him
  • It was announced. They recognized him and his gifts. They knew who he was.
  • There was a sense of expectancy.
  • They acknowledged his presence.

The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote,
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.

What great extravagant gifts do we pass by- not expecting it, not acknowledging it? We’re picking blackberries with our face in our BlackBerries.

Even more so, we’re passing by the presence of Almighty God. The world is afire with the power, presence, and beauty of the Holy Spirit. Are we expectant for it? Are we awakened to it? Are we acknowledging it?

Who is the Holy Spirit? God’s presence with us now
Have you acknowledged the presence of the Holy Spirit? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to awaken you to the beauty and power of God all around you?

John 14:15-18, 23
This passage is part of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. (John 13-17) Jesus is speaking at the Last Supper, the night of his arrest, less than 24 hours before his death. He’s preparing the disciples and reminding them of the promises of God.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit, God’s Presence 
John 14:16
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.

  • Another = Just Like the First
    • We continue to have access to the presence, wisdom, healing, grace of Christ
  • Advocate = Parakletos in Greek, One sent from the Father, called alongside you
    • The parent who climbs in bed with a scared or sick child to comfort him or her
    • The person who takes the hand of a friend to walk alongside them through the situation
  • With you forever
    • Jesus walked this earth for a specific period of time. The presence of God in the Holy Spirit is with us forever.
    • We can see and know the Spirit. The Spirit is here! There can be expectancy, awakening, opening, acknowledging what others are just passing by. (John 14:17)
  • With you forever- with you and in you
    • Abides with you (John 14:17)
    • Will not leave you orphaned (John 14:18)
      • The disciples were feeling abandoned and orphaned by Jesus’ reminder that he must go. Jesus sends another just like him.
    • I am coming to you (John 14:18)
      • The Spirit comes to us. We don’t have to go searching. God always makes the first move.
    • You will see me (John 14:19)
    • We will come to them (John 14:23)
    • Make our home with them (John 14:23)
      • Consider the intimacy and immediacy of someone moving in with you
      • God makes a home with us and in us
    • Abides in you (John 14:17)
    • You in me, I in you (John 14:20)

1 Corinthians 3:16
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

The Holy Spirit abiding with you and in you. How do I get the Holy Spirit?
Consider your baptism.

  • Brothers and Sisters in Christ
    • Family language, making a home with us and in us, belonging
  • Through the Sacrament of Baptism,
    • Sacrament means mystery. We can relate to God the Father as Creator. We can relate to Jesus Christ, who walked this earth and shared our experience. The Holy Spirit is a mystery.
  • we are initiated into Christ’s holy church. We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth by water and the Spirit.
    • We’re part of the Body of Christ, the Family of God, the church. We receive a calling on our life and are empowered to fulfill it. We are given new birth. We are made new.
  • All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.  

In Baptism we recognize the Holy Spirit is already at work in our life, has a plan for our life, already knows us, loves us, is working and calling.

When we receive baptism and the Holy Spirit as babies, we don’t know what we don’t know because we are babies. When we grow up, we may still not know what we don’t know because no one has ever talked to us about the Holy Spirit.

That’s why we’re doing it now. It’s a tremendous gift. The promise of presence that we can know now. We can acknowledge now. That’s how you get the Holy Spirit because the Spirit is already there.

Lord, give me eyes to see. Lord, give me ears to hear. Holy Spirit, I want you in my life.

John 16:7
Jesus said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

You have God with you here forever and ever and ever. You have the Holy Spirit.

Will you acknowledge? Will you receive? Will you awaken? The world is afire and there is One who wants to abide with you and in you. Will you say, “Yes!”

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Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Presence © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.