Sermon- Does it Feel Like Easter? (John 20)

Martin-Resurrection Morning

Resurrection Morning by JRC Martin

Easter Sermon: Does it Feel Like Easter?
Scripture: John 20:1-18
Notes from a message offered Easter Sunday, 4/12/2020, via Facebook Live for Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the contemporary worship service, including the message which starts around the 15-minute mark.

Does it feel like Easter?
I’ll be honest, it doesn’t feel so much like Easter. I think of special gatherings full of food, loved ones, and laughter. I think of special clothes, family pictures, baskets, bunnies, egg hunts, and chocolate.

I’ll be alone this Easter. Maybe you are, too.

I think of big church gatherings. Outdoor sunrise services, beautiful sanctuaries full of lilies and light streaming through stained glass windows.

I think of beautiful music. I’m so glad to have some of our musicians here today but I miss the rest of the praise band and the choir. Sometimes we even have trumpets.

I miss all of you. I miss us raising our voices to sing and celebrate Christ’s glorious victory. Christ is Risen! He’s Risen Indeed!

Here we are on Easter morning, and none of us expected this. None of us expected sanctuaries to still be closed, that we would be isolated from one another, that we would be watching worship from home because of a deadly global pandemic.

It doesn’t feel like Easter, it feels like Good Friday
Heavy. Overwhelming. This has been a pretty intense week. Everything is changing so fast and my heart, my mind, and my soul can’t keep up. This horror is unfolding and I feel helpless. There’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop it.

Some folks are making life-threatening sacrifices for our health and well being and protection. Where am I? Tucked away in my house. There are times where it feels like I’m hiding. Am I denying? Am I blaming? Sometimes I’m bargaining.

Everything is uncertain. What is going to happen? What is next for us? I wonder every time I head out to the grocery store if I’ve brought it back with me? Will I be next?

Maybe you’re like me and all you want to do is turn back the clock, but we know we can’t. We’re living a historic moment, this world-changing moment and nothing will ever be the same.

The one thing that’s for sure- grief is our constant companion.

It doesn’t feel like Easter. But, when I think about it a little more, maybe it does feel like Easter. It feels like the first Easter.

It’s Easter morning and Mary Magdalene heads to the tomb in John’s version of the story. Grief is her constant companion. Everything’s changed so fast and she can’t process it. One evening Jesus is celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples and less than 24 hours later he’s dead. Now they’re rushing around trying to get him buried before sundown.

I imagine Mary Magdalene continuing to relive the horror of watching Jesus being crucified. She witnessed it. She was helpless to stop it.

Now everyone’s scattered, everyone’s isolated. They’re locked in hoping death won’t come for them.

It’s Easter morning and Mary Magdalene heads to the tomb while it’s still dark. Don’t miss that detail! Mary goes to the tomb expecting to find death, Good Friday. Instead, she finds the stone removed and Jesus’ body missing. Horror on horror, pain on pain, where have they taken Jesus’ body?

John 20:2-18
2 So Mary ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

The men get there, check out the situation and exit quickly, returning to the safety of their locked doors. Mary stays- isolated, overwhelmed, weeping outside the tomb.

John 20:11b-18
11 … As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Have you ever been in that much pain?
You can’t see the angels. You can’t see Jesus.

Jesus keeps working to break through. A third time, Mary is addressed.

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Beloved Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” and she told them that he had said these things to her.

What changes everything for Mary?
Jesus calls her by name. Jesus is calling you by name.

At the mention of her name, Mary’s weeping gives way to seeing. At the mention of her name, Mary’s grieving gives way to action. I have seen the Lord

Nothing could have prepared Mary for this possibility. The undoing of death itself. Jesus’ victory over injustice and violence and sin and shame and death.

Mary witnessed the most historic moment of moments- a moment that changes everything.

I have seen the Lord and the Romans are still in power
I have seen the Lord and the disciples are still in danger
I have seen the Lord and there’s still a deadly virus
I have seen the Lord and the church is still empty
But so is the tomb

It’s still Easter!
It’s still true!
It still changes everything!
Yes, it still feels uncertain but I have seen the Lord

Hear Christ calling your name
Let your weeping give way to seeing
Let your grieving give way to action
You have the message of hope we all need to hear
Christ is Risen! He’s Risen Indeed! Hallelujah!
Amen!

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Does it Feel Like Easter? © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon- The Palm Sunday Path

Jesus Palm Sunday Benedictine Sisters Turvey AbbeyThe Palm Sunday Path
Scripture: Mark 11:1-10
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 4/5/2020 via Facebook Live for Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of me leading worship in our empty sanctuary, including the message which starts around the 19-minute mark.

Mark 11:1-10, NRSV
1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 

4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them what Jesus had said, and they allowed them to take it. 

7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Imagine two mountains with a valley between them. One is the Mount of Olives. Jesus and his followers start on the far side near the villages of Bethphage and Bethany. They make their way up to the top of the Mount of Olives and what does Jesus see?

He looks down the slope and sees the olive grove and olive press of Gethsemane

He looks up the other mountain, the top’s been cut off in order to build the 35 acre Temple complex. On the left, he sees the teaching steps where he probably questioned the rabbis when he was 12. The steps where he now teaches when he comes to the Temple.

On the right, Jesus sees the Antonio Fortress where the Roman soldiers are garrisoned.

There between them, gleaming white and gold in the sun, the Temple of the One True Living God. Jesus can see the flames from the sacrifices, smell the char of the meat and perfumed prayers.

At the top of the Mount of Olives, Jesus can see all of Jerusalem before him. Jesus can see thousands of people making their way to market, work, worship, and home. And Jesus can see where they do the crucifixions. He can see his future on the cross.

What does Jesus do? Jesus continues on the path.

Jesus could have chosen an easier path, the path of Comfort
A quiet life, a tiny life in tiny Nazareth. Carpentry is honorable work. He’s been doing it for a couple of decades and he could continue. Morning prayer walks on the rolling hills of Galilee stopping to overlook the beautiful Sea of Galilee. Sweet sabbaths in the synagogue. Jesus could have chosen home and family, privacy, simplicity, comfort.

Jesus could have chosen a different path, the path of Control
He could have called down the armies of heaven to overthrow the Romans, and the evil one. He could have placed himself on David’s earthly throne and made every wrong right. He could have raised his hand and said “peace, be still” to the whole world.

Jesus could have chosen an easier path or a different path. He could have saved himself instead of saving the world… but he didn’t.

Jesus didn’t choose comfort and he didn’t choose control.
Jesus chose courage. He chose the courageous path of God.

Jesus hears the people around him as they’re making their way down the path. Ordinary people, simple people, excited and hopeful to announce him to Jerusalem.

“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Hosanna does not mean Hooray! It means Help!
Hosanna means Save Now!

The men, women, children walking with Jesus waving their branches weren’t thinking, “Save us from slavery to sin and death and shame.” They were thinking closer to home.

Save us from the Romans
Save us from the corruption of the Temple
Save us from hunger and thirst

Maybe you’re thinking closer to home, too.

If you were to cry Hosanna today, Save Now today, what would you want?
I would want Jesus to save us from the pandemic
Save us from the disease and the dis-ease
Save us from the cruelty of isolation
Save us from the slavery of financial ruin
Save us from the oppression of unknowing
Save us, Jesus, save now!
These are good prayers!

I want Jesus the King
Jesus the Healer
Jesus the Fixer, just like they did
Hosanna! Save Now!

That’s what Jesus chose to do- to save
Jesus looked at the great need all around him and chose the long game, the big picture, the one thing only he could do no one else.

Jesus chose the hard, courageous path for the greater need, the greatest need. He chose to save the world.

Jesus chose the path of injustice, betrayal, denial, abandonment. Jesus chose the path of mocking, whips, thorns, nails. Jesus chose the courageous path of crucifixion and death so he could open to us the path of victory and eternal life.

Hosanna doesn’t mean Hooray! It means Save Now!
Salvation doesn’t mean fixed. Salvation means wholeness.
Lord knows that’s what we need right now.

We need it for ourselves
We need it for our families
We need it for our economy
For Christ’s church
For our healthcare system
For our world

Lord, we need your salvation. We need your wholeness and we need it now. In our sickness, our suffering, our lamenting, our loss. And that’s what you give us now.

You are the Lamb of God
You are the King of Kings
You are the Christ, the Anointed One, the Savior of us all

We cling to you and we cling to your cross
We cry Hosanna! Save Now!

Make your wholeness real in us
And real in all. Amen.

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The Palm Sunday Path © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Pandemic and the Person of Christ

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 5 of 5: Five Barley Loaves- Community and Social Distancing
Scriptures: Jesus’ I AM statements from the Gospel of John
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/29/2020 via Facebook Live for Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of me leading worship from my home office, including the message which starts around the 20-minute mark.

This message concludes our sermon series entitled Bread. It was supposed to be on a passage from John 6 where Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life.”

I’ll be honest with you, I went to John 6 and knew I didn’t want to dive deeply into that one passage. It’s complicated. It’s full of misunderstanding and arguments and Jesus trying to explain his real presence in Holy Communion.

It’s important, but it felt really heavy given the pandemic and quarantine. I didn’t want to be in my head and I didn’t want to preach on an argument. I don’t need that right now and suspect you don’t either.

What I need right now is Jesus.

This passage from John 6 led me to all the other I AM statements from Jesus in the Gospel of John. That’s what I needed. I needed to be reminded of who Jesus is- I AM, I Am, I AM…

I AM the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 38)
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…. I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”

Jesus is the Bread of Life, come down from heaven like manna in the wilderness. Jesus came that we might have a journey of faith with him to the promised land, with him home to heaven.

Jesus provides spiritual food and drink for the journey of faith and is that food and drink himself. Food/bread leads us to the next I AM statement…

I AM the Vine (John 15:1-2, 5)
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. … I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing.

Hunger needs food/Bread and thirst needs something to drink, Vine/wine.

Every branch that bears no fruit is removed- what keeps us stuck, what hinders us. Jesus is unburdening us for the journey.

Every branch that bears fruit is pruned to bear more fruit. We are tended so the good will grow and flourish.

Jesus gives food for the journey, drink for the journey, unburdens us for the journey, brings good fruit along the journey, and makes the journey itself possible. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. We need Jesus.

I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus makes it possible for us to be on the journey and Jesus is the journey. Jesus is the Way. We can trust Jesus’ way because it is true. We can trust Jesus’ way because it is life.

We need life right now. We can stay on the path, stay on the journey in this time of pandemic by trusting and following Jesus.

I AM the Gate (John 10:7-9)
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

Jesus is not only the Way, the journey itself, but he is also the Gate. Anyone can enter the journey of faith, the journey of salvation, through Jesus. All this talk of sheep, listening, and pasture (more food for the journey!) leads us to…

I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14-15)
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. … I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.

The Shepherd knows us, calls us, fights for us, defends us, tends us, provides for us, leads us like a shepherd leading his flock, and lays down his life for us. Jesus lays down his life as the Way so we may cross into a life with God forever.

Jesus laying down his life is the cross. Jesus laying down his life is his death and being laid in a tomb. And yet, Jesus has the power to take up his life again and to take us up with him. (John 10:17-18)

Jesus is the Bread and Vine- food and drink for the journey
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life
Jesus is the Gate- how we enter the journey
Jesus is the Shepherd, leading us on the journey, we can hear and follow

Jesus is the Way, the Shepherd we follow, and the Light for every step of the journey.

I AM the Light of the World (John 8:12, 14a)
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life…. I know where I have come from and where I am going”

Light of the World… Whoever follows… The journey of faith is for all people. Anyone, everyone can join.

Light of Life… even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:12)

If you’re feeling things are dark right now, Jesus remains the Light. We can trust that light is there even when we can’t sense it. I pray that light would breakthrough for you right now.

I know where I have come from and where I am going. We can trust Jesus’ truth and experience to lead us because he knows where he’s going. He knows how to get us home.

We can trust this because of the last I Am statement. In this passage, Jesus is talking to Martha, the sister of Lazarus. She’s heartbroken over her brother’s death. It seems all is lost.

I AM the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-27)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Imagine Jesus asking us that right now. Do you believe this?

Do you believe I am the Bread of Life?
That I am the Vine and you are the branches?
Do you believe I am the Way, the Truth and the Life?
Do you believe I am the Gate?
Do you believe I am the Good Shepherd?
Do you believe I am the Light of the World?
Do you believe I am the Resurrection and the Life?

In this day, in the midst of the pandemic, in the midst of the physical separation, in the midst of wondering about the future, in the midst of the loss and the loneliness, I say, “I believe.”

Martha said it before Lazarus was raised from the dead. She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Before everything is made right, I’m going to stand with my sister Martha and say, “Yes, I believe.” I pray you will believe, too.

If you’re doubting these promises are for you, do not doubt. They’re offered to you as grace and goodness. No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter what you’ve done. These promises are for you and for all, so I pray you will say yes and believe.

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The Pandemic and the Person of Christ © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording – Jesus, The Light of the World (John 3, John 8)

I am Jesus

Message: Jesus, The Light of the World
Scriptures: John 3:16-21John 8:12
I’m catching up on some 2017 sermons which haven’t been posted. This is message 2 of 6 in a Lenten sermon series entitled I AM Jesus. It was offered 3/12/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

What is your favorite kind of light?
Sunlight, Moonlight, Firelight, Fireflies
Candlelight, Christmas Lights, Spotlight, Nightlight
Light is a primal, universal experience
And one of the most important themes of the Bible

Quote by Rob Fuquay, The God We Can Know: Exploring the “I Am” Sayings of Jesus
You could say the story of the Bible is one of moving from darkness to light.
Shadow to Salvation

  • Look at the way the Bible begins in Genesis: “The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep . . . Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light” (1:2-3). The first thing God spoke into existence was light.
  • Go to the book of Revelation, to the description of the new heaven and earth: “There will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light” (22:5).
  • Many of the OT prophecies of a coming Messiah use the image of light: “Arise, shine; for your light has come” (Isa. 60:1). “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isa. 9:2).
  • The Bible constantly affirms that when God comes on the scene, there is light.
  • God makes staying in darkness a choice.

How? By coming as Jesus

John 8:12
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Jesus said these words in Jerusalem while attending Sukkot, often called the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. Passover is celebrated in the Spring to commemorate God freeing the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. Sukkot is celebrated in the Fall to commemorate God leading the people through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

The opening night of Sukkot was a huge celebration. People would sing and dance until morning. The first evening began with The Grand Illumination. Giant torches lined the courtyard of the temple burning so brightly it lit up all of Jerusalem. Imagine this at a time with no electricity!

It’s reasonable, even likely, it was at this moment Jesus said to the crowds, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Jesus is saying, “Place your trust in me, I will be your pillar of fire leading you through the darkness of the wilderness… I will lead you to the Promised Land. I will lead you home.”

Staying in darkness is a choice. What have you chosen? Have you said, “yes” to Jesus?
Have you placed your trust in his light and direction to lead you now and to lead you home?

1. Sometimes our dark wilderness is circumstance beyond our control
We cannot see the path. We freeze, afraid we’ll fall off the edge or into a pit.
Jesus, I choose your light- lead me and guide me now and always

It’s like having a flashlight in the deepest night. We trust Jesus for the next step, the next step, and the one after that. Jesus promises he will lead us step by step to a blessed end.

2. Sometimes our dark wilderness is a result of our own actions
Jesus is the light of the world and the light of life. Because Jesus loves us, Jesus shines a light on our sin, all those things we want to keep in the dark. It can be painful to see it. It can be painful to acknowledge our need for forgiveness and healing and salvation.

My friends, it’s hard, but it’s good. It’s grace. Claim it as an “ah-ha” moment of hope. It’s Christ working within us so we may have the light of life. We are not been abandoned. We are not condemned. We are not beyond grace.

John 3:16-21
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Staying in darkness is a choice. Come into the light.

Washing Windows Illustration
A teenager went to visit his grandmother one summer. While there, she asked him to wash the windows of her old Victorian home. She gave him instructions in the morning and said she’d be back to check on him in the afternoon. He laughed to himself- This job won’t take that long. So he washed the windows. They looked great and he spent the rest of the morning playing video games on his phone.

The afternoon came and the grandmother pulled back the curtains to see how he’d done. The windows were full of streaks and the corners were full of dirt. The young man was shocked. In the morning everything looked fine. What happened? Nothing happened. The afternoon sunlight revealed more truth than the morning light.

The grandmother did not condemn her grandson. She loved him and helped him to clean what he could now see.

Staying in darkness is a choice. Come into the light.

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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.

Sermon Recording – The Sunday After the School Shooting (Repent and Believe the Gospel)

Message: The Sunday After the School Shooting, Repent and Believe the Gospel
Scriptures: Genesis 3:19; Mark 1:15
Offered 2/18/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida, the Sunday after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL.

douglas high school shooting victims

Victims of the School Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL. 17 murdered, 15 more injured
Chris Hixon, 49
Nicholas Dworet, 17
Aaron Feis, 37
Gina Montalto, 14
Scott Beigel, 35
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
Joaquin Oliver, 17
Jaime Guttenberg, 14
Martin Duque, 14
Meadow Pollack, 18
Alex Schachter, 14
Peter Wong, 15
Helena Ramsay, 17
Alaina Petty, 14
Carmen Schentrup, 16
Cara Loughran, 14
Luke Hoyer, 15

douglas high school shooting loved ones

I’ve been haunted by the picture of a woman holding another woman with a cross of ashes on her forehead. The school shooting occurred Valentine’s Day, which was also Ash Wednesday. This woman had been to worship earlier in the day with no idea how her day would end.

As the ashes were applied to her forehead, this is what she heard, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the Gospel.”

Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return (Genesis 3:19)
Remember you are earthy, humus. Remember God gave you the gift of life, that you are made in the image of God, that you are strong, gifted, and beloved of God.

Remember it with humility, for you are humus, human. You are just like everyone else. You are frail, mortal. You are capable of great love and great sin.

The online mass shooting tracker defines mass murder as 3 or more people murdered in one event. They define a mass shooting as 4 or more people shot in a single shooting spree.

From January 1- February 17, 2018, the first 48 days of the year, there have been 43 mass shootings. 83 persons were killed and 151 persons wounded.

Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent…
We wear ashes to remind us of our mortality, our frailty, our humanness, and our need for humility. The ashes also remind us of sackcloth and ashes. In the scriptures, persons would wear sackcloth and ashes when they were grieving the loss of a loved one or the loss of freedom. They would also wear sackcloth and ashes when they were grieving their sin.

My intentional inventory related to all these shootings. I repent and seek God’s forgiveness.

  • I repent of sympathizing with the bereaved families and then too quickly moving on
  • I repent of offering “thoughts and prayers” which cost me nothing instead of risking and caring and working for peace
    • Faith without works is dead
    • Sermons without action is hypocrisy
  • I repent of my participation in our culture of death
    • The violence I tolerate in the name of entertainment
    • The weapons I tolerate in the name of safety and freedom
    • The hard conversations about guns and children I am afraid to have, afraid to lead in our church family because there’s already enough pain in my life,  and I don’t want to add more
  • I repent of the harm I do to others
    • With my words and with my silence
    • With my actions and with my inaction

Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent and believe…
I believe

  • I don’t have to become numb or overwhelmed in the face of wave after wave of violence
  • That we can all have safe schools
  • That we can all have access to great mental health care provided by gifted professionals
  • That it is my responsibility to hold our leaders accountable and to help them be courageous
  • That we can have honest, faithful conversations on difficult topics and still remain brothers and sisters in Christ
  • That we can/must lay aside our divisions to end the plague of gun violence

Why?
Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return: time is short and valuable, life is valuable. Repent: there is time to turn in a new direction, that new direction is toward God.

I don’t just believe, I believe in the Gospel

  • God is good. God is strong. God is love.
  • Our Jesus, the One who healed, taught, prayed for us, understands our pain because he was tortured and murdered, senselessly, unjustly.
  • And our Jesus rose victorious, our Savior and Lord, our Peace, our Hope

I claim the Gospel, the power of the cross and resurrection

  • That breaks the power of grief, despair, and death itself
  • That breaks the cycle of violence, retaliation, fear, apathy

I claim the Gospel, the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me

  • To speak the truth in love, to work for the common good, to pray and to act
  • To seek the wisdom of Almighty God to end the bloodshed because Jesus shed enough for all of us

Ann Voskamp testimony from her blog post
When I stand in the kitchen, stacking dishes on the third day of Lent, our littlest girl flies by me on her wooden push bike, “Looooveeeee you.”

And a heart hurting for a hurting world, I mutter it more to her than to me,
“What in this world does love even mean?”

And our little girl comes to a full stop. Slides off her little Red Rider. And comes back to me.

“You wanna know what Love means?”
She cocks her head, parrots back my words in her high-pitched 3-year-old lisp.

And I look over to her standing there in her mismatched socks and a lopsided ponytail.

“I know what love means, Mama!” She gently laughs like a laying on of hands that heals the rawest wounds.

“Love means this —— “ And she flings her arms open as wide as they can reach.

That wisp of a 3-year-old girl, she’s standing there with her arms stretched wide open — cruciform. Not wearing a cross on her forehead — yet making all of her — arms, hands, body — into a cross. “Yeah, you’re right baby girl — Love means exactly this.”

Remember You are Dust and to Dust, You Shall Return (Genesis 3:19)
Repent and Believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15)

An Invitation to Observe a Holy Lent
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
the early Christians observed with great devotion
the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection,
and it became the custom of the Church that before the Easter celebration
there should be a forty–day season of spiritual preparation.

In this way, the whole congregation was reminded
of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ
and the need we all have to renew our faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Jesus Christ and His Church,
to observe a holy Lent:
by self–examination, and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self–denial;
by acts of generosity, compassion, peacemaking, and service;
and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.

To make a right beginning of repentance,
and as a mark of our mortal nature,
let us now come and bow before our Creator and Redeemer.

Thanksgiving Over the Ashes
Almighty God, you created humanity from the dust of the earth. Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality, our humility, and sorrow for our sin. We admit our eternal need of you and claim the greatness of your eternal grace and forgiveness, in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Imposition of Ashes
Persons are invited forward to receive ashes on their forehead and kneel in confession. 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.

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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 © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.