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.

Sermon Recording – Jesus, The Bread of Life (John 6, Matthew 4)

I am Jesus

Message: Jesus, The Bread of Life
Scriptures: John 6:28-40
I’m catching up on some 2017 sermons which haven’t been posted. This is message 1 of 7 in a Lenten sermon series entitled I AM Jesus. It was offered 3/05/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’m sorry, no recording is available, just the notes.

Lenten Sermon Series – I AM Jesus
Who does Jesus claim to be? Join us this Lent as we explore his seven I AM statements from the Gospel of John.

Click Here for a Reader’s Theatre version of John 6:28-40, which includes a contemporary or traditional sung response.

Late Night Snack
Ever go to the refrigerator, open the door and stare. You’re hungry but you don’t know what you want. So you nibble on something, but it just doesn’t do the trick.

You close the door, you’re still hungry, at least you think you’re hungry. You could actually be bored, stressed, sad, exhausted, thirsty, lonely… You walk away, but a few minutes later you’re back. You open the door again hoping something new has magically appeared. You nibble some more of this and some of that, but you’re not satisfied.

Hunger is a good gift of God. It’s built into us to remind us we need something- food and water. Without hunger, we will die.

Hunger in our stomach is a good gift of God. There’s a deeper hunger which is also a good gift of God- a hunger in our souls. As the hunger in our stomachs reveals we need food, so the hunger in our souls reveals we need something. That something is a someone, Jesus the Bread of Life, the only One who can satisfy.

This is what Jesus was trying to explain to the huge crowd in today’s scripture reading. The day before, Jesus was teaching, sharing the Good News of God’s grace and hope. It grew late in the day. Rather than send everyone away for dinner, Jesus performed a miracle. A child offered his lunch, 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus received them, gave thanks, blessed them, and they were multiplied to feed over 5000 people.

So the next day, did the crowd come to saving faith? No. The crowd didn’t follow Jesus out of devotion and thanksgiving. They followed Jesus around the Sea of Galilee for another meal. They only wanted Jesus as consumers- entertain us again with your stories, feed us again for free.

Jesus, be like Moses
Moses freed the people from their oppressors
Moses brought down bread from heaven
Moses fed an entire nation for decades

John 6:32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

The classic temptation is to turn something into something it’s not, including Jesus

We turn food into something it’s not

  • We eat for comfort instead of for hunger.
  • We self-medicate with food and suffer from eating disorders in hopes of finding some control.
  • We have food insecurity and food deserts in a culture of plenty
  • We overprocess food, twisting a healthy blessing into something that makes us sick
  • We’re served huge portions and at the same time huge amounts of food is wasted

Professor and Author Jeffrey Sachs reminds us, “For the first time in history, we have as many people dying of obesity as dying of starvation.”

The classic temptation is to turn something into something it’s not and to seek temporary things for what only Jesus can supply
Need rest, buy sleep- best bed, sheets pillows
Need joy, buy entertainment
Need relationship and belonging, buy companionship
Need a home, a safe place, buy a house
Need satisfaction, buy food and drink

It the classic first temptation of the Devil to Jesus in the Wilderness
Jesus, turn something into something it’s not meant to be to satisfy your need
Jesus, fulfill the need in your own strength
Jesus, become a consumer

Matthew 4:1 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 afterwards 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.”

4 But he answered,
“It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Moses didn’t supply the freedom and the bread, God did
Jesus wasn’t sent to be dinner and a show
Jesus came to satisfy the deepest needs and the deepest hungers of all time

John 6:35 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…. 40… All who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day

Come. Lent is the season where

  • We come face to face with your deepest need- salvation.
  • We come face to face with the truth, asking God to reveal what is false, create in us clean hearts, and to fill us with what truly satisfies.
  • Where we refocus our appetites on God and what pleases God, rather than ourselves.
  • Where we feast on Jesus and are nourished by his grace.

We receive bread into our body and it sustains life. We receive Jesus into our soul by grace through faith and it sustains life forever. Jesus is the bread of life. Come to him.

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

ash wedensday with palms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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