There’s More to Life Woman of Samaria (John 4.3-26)

woman at well olive wood statue carving

Olive Wood carving of the Woman at the Well from Jerusalem. We brought this treasure back with us from our recent trip.

Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 2 of 5: Woman of Samaria (Woman at the Well)

Scripture: John 4:3-26
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/31/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Rebekah Lyons testimony of God’s unconditional love. Rebekah is the mother of a child with Down syndrome.

Reading of John 4:3-26

The Woman at the Well
In the ancient world, your place as a woman was defined by your connection to a man:
Father, Brother, Husband, Son. We’re not just talking about social status- we’re talking access to what’s needed to survive.

  • Shelter from the extreme heat and cold of the desert
  • Food in your belly and clothes on your back
  • Loving relationships to weather you through the cruelties of life
  • Access to water on a regular basis

Where is her father? Most likely deceased.

Where is her brother, her sons, her children? Maybe she had none.

Where is the husband? Scripture tells us she’s had five husbands. Could it be in this harsh and cruel environment she’s lost five husbands to death? Maybe.

Could it be that because men in this time and culture controlled marriage and controlled divorce, could it be that she’s been thrown away five times? Told to go, you are not wanted.

The man she’s with now will not claim her legally. She has been shared and shamed, a survivor of cruelty and abuse.

She is an outcast in her community. We know this because in the ancient world went to the well based on their status. The most respected admired women would visit the well first, and she’s drawing her morning water at noon.

She is alone. Not in the company of the other women. Not enjoying their camaraderie and community.

This unnamed woman is barren of security. She’s been thrown away, driven away, shared and shamed, outcast, isolated.

She finds herself at Jacob’s well and today there’s a man there. He is Jewish. She is Samaritan. I imagine what is going through her mind and heart: How much more shame and disgrace am I going to get today? Jews and Samaritans don’t hang out. Am I going to hear from this man’s lips, “Half-breed! Heretic!”?

No. She hears from the lips of our Jesus respect. Good News.

They’re at a well, so Jesus uses the metaphor of water to share the Good News of Living Water, cleansing, refreshing, restoring, new birth. It is available to her.

He gives her a chance to reveal herself and she does. She’s honest and truthful. He recognizes it. The conversation could have gone any direction,  at that point and she dives in deep theologically.

Jesus sees her, not what people label her. He sees how she’s been abused, her great need, her wounds, and yet he sees her giftedness. He sees her keen mind.

They begin a discussion like rabbi and to rabbi. Where do we worship and how do we worship and is there a place for me in worshiping God?

This is the longest theological discussion in the four Gospels. This unnamed woman of Samaria.

Deep down, deep down, deep down the question she is asking and the question each and every one of asks is: Does God want me and does God love me?

That is the core question. My community threw me out. They’ve shamed me and abused me. The Jews say I’m not worshiping in the right place in the right way. The Messiah is coming …

The core question: Does God want me and does God love me. The answer is always Yes! Always! 

It is yes to the woman of Samaria and it is yes to us.

No matter what the world names us. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. No matter what we’ve done to survive. The answer is always Yes!

The love of God is unconditional love. The love of God comes without judgment. “God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17)

This emptiness, this dryness, this wilderness, can only be quench by Jesus’s living water, Jesus’s saving love.

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

– Chorus of Reckless Love by Cory Asbury

This week the Towery boys found it and claimed it for themselves. Rebekah Lyons saw it in the unconditional love of her son with Down syndrome. A great gift that he’s sharing. The woman at the well finds it in Jesus and shares it as well. She becomes one of the first evangelists. She runs back to the people who’ve been awful to her and says, “I think the Messiah is at the well.” They come, Jesus stays with them for days and many are saved.

Closing Prayer from Ephesians 3
Repetition of the word love

17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Insert your name or someone else’s name as a prayer of blessing that you/they would know the unconditional love of God and place their trust in Jesus as their Leader and Forgiver (Lord and Savior).

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

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Woman of Samaria (Woman at the Well) Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Sermon based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss (Psalm 37)

sermon series dr seuss 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 6 of 6: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Scripture: Psalm 37:1, 5
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/3/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Intro

  • 36 folks from several difference congregations leave tomorrow for the Holy Land
  • Won’t be with you as we continue to process the decisions of General Conference
  • Won’t be with you for the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday is this Wednesday.

Ashes seem to be exactly what we need right now. 
Traditional Prayer consecrating the ashes before imposition: 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.

Ashes of mourning  
Ashes were used in mourning sin and mourning loss.

So many feelings following General Conference. Some are relieved by the decisions at General Conference. Some are rejoicing. Some are mad. Some are wondering or in a place of confusion. Some are full of sorrow- grieving, disillusioned, that harm has been done, hurt, wondering if there is a place for them or their loved ones in the United Methodist Church.

Yes, there is a place for you here at Trinity and the UMC! Please read the information we’re providing. Please stay. Please come and speak to me when I return.

Ashes of humility  
What you hear when you receive ashes on your forehead: Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent and believe the gospel.

Right now my Facebook feed is a mess. There’s a whole bunch of folks telling a whole bunch of other folks I’m right and you’re wrong. It is ugly. It is not of God. We need these ashes to remind us of our need for humility. It’s the only way we’ll move forward.

We’re all hummus (dirt). We’re all human. Hummus, human, humility. All those words are tied together. All of us are in need of Jesus’s grace and forgiveness and love and belonging and hope.

The ashes remind us of sorrow, humility, and mortality. Remember you are dust. This life is short and precious. The ashes also remind us there is life.

Ashes of life   
Remember you are dust also reminds us of God breathing life into dust at creation. It is a good gift of God.

So many of us think of Lent as a season of sorrow, wilderness, repentance, giving up stuff (make fun of all of it). Lent is ultimately a season of transformation, new life.

grinch 1Reading of How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.    

The Grinch isn’t just sour or mean. The Grinch does harm

Why does the Grinch change?
The Grinch literally repents. The Grinch turns and heads down to the Who’s and down to a new life.

How do people change? Change does not come by fear, facts, or force. Change doesn’t come by legislation or law. Change comes by love.

  • The Grinch sees the Who’s love of one another
  • He sees and hears their gratitude and worship
  • Then he experiences their love, Even though he has done great harm, they welcome him into their community and to their table.

At the end of the story, the Grinch has

  • a new family
  • a new way of thinking and being
  • a new identity

This is the Good News of Jesus Christ. We see Jesus loving, healing, welcoming. The love of our Father overflowing in the flesh of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The love of the Father overflowing into the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Through his life, death and resurrection, that we too gain a new family, a new way of thinking and being, a new and transformed identity.

Grinch collageThe evil one loves to keep us distracted and divided. (noise, noise, noise, noise!)

Today again I am choosing the way of Jesus, the way of love. I invite you to do the same.

  • Recommit to loving those who agree with me and those disagree with me. Will you do the same?
  • Recommit to praying for those who choose persecution and harm over love. Will you do the same?

Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of your truth and grace. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may love as radically as you do, especially when all I want to do is grieve, or run, or demonize, or lash out.

Psalm 37:1, 5
Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers. Commit your way to the Holy One; trust in God, and God will act.

Quote: Steve Garnaas Holmes
Beware the temptation to outdo an evil one, to beat the wicked at their own game. The saint does not resist the devil by becoming a more devout devil. Your compass is set to a different star. Don’t let them turn you. Set your heart on compassion, even when facing a wrongdoer: it will make whatever game they are playing a different game. Let the Crucified One play your [role]; it will change the meaning of the [game]. You needn’t pump up the power of God. Trust love to do what you cannot.

The beautiful thing about How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is about how the Who’s welcome him to their table. In the United Methodist Church, we have an open table- You do not need to Methodist, a member of this church, you do not need to be a certain age. Nothing can keep you from this table.

It is Christ our Lord who welcomes us to this table and welcomes all.

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Friendship Prayer (Sirach 6.14-17)

prayer group handsSirach 6:14-17
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter:
Whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price;
No amount can balance their worth.
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
and those who fear the Lord will find them.
Those who fear the Lord direct their friendship aright,
for as they are, so are their neighbors also.

Holy One, come
Help me to be this kind of friend
Faith-full
Sheltering
A Treasure Beyond Price
Life-saving Blessing and Balm

Let people find this in me
Because you are within me
Because you are this for me

Let me find this in others
For you are with and within them as well
You are this for us all

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Friendship Prayer © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Sermon based on The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss (James 2, Galatians 3)

sermon series dr seuss 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 5 of 6: The Sneetches

Scripture: James 2:1-4, 8 and Galatians 3:23-29
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/24/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

sneetches 1Reading of James 2:1-4, 8 NRSV

Reading of The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss

What extent are you willing to go to in order to belong?
For me:

  • Staying on the track team in Middle School even though I came to realize I hated running
  • Buying the latest- saving for a pair of Candie’s shoes in middle school and now the latest face cream
  • Yoyoing in weight since I was age 7
  • Staying silent in a conversation even though I disagreed or had a different idea to solve the problem

What extent are you willing to go to in order to belong?

  • Go into debt to keep up appearances
  • Keep a crazy busy schedule because busy people are wanted people
  • Or the kids have to be well rounded to get into college
  • Keep on going to the bar even though you know you have a drinking problem and shouldn’t be there but the bar where everybody knows your name
  • Stay in the abusive relationship
  • Hide who you really are or at least try to

Sneetches collageThe evil one loves to keep up distracted and divided
McBean is the real enemy of the Sneetches. The real villain. He delights in exploiting the Sneetches’ lack of trust in one another. He has a heart of war. The Sneetches are a means to his greedy end. McBean perpetuates and manipulates the waste of time, energy, and money in order to prove who is in and who is out when there’s really no such thing.

Jesus invites us to turn all this waste and destruction and division on its head. It is so important to Jesus that he dies for it. 

Galatians 3:23-29 talks about clothing ourselves with Christ. Imagine all the stuff we put on in order to belong. How others label us. The things advertisers say will make us belong. Things we believe we have to do in order to belong. We put it all on and cover up who we really are.

Taken to an extreme, it’s the stars the Nazi’s made the Jews wear in order to label them other.  It’s why Dr. Seuss picked stars for this story.

In Christ, we’re invited to take it all off. Take off all the things that hide us and label us because now we’ve put on Christ. Here we stand. This is how God now sees us and how we now see each other, through putting on Christ.

Reading of Galatians 3:23-29 (NRSV)

And so the question we asked at first- What extent are you willing to go to in order to belong – is turned on its head because Christ went to the extent of death on the cross so we could belong. Just as we are.

The new question is this: What extent are you willing to go to in order to ensure everyone knows belonging in Christ? So that you know it and the person sitting next to you and the person you see in the grocery store and the person at the bank and your neighbors and your kids know it. So the folks who are very very different from you know it.

General Conference: The decision-making body of the United Methodist Church, the General Conference, has gathered to discern God’s call regarding sexuality, inclusion, and the unity of the Body of Christ. Hold in your prayers the delegates, the whole church, the millions of people in the LGBTQ+ community who feel the heat of the spotlight, and the world that may learn something about God.

The following prayer is by Steve Garnaas Holmes. It contains some small adaptations.

God of love,
may we approach one another with the intent to love,
first and last,
and submit all our intentions to love.

May our intent be to heal, not to win,
to bless, not to curse,
to join, not to divide.
Help us do your will, not ours.

May we listen humbly, speak honestly and discern obediently.

Save us from justice without mercy,
righteousness without humility, victory without love.
As your word says,
If we do not have love we are nothing. —1 Corinthians 13.2

May we examine our own righteousness more vigorously than others’.
May we demonstrate your goodness, not our own.

May we honestly examine our norms and expectations,
our judgments of those who are different,
our exclusion of those who threaten our superiority
and our comfort.

May we be mindful of every person’s wounded need
to be loved, to be included, to be honored,
every person’s desperation to be good enough to belong.

May we remember your justice is love,
your command is mercy,
your judgment is grace.

God of love, give us wisdom that is love,
fill us with courage that is love,
empower us for victory that is love alone.

By your Spirit help us to do no harm,
to do all the good we can,
and to stay in love with you.

We pray in the love and the company of Jesus,
who served in love, who died for love,
and who rises in us with victorious love
and who clothes us with belonging and love
Amen.

If you have never known a place of belonging, you can know it here in God’s family. This is where I found it. You can find it, too. Think about all the folks in your life searching for belonging, for someone who understands and listens, for unconditional love, searching for God. Remember them as well.

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The Sneetches Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Prayer: You Name Us

This prayer was inspired by the song Who You Say I Am by Hillsong.

Jesus,
The world wants to tell us who we are
You tell us something different

You name us Beloved, Blessed
Son, Daughter, Heir

You name us Child of the King
Redeemed, Forgiven
One who has Received Mercy

You name us Light, Salt, Hope, Grace
A Priesthood of Believers

You name us and
Nothing the world throws at us can change what You have said

So we place our trust in You
We honor You
We glorify your Holy Name

Help us to live a life
Worthy of the name you died to give us

Help us live a life
Worthy of the prayer you have given us

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen

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You Name Us © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Sermon based on What Was I Scared Of by Dr. Seuss (Ephesians 2)

sermon series dr seuss 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 3 of 6: What Was I Scared Of?

Scripture: Ephesians 2:11-19
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/3/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

what was i scared of collageReading of What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss

What’s a great way to get over something when you’re scared?
The older I get the scarier the world gets. I’m more aware of things. When you’re little you’re sheltered and that’s a good thing.

So how do you get over things? Some folks would say, “Just do it! Put on your big girl pants!” I’m not always that strong.

In order to get over things I’m scared of I need help. I need great friends to stand beside me, speak truth to me, pray for me, help me take the next step. I need to take a step back sometimes and get some perspective.

There is something about taking a step forward and facing our fears. There’s something about the practice of doing that. It’s a practice. It’s like a little kid learning how to walk. First, they’re stumbly bumbly, then they get a little better at it, and a little better at it, and then they’re zooming around the house.

Part of the practice is remembering how alike we are. This is the beautiful message of this book. The realization that these spooky green pants are actually scaredy pants. They are just as scared as the little bear.

Each one finds the other strange. The little bear doesn’t wear clothes, has no experience with pants. The pants have no experience with bears.

They realize they’re both looking for the same thing.

So when I’m scared, especially when it feels like I’m scared of someone, someone because they’re different from me, they’re probably just as scared of me. Deep down inside we have the same longings. We have the same needs.

deesis mosaic christ hagai sophia

Deesis Mosaic of Christ, Hagia Sophia in Turkey

Christ with Hand in Benediction/Blessing
God’s Gang Sign- Three fingers representing the Trinity, two representing the dual nature of Christ (fully human, fully divine), the palm open in blessing, reaching for us.

Association of this hand symbol with the core longings we all have. When we realize we all have them it breaks down the fear and it breaks down the dividing walls between us. People are no longer strange or weird, they have the same needs we do. We begin to see them as human.

  • The Palm is Belonging. How many of you are longing to belong? Do I belong here? Yes! You are wanted. You are welcome.
  • The Thumb is Unconditional Love.  Life is so different because we have thumbs.
  • The Pointer Finger is Security. For some of us its the #1 thing we’re longing for. We tend to point at things and people and say, “You’re not safe.” Instead of saying, “Come closer. Let’s talk.”
  • The Middle Finger is Understanding. Does anybody get me?

You put all these fingers up and the other two down and you get the ancient sign of blessing. This is what we need. This is what Jesus offers. Jesus offers them all to all of us.

Ephesians 2:11-19, NRSV
11 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

  • At one time you had the insiders and the outsiders- the Jews and the Gentiles, the circumcised and the uncircumcised. It was like this but now it’s different. You’re not a stranger, an alien, an outsider. You’re not far from God. Because of Jesus, everyone can be brought near.

13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

  • This was so important and so needed Jesus died for it. He bled for it.

14 For he is our peace; in his flesh, he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

  • Christ is our peace. The peace between us and God and the peace between one another.
  • So important it took body and blood, Jesus’ flesh.

15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.

  • Jesus took on the humiliation, the violence, the hostility so that there would not be hostility between us.

17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.

There are times when our church family are more of a family to us than our biological family. It must be that way in God’s house.

VIDEO: Father Gregory Boyles of Homeboy Industries in California

Worship Resources
For God’s Gifts, United Methodist Hymnal #489
O Holy God, open unto me light for my darkness,
courage for my fear, hope for my despair.

O loving God, open unto me wisdom for my confusion,
forgiveness for my sins, love for my hate.

O God of peace, open unto me peace for my turmoil,
joy for my sorrow, strength for my weakness.

O generous God, open my heart to receive all your gifts.
Amen.

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What Was I Scared Of? Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Growing in Resilience: Hold Nothing Back, based on Isaiah 54.9-10

flower peach bud openingGrowing in Resilience
Day 15, Read Isaiah 54
Reflection: Hold Nothing Back, based on Isaiah 54:9-10, NRSV

This is like the days of Noah to me: Just as I swore that the waters of Noah would never again go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Sing! Shout!
Hold nothing back!

We are not what we think we are
What others name us
What we name ourselves

We are not abandoned
Widowed
Forsaken
Cast off for someone more desirable
The Eternal is also our Beloved
Who upholds our sacred union
An everlasting covenant of peace
Of whole and holy love

We are not afflicted
Desolate
Disgraced
Shamed and grieved by our barrenness
Look! See! There is a heritage
Our breath and labor are not in vain

Quick! Enlarge the tent
Open and stretch to make room
For the gathering and birthing of the Beloved comes
Hold nothing back

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Hold Nothing Back © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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