Sermon based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss (Psalm 37)

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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)

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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)

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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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Sermon Recording- Family of God (Ephesians 2.11-19)

Sermon Series Website What is Church

Sermon Series: What is Church?
Message 4 of 6: Family of God
Scriptures: Ephesians 2:11-19
This message was offered Sunday, 5/13/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

God’s Vision- Why we do what we do
God is love. We are called to share that love and the hope we’ve found in Jesus Christ with all people.

God’s Mission- What we do
Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World

Our Values- How We Accomplish God’s Work 
We are Christ-Centered

  • We place our trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Leader

We value hospitality

  • Far more than friendly or welcoming. Belonging, acceptance, openness

We value genuineness

  • Honest with God, each other, and our community Transparent, real, down to earth

We value respect

  • All persons are made in the image of God. The dignity of all and for all

What do you think the missing value is? We choose to be family to one another

  • We are better together
  • Commitment to deep community, mutual support, caring, collaboration, Servant-hearted living, faith in action
  • For many of us, our church family is more of a family to us than our biological family

Family at its worst

  • neglectful, distant, false naming, betrayal, dangerous/abusive

Family at its best

  • safety, belonging, nurture/growth, identity/truthful naming

diversity handsRead Ephesians 2:1-19

  • Without Christ, we are outsiders, outcasts, orphaned, strangers, aliens
  • Without God, there is no safety, no belonging, no nurturing or identity rooted in the eternal

What Christ does by his death and resurrection. Notice all the birth images:    

  • Verse 13, Jesus brings us near by his blood. His blood makes us blood.
  • Verse 14, in his flesh he has made both groups into one
  • Verse 16, Jesus creates a new humanity

Notice all the death images

  • Verse 14, the broken body of Christ breaks down the dividing wall
  • Verse 16, hostility is put to death

An extended quote from Prodigal Brothers by Steve Garnaas-Holmes (Luke 15:11-32)
The failure of our love—distancing ourselves from God and one another— is at the heart of our sin. In our self-centeredness, we break our family bond with God and with others, as if we’re not related. It is not just of our disobedience that we repent but of our distance, our refusing to get close to God and to others, including those whom we judge…. The righteousness that we need is not obedience. It’s a loving relationship—and this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God. In repentance, we pray toward both God and neighbor, “I am not on my own. I am yours.”

The message includes the story of St. Francis of Assisi being disowned by his father. Francis finds family and belonging with Jesus and his followers.

Prayer: Make us your children
Heavenly One, Your reach extends to every person, every nation, offering grace, forgiveness, wholeness, and hope. A saving embrace drawing us to you and each other.

Make us your children: grateful for a place in your family, humble before your love and generosity, faithful in honoring and welcoming all, joyful in sharing what we have found in you- safety, belonging, identity, a home of nurture and growth and sending forth. Amen.

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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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

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