Church as Family

belonging ducklings1 Peter 2:16-17a (NRSV)
As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers…

A while back a former gang member came to our church. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved with the church. After a few months, I found out the guy was no longer coming to the church. When asked why he didn’t come anymore, he gave the following explanation: “I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week— we were family.” That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body.
– Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

At our Spanish-speaking immigrant church, people don’t have the luxury to think too hard about what it costs to raise their kids. Most have children (it probably never occurred to them not to) and keep busy making ends meet. The kids in my church don’t have Baby Mozart albums, parents who attend every school function, or a neighborhood in a top school district. Yet, they seem to be doing just as well as kids who have it all. Why? Because their moms and dads love them exorbitantly, and everyone in the church parents them as well. My church, though not perfect, does better job than most of living up to the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” An older empty-nest couple, for example, used to take care of a younger couple’s two daughters. The pastor’s wife goes out of her way to pick up children for Sunday school when their parents can’t come. We treat each other like family, and we treat all the children in the church as our own. – Liuan Huska, It Takes a Church to Raise a Child

Like the strongest biological families, God’s family at its best shelters, teaches, and supports its members — because loving other people is often tough whether we’re talking about biological or spiritual kin. Communities of faith have the opportunity to offer each other and to model for those beyond their walls a place where people can learn to love and fail to love — and yet be accepted either way.
Mary Lou Redding, The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide

An essential part of wholeness is the sense of belonging. Belonging within nature. Belonging to one another. Belonging in your own skin. At first, Jesus rejects the Syrophoenician woman’s entreaty to cure her daughter, because she does not belong to his people. The woman cleverly dismantles his sense of limitation however, and now the Gospel belongs to all of us. (Mark 7:24-30)
– Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure

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 good news is that in the end, we are unable to break that bond. Despite our attempt to disown God and each other, God stays related to us and keeps us related to each other. The father puts a ring on the younger brother’s finger—a symbol of family. And he corrects the older brother and calls the younger one “this brother of yours.” Despite their failures, he invites them both into the party. 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.”

Acts 2:41-47 (NRSV)
So those who welcomed [Peter’s message concerning Jesus Christ] were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

We must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body … For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.
– John Winthrop, A Model of Christian Charity

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
Amen.

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Click Here for Steve Harper’s discussion as to “why ‘churchless Christianity’ will never work, even though some of the concerns it carries are valid.”

For a post entitled Trinity, Community and Love, click here
For a post entitled One with God, One With Each Other, click here
For a post entitled Quotes: Community, click here

Prayer: Make us your children © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

prayer group handsHeavenly Father, thank you for a spiritual home
For the legacy of those who have gone before us and welcomed us

Lord Jesus, thank you for your church
For the legacy of your word and witness across the world

Holy Spirit, thank you for renewing your church in every age
Unify us, Renew us, Reform us now

Make courageous and steadfast and persevering
in sharing your grace and Good News
in living your merciful, transforming love
in the building of your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven

Inspire us and defend us and send us out, Holy One
For the honor and glory of your name alone, Amen

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Prayer for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
© 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer- Something Greater (Matthew 12)

Jesus-CREATION-montage_artBased on Matthew 12:1-8

Something greater than the temple is here
Greater than rules, resolutions, clergy

Something greater than the temple is here
Greater than strategies, programs, campaigns

Something greater than the temple is here
Greater than institutions, boards, buildings

You are here, Son of man
Lord of the Sabbath
Lord of all

You are here, offering yourself
Have mercy on us that we may be mercy
Extend grace to us that we may be grace
Pour out your love upon us
that we may be your love and fully yours
Amen

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Prayer, Something Greater  © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Church as Healer and Redeemer

Healing Touch by Frank Ordaz

The church taught me that though racism steals, kills and destroys,
the church can partner with God to restore, resurrect and heal.
Christena Cleveland, Everything I Know About Reconciliation I Learned in the Church

At the time, I had nothing going for me. Well, I had killer abs, but that really was about it. I was an angry, hostile, but ultimately just kind of injured young woman. But for some reason, Suzanne Lynch saw more in me – something no one else (most especially myself) could see. She dared to think I was something more than the mess I was in the moment. She believed that I was not irredeemable – that I was more than the sum total of my mistakes. And in the end, that whole Suzanne taking in Nadia thing was like, I don’t know… emotional venture capitalism on her part.
Nadia Bolz-Weber, A Eulogy of Sorts…

I think Christians have yet to learn the pattern of redemption. It is evil undone much more than evil ever perfectly avoided. It is disorder reconfigured in our hearts and minds— much more than demanding any perfect order to our universe. Much of the Christian religion has largely become “holding on” instead of letting go. But God, it seems to me, does the holding on (to us!), and we must learn the letting go (of everything else).
– Richard Rohr

It’s worth any sacrifice
however great or costly,
to see eyes that were listless,
light up again;
to see someone smile
who seemed to have forgotten
how to smile;
to see trust reborn
in someone
who no longer believed
in anything
or Anyone.
-Dom Helder Camara

Matthew 10:1
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. … These twelve he sent out….

Apostle by Steve Garnaas Holmes
The word apostle means “sent.”

We are not given a mandate to judge
or an obligation to convert.
We are not required to argue religion.
We are given power to heal.

We need not muster up the strength.
We are given authority.
Christ is in us to heal.

May I be a healer today;
may I set free those who are bound
by spirits that diminish life.
May I cast out fear with love,
cast out greed with wisdom,
cast out anxiety with calm,
cast out anger and bitterness with deep listening,
cast out hate with forgiveness.

May I bear your spirit of peace,
the authority of blessing,
the power of love.
May I be a healer today.

Sermon Recording- Our Father

lords prayer graphic 850x

Sermon Series: 57 Words That Changed the World
Messages on the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:5-15

Message: Our Father
Scripture: Matthew 6:5-15
Offered 4/03/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

The Lord’s Prayer informs, forms, and transforms us and the world. – Lisa Degrenia

God is the Father. Family is the church. – Willimon and Hauerwas, Lord Teach Us

Those who speak of having “a personal relationship with Christ,” are right, it is personal. But is it not private. We are all in this together. – Willimon and Hauerwas, Lord Teach Us

We ask you to begin by praying the Lord’s Prayer. This is the fount from which all Christian belief and action flows, the daily bending of our lives toward a God who has, in Jesus Christ, so graciously leaned toward us. – Willimon and Hauerwas, Lord Teach Us

Extended quote from Darrell W. Johnson, Fifty-Seven Words That Change the World
A number of years ago I was wrestling with this. I said to Jesus, “I like you prayer, but it would be so much more inviting for more people if you had taught us to pray the prayer to you. Where are you in this prayer?”

And in my mind I heard John 14:9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” I sensed Jesus saying to me, The Father is just like me.” The Father, God the Father, is just as good, just as gentle, just as kind, just as approachable, just as vulnerable, just as welcoming, just as generous as Jesus. Jesus’ open arms are the open arms of his Father. Jesus’ open heart is the open heart of his Father. It is the passion of Jesus to help us know his Father as he knows him, to love his Father as he loves him, to trust his Father as he trusts him.

Worship Resources for this Message
Make us your children by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Heavenly Father,
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
Amen.

Prayer by Pamela C Hawkins from The Awkward Season:Prayers for Lent
Teach me to pray, O Christ,
That your kingdom will come,
That your will be done,
That earth will become like heaven
For the hurt and the hurting,
The wounded and warring,
The hated and the hating.
Teach me to pray, O Christ, for the power is yours.
Amen.

Prayer by Sam Hamilton-Poore from Earth Gospel: A Guide to Prayer for God’s Creation
Help me, dear God,
to see my brother with the eyes of Christ,
to hear my sister with the ears of Christ,
to taste my neighbor’s hunger with the mouth of Christ,
to smell creation’s beauty with the nose of Christ,
to touch the world’s pain with the hands of Christ
and to love life, each life, every life,
with the heart of Christ.

Study Resources for this Message
Lord, Teach Us: The Lord’s Prayer & the Christian Life
by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon

The Lord and His Prayer by N. T. Wright

Fifty-Seven Words that Change the World: A Journey through the Lord’s Prayer
by Darrell W. Johnson

A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer by W. Phillip Keller

Our Heavenly Father: Sermons on the Lord’s Prayer by Helmut Thielicke
Read it for free online!

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon 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 drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

© 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Church as Communion of Saints, Cloud of Witnesses

cloud-of-witnesses

If you know the name of this work or the artist please let me know so I may give proper credit.

Hebrews 11:32-12:2 NRSV
And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

The saint is precisely one who has no “I” to protect or project. His or her “I” is in conscious union with the “I AM” of God, and that is more than enough. Divine union overrides any need for self-hatred or self-promotion. Such people do not need to be perfectly right, and they know they cannot be anyway, so they just try to be in right relationship. In other words, they try above all else to be loving. – Richard Rohr

Saints do not possess an extra layer of muscle. They are not taller, and they do not sport superior IQs. They are not richer, and their parents are not more clever than yours or mine. They have no bat-like perception that enables them to fly in the dark. They are flesh and blood, just like you and me, no stronger, no more intelligent. And that is the point. They simply offer themselves to God, knowing they are not the elite, fully cognizant that they are inadequate to the task, that their abilities are limited and fallible.
– James C. Howell, Servants, Misfits, and Martyrs

Authentic Christianity is an intensely personal matter, for the living Christ invades us at the core of our beings. But it is never a private affair just between us and God. The broader Christian community provides the means of support to stay on the road and the corrective against going down our own paths of self-obsession and sometimes self-destruction. – Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster, The Godbearing Life

Loving the Church often seems close to impossible. Still, we must keep reminding ourselves that all people in the Church – whether powerful or powerless, conservative or progressive, tolerant or fanatic – belong to that long line of witnesses moving through this valley of tears, singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, listening to the voice of their Lord, and eating together from the bread that keeps multiplying as it is shared. When we remember that, we may be able to say, “I love the Church, and I am glad to belong to it….Loving the Church is our sacred duty. Without a true love for the Church, we cannot live in it in joy and peace. And without a true love for the Church, we cannot call people to it. – Henri Nouwen

What we celebrate when we celebrate All Saints is not the superhuman faith and power of a select few but is God’s ability to use flawed people to do divine things. We celebrate all on whom God has acted in baptism, sealing them, as Ephesians says, with the mark of the promised Holy Spirit. We celebrate the fact that God creates faith in God’s people, and those people through ordinary acts of love, bring the Kingdom of Heaven closer to Earth. We celebrate that we have, in all who’ve gone before us, what St Paul calls such a great cloud of witnesses and that the faithful departed are as much the body of Christ as we are.
Nadia Bolz Weber, Sermon for All Saints Sunday: Small Acts of Love

Every now and then, something special happened, and my children asked questions about the saints and their work. We talked about racism and slavery in the United States when we remembered Absalom Jones and later Frederick Douglass. We talked about how sometimes people are killed for what they believe and for standing up for the poor and the oppressed when we remembered Polycarp. We talked about standing up for oneself and for others, even when the powerful disagree with you, when we remembered Martin Luther. We talked about poets, and teachers, and priests, and prophets modern and ancient. We talked about the women and men who lived holy lives. We learned about Christianity together, not through repetition of doctrine or theology or Christology but through seeing it in practice by people like us, our brothers and sisters in faith from all over the world. – David Henson, The Patron Saint of Poop: How My Kids Fell in Love with the Saints

You are witnesses of these things by Lena Warren
… Witnesses.
That’s an interesting designation.
a witness sees something, experiences something.

It’s kind of a passive thing, being a witness.
Something happens and you simply observe it. And that makes you a witness

Yet, we don’t tend to leave it like that.
We tend to think of one being a witness as someone who
is compelled to speak about the witnessing
and more than compelled to speak
to testify
to make claims
to have had the experience of simply observing change one’s life.

Witnesses.

The Greek word for witness is the same root word from which we get martyr.

One whose life bears witness
One whose life is changed by witnessing
and whose life is given to witnessing.

You are witnesses…

It’s as much a promise – of transformation that we have simply in seeing God at work

as it is an obligation
a call, a command,
a need placed on our hearts
first of all, to just simply notice what is happening
and then
to tell SOMEBODY what we’ve seen
what has changed us
what has made us new.
witnesses.

You are witnesses…

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For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Sermon Recording: Love and Limits, a message in response to the Charleston AME murders

body diversity nation culture namesMessage: Love and Limits
Scripture: Revelation 7:9-17
Offered 6/21/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL in response to the nine murders at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

Click Here for the poem read during the message, Peace Stronger Than the Storm by Steve Garnaas Holmes.

Click Here for the post by Rick Warren referred to at the end of the sermon.

Click Here for a power point presentation of images and scriptures which scrolled during the prayer time following the sermon.

Following the prayer time, Revelation 7:9-17 was read, reminding us of God’s desire for all people. We then prayed the Lord’s Prayer together with an emphasis on “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We then lit nine candles, one for each of our murdered brothers and sisters- that their loved ones would be able to claim the light and love of Christ in the midst of their grief. We then lit a tenth candle with the same intention for the murderer, for all who carry out evil, and for all with evil in their hearts. We also recognized own own capacity evil thoughts, words and actions and our own need for the light and love of Christ.

Revelation 7:9-17 NRSV
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon 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 drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

© 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.