What’s Rising Up in You While Staying at Home? (Matthew 16)

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 4 of 5: What’s Rising Up in You While Staying at Home?
Scriptures: Matthew 16:5-12
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/22/2020 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 24-minute mark.

Elan Gale is an author and television producer best known for his work on The Bachelor. On twitter (@theyearofelan), he started a game called Your Quarantine Nickname– how you feel right now + the last thing you ate out of the cupboard. (ie snack)

I put the game up on Facebook and here are a few of the answers.
Nadine- Blessed Strawberry
Lynn- Blessed Avocado Toast
June- Sleepy Peanut Butter
Stacey- Tired Oreo Thins
Susan- Happy Biscuit
Sam- Happy Dark Chocolate
Sherrill- Chipper Almond Chips
Cheri- Tolerable Acceptance Cherry Turnover
Mine is Privileged Apple

It’s a silly game. We need some laughter and silliness right now. It’s quite fun to see what everyone likes to snack on. It’s also a helpful game. It helps us identify our feelings, what is rising up in us during this time of pandemic and physical distancing.

Let’s think of what’s rising up inside of us like yeast. A tiny bit of yeast mixed with dough makes bread rise.

Our feelings can feel big or little, but they work like yeast. Whatever feeling is going on inside of us mixes into the whole of us. It causes things to rise- our perspective, our words, our actions. What’s rising up in you?

Matthew 16:5-12, The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees
5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 They said to one another, “It is because we have brought no bread.” 8 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? 9 Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” 12 Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

What is Yeast? According to the Food Network 
“Yeast is a living microscopic single-cell organism that, as it grows, converts its food (through a process known as fermentation) into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This trait is what endears yeast to winemakers, brewmasters, and bread bakers.

Yeast produces bubbles in beer and champagne, alcohol in beer and wine, and a light, fluffy loaf of bread.

To multiply and grow, all yeast needs is the right environment, which includes moisture, food (in the form of sugar or starch) and a warm, nurturing temperature (70 to 85 degrees F is best). Wild yeast spores are constantly floating in the air and landing on uncovered foods and liquids.”

Yeast is everywhere, it’s wild. A basic mixture of water and flour, given enough time, will rise on its own. Water + flour + time = leavened bread. Leavened bread’s been around for over 5,000 years, since at least the time of the Egyptians. Commercial yeast wasn’t invented until 1868.

Yeast is also part of a healthy mix of bacteria in your gut. It can help you absorb vitamins and minerals from your food, and even fight disease.

Yeast is everywhere. yeast is wild. Yeast is already in you.

Jesus isn’t warning us about an outside contaminant- that virus, that bread, those people, the teaching of those people. Jesus is reminding us that the same yeast in the Pharisees and Sadducees is already in us.

The Pharisees were rabbis, teachers. The Sadducees were the clergy overseeing worship at the Temple in Jerusalem. I’m a teacher and I’m clergy. I need to hear this passage. We all need to hear this passage. I have the same tendency to take a good gift of God and twist it into something controlling and not of God.

What’s rising up within you. Our real enemy isn’t what rises up in others, but what rises within us.

We may all be snacking right now, but we’re also all fasting right now.

  • Fasting certain activities- work, school, shopping, sports, appointments
  • Fasting independence because we believe it will save lives. We’re in self-quarantine. We’re not traveling. There are borders closing.
  • Fasting face to face contact- families are separated, healthcare workers are living at the hospital

What does fasting do? It removes filters and brings up what’s inside of us. It can bring up the good, but it can also bring up the junk.

What’s rising up in you during this time of unknown and isolation? All feelings are welcomed by God. Feel all the feels. Feelings can have shadow sides. They can get twisted into something that’s harmful to us and harmful to others.

Are you feeling concern or has it been twisted into worry? There’s a difference. Worry puts us into a fight, flight, or freeze mindset. Concern opens us up. Concern seeks the truth and turns it into compassion towards myself and others

Are you feeling grief/lament or has it been twisted into despair? Lament is a good gift of God. There’s an entire book of the Bible called Lamentations. This past week I had some ugly, snot running down my face, wailing moments lamenting the news that people were dying alone and grieving alone because of the quarantines. I was undone.

Maybe you’re grieving events being postponed or canceled? Weddings are being postponed. Graduations are being canceled. Many of this year’s high school graduates were preschoolers in the shadow of 9/11.

Despair is a twist of grief/lament. It’s hopelessness, “all is lost”, and disconnects us from God. Grief/Lament acknowledges the loss and disappointment but keeps us moving through it honestly. The process of grief/lament helps us release what we thought would happen so we can begin to imagine how things can happen differently.

Are you feeling brokenhearted or angry? People need access to medical testing and treatment. People aren’t able to work and need financial help. Brokenhearted, righteous anger rises up in us calling us to justice and action. This is wrong and something must be done. Our motivation is driven by empathy and compassion.

Anger can get twisted into hardheartedness and destructive anger. The world and others are a threat so I begin to blame, judge, avoid, control, and fix. This may have happened to the Pharisees and Sadduccees given the Roman oppression and apathy of God’s people to practice their faith.

Rick Warren said, “In the Bible, yeast is often a metaphor for pride and arrogance. Why? When you put yeast in dough, what does it do? It puffs it up, and if you put in too much, it blows it up.”

My quarantine name is Privileged Apple. I can work from home. I have the technology I need. I have a job. There are folks whose jobs and paychecks have disappeared. I want this to draw me to love and bless my neighbor with all that I have.

My privilege could draw me into arrogance and classism. I have the advantages which would allow me to stockpile and hoard and protect me at the expense of my neighbor. That is not the love of God. The love of God means I take care of myself in light of taking care of others. I remember my neighbor, care for my neighbor because we’re all connected. We’re all beloved of God.

I see so much goodness rising up in you. Recognizing the blessing of God, the peace of God, the joy of the Lord which is our strength. Allow it to flow through your hands and hearts to others.

If you’re feeling something else, feel all the feels, yet allow the perspective of God to move in you and through you for your good.

Philippians 4:8-9
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

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What’s Rising Up in You While Staying at Home? © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Social Distancing, Community, and Five Barley Loaves (John 6)

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 3 of 5: Five Barley Loaves- Community and Social Distancing
Scriptures: John 6:1-15
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/15/2020 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 at the 26-minute mark.

The Feeding of the 5000 is one of the few stories mentioned in all four gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The story of Jesus’ resurrection is in all four gospels. This story is that important.

John 6:1-15    
1 Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.

The Sea of Galilee is actually a lake. You can see the other side of the lake no matter where you’re standing. It goes by many names in the Gospels, so if you’re confused, no worries. It’s confusing.

2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.

In the previous messages, we’ve spoken about the Passover- freedom from slavery in Egypt, unleavened bread (Matzo), manna in the wilderness- so this may seem familiar.

5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus always knows what he’s going to do!

7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.

This time of year, in March before the Passover, Galilee is beautiful. It’s lush with green with grass. There are yellow and red wildflowers. You can imagine the sheep grazing in the grass. Jesus is gathering the people like flocks of sheep in order to feed them.

11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.

14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Last Wednesday feels like the tipping point in the pandemic

  • A little before 9:00 pm: Tom Hanks posts on Instagram that he and his wife contracted COVID-19
  • At 9:00 pm: President Trump announces a ban on foreign nationals traveling to the US from much of Europe
  • At 9:46 pm: The NBA announces it had suspended all games indefinitely

And the hits just kept on coming. All our common rituals and rhythms disrupted.

  • The NCAA March Madness Tournament- Cancelled
  • The Boston Marathon- Postponed
  • All the Smithsonian Museums and Broadway Shows and Disney World- Closed

Then the hits got closer to home.

  • Our schools closed which meant we were canceling all our church gatherings
  • No more access to assisted living facilities and nursing homes. We can’t see our dear ones who live there. Our faithful nursing home teams can no longer offer worship at Brookdale and Cabot Reserve.

I spoke with a friend in Seattle online. She said, “Greetings from Ground Zero.” Their schools are closed for at least 6 weeks.

That started me lamenting-

  • What about the kids who’s school is their safe place because their home or their neighborhood isn’t?
  • Are kids going hungry because they eat breakfast and lunch at school?
  • What about the parents who can’t afford to take time off work or pay for childcare?
  • What about folks who are forced to take time off and can’t afford it?

It just ripples. Imagine dropping a pebble in a calm pool and watching the rings as they expand.

The world is having this big ah-ha moment on how interconnected we are, how interdependent we are on one another. We’re having it. I’m having it. 

I was watching something on TV last week which was filmed a while ago. There was this big crowd of people laughing and enjoying being together. Then they started hugging and holding on to one another. I literally gasped. They were touching.

I’m missing touching. Will we ever be like that again or will social distancing and elbow bumps be our new norm?

Big things matter- Pandemics, Global Markets, Vaccines

Little things matter- Gathering for worship, having a face to face conversation, handshakes, and hugs

They matter because community matters.- It’s little, as intimate as a touch. But it’s also big- big as the world.

Community is tied to the word common. Common is usual, ordinary. The common good, common ground, the customary blessing of having one another.

It is a good gift from God. We as Christians believe God is One, and yet God is three. God is community. It’s in the fabric of creation, of God, of us.

As we think about John 6, there are 50 sermons, 100 sermons. But all I can see today is the community. Five thousand people gathering. Where can we do that these days?

Jesus asks how they’re going to feed all the people. I’ve preached in the past about this young boy comes forward and generously offers his lunch. He isn’t offering his lunch. He’s offering the groceries for his family. Five barley loaves and two fish.

This child isn’t a solo heroic leader. He’s not saving the day in his rugged individualism. He represents an entire community. The work of a community feeds an entire community. taste and see

This sermon series is based on a fantastic book by Margaret Feinberg entitled Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers.

I highly recommend it to you. Its foodies and recipes meet travelogue meets Bible study. She looks at the Bible through the food of the Bible. She’s the one who opened my eyes to the truth of the community it takes to bring a loaf of bread from seed to your table.

“In ancient Israel, the whole family shared the hard labor. The work began in a field, plowing the soil and planting last year’s kernels. Together, the family tended the field and prayed away famine and pests, in hope the stalks would sprout, lengthen, and yield a bounty of food.

The family endured sunburn and sweat, aching muscles and strained backs, to harvest the grain with sickles. When the yield was at hand, the work had just begun. Then they must pound and winnow (blow air) through the grain to remove the outer husk. Those who couldn’t afford access to a mill used their own mortar and pestle to grind their grain.

Since the harvest had to carry the family through an entire year, only a small scoop of the flour was mixed with water and kneaded in a bread trough, while the bulk of the flour was safely stored away. The dough was then taken to the oven—but not a family oven. Most families couldn’t afford their own stove. Instead, they used a communal oven.”

Community. Communal. Common. That’s what we need right now.

coronavirus vulnerable high riskSomeone asked if we were canceling church events because we were afraid. It’s a reasonable question. There are many folks who are afraid right now. I recognize that truth. It’s a reasonable fear about a very dangerous virus, especially if you’re in a high-risk portion of the population.

The reason we canceled all our church events is not because we’re afraid. We’re canceling because we care. We’re willing to disrupt our lives, learn new things, and do things in a different way because we believe it will save lives.

What you are doing is not a small thing. You are saving lives.

We believe in a Mighty God and we pray mighty prayers. We believe we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. But there’s an and to that. And we should love your neighbor as yourself. Social distancing is faith and action.

John Wesley’s priorities are summarized this way-
Do No Harm
Do Good
Stay in Love with God

Brainstorm: How can we build and bless our community in this time of social distancing? You’ve got cell phones, computers, Instagram, and Facebook. Be creative.

I challenge you right now to call five friends just to check-in. “I’m thinking about you. I’m praying for you. You’re not alone.” If you’re tech-savvy, make it a video call.

Just like this little child, like the disciples, our job is to do our part and to remember our part is part of a greater whole. Give of your resources and give of yourself without embarrassment, worry, or shame. Give generously. Give joyfully.

We give what we have no matter how small it may seem trusting Jesus to bless it and multiply it for the common good, for the community.

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Social Distancing, Community, and Five Barley Loaves © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Praying for Your City

greetings from sarasota flThe good folks at The Center for Action & Contemplation and Mile High Ministries in Denver, Colorado, have written a beautiful prayer adapted from Walter Brueggemann’s Prayers for a Privileged People. It’s hoped it will inspire Christians to pray for their local communities.

As per their invitation, it’s been adapted for my local community, Sarasota FL. Please feel free to adapt it for your own.  

The prayer may be read in a group with one voice reading the regular print and all voices reading the bold print or it may be prayed alone. After the prayer, please pause for silence.

May the movement of the Holy Spirit through these sacred words and silence birth in us a fresh movement of compassionate action. How fitting as we honor those who have worked for freedom, equality, and justice, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and our Jesus.
– Lisa <><

Loving God, you have set us in families and clans, in cities and neighborhoods.
Our common life began in a garden, but our destiny lies in the city.

You have placed us in Sarasota. This is our home.
Your creativity is on display here through the work of human hearts and hands.

We pray for Sarasota today—for the East Side, West Side, North, and South.
For Riverwood, Siesta Key, Pinecraft, Newtown, Palmer Ranch, and The Meadows.
We pray for our poorest neighbors and for powerful people in offices downtown. We pray for people from the ’hood and the barrio,
for seasonal “snowbirds,” college students, and the new urbanites.

We pray for Sarasota’s neighbors:
Bradenton, Osprey, Nokomis, Lakewood Ranch, Venice, Myakka, and others.
And for sister cities in Scotland, Mexico, France, Israel, Russia, China, and Switzerland —and a thousand other cities connected to our own.

In all our neighborhoods this day there will be crime and callous moneymaking;
there will be powerful people unable or unwilling to see the vulnerable who are their neighbors.
There will also be beautiful acts of compassion and creativity in all these places—forgiveness and generosity; neighbors working together for a more just community.

Help us see this place as something other than a battleground between us and them, where our imaginations are limited by win/lose propositions and endless rivalry.
Show us a deeper reality, God: Show us your playground, and invite us to play.

Like the city of your dreams, make this a city where those who were once poor enjoy the fruits of their labor;
A place where children are no longer doomed to misfortune, but play safely in the streets under the watchful eyes of caring, healthy adults;

A place where former rivals and natural enemies work and play together in peace;
And where all people enjoy communion with you.
We pray in the name of the one who wept over the city, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Time of silence

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Adapted from Beyond Our Efforts: A Celebration of Denver Peacemaking (Mile High Ministries: 2019), 251; and Walter Brueggemann, “This City . . . of God,” Prayers for a Privileged People (Abingdon Press: 2010), 157.

The Visitation- Christmas Reflections for Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1)

old and young hands

Mary entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
– Luke 1:40

There They Stand
There they stand
breathless
belly to belly
the maid and the elder cousin
full of grace and truth

John leaps for joy
Covered in the flesh of Elizabeth
Unborn, yet already at work
In the wilderness of her womb
He will not wait to make the Way known

Elizabeth extends her arthritic hands
One wrapping Mary in welcome
The other in blessing
Encompassing the inexperienced traveler
in affirmation of faith

Worship overwhelms worry
In the sanctuary of her solace
Mary is safe enough to sing

Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said… The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
– Luke 1:38, 49

As You Have Said
Revel and Rejoice
Praise and Proclaim
Magnify
Glorify
Adore

Our Steadfast Savior
Mindful of our frailty
Looks on our lowliness
and responds with greatness
Great grace and Greater grace
for us and for all

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord
God of power and might
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory
It is as you have said

Your mercy extends
Floods and Flows
Through time and place
Through need and pain
Body and Soul to
Soul to Soul to Soul to…

You show true strength
Bringing down those who bow the knee to no one
Scattering those who set up their own kingdoms
be it castle or corporation
Revealing it to be ashes
and emptiness

You show true strength
Lifting up those bowed low
Face in the dirt
Bearing the weight of excess and greed
Buried beneath crushing injustice

You show true strength
Raising up
Filling up
Faithful, Covenant Keeper
Remembering and
Re-membering

Revel and Rejoice
Praise and Proclaim
Magnify
Glorify
Adore

It is and will be
as You have said
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord

Click Here to read the scriptures for these reflections, Luke 1:39-56

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There They Stand © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
As You Have Said © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
by Lisa Degrenia (www.revlisad.com)
Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Belonging (Ephesians 2)

All week long we wrote Belong on each other’s palms. We wrote on our fingers, too. Needed and Loved. Safe, Understood, and Purpose.

We wrote it because they’re our deepest longings. Every single one of them in every single one of us.

We wrote it because we wanted to hold on to their truth and each other and the One who would help us find them.

You can hold on, too, with us and with Him. You belong.

Ephesians 2:13-18
Now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 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. 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, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Jesus
You are our peace

You proclaim it
You create it
You bring us near

Without you there is
No safety
No belonging
No nurturing
No identity rooted beyond this dust

Without you we are
Anchorless
Strangers, Aliens
Outsiders, Outcasts, Orphaned

Our need is so deep, so desperate
So beyond us
It took flesh, your flesh to make peace
Your torture puts hostility to death
Your broken body breaks down every dividing wall
Your blood makes us blood

What wondrous truth
What dazzling grace

Bring us near again, Jesus
Help us remember and re-member
Make us one in your generous, fierce love

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This reflection came from a week leading middle school worship at the Warren W Willis United Methodist Summer Camp in Fruitland Park, Florida.

It feels especially needed given the hate and division being promoted in our country.

Should you ever want a gentle ear to listen, or a gentle heart to pray, I would be honored to be that for you.

Belonging © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.