How Jesus Grieves, a sermon for All Saints Day (Matthew 14)

loaves and fish

How Jesus Grieves, a Sermon for All Saints Day
Scripture: Matthew 14:1-21
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 11/3/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Introducing All Saints Day
Traditionally celebrated on November 1st, or the Sunday closest to it
On All Saints Day, we remember…

  • We too are saints (1 Corinthians 1:2-3)
  • Our loved ones who have died
  • Those who have inspired our faith and led us to Christ

For some, All Saints Day is a day of thanksgiving and gratitude. A day of inspiration. For some, a day of beloved memories. A day of sadness because those memories bring a reminder of grief and loss.

Whatever you are feeling, it’s ok. All those feelings are welcome.

Reading of Matthew 14:1-21, Jesus grieving the death of John the Baptist

Jesus’ relative, John the Baptist, is unjustly imprisoned and brutally murdered. John was executed by a weak man, Herod Antipas. Herod was drunk, aroused, showing off. Herod got caught in a bad place. in order to “keep up appearances” before those who had gathered for his birthday, those he had to lead, those who might report his choice to Rome, Herod had John executed.

John had been a part of Jesus’ life from the very beginning, since before the two of them were even born. They met in their mothers’ wombs. At the meeting, John began jumping and preaching in the wilderness of his mother’s womb that Jesus was the Messiah.

John was family, literally family. If anyone understood who Jesus was and what Jesus was called to do, it was John the Baptist. If anyone understood what Jesus is going through- the sacrifices Jesus was making, the mocking, the confrontations, the homelessness, the misunderstandings, the persecution, it was John and now John is dead.

John’s disciples come to tell Jesus and Jesus is shaken by the loss. He’s grieving deeply. It’s one thing to lose a loved one, it’s another to lose a loved one in such an unjust and brutal way.

What does Jesus do? Jesus gets into a boat and crosses the Sea of Galilee to find a quiet place. But when Jesus arrives he does not find a quiet place. Jesus finds people. Thousands of people.

These folks are also grieving the death of John the Baptist. They’re heartbroken, sick, hungry, and oppressed.

Hoping to find quiet, but instead finding people, what rises up inside Jesus? What would rise up inside of you?

What rises up inside Jesus is compassion. Compassion literally means “suffering with.” He hears their cries alongside his own. He understands their pain because he is in pain. What does this pain do? This pain opens Jesus. Opens his heart in compassion, in empathy, his hands in generosity and Jesus helps.

There’s healing in the helping. He helps. He blesses. He feeds. He listens. He comforts. He heals.

Excerpt from an Instagram Post by Jen Willhoite @cobbleworks
“Jesus let himself be interrupted by the pain of others even as he was suffering, reeling in his own. He took what scraps of food and hope there were and offered it all up to Divine Love. He knew something abundant could come from something threadbare and it seemed he knew it started with honest sharing…with himself, with others, and with the Sacred One. He held it all aloft and the bread and meat grew in abundance. …

Maybe it was healing for Jesus to nourish others when he was aching. [What] if suffering alongside each other and giving our hope to God even if it’s just grieving scraps might be the thing that gets us all through. Maybe the 5,000 were fed and Jesus was fed too. Maybe we’re still being fed today by stories like this. Stories that tell us hope matters. That our pain matters. Our friendships matter. Our cries matter. Our gathering matters. Our willingness to say we’re hurting and also be interrupted by the pain of another all matters.”

Amen! It matters. It all matters.
Jesus was grieving and what rose in him was compassion and generosity and hope-
not bitterness, not revenge, not isolation, not despair

This is the power and glory of our Great God rising in the midst of death. This same power and glory of God are rising in you.

Jesus’ brokenness, the crowd’s brokenness, your brokenness – God gathers it and redeems it all. Broken hearts, broken bodies broken systems, broken bits of bread and fish- God gathers it and redeems it all.

This is our truth – God is good, God is strong, God is near. When we claim it and cling to it, this is what makes us saints. 

God’s compassion, generosity, hope rising up in us so we find healing in the helping.

A saint is not a perfect person. Saints are simply people who understand their deep need and turn to God and ask God to bring good out of the pain. That’s what redeeming is- God bringing good out of the pain, out of the brokenness, out of the mess.

Today we remember we are saints. We remember the saints that have gone before us. Claim this life. Say “yes” to it. Place your trust in Jesus and follow him. Be a saint.

And so my brothers and sisters, let us remember who we are in Jesus- wounded healers, saints, set apart by God and for God.

Let us remember our purpose- to lead a devoted life of compassion, generosity, and hope. A life worthy of the calling to which we have been called. A life that inspires faith in others.

Let us recommit ourselves to this life, by first honoring the lives of those who have inspired us-
The heroic and humble who ran the race before us
The martyrs who sacrificed all for the sake of Jesus
And especially those who we have known and loved
who led us to Jesus and encouraged us to deeper faith and service

Let us pray…
Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You surround us with witness after witness to your transforming love
Inspire us and empower us to persevere
Fill our hearts with courage

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You weep with us in our heartbreak and loss
Comfort us and protect us in our mourning
Fill our souls with hope

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You cry out in victory over sin and the grave
Raise us and release us to fulfill your calling
Fill our lives with faithfulness and good works

The message concludes with a prayer consecrating the elements for Holy Communion.

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How Jesus Grieves, a sermon for All Saints Day © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Pinpointing Your Passion (Titus 2)

Sermon Series Spiritual Gifts 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Many Gifts, One Spirit. Discerning Our Calling From God. 
Message 4 of 5: Pinpointing Your Passion
Scripture: Titus 2:11-14, The Voice
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 10/20/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. This message was inspired by the Network Curriculum by Bugbee, Cousins, and Hybels.

Reflection Questions
What do you notice repeatedly that breaks your heart?

Now let’s get honest. What annoys you, angers you? We’re not talking about an inconvenience. We’re talking about righteous anger. We’re talking about something that if it were changed, it would bring glory to God and new life to others.

Whatever you named is probably your passion.

Passion is the God-given desire that compels us to make a difference
Passion is like gasoline, it drives us. It’s energy, the movement of the Holy Spirit in our life, faith in action.

Passion is a good gift of God that can drive us to good. If the good gift gets twisted it can drive us to trouble. So we seek the Godly gasoline, the Godly passions- truth, justice, healing, belonging, empowering. Seek the things that bring life, things that matter. Making the wrongs right. Making the broken whole.

Passion is often described as hunger. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” – Matthew 5:6

Passion will keep you up at night and get you up in the morning.

Titus 2:11-14, The Voice
11 We have cause to celebrate because the grace of God has appeared, offering the gift of salvation to all people. 12 Grace arrives with its own instruction: run away from anything that leads us away from God; abandon the lusts and passions of this world; live life now in this age with awareness and self-control, doing the right thing and keeping yourselves holy. 13 Watch for His return; expect the blessed hope we all will share when our great God and Savior, Jesus the Anointed, appears again.

Passion is associated with zeal and enthusiasm
en theos – possessed by God, “God within us”

When we come to faith we repent, we turn from our selfish ways to follow Jesus. This passage instructs us to “run away from the passions of this world, abandoning anything that leads us away from God.” We place our trust in Jesus, we turn to run towards God- aware, awake, alive in Christ, watching for the movement of God, expecting the movement of God.

We choose self-control so we may better help others. We live intentionality because we value the time, energy, and resources we’ve been given. We want to do the right thing. God calls us to follow Jesus in this adventure of the Christian life, the saving of the world.

14 He gave His body for our sakes and will not only break us free from the chains of wickedness, but He will also prepare a community uncorrupted by the world that He would call His own—people who are passionate about doing the right thing.

Passion is from the Greek root path meaning “to suffer.” That’s why the period from Jesus’ arrest to his crucifixion and death is called His Passion. Jesus suffers to end suffering.

Compassion- with passion, with those who are suffering. Most of the time our passion is to end some kind of suffering.

Jesus suffers and dies and rises again because he’s passionate about saving the world- ending evil, injustice, sin, death, shame for all time. He comes alongside us in his great compassion so that our suffering may end.

When we become Christians, when we become “little christs,” we say yes to compassion, yes to suffering so that suffering will end.

There’s good news, we don’t have to do it alone. Jesus prepares a community. As you think about what suffering God is calling you to do something about, who’s on your team? Who will you bring together or what group will you join? A single person can’t end malaria, but together we can.

We’re better together, stronger together. Different people each bring their spiritual gifts. We come together, we become the Body of Christ, and the world is made new. The Kingdom comes.

What suffering is God calling you to end and who is on your team?

Eleanor Josaitis, co-founder of Focus: Hope, in downtown Detroit, and she shared what caused her to become passionate about reaching the inner city.

While watching TV one evening in the late 1960s, the program was interrupted by a news bulletin about the March on Mississippi. She saw the brutality being committed against African Americans and decided something had to be done. She and her family moved from the suburbs to the inner city and began Focus: Hope, to dedicate the last 43 years of her life to “intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty, and injustice.” Eleanor had found her passion and she followed through with her words and deeds.

This past week Tee and I spent a great deal of time talking and it prayer over deaths of desperation. Deaths of desperation are a gentler way to talk about suicide.

There were three murder-suicides in Sarasota county last week. One seems to be a situation of domestic violence. The others are spouses caring for an incredibly ill spouse. The situation was overwhelming. The only way out seemed to be death.

ListeningCare to push back against the epidemic of loneliness, isolation, despair. Folks need someone to listen. It’s not counseling, brainstorming solutions, or fixing. It’s creating space for a person to be heard and received just as they are.

The topic isn’t important. Joys or needs could be shared. It’s about making connections.

We’re praying about how we can be trained more deeply so we can offer this deep training to the congregation. This may be something you’re passionate about. Lowering the suicide rate. Lowering the number of people who feel alone or in despair.

Acts 9:36-43. Tabitha/Dorcas  is described as “devoted to good works and acts of charity.” She dies and the community sends for Peter. When he arrives, the widows of Lydda beg Peter to raise her from the dead because she was the one who’d been caring for them when no one else would. She was their safety net when they had none.

Peter raised her from the dead. He answered the call of God to do something way beyond his abilities. Tabitha continued to answer the call to care for the widows of her community.

What would be it like to be so needed, so important to a group of people they begged for you to be raised from the dead?

At the end of your life, you’d like to look back and know you’d done something about … That passion we would name at your celebration of life and give God the glory for because you answered the calling God placed upon your life.

Pinpointing Your Passion Insert
Complete the worksheet to discover your passion. Your passion is where God invites you to serve. Combine your passion with your spiritual gifts, what God invites me to do.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a calling from God
You have a mission, You have a purpose, You are needed
What step will you take today to fulfill your calling?

Prayer: God we honor you and thank you for the spiritual gifts you give us through the Holy Spirit, for the passion and calling your place upon our lives. We are humbled before you, that you would desire us to help you save the world, but you do. You have said I need you and I want you. Help us to hear clearly and see clearly and step out in faith to love and serve alongside you.

Fill us with compassion and empathy. Fill us with fire to see good things come. Fill us Lord because we cannot do this in our own strength. We need you. We always need you.

We ask this in the strong name of Jesus, our Lord, and our Savior. Amen.

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

A Prayer for Storm Survivors

Jesus Calms the Storm by the Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

Jesus Calms the Storm by the Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

The knowledge that we are never alone calms the troubled sea of our lives and speaks peace to our souls. – A. W. Tozer

I am grateful Taylor Burton-Edwards for making excellent suggestions to improve this prayer.

A Prayer for Storm Survivors
Jesus, we see you calming storms-
storm-tossed seas and stormy lives.
Extend your power and grace again,
especially upon these most recent storm victims.

Speak peace and healing over bodies and spirits broken by the chaos.
Jesus, speak peace. Silence

Speak peace and hope over families and communities devastated by sudden loss.
Jesus, speak peace. Silence

Speak peace and unity over diverse groups of people
bring them together for greater provision,
just distribution, and effective rebuilding.
Jesus, speak peace. Silence

Speak peace and protection over rescue workers
as they reach out to those who are suffering.
Jesus, speak peace. Silence

Speak to us, moving our prayer to action⠀
Jesus, speak, we are listening. Silence

You are the Prince of Peace.
You are the Resurrection and the Life.
You are strong to save.
Our hope and trust are in you. Amen.

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A Prayer for Storm Survivors © updated 2019, Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment below for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Growing in Resilience: We Will Rise, based on Isaiah 58.11-12

sunrise hold sunGrowing in Resilience
Based on Isaiah 58
Bonus Reflection: We Will Rise
based on Isaiah 58:11-12, NRSV

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

We will rise
From the destruction
From the ruins
From the sin and isolation

We will rise
Building strong foundations
Bridging the breach
Making a way, a highway to our God

We will rise in our ceasing
A holy fast of God’s desiring and design

Fasting from injustice
Letting loose the bonds
Breaking every yoke of oppression and affliction

Fasting from food and space and clothing
Simplicity and sacrifice so others may have enough

Fasting from busyness
Reclaim the good gifts of relationship and sabbath

Fasting from evil speech
Blaming, gossiping, demonizing, lying
Truth will be on our tongue
Life will be on our lips

We will rise for this is the way of the Risen One
The bones of the Body will be strong
The branches of the Vine will be well watered
The ruins will be rebuilt with living stones
We will rise!

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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. 

We will rise © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Growing in Resilience: Everlasting Light, based on Isaiah 60

healing hand lightGrowing in Resilience
Day 21, Read Isaiah 60
Reflection: Everlasting Light,
based on Isaiah 60:1-3; 19-20, NRSV

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn… The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.

Everlasting Light,
Glorious, Merciful, One,
You come, we rise
Shine in our minds,
Enlighten our understanding of you and your ways
So we may do what is true and live in your light

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
Let your face shine, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80:19)

Breath of Life,
Refiner’s Fire,
You come, we rise
Shine in our eyes,
Illumine what is in need of correction and cleansing,
Spark in us your compassion and reign

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
Let your face shine, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80:19)

Jesus, Messiah,
Light of the World,
You come, we rise
Shine in our living
Shine in our glory
No more night, No more mourning
Radiant hope for us and for all

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
Let your face shine, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80:19)

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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. 

Everlasting Light © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Growing in Resilience: The Way of Peace, based on Isaiah 59.8

peace be with youGrowing in Resilience
Day 20, Read Isaiah 59
Reflection: The Way of Peace,
based on Isaiah 59:8, NRSV

The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths. Their roads they have made crooked; no one who walks in them knows peace.

You
You are the Way
Your way is Peace
An unbent highway of life-giving words
Truth, Dignity, Encouragement
We will know you
We will walk in your ways

You
You are the Way
Your way is Peace
A shining path of justice
Integrity, Impartiality, Redemption
We will know you
We will walk in your ways

You
You are the Way
Your way is Peace
An unbroken road of sanctuary
Safety, Belonging, Becoming
We will know you
We will walk in your ways

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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. 

The Way of Peace © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Growing in Resilience: False Following, based on Isaiah 58.1-2

feet bare bw railGrowing in Resilience
Day 19, Read Isaiah 58
Reflection: False Following,
based on Isaiah 58:1-2, The Voice

Tell My people about their wrongdoing; shout with a voice like a trumpet; Hold nothing back: say this people of Jacob’s line and heritage have failed to do what is right. And yet they look for Me every day. They pretend to want to learn what I teach, as if they are indeed a nation good and true, as if they hadn’t really turned their backs on My directives. They even ask Me, as though they care, about what I want them to be and do, as if they really want Me in their lives.

Eternal One,
You shout truth
Loud and clear like a trumpet blast
Holding nothing back so we might be saved
Give us ears to hear
Souls to receive
Lives to live your holy love

Save us from false following
Pretending to want what you want
Hiding behind pious practices
Rituals for show

Save us from false following
Weaponizing your means of grace
Religion without relationship
Belief without transformation

Save us from false following
Faith without works
Without compassion
Without fruit

Have mercy on us
Forgive us
Save us
Make our faith real

We turn and return to you
And your desiring
Give us ears to hear
Souls to receive
Lives to live your holy love

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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. 

False Following © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.