A Prayer for Those Who Govern, incorporating verses of America the Beautiful

mlk prayer pilgrimage

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the 1957 ‘Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom’.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern
ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, first verse

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

ONE:
Lord of All,
As we draw near another Independence Day,
we confess our dependence on you.
Thank you for extending abundance, mercy, and protection
to our nation through the years.
Every resource, freedom, and opportunity we have is a good gift from you.
Without you, we are lost.

ALL:
In humility, we seek your face.
In repentance, we turn from our ungrateful, destructive and selfish ways.
In faith, we call on your power to forgive our sin and heal our land.

ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, second verse

O beautiful for heroes prov’d in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country lov’d, and mercy more than life.
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness and ev’ry gain divine.

ONE:
Pour out your Holy Spirit on those who govern our land,
Leaders of our nation, our state, and our community
and all who are running for office.

Grant them a love of justice.
Open their minds with wisdom and compassion,
so all people may be treated fairly and with dignity.

Open their ears to the cries of the desperate and powerless
so cycles of poverty, disease, and abuse may be broken.

Open their eyes to see how best to respond
and open their hearts with courage to do the right thing,
even when pressured to do otherwise.

Dawn a new day of integrity and servant leadership upon our land.
Shower down your Spirit of collaboration for the common good
that there may be lasting peace and plenty for all.

The congregation is invited to lift up their own prayers for our nation

ONE:
We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Leader and Savior forever, Amen.

Option: We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Leader and Savior forever, who taught us to pray, Our Father, who art in heaven….

ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, fourth verse

O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.

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For other prayers suitable for Independence Day try A Prayer for our Country or Independence Day Prayer or A prayer of examen for our national holiday, all by Steve Garnaas-Holmes.

America the Beautiful by Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel A. Ward.
Public Domain.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Leave a comment for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording – Jesus, The Light of the World (John 3, John 8)

I am Jesus

Message: Jesus, The Light of the World
Scriptures: John 3:16-21John 8:12
I’m catching up on some 2017 sermons which haven’t been posted. This is message 2 of 6 in a Lenten sermon series entitled I AM Jesus. It was offered 3/12/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

What is your favorite kind of light?
Sunlight, Moonlight, Firelight, Fireflies
Candlelight, Christmas Lights, Spotlight, Nightlight
Light is a primal, universal experience
And one of the most important themes of the Bible

Quote by Rob Fuquay, The God We Can Know: Exploring the “I Am” Sayings of Jesus
You could say the story of the Bible is one of moving from darkness to light.
Shadow to Salvation

  • Look at the way the Bible begins in Genesis: “The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep . . . Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light” (1:2-3). The first thing God spoke into existence was light.
  • Go to the book of Revelation, to the description of the new heaven and earth: “There will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light” (22:5).
  • Many of the OT prophecies of a coming Messiah use the image of light: “Arise, shine; for your light has come” (Isa. 60:1). “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isa. 9:2).
  • The Bible constantly affirms that when God comes on the scene, there is light.
  • God makes staying in darkness a choice.

How? By coming as Jesus

John 8:12
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Jesus said these words in Jerusalem while attending Sukkot, often called the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. Passover is celebrated in the Spring to commemorate God freeing the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. Sukkot is celebrated in the Fall to commemorate God leading the people through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

The opening night of Sukkot was a huge celebration. People would sing and dance until morning. The first evening began with The Grand Illumination. Giant torches lined the courtyard of the temple burning so brightly it lit up all of Jerusalem. Imagine this at a time with no electricity!

It’s reasonable, even likely, it was at this moment Jesus said to the crowds, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Jesus is saying, “Place your trust in me, I will be your pillar of fire leading you through the darkness of the wilderness… I will lead you to the Promised Land. I will lead you home.”

Staying in darkness is a choice. What have you chosen? Have you said, “yes” to Jesus?
Have you placed your trust in his light and direction to lead you now and to lead you home?

1. Sometimes our dark wilderness is circumstance beyond our control
We cannot see the path. We freeze, afraid we’ll fall off the edge or into a pit.
Jesus, I choose your light- lead me and guide me now and always

It’s like having a flashlight in the deepest night. We trust Jesus for the next step, the next step, and the one after that. Jesus promises he will lead us step by step to a blessed end.

2. Sometimes our dark wilderness is a result of our own actions
Jesus is the light of the world and the light of life. Because Jesus loves us, Jesus shines a light on our sin, all those things we want to keep in the dark. It can be painful to see it. It can be painful to acknowledge our need for forgiveness and healing and salvation.

My friends, it’s hard, but it’s good. It’s grace. Claim it as an “ah-ha” moment of hope. It’s Christ working within us so we may have the light of life. We are not been abandoned. We are not condemned. We are not beyond grace.

John 3:16-21
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Staying in darkness is a choice. Come into the light.

Washing Windows Illustration
A teenager went to visit his grandmother one summer. While there, she asked him to wash the windows of her old Victorian home. She gave him instructions in the morning and said she’d be back to check on him in the afternoon. He laughed to himself- This job won’t take that long. So he washed the windows. They looked great and he spent the rest of the morning playing video games on his phone.

The afternoon came and the grandmother pulled back the curtains to see how he’d done. The windows were full of streaks and the corners were full of dirt. The young man was shocked. In the morning everything looked fine. What happened? Nothing happened. The afternoon sunlight revealed more truth than the morning light.

The grandmother did not condemn her grandson. She loved him and helped him to clean what he could now see.

Staying in darkness is a choice. Come into the light.

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

sermon © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording – Remember You Are Dust (Joel 2, Psalm 51)

ash wedensday with palms

Message: Remember You Are Dust
Scriptures: Joel 2:12-17; Psalm 51:1-12
I’m catching up on some 2017 sermons which haven’t been posted. This sermon was offered 2/26/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Breath in, Breath Out
Which is more important? Inhaling or exhaling?
Which is more important? What we believe or how we behave?

Belief and behavior both matter, just like inhaling and exhaling.
What we believe shapes how we behave.
How we behave demonstrates what we believe.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been walking through the book of James.
It’s a book which focuses on how the followers of Jesus are to behave.
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.
Faith without works is dead.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.

Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) also focuses on behavior.
Turn the other cheek
Go the extra mile
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Do not judge
Do to others as you would have them do to you

Likewise, Jesus’ parable of the final judgment (Matthew 25), as illustrated by the separating of sheep and goats, focuses on behavior. Those welcomed into the kingdom are those who
Feed the hungry
Give the thirsty something to drink
Welcome the stranger
Give clothing to the naked
Care for the sick
Visit those in prison

John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” This isn’t a sentimental, candy-coated feeling. This is love made real in our words and actions. In our sacrifices and steadfastness.

And yet, belief is critically important.
Without it, we are merely humanists
Without it, we are unplugged from the eternal
Unplugged from the “why” of our actions
Unplugged from the “how” of our strength to act

Placing our trust in Jesus Christ opens the way for the Holy Spirit to lead us and transform us: our behavior, our motivation, our perspective on what’s important, our love.

Our belief allows the Holy Spirit to shape us into the very likeness of Jesus.

Following Jesus is about the integration of belief and behavior. By cooperating with God’s grace, we become people of integrity. Integrated. We who are broken become whole. We are “re-membered.”

The integration of belief and behavior is so important we set aside time every year to reflect and focus on it.

  • We face our true selves in the light and love of Jesus.
  • We face our failures, our shortcomings in the grace of Jesus
  • We commit to continued growth in the likeness of our Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit

To help us do this, we use a symbol: ashes
The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder that we are all dust. We are all mortal. We are all imperfect people. Our time here is short. Make it count.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder of our humility. Humility, human and hummus are all from the same root word meaning “of the earth.” We have a common bond with all people and all living things. We are no better or worse.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder of our sorrow, a modern expression of the days’ people displayed their grief by wearing sackcloth and ashes. We grieve the spoiling and wasting of God’s good gift of life. We lament how we’ve hurt God, others, the earth, and ourselves. We mourn our sin.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is in the shape of a cross. A tangible sign of the infinite grace of Jesus Christ that meets us wherever we are and loves us too much to leave us there.

Psalm 103:13b-14, The Voice
The Eternal shows His love for those who revere Him.
For He knows what we are made of
He knows our frame is frail, and He remembers we came from dust.

Jesus accepts us with all our contradictions between what we believe and the way we behave. Jesus draws us, invites us, and empowers us toward new life: A transformed life, a whole and holy life, where belief and behavior are fully integrated with his good and divine will.

Come, see how the ashes and the grace are good.

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

sermon © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Four Prayers Based on the Parable of the Soil-Sower (Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8)

overflowing

Overflowing by Feboarah Koff-Chapin

Today I realized how often Jesus’ parable of the soil/sower makes its way into my devotional life. The story is simple, yet rich with wisdom and truth. I’ve learned so much and yet there is so much more to discover. Leave a comment with what you’ve discovered. I’d love to hear from you. – Lisa <><

The Parable of the Soil/Sower is found in three of the four Gospels, Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:1-15.

I. We Cry, “Glory!”
Lord of Life
You sow extravagantly
Generously

Some would cry, “Foolish”
We cry, “Glory!”

You sow your Word
Your Promises
Your Salvation
Your Self
“Glory!” to your grace and mercy

You save us from the stealing
The shallow
The choking thorns
“Glory!” to your deliverance and power

You make our lives good rich soil
Ready for your seed
In you, we grow up and increase and yield
“Glory!” to your goodness and faithfulness

We rejoice in you and in being your harvest
Help us to ever bear your good and lasting fruit
for the honor and glory of your name. Amen

II. Good, Good Soil
Jesus, you sow yourself
The Word of Truth, generously
The Word of Life, graciously

Defend us from the Evil One
Who seeks to snatch us away

Fortify us for hard times and costly discipleship
That we may endure

Deliver us from distraction
From worldly desires and
All that would lure us and choke us with false promises

Till us
Turn us
Enrich us with every blessing of your Spirit
That we may be good, good soil
Forever faithful and fruitful for you
Amen

III. Save My Soul, Good Gardener
Save my soul, Good Gardener
Evil flies in wanting to steal my hope
Work piles up, insecure boulders ready to crash, leaving no room to root
My faith begins to wither as does our relationship
Distractions grow, choking my gratitude
my perspective
my spirit

Guard me
Guide me
Deliver me
Clear the land
Weed then seed
Nourish the soil of my soul
I long to blossom and bring forth your fruit, a hundredfold

IV. Prayer of Confession: Break Through
This prayer of confession was commissioned for the opening worship service of the 2016 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church.

ONE:
As we gather on your good earth,
before the bounty of your Word and Table,
and the majesty of your holy presence,
We remember and repent

ALL:
Forgive us, Abiding One,
We keep you at a distance
We defy your bidding
We make it harder for people to know you

Forgive us, Saving One,
We deny our weakness
We wallow in our weakness
We take advantage of the weakness of others

Forgive us, Holy One,
We refuse your counsel
We waste your gifts
We withhold your compassion from others

Break through
Break through our hardened views,
lest the evil one win the day
Break through our gravelly hearts
lest we have no root and wither to nothing
Break through our thorny ways
lest our agendas and fears
choke the promise of your word
and smother a harvest worthy of your Name

Silent Confession

ONE: Psalm 103:8-14 CEB
Hear the good news-
The LORD is compassionate and merciful,
very patient, and full of faithful love.
God won’t always play the judge;
he won’t be angry forever.
He doesn’t deal with us according to our sin
or repay us according to our wrongdoing,
because as high as heaven is above the earth,
that’s how large God’s faithful love is for those who honor him.
As far as east is from west—
that’s how far God has removed our sin from us.
Like a parent feels compassion for their children—
that’s how the LORD feels compassion for those who honor him.
Because God knows how we’re made,
God remembers we’re just dust.

ALL:
We remember and rejoice.
Glory to God! Amen!

Click Here for a reader’s theatre version of the parable of the soils/sower
Click Here for an excerpt about soil from pages 45-46 of Deeply Rooted: Knowing Self, Growing in God by Christopher Maricle

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We Cry, “Glory!” © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Good, Good Soil © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Save My Soul, Good Gardener @ 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Prayer of Confession: Break Through © 2016 by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use these prayers and resources in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment to contact me directly for publishing and posting consideration.

Prayers for a New Year

huge clock

Please let me know the artist of this piece that I may give him/her credit.

Gratitude for a New Year
For the blessings of today
which remind us of the blessings of the past
which point forward to the blessings still to come
we give you thanks

Prayer for a New Year, based on Psalm 90
ONE:
Eternal and Immortal One,
You have been our refuge from age to age.
Before the mountains were born,
Before the earth and the world came to birth,
From eternity to eternity,
You are God.

ALL:
To you, a thousand years are like a yesterday
Like a watch of the night

ONE:
You return us to dust
You sweep us away like a dream
We are like grass
In the morning we thrive,
We blossom
But come evening,
We are withered and dry

ALL:
Teach us to number our days
That we may gain your wise heart

Fill us with your faithful love
That we may sing your joyful story

Show us your wondrous deeds
That we may see your transforming power
That generations to come may see it as well

Let your favor, O God be upon us,
That the work of our hands
May bear forth your blessing
And bring your glory. Amen.

penitence by larry poncho brown

Penitence by Larry Poncho Brown

Prayer of Confession for a New Year
As the new year is born,
We remember and regret…

Forgive us, Holy One,
When we keep You at a distance
When we defy your bidding
When we make it harder
for people to know you

Forgive us, Holy One,
When we deny our weakness
When we wallow in our weakness
When we take advantage
of the weakness of others

Forgive us, Holy One,
When we refuse Your counsel
When we waste your gifts
When we withhold Your compassion from others

Silent Confession

As the new year is born
We labor to look forward
Our hearts fill with hope
For you are making all things new
even us… Amen

A New Year’s Blessing
By Steve Garnaas Holmes

My hope and prayer and confidence
is that in this new year
God will be lovingly present for you,
and you will more and more deeply trust
God’s delight in you.
Christ will lead you every step of the new year.
The Spirit’s gifts will unfold in you in new ways.
I rejoice that in this new year
beauty will surround you; grace will enfold you;
love will embrace and uphold you;
joy will bless you, and hope sustain you.
May you receive healing and wisdom;
may your creativity flower and your courage grow;
and in your hands may justice and mercy flourish.
I rejoice that these gifts await you in the new year,
and pray that you receive them with delight.
I give thanks for the gift of sharing together
the journey of this new year.
God bless us all.

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Click Here for a collection of quotes entitled Counting Our Days

Gratitude for a New Year © 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Prayer for a New Year, based on Psalm 90 © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Prayer of Confession for the New Year © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use these prayers in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish them in any form.

A prayer for those who have much, based on Matthew 19.23-30

i need you

Based on Matthew 19:23-30

Merciful Jesus, I recognize I have so much. In this place and time I am one of the first. Yes there’s always someone who has more, but free me from justifying with true perspective. I am one of the first – access to wealth, belongings, influence, work, medical care, food, water, education, credit, safety…

I hear your words… The first will be last, the last will be first…. It is so hard for those with much to enter the kingdom of heaven.

It is hard. It is hard for me to not miss you. So much comfort, apathy, distraction, self fulfillment. It is so easy to think I don’t need saving. It is so easy to care for only me and mine.

It is a good life now, a blessed life, but not eternal. I have so much but I need so much. I need you and your salvation. I need your truth, your way, your eternal life. I need others. Show me what to leave to have you and family 100-fold, for now and forever.

Speak Lord, I am listening…

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A Prayer for Those Who Have Much © 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.

Jesus, heal us- a prayer of confession based on Matthew 13.10-17

healing hand light

Based on Matthew 13:10-17

Jesus, heal us for we are hard of hearing
We do not listen, nor seek to understand
We work for our kingdom, not yours

Jesus, heal us for we have shut our eyes
We see, but we do not perceive
We look to our kingdom, not yours

Jesus, heal us for our hearts have grown dull
Blunted by apathy and distraction
We long for our kingdom, not yours

Jesus, you speak again that we might be saved
Weave your stories into the fabric of our souls
Unstop us with sacred truth
Awaken us to greater grace
Sharpen us with your light and love
that we may be fully yours and fully alive
to your kingdom, to your glory, to your mercy,
to you and your holy will. Amen

*****
Jesus, Heal Us © 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.