Three Reflections on Betrayal, Denial, and Forgiveness (Matthew 26)

peter judas betray deny

Extended Quote from Destination: Known, Readings for Holy Week in the Upper Room Disciplines (2012) by Thomas R. Steagald
Sometimes in our familiarity and haste, we bypass verses of scripture. Because we already know the story of who “betrayed” Jesus, our attention in this passage [John 13:21-32] jumps quickly ahead to the conversation between Jesus and Simon Peter, the piece of bread, and Judas’s leaving the meal to meet with the religious officials.

But what of verse 22: “The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking?” …

Could it be that each of the disciples is humble enough, uncertain enough, to know that given the right set of circumstances or stressors, any one of them has it within him to do what Judas would in fact do?…

For only those who love Jesus can betray him. His enemies might hate him; others might disregard or ignore him, but only those who sit at the table can get up and leave, and only those close enough to kiss him can give the kiss of death. That Judas is the one who guided the soldiers to Gethsemane on fresh-washed feet, his breath smelling of sacrament, is a particular instance of what is possible for all disciples.

It is unfortunate that we so quickly rush to blame Judas, so quickly leave him and this verse of scripture behind; for indeed, this Holy Week calls us to examine ourselves, to hear Jesus’ prediction, uncertain of whom else he might be speaking.

Forgive me, Lord, when I turn away from you and your purposes. Amen.

Matthew 26:21-35
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” … Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night.” Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.

The Seat of Greatest Grace by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Jesus, my Friend,
my Beloved, my Person,
I love you, and I will falter.
I will deny you. I will betray you.
Three times, ten thousand times
I will deny you.
The silver pieces lie in my pocket
I have the nails
And you, knowing, invite me to your table,
to the place of honor even,
this seat of greatest grace,
beside you,
to share your bread with me,
and lay down your body for me
I can hardly look into the sun
of such forgiveness,
love’s empty tomb
that defeats me,
re-makes me.

I confess. I return.
Knowing, I follow,
drawn in your grace,
this burden that is light.

Matthew 26:74-75
Then Peter began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Denial, by Steve Garnaas Holmes
I deny you, Christ,
when I deny my own divinity.
I deny you when I deny
the divinity of those I condemn.
I deny you when I do not hear you
in the oppressed and rejected.
I deny you when I turn
from my glorious giftedness.
I deny you when I am afraid
to stand with those at risk.
I deny you when in my guilt
I doubt your love.
And still, you love.

Let remembering’s bitterness awaken me.
Let my weeping be my wisdom.

To the frightening, to the infinite,
to the compassionate, to the holy,
help me say yes.

Let me die with yes on my lips.

I am grateful for the writing ministry of Steve Garnaas Holmes. His work inspires me, challenges me, and draws me close to God. Find more of his work at www.unfoldinglight.net and consider subscribing. 

7 Prayers for General Conference 2019

umc_prays_logo_final-690x380

The General Conference, the decision-making body of the United Methodist Church, will be meeting in St. Louis Missouri starting today. They will be considering the greater inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in the leadership and life of our UMC tradition. There are faithful people with diverse points of view who will be making these decisions and millions more watching and waiting. It is a mile marker moment in our life together and we’re feeling it. 

Thank you for praying with us and for us. – Lisa <>< 

Prayer 1 for General Conference: Surrender
Read Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

In light of General Conference, what would it be like to turn toward Jesus and place everything in His healing hands? All you are planning and working for. All you are feeling and longing for. If you’re willing to do this by the grace of God and invite all at General Conference to do the same, please join me in this prayer.

Your Healing Hands by Lisa Degrenia
Jesus, Resurrected One
Light of New Life
Breaker of Chains
Bringer of Grace and Hope

You are moving, speaking, inviting

We hear your call to repentance
The turning will save us

We hear your Good News
The trusting will save us

We place every need into your healing hands
our loved ones, our enemies, ourselves
our work, our congregations, our denomination
our community, our nation, our world
our hopes, our security, our failures, our future

We place every need into your healing hands
We will find rest and wholeness there
We will find life, now and forever
Hallelujah! Glory to your Holy Name!

Prayer 2 for General Conference: Confession
Read Mark 6:1-5

It is far too easy to dismiss persons with a different point of view. To label, judge, ridicule, blame. To build the dividing walls of us and them, winners and losers, faithful and sinner, insider and outsider. How have you done this? Will you confess your contempt and invite all at General Conference to do the same? 

Confessing Contempt by Lisa Degrenia
Contempt is so painful
To be dismissed, disregarded
Questioning instead of dignity
Accusation instead of personhood

I have felt its sting and hollowness
As have you, my Jesus
Heal my wound

I have wielded this weapon, fully conscious of its destructive power
You never have, my Jesus
Forgive me and heal all I have hurt

Make my ways like yours, my Jesus
Deliver me from a spirit of demonizing, suspicion, and contempt
Help me hear their needed messages
Help me see all as you see them, beloved, and needed
Especially those who are different from me
Especially those who are hard to love

I am most ashamed of aiming contempt at you, my Jesus
I have failed in your command to love
I am so very sorry
Forgive me, renew me, abide in me so there is
More of my true me
More of you and your ways
More of your grace extended through me
For the healing of the world

1 John 1:9 NRSV
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Prayer 3 for General Conference: Joy
Read 1 Chronicles 16:23-27 (NRSV)

Nehemiah 8:10
… the joy of the Lord is your strength.

What are you feeling concerning General Conference? Fear, hope, determination, confusion, pain… Would you dare to feel joy? To sing and shout God’s greatness and glory. To claim again God’s steadfast character and presence. If you desire the Lord’s joy to be your strength and long for all at General Conference to do the same, please join me in this prayer.

Your Joy is our Strength by Lisa Degrenia
Wondrous God
Father-Son-Spirit
Your joy is our strength
Nothing more
Nothing less
Nothing else
Grant us grace to receive you and your joy
Grant us grace to trust it above all other powers and plans
Grant us grace to bear it and share it as generously as you
For the honor is yours
The majesty is yours
and Your kingdom is at hand
Amen

Prayer 4 for General Conference: Power
Matthew 3:11, NRSV
John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

If you desire the power of the Holy Spirit for yourself and for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

Come Holy Spirit by Lisa Degrenia
Come Holy Spirit
Come again as cleansing fire, burning away all that is false and fruitless

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as guiding fire, lighting the way through our wilderness

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as refining fire, purifying our words, our ways, and our hearts

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as prophetic fire, calling us to courage and action

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as surprising fire, dancing atop every believer, breaking down barriers, opening lips with Good News

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as empowering fire, inspiring us, emboldening us to use your gifts to bless and bring your Kingdom

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as unifying fire, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Amen.

Prayer 5 for General Conference: Likeness of Christ
Luke 19:41-42a, NRSV
As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!”

As we grow more and more into the likeness of Christ, what breaks his heart breaks ours, what he desires for all people becomes our desire. If you desire to receive these gifts for yourself and for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

Prayer for a Broken Heart by Lisa Degrenia
Break our hearts, Jesus
That we may weep as You weep
Love as You love

Break our hearts Jesus and raise our voices
that we may speak and act so all may be safe
so all may have opportunity
so all may know belonging

Lord Jesus
Take away our fear, our apathy, our silence

Grant us
Your courage, Your strength,
Your perseverance, Your heart

That we may be Your sanctuary
Your safe and sanctified place of presence

That we may live Your justice
and use Your power with wisdom and humility

That we may be Your whole and holy people
A people of integrity

That we may speak and act and love
again and again and again
till every dividing wall of hate, fear, and mistrust
comes crashing down in Your Powerful Name

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, Savior of the Nations,
teach us to pray and teach us to live Your prayer…

Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

Prayer 6 for General Conference: Humility
Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, NRSV

Our humility helps all involved experience the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. If you desire to receive this gift for yourself and for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

The Humble Way by Lisa Degrenia
Jesus, you are gentle, lowly, vulnerable
You choose to be with us in our weakness
You win the world with your love, sacrifice, and humility

Your power is made perfect in
our weakness
our transparency
our vulnerability
our surrender
our honesty with our dusty condition

Free us from posing as experts with all the answers
Free us from silver-tongued speech
Free us from human conceiving and scheming

Let us know nothing with certainty other than the eternal truth
that you are the Anointed One, the Liberating King,
who was crucified on our behalf

We receive you and your saving
We welcome your wisdom and offering
We entrust all you have given us back into your hands
We rely on you, Holy Spirit, to demonstrate your power
that our faith, the faith of those we serve, the faith of those yet to believe
may be rooted in you alone. Amen

Prayer 7 for General Conference: Peace
Jesus tells the story of the Religious Teacher (Pharisee) and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14 so that those who have a heart of war may receive the gift of a heart of peace. The first steps to receiving this gift are honesty, transparency, confessing our need and our desire for a heart of peace to replace our heart of war.

If you desire a heart of peace and desire a heart of peace for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

Heart of Peace by Lisa Degrenia
Jesus, You are the Great Physician coming to those in need of healing.
You are the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world.
You are the Prince of Peace offering all a heart of peace.

Jesus, we bow in wonder at the expanse of your embrace,
the breadth of your inclusion,
the surprise of your grace.
You seek and seek and seek,
including those we write off as beyond hope.
You even include me.

Forgive me, Jesus.
Forgive me for forgetting who you are.
For forgetting who I am in you.

Forgive and heal my wounds.
Forgive and heal my brokenness, my sin.

Forgive me for judging.
Forgive my hurtful words and actions.
Forgive my self-righteousness.

Forgive me Jesus for limiting you.
I am so desperately in need of you.

Create in me a clean heart and renew your Holy Spirit within me.
Create in me a heart of peace.
I open myself to your gift
and pray all your people will receive it as well.
Amen.

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

Contempt, a prayer of confession based on Mark 6

contempt painting by faun manne

Contempt Painting by Faun Manne

Mark 6:1-5, The rejection of Jesus
He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.

Contempt is so painful
To be dismissed, disregarded
Questioning instead of dignity
Accusation instead of personhood

I have felt its sting and hollowness
As have you, my Jesus
Heal my wound

I have wielded this weapon fully conscious of its destructive power
You never have, my Jesus
Forgive me and heal all I have hurt

Make my ways like yours, my Jesus
Deliver me from a spirit of judgment, criticism, and contempt
Help me hear their needed messages
Help me see all as you see them, beloved, and needed
Especially those who are hard to love

I am most ashamed of aiming contempt at you, my Jesus
I am so very sorry
Forgive me, renew me, abide in me so there is
More of my true me
More of you and your ways
More of your grace extended through me
For the healing of the world

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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Contempt, a prayer of confession © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Lord of the Sabbath, a prayer of confession based on Mark 2

abstract art artistic autumn

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Mark 2:23-28
One sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Lord of the Sabbath,
Reveal your ways to me
Your beautiful will
I desire to follow you faithfully
Faith-fully

Show me where I need correction.
Where I am too lax … too strict
Reveal how I use your commands as weapons
judging… excluding… twisting…
Forgive me
Renew a right spirit within

Fill me with your Holy Word for witness, service, and rest
Fill me with your Holy Spirit for witness, service, and rest
Fill me with your Holy Ways for witness, service, and rest

Your ways are life!
Spring up life in me!
Help me to help others to that spring as well
that we may all live
that we may all live in the overflowing grace
of Your blessing, wholeness, and love
Amen

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Lord of the Sabbath © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Ash Wednesday Worship Resources and Sermon Starters

ash wedensday with palms

Repent and Return
This confession was inspired by a passage from Pauses for Lent by Trevor Hudson and the traditional Ash Wednesday reading from Joel 2.

Modern Ash Wednesday Service
A simple, fresh combination of modern visuals, ancient scripture, the imposition of ashes, and the haunting song O So So.

Blended Ash Wednesday Service
Classic scriptures, hymns, and the imposition of ashes come alongside music by Chris Tomlin and Gungor.

Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust
Jan Richardson offers a beautiful and grace-filled perspective on God at work in us and our world. The post includes an original work of art and blessing.

Dust and Ashes
Steve Garnaas-Holmes offers reflection and prayer on the many meanings of the imposition of ashes.

Two Pockets: Healthy, Faithful Perspective
A reflection based on a parable by the well respected and beloved Polish Rabbi Simcha Bunim. “Every person should have two pockets. In one, there should be a note that says ‘for my sake was the world created.’ In the second, there should be a note that says, ‘I am dust and ashes.’”

Lenten Art: Reflecting Dust
A multimedia piece to inspire the creation of your own works of art for the season of Lent

Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience
A set of four interactive prayer stations designed for use on Ash Wednesday. They could, of course, be used anytime when the themes for self-reflection and prayer include our mortality, our sorrow for our sin, and re-commitment to living in alignment with God’s holy will.
Prayer Station 1
Prayer Station 2
Prayer Station 3
Prayer Station 4

Prayers for a New Year

huge clock

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

Prayer at Year’s End by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Eternal God,
in the evening of this year
I release the year to you.
Not a day, not a breath, have I been without you,
and I thank you.
All that I have done is done;
what I have not done I have not done.
All of my sins and errors you have forgiven,
and I release them.
All of my triumphs are your doing,
and I release them.
The year is gathered into your harvest,
to winnow and to save.
My life is gathered into your grace.
By your spirit in me may I learn from my mistakes,
grow from my wounds,
and deepen in gratitude for my gifts.
And now I turn to a new year,
grateful for your presence and your grace,
seeking only to live in harmony with your delight,
and open to your blessing and your leading.
Whether my journey onward be long or short,
it shall be in you, and I rejoice.
Amen.

Gratitude for a New Year by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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 by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

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

Growing in Resilience: As Clay to the Potter, based on Isaiah 64.8

pottery wheel

Growing in Resilience
Day 25, Read Isaiah 64
Reflection: As Clay to the Potter, based on Isaiah 64:8, NRSV

Isaiah 64:8, NRSV
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay,
and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

It is not you that shapes God,
It is God that shapes you.
If you are the work of God,
await the hand of the artist who does all things in due season.
Offer him your heart, soft and tractable,
and keep the form in which the artist has fashioned you.
Let your clay be moist, lest you grow hard and lose the imprint of his fingers.
–Attributed to St. Irenaeus

2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV
We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

The Eternal One, Our Father, knows
We are seen and we are searched
No need to harden your defenses
No need to hide
It changes nothing
All that is found is loved
The blessings and the brokenness
The wins and the worry
The success and the sin
All is found and all is loved

So rest
Rest in this promise and blessing
Rest in God

Release it all
Surrender to your Beloved
As clay to the Potter
As song to the Singer
As seed to the good, dark earth
buried, but made ready
to burst forth with New Life

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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. 

As Clay to the Potter © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.