Parable of the Talents: Fearless or Fearful? (Matthew 25.14-30)

Parable of the Talents: Matthew 25:14-30

John of the Cross wrote that “In the evening of life we will be judged on love alone.” The two servants, probably more experienced in loving, fearlessly invest their portions of love. Heedless of sheer foolhardiness, they risk ego, rejection, derision, even death, adventurously increasing the master’s wealth of love in the world. The last servant misses the point, and like sinning against the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12:32) the poor clueless man finds himself in the outer darkness for clinging to the supposed safety of burying his love in the ground. John Wesley comments, “So mere harmlessness, on which many build their hope of salvation, was the cause of his damnation.”
– Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure

The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him. He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless. He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the Spirit. This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular of the representative, administrating Spirit. A Christian is fearless. –Tertullian

Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.
– William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (II, ii, 32-37)

Only those who risk going too far will ever know how far they can go.
– T.S. Eliot

Whatever you do you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you into believing your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories but it takes brave men and women to win them. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Moving ahead requires us to face the present with its hardships and afflictions, knowing that these, too, are part of the way. To do this requires a measure of courage, that word formed from the Latin cor, or heart. In such circumstances, the challenge before us is not simply to avoid losing our heart. Rather, it is that of finding our heart, of living “heartfully.” – Mark S. Burrows and John H. Ohlson, Love is a Direction from Weavings, Aug/Sept/Oct 2012

Click here and here and here for three thoughtful reflections on this passage by Steve Garnaas Holmes

Zephaniah 1:12
At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm.”

Philippians 4:13 (NRSV)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
… and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love,
unconditional, everlasting love. Amen.
– Henri Nouwen

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Run Beloved, Run – a poem for All Saints Day

running feetHebrews 12:1-3 NRSV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

You are surrounded
By great and good companions

With witnesses who ran the race before you
Now cheering you on
Inspiring you with their courageous faith

With witnesses running beside you
Churning up the dust of this well-traveled-path
Encouraging you with the steady beat of their beautiful feet

Run beloved, run
Lay aside every weight
Every worry
Every excuse
Every inner critic shouting against inspiration

Lay aside the sin that clings so closely
Every self-serving motivation
Every self-medicating choice
Every weak thing you’ve trusted more than God

Lay them aside
and run

Run beloved, run
Run with perseverance the race
Daring
Enduring
Alive

Looking not to the dust, but to Jesus
The Pioneer and Perfecter of your faith
Look not to the right or to the left
Look to Jesus
Focus
Follow

Jesus is The Way, opening the path
The Truth, clearing the clutter
The Light, blazing the trail

He runs
He endures
For the sake of the joy
Of setting the joy before you
and in you

Run
Run remembering
Joy is your strength
Remember and endure
For this race comes with a cross
A course of blood and tears
Mocking and piercing

Take it up
Disregard its shame (that ancient enemy)
Let it fall by the wayside
Tired scraps on the breath of new life

Take it up and run
Sit down in the next life
Not this one

Run beloved, run
Following and looking and remembering him who endured
So that you may not grow weary
Or lose heart
For your strongest step is yet to come

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Run Beloved, Run © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

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

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

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

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

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

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Prayer for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
© 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Overwhelmed, a prayer for times of great need

Quotefancy-1754147-3840x2160I am standing with you in love and prayer as the storm comes. Jesus stands with you, too- protecting you, strengthening you. You are safe with Jesus. Nothing can separate you from his saving love and mighty power.

It is likely the storm will interrupt our ability to speak with each other. I will be faithful to pray and to write. Thank you for your prayers. God brought us together and God will bring us together again. Hallelujah! God is steadfast and faithful and strong to save.
Your sister and servant in Christ, Lisa <><

Lord Jesus, fill us with your faith and courage
so we are never overwhelmed by great needs
but rather overwhelmed with your great grace
Your great strength
Your great compassion
Your great presence
Your great hope
Fulfill your gifts of greatness in great and good works
for the honor and glory of your name
for the saving of lives
for the redemption of your world
Amen

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Overwhelmed, a prayer for times of great need © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
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Step Forward (Exodus 14)

stepping into waterBased on Exodus 14:5-18

Step forward? How?
To one side an impassable sea
On the other Pharaoh’s 600 war chariots thundering down upon us,
blackening the horizon

You promised new life, O God
Yes you sent signs and wonders to free us,
but now, here, we are trapped
Have you brought us this far just to die?

Your voice comes to us again through your faithful, flawed servant

Do not be afraid
Stand firm
In the midst of this trouble, see the deliverance God will accomplish
God has fought for us, is fighting for us, will fight for us
The oppressors will be destroyed
The unknown of the wilderness is better than the slavery you’ve known

Step forward
You are not trapped
You are not tricked
Step forward into freedom and possibility
Trust
Have faith
Feel the water on your feet give way to a way only God can provide
Step forward

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Step Forward © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
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Independence Weekend Worship: 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 celebrate 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.

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 for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer- Jesus, Grant Me Your Heart

Sacred Heart 3Jesus, Lord of All
Grant me a compassionate heart
Teach me judgment without being judgmental
Boundaries without guarding too much
Love without agendas

Jesus, Lord of All
Grant me a courageous heart
Teach me truth without using it as a weapon
Engagement without enabling
Confronting without a win/lose mindset

Jesus, Lord of All
Grant me a heart of hope
Teach me peace without apathy
Rest without laziness
Patience without despair

Jesus, Lord of All
Grant me your heart

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Jesus, Grant me Your Heart © 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.