Sermon Recording- The Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12.12-27)

Sermon Series Website What is Church

Sermon Series: What is Church?
Message 3 of 6: The Body of Christ
Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
This message was offered Sunday, 5/6/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

body of christThe human body is …

The image of the church as the body of Christ reminds us of

  • The blessing of our diversity (1 Corinthians 12:12-14). It’s about unity, not uniformity.
  • The truth of our dignity, every part, all parts are part of the body (1 Corinthians 12:15-20)
  • The reality of our mutual dependence, our interdependence, all are important, all are needed. When one suffers or is victorious, we all are. (1 Corinthians 12:21-27)

We have not come to compete with one another.
We have come to complete one another. – Bill McCartney

Click here for the video testimony of Rev. Claire Wimbush, an Episcopal priest with spastic cerebral palsy.

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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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording- Daily Bread

our daily bread
Sermon Series: 57 Words That Changed the World
Messages on the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:5-15

Message: Daily Bread
Scripture: Matthew 6:5-15
Offered 4/24/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

The Lord’s Prayer informs, forms, and transforms us and the world. – Lisa Degrenia.

Give us this day, our daily BREAD
GIVE us this day, our daily bread
Give us THIS DAY, our DAILY bread
Give US this day, OUR daily bread

Our response to realizing God’s generous, great grace and our daily dependence upon God and others (interdependence)

  • trust
  • humility
  • gratitude
  • solidarity
  • justice

James 1:17 NRSV
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Proverbs 30:7-9 NRSV
Two things I ask of you; do not deny them to me before I die.
Remove far from me falsehood and lying.
Give me neither poverty nor riches.
Feed me with the food that I need,
or I shall be full, and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.

We live in a society that abhors dependence upon God or anyone else. Yet every time we ask God for bread, we are acknowledging not only our dependence upon a beneficent God but also our dependence on other people. No bread comes to our table without the work, the sacrifice and the gifts of strangers whom we do not know and cannot thank.
– Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas, Lord Teach Us

The bread that is spoiling in your house belongs to the hungry.
The shoes that are mildewing under your bed belong to those who have none.
The clothes stored in your trunk belong to those who are naked.
The money that depreciates in your treasury belongs to the poor.
~St. Basil the Great

Worship Resources for this Message 
Prayer: Most Blessed, Most Beautiful

Study Resources for this Message
Lord, Teach Us: The Lord’s Prayer & the Christian Life
by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon

The Lord and His Prayer by N. T. Wright

Fifty-Seven Words that Change the World: A Journey through the Lord’s Prayer
by Darrell W. Johnson

A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer by W. Phillip Keller

Our Heavenly Father: Sermons on the Lord’s Prayer by Helmut Thielicke
Read it for free online!

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon 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 drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

© 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Quotes: Fasting and Prayer

Fasting Prayer graphic

Matthew 4:1-4 (NIV)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. Anger, jealousy, strife, fear—if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realize that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.
-Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Fasting calls us to the remembrance that Christ alone is our “food and drink,” and as we make him our Source, we are liberated from the addiction to secondary things.
– Steve Harper, Desert Wisdom: Fasting (1)

Many of the traditions of spiritual life that have developed within Christianity are intended to help that dying to self that Christ describes as poverty of spirit. Fasting is one of these traditions– a small dying to certain foods and drinks. The chief value of fasting is not dietary but is linked to intensified battle against the tyranny of one’s never satisfied appetites and desires. Fasting is always linked with increased prayer and almsgiving: the deepening of communion with God and with neighbors in need.
– Jim Forest, The Ladder of the Beatitudes

Extended quote from Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go by Richard Rohr
There are three primary things that we have to let go of, in my opinion. First is the compulsion to be successful. Second is the compulsion to be right—even, and especially, to be theologically right. (That’s merely an ego trip, and because of this need, churches have split in half, with both parties prisoners of their own egos.) Finally there is the compulsion to be powerful, to have everything under control.

I’m convinced these are the three demons Jesus faced in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Until we each look these three demons in their eyes, we should presume that they are still in charge in every life. The demons have to be called by name, clearly, concretely, and practically, spelling out just how imperious, controlling, and self-righteous we all are. This is the first lesson in the spirituality of subtraction.

John 4:13-14 NRSV
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

John 6:35 NRSV
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Fasting kind of “hangs the soul out to dry,” and in doing so we find that we can live (indeed, live better) when we are not attached to things which are subject to loss, decay, and death. – Steve Harper, Desert Wisdom: Fasting (2)

Prayer, fasting, watching may be good in themselves; yet it is not in these practices alone that the goal of our Christian life is found, though they are necessary means for its attainment. The true goal consists in our acquiring the Holy Spirit of God.
-Seraphim of Sarov

Matthew 6:16-18 NRSV
Jesus said, “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The value of fasting was (and still is) not the amount of mortification we practice, but rather the concentration of our attention upon God.  The value of fasting is not how much we suffer, but rather how much we allow the time we would have spent eating to become time we spend “feasting” on God. – Steve Harper, Desert Wisdom: Fasting (4)

Click the link for an excellent article on the concept of a “perpetual fast” from “inferior appetites,” by Bill Guerrant entitled Rethinking Your Lenten Fast

Click the link for questions and reflections to consider as you experience your fast, Fasting by Steve Garnaas Holmes

Prayer: The Strength of a Cry

children worshipSCRIPTURE: Psalm 8:2 NAS
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength because of Your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

OBSERVATION
It goes against everything we are taught. The strong are strong. The weak are weak. The strong overcome even if they are wicked. But with God things are different. God establishes strength through our dependence and vulnerability. What is weaker than an infant- young, helpless, little voice, no education, no skills, no strength …

APPLICATION
In our weakest moments, we are heard by God. Our cries of prayer and praise are used by God. God is greater. Grace is greater. Evil is brought to an end.

PRAYER
Abba, you end the evil
Not through our strength, but our weakness
Our whimpers and gurgles and sighs
Our trembling cries
Our silent tears
In the midst of all who would do harm
You hear your beloved little ones
You defend
You protect
We are safe, always safe
Blessed be your Name

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This devotion is based on the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here

Prayer: The Strength of a Cry © 2013 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.

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

The Beatitudes: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

If you know the name or photographer of this work, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

Matthew 5:1-3
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Blessed are the spiritual zeros- the spiritually bankrupt, deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of religion when the kingdom of the heavens comes upon them. – Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

What does poverty of spirit mean? It is my awareness that I cannot save myself, that I am basically defenseless, that neither money nor power will spare me from suffering and death, and that no matter what I achieve and acquire in this life, it will be far less than I wanted. Poverty of spirit is my awareness that I need God’s help and mercy more than I need anything else. – Jim Forest, The Ladder of the Beatitudes 

God sees all the many kinds of suffering in the world. The world tends to define poverty and riches simply in terms of economics. But poverty has many faces–weakness, dependence, or humiliation. Essentially, poverty is a lack of means to accomplish what one desires, be it lack of money, relationships, influence, power, intellectual ability, physical strength, freedom, or dignity. Scriptures promise that God will take care of such people, because they know they have to rely on God. – Richard Rohr

Why does the Bible, and why does Jesus, tell us to care for the poor and the outsider? It is because we all need to stand in that position for our own conversion. We each need to stand under the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God, and the grace of God— to understand the very nature of reality. When we are too smug and content, then grace and mercy have no meaning— and God has no meaning. Forgiveness is not even desired. When we have pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps, religion is always corrupted because it doesn’t understand the mystery of how divine life is transferred, how people change, and how life flows. It has been said by others that religion is largely filled with people who are afraid of hell, and spirituality is for people who have gone through hell.
– Richard Rohr

An humble knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God
than a deep search after learning.
– Thomas a Kempis

Every aspect of Jesus’ mission (Luke 4:18-19) is restorative. His audience is comprised of the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. His actions are to transform these conditions of existence into abundant life, which he described as bringing good news and effecting release, recovery and liberation. The challenge (then and now) is for us to realize we are the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. As long as we think Jesus was talking about someone else, we will miss the invitation to transformation which launched his ministry and led him to the Cross. – Steve Harper

When you can get little enough, naked enough, and poor enough, you’ll find that the little place where you really are is ironically more than enough and is all that you need. At that place, you will have nothing to prove to anybody and nothing to protect from other people. – Richard Rohr

Extended quote by Arthur W. Pink
from his book The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer

By nature every sinner is Pharisaical, desiring to be justified by the works of the Law. By nature we all inherit from our first parents the tendency to manufacture for ourselves a covering to hide our shame. By nature every member of the human race walks in the way of Cain, who sought to find acceptance with God on the ground of an offering produced by his own labors. In a word, we desire to gain a standing before God on the basis of personal merits; we wish to purchase salvation by our good deeds; we are anxious to win heaven by our own doings. God’s way of salvation is too humbling to suit the carnal mind, for it removes all ground for boasting. It is therefore unacceptable to the proud heart of the unregenerate.

Man wants to have a hand in his salvation. To be told that God will receive nought from him, that salvation is solely a matter of Divine mercy, that eternal life is only for those who come empty-handed to receive it solely as a matter of charity, is offensive to the self-righteous religionist. But not so to the one who is poor in spirit and who mourns over his vile and wretched state. The very word mercy is music to his ears. Eternal life as God’s free gift suits his poverty-stricken condition. Grace—the sovereign favor of God to the hell-deserving—is just what he feels he must have! Such a one no longer has any thought of justifying himself in his own eyes; all his haughty objections against God’s benevolence are now silenced. He is glad to own himself a beggar and bow in the dust before God. Once, like Naaman, he rebelled against the humbling terms announced by God’s servant; but now, like Naaman at the end, he is glad to dismount from his chariot of pride and take his place in the dust before the Lord.

Humility, that low sweet root,
From which all heavenly virtues shoot.
-Thomas More

From the original meaning of the word humility (from the word “humus”—earth), it means that our first encounter with God is to come to the realization that God is God, and I am not! I am creature, not Creator. I am of the “earth.” … Humility is the sign that we have moved into a “for” mentality— a life for God. It is what Jesus meant when he spoke of “denying ourselves”—which does not mean a cancellation of the self, but rather a consecration of the self. It’s what E. Stanley Jones meant when he said, “Your self in your own hands is a problem and a pain; your self in God’s hands is a power and a potential.” Humility is allowing God to have you in His hands.
– Steve Harper, A Life of Humility

Revelation 3:17 NIV
You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

A “poor spirit” is an authentic spirit because it has nothing to claim or cling to but itself.  When we are poor in spirit, all we can say is, “i am”—not “i have” or “i do.”  But it is in the moment of “being” that we are in alignment with the “I AM” of God.  Jesus said this is where the spiritual life begins–in the paradox of nothingness, which turns out to be everything.  For there is nothing more holy or precious than a living soul who offers to God and others the purity of itself. – Steve Harper

Isaiah 64:6 NIV
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Can we surrender the mantle of trying to be, as someone has described us in our driven-ness, “General Manager of the Universe?” Many of us are so accustomed to trying to be good – doing what is right, covering everything on our to-do list – that we live our lives, even our spiritual lives, at a frantic pace. We cram every minute of every day with activity and achievement, measuring our worth by what we earn or what good deeds we have done. But this beatitude says that approach is all wrong. When we offer to God what we cannot be or do – our weaknesses – then the kingdom is ours. God says in this beatitude, “When you give up your illusions of control and power and acknowledge your absolute need for me, all that I have opens to you.”
– Mary Lou Redding, The Power of a Focused Heart

Luke 18:10-14 NIV
Jesus said, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

As long as we relate primarily to each other’s wealth, health, stability, intelligence, and soul strength, we cannot develop true community. Community is not a talent show in which we dazzle the world with our combined gifts. Community is the place where our poverty is acknowledged and accepted, not as something we have to learn to cope with as best as we can but as a true source of new life.
-Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

The following quotes and prayer are from The Beatitudes, by Charles H. Spurgeon

  • It is worthy of grateful note that this gospel blessing reaches down to the exact spot where the law leaves us when it has done for us the very best within its power or design. The utmost the law can accomplish for our fallen humanity is to lay bare our spiritual poverty, and convince us of it. It cannot by any possibility enrich a man: its greatest, service is to tear away from him, his fancied wealth of self-righteousness, show him his overwhelming indebtedness to God, and bow him to the earth in self despair.
  • The cause for placing this Beatitude first is found in the fact that it is first as a matter of experience; it is essential to the succeeding characters, underlies each one of them, and is the soil in which alone they can be produced. No man ever mourns before God until he is poor in spirit, neither does he become meek towards others till he has humble views of himself; hungering and thirsting after righteousness are not possible to those who have high views of their own excellence, and mercy to those who offend is a grace too difficult for those who are unconscious of their own spiritual need. Poverty in spirit is the porch of the temple of blessedness.
  • “Poor in spirit;” the words sound as if they described the owners of nothing, and yet they describe the inheritors of all things.
  • Lord, keep me low; empty me more and more; lay me in the dust, let me be dead and buried as to all that is of self; then shall Jesus live in me, and reign in me, and be truly my All-in-all!

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This is the first of eight posts based on the Beatitudes, Jesus’ short pronouncements of blessing at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:1-12) In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the present and future reality of God’s kingdom and that the kingdom is available for all people.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page

God, I Need You

my god… i need you… by Zahra Jafari

Psalm 142:6a NIV
Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need

The devout man has Jesus with him everywhere to be his comforter, and to him he says: ‘Be near me, Lord Jesus, always and everywhere.’ – Thomas à Kempis

Prosperous people already know they matter. They are already so secure in their human dignity that they usually don’t give it much thought. It is the poor whose attempts to claim their own dignity — small, but often so costly — need affirming. It is the poor and the weak, who are most aware of the need for comfort and refreshment all of us have. When things are going your way, it’s easy to forget that you depend on God for everything you have. It’s easy to begin thinking you don’t, that your power resides in yourself. The powerlessness of all human beings shows clearly in the lives of the poor. The rich can hide from it — for a time. But there is nobody who will not one day find himself bearing a load too heavy to carry alone. None of us are self-sufficient, however strong or weak or rich or poor we may be. We are all in need of comfort, in need of refreshment. Blessed are those who know their need of it early; they are the ones who will put themselves in the way of the Comforter. – Barbara Cawthorne Crafton, “A Little Refreshment! A Little Comfort!” (www.Day1.org, 7/7/96)

Hearing it so often, I believed for years that I was a failure anytime there was more on me than I could handle. If God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, what is to be said of us when our burdens are more than we can carry? And why does the Lord offer us rest and salvation, if we are only given what we can do just fine on our own? We were never designed to do this alone. We were made for relationship. – Fanci Rosselot

Psalm 116:6 NIV
The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.

Are not we all prone to be a little cocky and think we can handle things just fine? But let some trouble come, and how quickly we sense our inadequacy. Trouble is one of God’s great servants because it reminds us how much we continually need the Lord. Otherwise, we tend to forget about entreating him. For some reason we want to carry on by ourselves. – Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

Thread the needle.
Let go of everything, now, in this moment.
In the perfect poverty of prayer
walk away from it all to God,
poor and naked, alone and without recourse.
Utterly needy and dependent, fall helplessly
into God’s waiting arms,
where you will receive,
Beloved,
you will receive.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, The One Thing

Click here for another terrific post by Steve Garnaas- Holmes entitled Lay Your Burdens Down.

Worship Resource: God, I Need You
Instrumental music begins and continues throughout. The scriptures may be read by one voice aloud or projected on a screen for all to read silently. If projected, allow ample time for slower readers and reflection.

Psalm 79:8b NIV
May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.

ALL SINGING:
Traditional Setting:
I Need Thee Every Hour
United Methodist Hymnal #397, chorus only

Contemporary Setting:
Breathe as made known by Michael W. Smith
CCLI Song No. 1874117

Psalm 42:1-2 (NRSV)
As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?

ALL SINGING:
Traditional Setting:
I Need Thee Every Hour
United Methodist Hymnal #397, chorus only

Contemporary Setting:
Breathe as made known by Michael W. Smith
CCLI Song No. 1874117

ONE SPEAKING: Psalm 50:15 (NRSV)
Children of God, claim God’s promise,
“Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Persons are invited to pray for needs, silently or aloud. Close with the Lord’s Prayer.

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Click here for more excellent work by today’s featured artist, Zahra Jafari of Iran.

God, I Need You compilation © 2012 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.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Jesus the Vine: Depending Upon God

Old vine with grapes by Chris Michaels. Used by permission under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

John 15:5 (NRSV)
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit,
because apart from me you can do nothing.

The possibilities of going it alone in American society are widespread and inviting. Carried over into the spiritual life, this fact can have devastating results. Dependency and inter-relatedness are rarely valued to the extent that individualism is. This passage flies in the face of such attitudes with a very different type of invitation to reliance on God. – Susan Hedahl, Working Preacher

“To abide” has to do with persevering, continuing, lasting, staying with it. No wonder the term is rare. What it means is rare, in this or any time. – F. Dean Lueking

Poverty is not just a life of simplicity, humility, restraint, or even lack. Poverty is when we recognize that myself—by itself—is largely powerless and ineffective. John’s Gospel puts it quite strongly when it says that a branch that does not abide in Jesus “is withered and useless” (John 15:6). The transformed self, living in union, no longer lives in shame or denial of its weakness, but even rejoices because it does not need to pretend that it is any more than it actually is—which is now more than enough! – Richard Rohr

Into this drive-through world obsessed with the quick fix, the instant message, the fast buck—into this world that disposes even of people, comes a voice imploring us to slow down, to dig in, to hold on. – Lance Pape

The spiritual journey always includes a certain amount of disillusionment, but it is a disillusionment, which if embraced, will keep God the only “primary source” in our lives— allowing everything and everyone else to be secondary. Without this, we will expect others to provide what only God can, and we will become exhausted trying to find “it.” – Steve Harper, An End to “Spiritual Shopping”

But even if we were not sinners at all, we would depend utterly on God for our life and our happiness. Our poverty before God in this sense is an essential key to being truly human. Perhaps we can now begin to see why Jesus begins the Beatitudes with the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” In a profound sense, poverty of spirit is the basis for every beatitude that follows, the critical foundation for citizenship in God’s realm.
Marjorie J. Thompson and Stephen D. Bryant,
The Way of Blessedness Participant’s Book

We have as necessary and constant a dependence upon the grace of the Mediator for all the actions of the spiritual and divine life as we have upon the providence of the Creator for all the actions of the natural life; for, as to both, it is in the divine power that we live, move, and have our being. Abstracted from the merit of Christ, we can do nothing towards our justification; and from the Spirit of Christ nothing towards our sanctification. Without Christ we can do nothing aright, nothing that will be fruit pleasing to God or profitable to ourselves. (2 Corinthians 3:5) – Matthew Henry

Vine and Branches by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Does the branch pray to the tree?

Does the little limb think
of the great root buried in its grave,
the wine poured up
through the sturdy chalice of the trunk?
Does the leaf seek the will
of the seed, or contemplate
the shape of the body,
the arms spread out over the earth?
Does the bud seek guidance
or understand its place
in the miracles and teachings of the seasons?

I don’t know about that;
only this:

in the branch the leaf opens,
the blossom unfolds,
the fruit swells.

God is the Vinegrower, the one who created the world and continues to love it even though it has become infested with briars and thorns. God is determined to see a living organism flourish and grow on the ravaged landscape of a sinful world, until it can become a source of healing for all the nations. – Stan Wilson

Revelation 22:1-2 (NRSV)
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Effortlessly,
Love flows from God into man,
Like a bird
Who rivers the air
Without moving her wings.
Thus we move in His world,
One in body and soul,
Though outwardly separate in form.
As the Source strikes the note,
Humanity sings–
The Holy Spirit is our harpist,
And all strings
Which are touched in Love
Must sound. – Mechtild of Magdeburg

Gracious Lord, you are the Bread of Life, who provides for all my needs and satisfies the deepest longing of my heart; graft me into the very center of your great tree of life; feed me, nourish me, and care for me like a tender vine that I might grow into Christ in  all things. Amen. – Paul Wesley Chilcote, A Life-Shaping Prayer

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Click here for another devotion based on the vine/branches imagery of John 15

Click here for a post entitled Jesus the Vine: Bearing Fruit, which includes an original prayer litany

Click here for a post entitled Jesus the Vine: Abiding = Loving, which includes an original hymn text

Vine and Branches © Steve Garnaas-Holmes. Used by permission. For more of Steve’s thoughtful and beautiful work, check out his website, Unfolding Light

For more information on use of the art, scripture translation and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.