Sermon Recording- Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, a Sermon on Courage (Romans 8)


Sermon Series – Finding God in Oz
The Wizard of Oz is a powerful allegory for so many of our foundational Christian beliefs. Walk with us as we Find God in Oz.

Message: Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, a Sermon on Courage
Scriptures: Romans 8:35-39
Offered 11/13/16, the Sunday after the National Election and Veterans Day at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

It takes courage to open up Facebook. It’s still ugly following the election. I hoped it would go back to puppy videos, inspiring quotes, and pictures of my friends.

It takes courage to watch the news. Protesters remind us of our deeply divided country. We hear hate crimes are on the rise.

I just want to go to my favorite chair with my Bible and journal and pray till it goes away. I just want to stay within the walls of this beautiful, safe place- this sanctuary. That’s what God’s house should be. I just want to sit on my couch and grow my veggies and have a chai tea latte and pet my dog. I want to plug my ears and my heart because it hurts too much to see folks scared and mean. Yet, this is what happens when you become a follower of Jesus; when you ask God, “Give me a heart like yours.” It hurts because God’s heart hurts.

It takes a supernatural courage to face the hurt.

Wednesday afternoon, the day after the election, I’m walking to church and I see my friend Miguel. He’s in the 5th grade. I ask him how he is, remembering him being afraid because month’s before during the election he’d heard talk of walls and deportation. He’d thought he and his family belonged, but then he wasn’t so sure. He’s still not sure. I said, “I will fight for you. Not in a violent way. I’ll stand with you should you and your family need it.” (I really wanted what I said to be real. I wanted to be ready to be courageous.)

With complete faith and serenity on his face, Miguel said, “No matter where we are, God is with us.”

Romans 8:35-39
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Miguel knew that in Jesus’ death and resurrection evil is defeated, sin is defeated, death is defeated.

For I am convinced that neither winning nor losing elections, nor pollsters, nor pundits, nor spin, nor lies, nor discrimination, nor prejudice, nor bullying, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Last week we talked about living in the age of loneliness and the essential of friendship, especially spiritual friends. What if, as followers of Jesus, we claimed this as the age of courage? Courage in the face of evil and courage to face evil.

In the Wizard of OZ, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion have courage in the face of evil; courage when the fight comes to them. Courage when the angry orchard attacks them. Courage when the flying monkeys start carrying off their friends. They also have the courage to face evil, to go to the fight, to go to the wicked witch’s fortress to rescue their friends.

I want to be like Miguel- courageous and confident in Jesus’ victory. Courage in the face of evil and courage to face evil alongside him. I want to be with Miguel because he’s my friend and brother in Jesus Christ.

God to give me a courageous heart to stand with Miguel and with
– peaceful Muslim-Americans fearing for their well being
– persons of color fearing the rise of white supremacy
– gay and lesbian persons fearing loss of their rights
– veterans needing easier access to benefits
– women and sexual assault victims fearing they won’t be heard or believed
– lots of people fearing loss of insurance and basic needs


We’re going to hurt. Will we be hurting for something worthwhile?


Renewal of Baptismal Vows
On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you:
1. Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
2. Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
3. Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace,
and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

Psalm 31:23-24
Love the LORD, all you his saints.
The LORD preserves the faithful,
but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the LORD.

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.

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

Sermon Recording- Speak, Responding to the Pulse Orlando Massacre

orlando shakes angels

Persons from the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre protecting those mourning the Pulse victims.

Message: Speak, Responding to the Pulse Orlando Massacre
Scripture: Ezekiel 33:1-9
Offered 6/26/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers

When we don’t speak, people die.

If we are silent people die
Speak! Keep speaking- Speak up, Speak out
Keep speaking until
Hate is overcome by affection
Bullying is overcome by blessing
Discrimination is overcome by opportunity
Violence is no more
This place looks like heaven
Lisa Degrenia 

In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.
– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe. – Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Speech

A Statement from the Bishop and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church in Response to the June 12, 2016, Violent Crime of Hate against the LGBTQ Community in Orlando, Florida

2016 Florida Annual Conference Resolution– Help End Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning Individuals

Worship Resources for this Message 
Prayer for Violent Times by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Prayer: All Will Be Revealed by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
The Sentinel’s Prayer by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Blessing in a Time of Violence by Jan Richardson

Prayer offered by the Rev. Dr. Steve Harper at the Florida Annual Conference prayer vigil for all involved with the Pulse Orlando Shooting
Almighty God,
We come before you in this moment as one human family, all of us created in your image and intended to glorify you with our lives–particularly in the ways we treat each other.

We also stand in your presence as heirs of the first sin after the Fall–the sin of murder, continuing to behave like Cain in our refusals to care for the lives of others, harming and murdering them with our words, our actions, our silence, and our judgment.

We come before you confessing our sins of commission and omission–the sins of saying and doing too much or too little–the sins of silence and shunning–the sin of self -righteousness which is no righteousness at all.

Forgive us for all the ways we have failed to love one another, to care for one another, and as the shooting in our city reveals, the particular ways we have failed to love our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, LatinX family, and their allies– turning a deaf ear to their pain and acting against them in ways which create a spirit of fear and a culture of discrimination that spawns acts of violence.

We especially lament the ways we have failed to love as Christians and as United Methodists, ways we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves–creating the false impression that our silence, our skewed perspectives and our retributive actions reflect the will of God. We humbly repent and are sorry for these our misdoings. The remembrance of them is grievous unto us.

Move among us by your Holy Spirit and remove our hearts of stone, replacing them with hearts of flesh that love you and everyone with a love as inclusive as your love for the world. Remove all walls that divide and drive far from us the desire to ever build a wall again.

We pray for the souls of the departed–those killed in the Pulse nightclub, and for their families and friends who grieve their deaths. We pray for the others who have been wounded, those whose lives will from now on be marked by this tragedy. And we pray for the soul of the one who committed this crime, and for his family and friends who are shamed and saddened by what he did.

We thank you for all those in the law enforcement and medical communities who risked their lives and offered their care to save others, and for our civic and religious leaders who must now guide us to beat our swords into plough shares and study war no more.

God, dwell among us to give us comfort, but not simply a comfort which enables us to move beyond our grief, but a comfort which causes us to move beyond our sin, so that we may be instruments of your peace–daily sowing love where there has been hatred, replacing injury with pardon, instilling faith where there has been doubt–until that day when justice rolls down and mercy like an ever flowing stream. Amen

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.

Sermon Recording: Love and Limits, a message in response to the Charleston AME murders

body diversity nation culture namesMessage: Love and Limits
Scripture: Revelation 7:9-17
Offered 6/21/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL in response to the nine murders at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

Click Here for the poem read during the message, Peace Stronger Than the Storm by Steve Garnaas Holmes.

Click Here for the post by Rick Warren referred to at the end of the sermon.

Click Here for a power point presentation of images and scriptures which scrolled during the prayer time following the sermon.

Following the prayer time, Revelation 7:9-17 was read, reminding us of God’s desire for all people. We then prayed the Lord’s Prayer together with an emphasis on “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We then lit nine candles, one for each of our murdered brothers and sisters- that their loved ones would be able to claim the light and love of Christ in the midst of their grief. We then lit a tenth candle with the same intention for the murderer, for all who carry out evil, and for all with evil in their hearts. We also recognized own own capacity evil thoughts, words and actions and our own need for the light and love of Christ.

Revelation 7:9-17 NRSV
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

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.

© 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.


Prayer: Equity for Workers

Garments Factory in Bangladesh, photo by Fahad Faisal via Wikimedia Commons

Garments Factory in Bangladesh, photo by Fahad Faisal via Wikimedia Commons

This prayer comes in the light of the Bangladesh garment factory building collapse.

James 5:1-5 CEB
Pay attention, you wealthy people! Weep and moan over the miseries coming upon you. Your riches have rotted. Moths have destroyed your clothes. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you. It will eat your flesh like fire. Consider the treasure you have hoarded in the last days. Listen! Hear the cries of the wages of your field hands. These are the wages you stole from those who harvested your fields. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of heavenly forces. You have lived a self-satisfying life on this earth, a life of luxury. You have stuffed your hearts in preparation for the day of slaughter.

Mighty One
In your justice
In your mercy
bring equity to workers across your world
break the rod of oppressive business practices
free us from our addiction to low cost goods
raise up those who work in danger and discrimination
those who toil in the dirt, heat, and filth
those who care for the vulnerable
those who put clothes on our backs
food on our tables
roofs over our heads

Carpenter of Nazareth
You hear their cries and so do we
Fill us with courage and conviction
Make us instruments of your peace
your justice
your mercy

Click here for a worship resource entitled Prayer for Labor Day

Prayer: Equity for Workers © 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.

Prayer: No Partiality

partiality favoritismActs 10:28b, 34 CEB
God’s shown me that I should never call a person impure or unclean…. I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another.

We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty. -Mother Teresa

Prayer: No Partiality
Author of Life
Father of heirs and orphans
Sustainer of rich and poor

Lord of the Nations
Salvation of saint and sinner
Wisdom of educated and ignorant

all people are made in your image
all are valuable
all are beloved
all are wanted

Forgive me for labeling

Change my heart and ways
to match yours
no partiality
only welcome

See also James 2:1-10.
Click here for a collection of scriptures and quotes entitled Overcoming Labeling.
For an original song lyric/poem on this theme entitled Image of Love, click here

Prayer: No Partiality © 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.

Quotes: Overcoming Labeling

Loser by Valerie (aka sketchingheaven)

Romans 2:11 (NRSV)
For God shows no partiality.

Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet. Whatever we truly think them to be, that’s what they’ll become for us. – Richard Cowper

We are like sculptors, constantly carving out of others the image we long for, need, love or desire, often against reality, against their benefit, and always, in the end, a disappointment, because it does not fit them. – Anais Nin

We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are. – Anais Nin

Leviticus 19:15 (NIV)
Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

The problem isn’t in the labels themselves, but in how conscious we are of them. Labels are just a mental shorthand for leveraging past experience, and preparing us for what lies in store. But when I am unconscious of these labels, I start believing them to be the full truth, when in reality they merely reflect my own conditioning. Then, instead of giving me a head start on gaining more information, labels collapse my experience and actually limit my opportunities to grow. – Viral Mehta, The Neurobiology of ‘Labeling’

Colonialism is about power and conformity to a set of beliefs. Gospel is about love and giving away power. The Spirit affirms our uniqueness and giftings. Empire conforms us into a particular image. – Randy Woodley, Ask and Indigenous Theologian

God’s purpose is relationship, restoration, reconciliation. But there can’t be any reconciliation without communication and certainly no communication if we can’t or won’t listen, say we don’t have the time, or refuse to really try. Two key elements to this journey are perspective and intention. God has gifted us with the ability to see from inside our heart. So do we observe through a wide-angle lens or limit our vision to the endemic cultural myopia? Do we run free or are we restricted by blinders? Do we search for new stars with purpose at night or do we glance up without belief in the middle of the day? -Derek Maul, The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian

We needed to have real faith that anyone who walked in, regardless of his or her problems, would become a trophy of God’s grace. – Jim Cymbala discussing the transformation of his congregation The Brooklyn Tabernacle in the book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

James 2:1 (NLT)
My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim that you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people more than others?

Our separateness is the most seductive illusion. God’s one kiss awakens us. You are one with the stranger, the enemy, the very ones you distance yourself from. Their blood runs in your veins, your dreams haunt them. We breathe in one another. One hand holds us all. – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Made into One

Ephesians 2:13-19 (NRSV)
Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God…

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see
– Brandon Heath, chorus from the song Give me Your Eyes

For more information on today’s featured artist, click here

For an original song lyric/poem on this theme entitiled Image of Love, click here

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

Quotes: Judging Others

If you know the artist of this work please let me know so that I can give him/her credit.

The word “prejudice” can literally be broken down into “pre-” and “judgment.” Aptly, much of prejudice stems from our pre-judging other people’s habits, customs, clothes, ways of speaking, and values. We often do this with no basis for the judgment other than the fact that they (the customs, values, food, etc) are different from our own.
Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton

May I, too, celebrate the gospel wherever it rises. None of us will get all this right; better to herald the common places and extend the benefit of the doubt. God’s fingerprint is everywhere; none of us own the rights to His endorsement. If a believer on the opposite end of the ideological spectrum says something good and true, may I say without hesitation, “Amen.” I’m often afraid to identify with certain people lest I be labeled with their brand, but that is foolishness. The gospel is always beautiful, and I am not in singular possession of its power. That is so arrogant. May I bend my knee to Jesus wherever and in whomever He reigns. – Jen Hatmaker, Wherever It Rises

The tale of Jonah is not about what happened when a particular prophet was swallowed by a whale; it is about what happens to any man or woman who is swallowed by narrow nationalistic, ethnic, religious or racial pride. It is a story about jingoism–an unhealthy love of nation or race that turns in on itself and become sick and destructive…in stark contrast to the universal, inclusive love of God.
– Jim Harnish, God Isn’t Finished With Us Yet

Today many would say that Christians have become major purveyors of exclusion, guilt, and shame for too many of its own people, and surely for the other religions, instead of absorbing shame, healing guilt, and living in solidarity with human suffering as Jesus did so clearly on the cross. No wonder so many no longer take us seriously. We are so unlike Jesus and the God he loved. Jesus was totally inclusive in his entire public life, and yet we created an exclusionary religion in his name. It makes no  sense.
– Richard Rohr

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

If you judge people you have no time to love them. – Mother Teresa

Judgements prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.
Wayne Dyer

I’m at the point in my life where I don’t want to be a part of fundamentalism of the left or the right, mostly because it lacks two things that I can’t do without in my life anymore — which is joy and humility.- Nadia Bolz-Weber

Whether true or false, what is said about men often has as much influence on their lives, and particularly on their destinies, as what they do. – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Throughout my life, I have tried to live my mother’s mantra: Do not take on another’s hatred. What wonderful wisdom! Like her, I have found that the best way to change a person’s prejudice is to model a Christlike life. Only then are we able to rise above bitterness, anger, and revenge. After all, God is the Creator of us all, no matter the color of our skin. – Lucimarian Roberts, My Story, My Song

When I am able to resist the temptation to judge others, I can see them as teachers of forgiveness in my life, reminding me that I can only have peace of mind when I forgive rather than judge.- Gerald Jampolsky

Romans 14:10-13 (NRSV)
Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then, each of us will be accountable to God. Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.

Click here for a thought provoking post by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled Clean and Unclean.

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