Sermon based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss (Psalm 37)

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Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 6 of 6: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Scripture: Psalm 37:1, 5
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/3/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Intro

  • 36 folks from several difference congregations leave tomorrow for the Holy Land
  • Won’t be with you as we continue to process the decisions of General Conference
  • Won’t be with you for the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday is this Wednesday.

Ashes seem to be exactly what we need right now. 
Traditional Prayer consecrating the ashes before imposition: Almighty God, you created humanity from the dust of the earth. Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality, our humility, and sorrow for our sin. We admit our eternal need of you and claim the greatness of your eternal grace and forgiveness, in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Ashes of mourning  
Ashes were used in mourning sin and mourning loss.

So many feelings following General Conference. Some are relieved by the decisions at General Conference. Some are rejoicing. Some are mad. Some are wondering or in a place of confusion. Some are full of sorrow- grieving, disillusioned, that harm has been done, hurt, wondering if there is a place for them or their loved ones in the United Methodist Church.

Yes, there is a place for you here at Trinity and the UMC! Please read the information we’re providing. Please stay. Please come and speak to me when I return.

Ashes of humility  
What you hear when you receive ashes on your forehead: Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent and believe the gospel.

Right now my Facebook feed is a mess. There’s a whole bunch of folks telling a whole bunch of other folks I’m right and you’re wrong. It is ugly. It is not of God. We need these ashes to remind us of our need for humility. It’s the only way we’ll move forward.

We’re all hummus (dirt). We’re all human. Hummus, human, humility. All those words are tied together. All of us are in need of Jesus’s grace and forgiveness and love and belonging and hope.

The ashes remind us of sorrow, humility, and mortality. Remember you are dust. This life is short and precious. The ashes also remind us there is life.

Ashes of life   
Remember you are dust also reminds us of God breathing life into dust at creation. It is a good gift of God.

So many of us think of Lent as a season of sorrow, wilderness, repentance, giving up stuff (make fun of all of it). Lent is ultimately a season of transformation, new life.

grinch 1Reading of How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.    

The Grinch isn’t just sour or mean. The Grinch does harm

Why does the Grinch change?
The Grinch literally repents. The Grinch turns and heads down to the Who’s and down to a new life.

How do people change? Change does not come by fear, facts, or force. Change doesn’t come by legislation or law. Change comes by love.

  • The Grinch sees the Who’s love of one another
  • He sees and hears their gratitude and worship
  • Then he experiences their love, Even though he has done great harm, they welcome him into their community and to their table.

At the end of the story, the Grinch has

  • a new family
  • a new way of thinking and being
  • a new identity

This is the Good News of Jesus Christ. We see Jesus loving, healing, welcoming. The love of our Father overflowing in the flesh of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The love of the Father overflowing into the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Through his life, death and resurrection, that we too gain a new family, a new way of thinking and being, a new and transformed identity.

Grinch collageThe evil one loves to keep us distracted and divided. (noise, noise, noise, noise!)

Today again I am choosing the way of Jesus, the way of love. I invite you to do the same.

  • Recommit to loving those who agree with me and those disagree with me. Will you do the same?
  • Recommit to praying for those who choose persecution and harm over love. Will you do the same?

Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of your truth and grace. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may love as radically as you do, especially when all I want to do is grieve, or run, or demonize, or lash out.

Psalm 37:1, 5
Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers. Commit your way to the Holy One; trust in God, and God will act.

Quote: Steve Garnaas Holmes
Beware the temptation to outdo an evil one, to beat the wicked at their own game. The saint does not resist the devil by becoming a more devout devil. Your compass is set to a different star. Don’t let them turn you. Set your heart on compassion, even when facing a wrongdoer: it will make whatever game they are playing a different game. Let the Crucified One play your [role]; it will change the meaning of the [game]. You needn’t pump up the power of God. Trust love to do what you cannot.

The beautiful thing about How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is about how the Who’s welcome him to their table. In the United Methodist Church, we have an open table- You do not need to Methodist, a member of this church, you do not need to be a certain age. Nothing can keep you from this table.

It is Christ our Lord who welcomes us to this table and welcomes all.

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon based on The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss (James 2, Galatians 3)

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Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 5 of 6: The Sneetches

Scripture: James 2:1-4, 8 and Galatians 3:23-29
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/24/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

sneetches 1Reading of James 2:1-4, 8 NRSV

Reading of The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss

What extent are you willing to go to in order to belong?
For me:

  • Staying on the track team in Middle School even though I came to realize I hated running
  • Buying the latest- saving for a pair of Candie’s shoes in middle school and now the latest face cream
  • Yoyoing in weight since I was age 7
  • Staying silent in a conversation even though I disagreed or had a different idea to solve the problem

What extent are you willing to go to in order to belong?

  • Go into debt to keep up appearances
  • Keep a crazy busy schedule because busy people are wanted people
  • Or the kids have to be well rounded to get into college
  • Keep on going to the bar even though you know you have a drinking problem and shouldn’t be there but the bar where everybody knows your name
  • Stay in the abusive relationship
  • Hide who you really are or at least try to

Sneetches collageThe evil one loves to keep up distracted and divided
McBean is the real enemy of the Sneetches. The real villain. He delights in exploiting the Sneetches’ lack of trust in one another. He has a heart of war. The Sneetches are a means to his greedy end. McBean perpetuates and manipulates the waste of time, energy, and money in order to prove who is in and who is out when there’s really no such thing.

Jesus invites us to turn all this waste and destruction and division on its head. It is so important to Jesus that he dies for it. 

Galatians 3:23-29 talks about clothing ourselves with Christ. Imagine all the stuff we put on in order to belong. How others label us. The things advertisers say will make us belong. Things we believe we have to do in order to belong. We put it all on and cover up who we really are.

Taken to an extreme, it’s the stars the Nazi’s made the Jews wear in order to label them other.  It’s why Dr. Seuss picked stars for this story.

In Christ, we’re invited to take it all off. Take off all the things that hide us and label us because now we’ve put on Christ. Here we stand. This is how God now sees us and how we now see each other, through putting on Christ.

Reading of Galatians 3:23-29 (NRSV)

And so the question we asked at first- What extent are you willing to go to in order to belong – is turned on its head because Christ went to the extent of death on the cross so we could belong. Just as we are.

The new question is this: What extent are you willing to go to in order to ensure everyone knows belonging in Christ? So that you know it and the person sitting next to you and the person you see in the grocery store and the person at the bank and your neighbors and your kids know it. So the folks who are very very different from you know it.

General Conference: The decision-making body of the United Methodist Church, the General Conference, has gathered to discern God’s call regarding sexuality, inclusion, and the unity of the Body of Christ. Hold in your prayers the delegates, the whole church, the millions of people in the LGBTQ+ community who feel the heat of the spotlight, and the world that may learn something about God.

The following prayer is by Steve Garnaas Holmes. It contains some small adaptations.

God of love,
may we approach one another with the intent to love,
first and last,
and submit all our intentions to love.

May our intent be to heal, not to win,
to bless, not to curse,
to join, not to divide.
Help us do your will, not ours.

May we listen humbly, speak honestly and discern obediently.

Save us from justice without mercy,
righteousness without humility, victory without love.
As your word says,
If we do not have love we are nothing. —1 Corinthians 13.2

May we examine our own righteousness more vigorously than others’.
May we demonstrate your goodness, not our own.

May we honestly examine our norms and expectations,
our judgments of those who are different,
our exclusion of those who threaten our superiority
and our comfort.

May we be mindful of every person’s wounded need
to be loved, to be included, to be honored,
every person’s desperation to be good enough to belong.

May we remember your justice is love,
your command is mercy,
your judgment is grace.

God of love, give us wisdom that is love,
fill us with courage that is love,
empower us for victory that is love alone.

By your Spirit help us to do no harm,
to do all the good we can,
and to stay in love with you.

We pray in the love and the company of Jesus,
who served in love, who died for love,
and who rises in us with victorious love
and who clothes us with belonging and love
Amen.

If you have never known a place of belonging, you can know it here in God’s family. This is where I found it. You can find it, too. Think about all the folks in your life searching for belonging, for someone who understands and listens, for unconditional love, searching for God. Remember them as well.

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The Sneetches Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Songs of Christmas: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

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Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 21: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Scripture: Luke 2:8-14; John 14:27
These are the notes from a message offered Christmas Eve, 12/24/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn the households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  • One of most celebrated men of his age
  • People read and memorized his poems and still do so today

Longfellow was also a broken man, struggling to hold on to his faith in God in the midst of tragedy after tragedy after tragedy. The celebrity and renown did not help.

Longfellow’s Personal Pain

  • His first wife and daughter both died
  • His second wife died in a tragic home fire. She was working with candlewax and her dress caught fire. He heard her screaming and came running. He was badly burned while trying to save her, too burned to attend her funeral. He grew his trademark beard because he couldn’t shave due to the scars.
  • His son entered into service during the Civil War without his father’s knowledge or permission and was significantly wounded in battle.

Maybe you’ve experienced some personal tragedy as well. Maybe you are feeling the same way as Longfellow

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Longfellow’s Painful Culture
• Longfellow wrote this at the height of the civil war, no end in sight
• Neighbor slaughtering neighbor in each other’s backyards
• Written only a few months after the battle of Gettysburg (46,000-51,000 casualties)

Maybe this Christmas you are feeling hate is strong in our time as well. Maybe you are carrying the weight of our divisiveness and brokenness as a nation. Maybe it’s hard to sing Joy to the World this year.

It was hard back when Jesus was born, too. There was the Roman occupation. The people were oppressed. Mary and Joseph had personal troubles. They were forced to travel while Mary was “great with child.” When they arrived in Bethlehem there was no room to be found. Jesus is born in the midst of animals. There is no crib. He’s laid in a manger. There is no peace on earth.

And yet what do the angels sing? “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth peace, goodwill! God favors you!”

Mary heard it- God favors you. The shepherds, the bottom of the social order of the day, heard it from the angels- God favors you. Over and over again the scriptures tell us you are beloved, you are known.

God made that so real in coming as a babe. God could have come as a king- triumphant, valiant. God could have come as a warrior- laid waste to all the enemies. But God comes as a baby. Who doesn’t love a baby? Who can’t approach a baby? Beautiful, frail, fresh, innocent… into a world that so very much needed it.

God came back then in Bethlehem. God came that Christmas when Longfellow was struggling to hold on to his faith. God comes for us, now. Whether we are joyful and celebrating. Whether we are heartbroken and facing another medical treatment. Whether we are broken and sobbing over the destruction of homes or the building of dividing walls between all of us. God comes.

There’s another stanza of this poem:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; 
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Generation after generation is tempted to loneliness and division and shame and hopelessness. But again and again, the bell rings out, the song is sung, “Peace on earth goodwill to men.”

This is why we can hold on. This is why we can hope. This is why we can sing, “Peace on earth goodwill to men.”

Jesus on the night before he gave himself up for us said to those few gathered around the table with him…

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you
I do not give to you as the world gives
Do not let your hearts be troubled
Do not let them be afraid

Peace be with you.

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CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.

The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.

This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.

Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:

  • Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is the big idea?
    • Why is it important?
    • How does this truth connect with my life?
  • Have a conversation with God about this truth.
  • Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.

Additional Ideas:

  • Journal your reflections
  • Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
  • Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
  • Sing or listen to the song
  • Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face

I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <

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Hark! The Herald Angels Sing © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording: I, We, They, Us- Unity and the Mind of Christ (Ephesians 2:1-14)

conscious discipline brainMessage: I, We, They, Us
Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-14
Offered 7/26/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL.

We live in a world of dividing walls built on fear and labeling. Jesus breaks down the dividing walls and brings us near. Bringing us near brings in us a change of heart and mind. We no longer see our neighbors as “them” or “those people.” Instead, we see them as an extension of our faith family- as “us.”

Click Here for more information on Dr. Becky Bailey and the Conscious Discipline brain theories and techniques mentioned in this message.

Click Here for the video shown near the end of the message, Remove Labels for Ramadan by Coca-cola.

I look on all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty, to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation. – John Wesley, journal entry on June 11, 1739

Click Here for Steve Garnaas Holmes’ powerful translation of Ephesians 2:1-10

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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.

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