Sermon based on Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss (Matthew 23)

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Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 4 of 6: Yertle the Turtle

Scripture: Matthew 23:1-12
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/10/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

How do you define power?

  • I can do anything I want whenever I want with whoever I want with no consequences. No, this isn’t even possible.
  • Our actions and words are always tied to others. They ripple.
  • Power is Influence

Everyone has some power and influence. We’re all interconnected and it all ripples. It might be massive or small or somewhere in-between

  • Imagine the power and influence of a world leader next to a teacher
  • an inventor
  • a farmer
  • a parent/grandparent
  • an author
  • a police officer
  • a child

Who influenced you?

  • A family member, a teacher, a coach
  • Maybe someone you never met. Someone you read about in a book or they wrote a book or created a piece of art which influenced you.

Power is influence. Others are using their power which is flowing towards us and we are using our power which is flowing towards others.

How will you use your power and influence?

Reading of Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Suess  

yertle the turtle collage

How will you use your power?

  • Think about how one person has the power to bring goodness, healing, and change
    • Like little Mack’s burp
    • Sometimes we think “I don’t have the power of the leader of a company or city or nation.” You have power. Often it’s the little things done with great love which change the world.
    • Example: Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus because it was an injustice and how it rippled through an entire system of injustice
    • Examples: Mr. Rogers, Gandi, Dr. Seuss
  • Think about how one person has the power to bring pain, injustice, oppression, and harm. How one person’s actions can ripple through a family, a school, a community, or even the world.
    • Yertle is modeled after Hitler

Yertle the Turtle is such a simple story and yet it beautifully contrasts the power of one. The power of one to do good in Mack using his voice, in doing a small thing which ends an injustice. Yertle using his power and twisting it something it was never meant to be.

Power is a good gift of God. It is neither good nor bad. It is a gift. How will you use the gift? Will you use it for good, healing, grace, and hope or will you twist it into something it was never meant to be.

Jesus had a great deal to say about this. We’ll read one the times he spoke about it.

Matthew 23:1-7 
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.

  • Jesus had many encounters with the scribes (lawyers), Pharisees and rabbis (teachers), and priests (clergy)
  • One way to twist the gift of power is to twist it with hypocrisy. You lay down the rules but you are above them and don’t have to practice them yourself. How frustrating and unjust.

4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.

  • Power misused brings burdens on others.

5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.

  • Practicing faith in order to be seen, to show off
  • Self-centered, prideful, arrogant
  • Demanding respect, demanding the place of honor

C.S. Lewis Quote from Mere Christianity
As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.

Proverbs 16:18
Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Jesus is saying there is another way to wield the good gift of power. Look at the way Jesus wielded power himself. Look at the humility of Jesus, the grace, the welcome.

Jesus wielding his power to heal. Jesus wielding his power to give voice to those who have no voice. Wielding his power to be in solidarity with people others had labeled outcast, insignificant, and other.

Jesus wielding his power as a servant, never demanding title or position. Jesus wielding his power to the point of death, the point of blood and torture and sacrifice and generosity and wielding his power to take up his life again in resurrection.

This is the other way to use the good gift of power and influence.

Matthew 23:8-12 
Jesus said: 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Jesus said, “I have not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

How will you use your gift of power and influence? 
Will you let go of your ego? Will you let go of your willfulness and surrender wholly to God’s self-giving passion for the love and salvation of the world?

Will you take up your cross for the oppressed, the outcast, those yet to follow Christ?

Will you carry in your heart and prayers the sorrow of another?

Will you speak truth? Will you stand alongside those the world labels do not count and have no voice?

Will you mentor?

Will you welcome?

Will you use your power and influence for good and for the glory of God?

Little things can make a huge difference if they are done with love and grace. If they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Worship Resources
An Invitation to Christ by Dimitri of Rostov
Come, my Light, and illumine my darkness.
Come, my Life, and revive me from death.
Come, my Physician, and heal my wounds.
Come, Flame of divine love, and burn up the thorns of my sins
kindling my heart with the flame of thy love.
Come, my King, sit upon the throne of my heart and reign there.
For you alone are my King and my Lord.

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

Sermon based on What Was I Scared Of by Dr. Seuss (Ephesians 2)

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Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 3 of 6: What Was I Scared Of?

Scripture: Ephesians 2:11-19
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/3/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

what was i scared of collageReading of What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss

What’s a great way to get over something when you’re scared?
The older I get the scarier the world gets. I’m more aware of things. When you’re little you’re sheltered and that’s a good thing.

So how do you get over things? Some folks would say, “Just do it! Put on your big girl pants!” I’m not always that strong.

In order to get over things I’m scared of I need help. I need great friends to stand beside me, speak truth to me, pray for me, help me take the next step. I need to take a step back sometimes and get some perspective.

There is something about taking a step forward and facing our fears. There’s something about the practice of doing that. It’s a practice. It’s like a little kid learning how to walk. First, they’re stumbly bumbly, then they get a little better at it, and a little better at it, and then they’re zooming around the house.

Part of the practice is remembering how alike we are. This is the beautiful message of this book. The realization that these spooky green pants are actually scaredy pants. They are just as scared as the little bear.

Each one finds the other strange. The little bear doesn’t wear clothes, has no experience with pants. The pants have no experience with bears.

They realize they’re both looking for the same thing.

So when I’m scared, especially when it feels like I’m scared of someone, someone because they’re different from me, they’re probably just as scared of me. Deep down inside we have the same longings. We have the same needs.

deesis mosaic christ hagai sophia

Deesis Mosaic of Christ, Hagia Sophia in Turkey

Christ with Hand in Benediction/Blessing
God’s Gang Sign- Three fingers representing the Trinity, two representing the dual nature of Christ (fully human, fully divine), the palm open in blessing, reaching for us.

Association of this hand symbol with the core longings we all have. When we realize we all have them it breaks down the fear and it breaks down the dividing walls between us. People are no longer strange or weird, they have the same needs we do. We begin to see them as human.

  • The Palm is Belonging. How many of you are longing to belong? Do I belong here? Yes! You are wanted. You are welcome.
  • The Thumb is Unconditional Love.  Life is so different because we have thumbs.
  • The Pointer Finger is Security. For some of us its the #1 thing we’re longing for. We tend to point at things and people and say, “You’re not safe.” Instead of saying, “Come closer. Let’s talk.”
  • The Middle Finger is Understanding. Does anybody get me?

You put all these fingers up and the other two down and you get the ancient sign of blessing. This is what we need. This is what Jesus offers. Jesus offers them all to all of us.

Ephesians 2:11-19, NRSV
11 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

  • At one time you had the insiders and the outsiders- the Jews and the Gentiles, the circumcised and the uncircumcised. It was like this but now it’s different. You’re not a stranger, an alien, an outsider. You’re not far from God. Because of Jesus, everyone can be brought near.

13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

  • This was so important and so needed Jesus died for it. He bled for it.

14 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.

  • Christ is our peace. The peace between us and God and the peace between one another.
  • So important it took body and blood, Jesus’ flesh.

15 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, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.

  • Jesus took on the humiliation, the violence, the hostility so that there would not be hostility between us.

17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.

There are times when our church family are more of a family to us than our biological family. It must be that way in God’s house.

VIDEO: Father Gregory Boyles of Homeboy Industries in California

Worship Resources
For God’s Gifts, United Methodist Hymnal #489
O Holy God, open unto me light for my darkness,
courage for my fear, hope for my despair.

O loving God, open unto me wisdom for my confusion,
forgiveness for my sins, love for my hate.

O God of peace, open unto me peace for my turmoil,
joy for my sorrow, strength for my weakness.

O generous God, open my heart to receive all your gifts.
Amen.

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What Was I Scared Of? Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon based on Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (2 Corinthians 5)

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Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 2 of 6: Green Eggs and Ham

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:14-20
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 1/27/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Dr. Seuss Trivia
1. What is the first Dr. Seuss book to be published? And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. It was rejected 27 times before it was finally published by Vanguard Press in 1937

Top 5 Best Selling Dr. Seuss Books

  • #5           Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990)
  • #4           Dr. Seuss’s ABC (1963)
  • #3           The Cat in the Hat (1957)
  • #2           One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (1960)
  • #1           Green Eggs and Ham (1960)

Bennett Cerf, Dr. Seuss’s editor, bet him that he couldn’t write a book using 50 different words or less. (The Cat in the Hat used 225 different words) He took the challenge and came up with Green Eggs and Ham, which uses exactly 50 different words.

The 50 words, by the way, are: a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.

green eggs and ham

Read of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.

Sam-I-am is…

  • Determined
  • Offering something good, believes it down to his bones
  • In it for the long game
  • Inventive
  • Creative
  • Joyfully Persistent

Joyful Persistence
Have you ever been determined to offer someone something good?

  • Would you, could you buy this house?
  • Would you, could you be my spouse?
  • Would you, could you eat your greens?
  • Would you claim sobriety?
  • Would you could you come to Why?
  • Or drive for Fish, give that a try?
  • Or serve our preschool families?
  • Or come to this week’s POV?

Sam I AmWhat if Green Eggs and Ham represented the Good News? What if all followers of Jesus Christ were as joyfully persistent as Sam? (Dr. Seuss did not intend this interpretation)

  • Would you, could you come to Christ?
  • Repent, be baptized, claim new life?

Sam takes his calling seriously – He goes, goes, goes therefore to make disciples of those who like green eggs and ham. He is convinced they are good. Sam is joyfully persistent in staying in relationship, offering, inviting, entreating. He is an ambassador for green eggs and ham. We are ambassadors for Christ.

What drives Sam to try again and again – what would drive us?

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For the love of Christ urges us on because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.

We understand resistance. Resistance to try new things, to understand a different perspective, to meet new people, to go to new places. Why does everything have to keep changing?

We know it takes time to open ourselves to something new. It takes many invitations before we say, “yes.” So why do we give up so quickly in offering something so needed and so good, a saving relationship with Jesus?

We know it takes many invitations, so let’s just expect it and do it. Let’s be joyfully persistent so others can know salvation in Christ Jesus.

Reading of 2 Corinthians 5:17-20  So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to usSo we are ambassadors for Christ since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

  • Go therefore and claim your call
  • Share Good News with one and all
  • Listen deeply, share your story,
  • Point to Christ for all the glory.
  • Try and try and try again
  • What’s there to lose, so much to win
  • Would you, could you come to Christ?
  • Repent, be baptized, claim new life?

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

Sermon based on Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss (1 Peter 1)

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Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 1 of 6: Horton Hatches the Egg

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3-7
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 1/20/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Why are Dr. Seuss books classics?

  • Rhythm and Rhyme
  • Inventive Illustrations
  • Universal Themes
  • Modern Parables- Stories with a deeper meaning. Those deeper meanings are often Biblical truths.

horton hatches the egg bookReading of Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss

Horton makes a courageous commitment. He remains faithful to that commitment even when doing so leads to

  • Frustration
  • Inconvenience
  • Pain
  • Sickness
  • Ridicule
  • Sacrifice
  • Threat of death
  • Sold into slavery

What breaks my heart is the return of Lazy Mayzie and her reclaiming the egg she abandoned. The story has a happy ending (Elephant Bird!) Even so, Horton would have remained true even without reward. He’s courageously committed.

“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent!”

Does anyone do this anymore? Have you ever made a Horton level commitment? What prevents you?

  • What if I commit to the wrong thing?
  • What if I miss out on something better? I’ll be trapped!
  • I’ve got plenty of time to make a commitment later
  • What if the commitment impacts the way I want to live my life like it did Horton?
  • As Lazy Mayzie says, “It’s work, how I hate it, I’d much rather play!”

Commitment is easy to come by when it is superficial, doesn’t cost us anything, temporary, or new. (How are those New Year’s resolutions going?) Commitment takes work. The work is to keep at it- day after day, year after year after year.

Eugene Peterson wrote a book entitled A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. It’s hard but it’s worth it.

Keys to Making a Horton Level Commitment. (Adapted from 5 Keys to Commitment by Ryan Dunn)

1) Define “The Why”, the deep reason for the commitment. I am committed to my sobriety because… I am committed to my marriage because… I am committed to starting this business because… I am a committed follower of Jesus Christ because…

2) Remember “The Why.” Keep it in front of you, especially when the commitment becomes hard work and sacrifice.

3) Live the commitment moment to moment. I’m going to eat healthy for the rest of my life. No! I’m going to make the best next faithful choice. Little choices add up to a big and lasting commitment.

4) Expect some failure. It will happen. Choose to fail forward: practice forgiveness, learn from the failure, keep showing up.

5) Don’t go it alone. We need the gift of each other and we need God.

Who can you think of who’s made a Horton level commitment? Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We think of the super saints. Ordinary people can make a Horton level commitment as well.

Have you made a Horton level commitment to Jesus?    

When we decide to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow Him, we become nothing more than fans.- Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan

Reading of 1 Peter 1:3-7. “The Why” of making a Horton level commitment to Jesus.

  • His great mercy
  • New birth
  • A living hope
  • Jesus already made a Horton level commitment to us in his coming, homelessness, ridicule, torture, death, and resurrection
  • an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. No situation or evil can touch it.
  • Salvation and Heaven
  • God’s protection

This is why we rejoice and keep to a courageous commitment in the midst of suffering and trials for the sake of Christ.

Have you made a Horton level commitment to Jesus? You can. Anyone can.   

  • Not a nominal Christian- in name only
  • Not a CEO (Christmas Easter only)
  • Not a commitment of convenience
  • Not a fair-weather Christian
  • Not a fan

WORSHIP RESOURCES
For Courage to do Justice by Alan Paton
O Lord,
open my eyes that I may see the needs of others;
open my ears that I may hear their cries;
open my heart so that they need not be without succor;
let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong,
nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
and use me to bring them to those places.
And so open my eyes and my ears
that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee.
Amen.

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