The Purpose Puzzle (Luke 4)

Sermon Series Spiritual Gifts 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Many Gifts, One Spirit. Discerning Our Calling From God
Message 5 of 5: The Purpose Puzzle
Scripture: Luke 4:42-44
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 10/27/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. This message was inspired by the Network Curriculum by Bugbee, Cousins, and Hybels.

The two most important days in your life
are the day you are born and the day you find out why. -Mark Twain

Why was I born? Why am I here? What’s my purpose? If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, you have a purpose, a mission, a calling from God. It isn’t a secret. God wants you to know your calling and God fills you with the Holy Spirit so you may fulfill it.

Jesus knew his purpose. It gave his life focus, intention, clarity, movement, and boundaries. The same is true for us.

Luke 4:42-44
At daybreak, he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.

Luke 19:10
For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.

Mark 10:45
For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Jesus didn’t just say, “Follow me.” Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) Come follow me and join me in the great adventure of saving the world. Salvation and service.

We’re thinking, “Of course Jesus knew his purpose, Jesus was Jesus! So how do I figure out my purpose?” Three things we can do immediately.

  1. We ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it.
  2. We ask trusted, faithful friends to help us discern what we are hearing. We may have blind spots where they can see.
  3. We look and listen for where Christ is already at work and join him in that work.

We can dive deeper into knowing our calling from God by understanding our God-given preferences, spiritual gifts, and passion.

THE POWER OF PREFERENCES
Click Here for the worksheet

In line 1, write your name as you usually do. In line 2, write your name with your other hand. How does that feel?

Cross your arms. Now cross your arms with the other arm on top. How does that feel?

Your usual way of doing things is a preference. You could learn how to write with your other hand and cross your arms a new way, but you currently prefer to do it the way you do it. It’s what feels natural.

Preferences are neither good nor bad, they’re just preferences.

What energizes you? Reflect for a moment on how you serve others or see yourself serving others. Are you serving from a place of preference, something that feels natural to you?

education test different animals cartoon

A classic editorial cartoon– Which animal will climb the tree best? On your football team, which is going to be the best wide receiver? The best lineman?

Imagine someone teaching preschool Sunday school. It’s a disaster. The teacher is miserable and the kids are miserable. Why is this so? Could be many reasons.

  1. Is it that they’re serving in a place they’re not called to serve, not wired for it? They’re doing it out of duty. “Someone has to do it.”
  2. Is it because of a lack of training or confidence or help? Serving even in a way that is natural isn’t necessarily easy.
  3. Has it become a chore, uninspired? They’re serving in a way that is too safe or too comfortable when they’ve called to do something else that stretches them beyond their comfort zone.

Our calling can change season after season in our life. Just because we’ve served in one way for a time, it doesn’t mean its still our calling. We can have a new calling in a new season.

Your preferred place of service should be a clear, intentional discernment of how God wired you coupled with the truth of your season of life.

Let’s look at the worksheet again. Ask the Spirit to reveal the truth and speak clearly. Each is a faithful choice. You’re choosing the best choices for you from among all the good choices, the best choice for this season of life.

Check all which energize you.

  • Working within the congregation
  • Working out in the community
  • Being upfront
  • Working behind the scenes
  • Working with people
  • Accomplishing tasks
  • Working with objects
  • Strategic planning
  • Visioning for the future
  • Being part of a team
  • Working on my own
  • Consistent schedule
  • Flexible schedule

Your season of life- Given this season of life, what commitment to serving is God calling you to make? What is both challenging and sustainable for you right now? This will change over time. A parent of two small children is in a very different season than a recent retiree.

  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly
  • 6 times per year
  • One big project a year

Putting Together the Purpose Puzzle- Holy Spirit + Spiritual Gifts + Passion + Preferences = My calling from God in this season of life

  • Holy Spirit – God with us now, our Guide and Guardian. Distributes and empowers our spiritual gifts
  • Spiritual Gifts – what God designed me to do
  • Passion- where God invites me to do it
  • Preferences- How I will do it

Examples of persons who have put together their purpose puzzle. 

The litmus test for your calling from God? Does this glorify God and/or build up others?

Next Steps

  • Discover my spiritual gifts
  • Clarify my passions
  • Put my purpose puzzle together with a trustworthy spiritual friend

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

Pinpointing Your Passion (Titus 2)

Sermon Series Spiritual Gifts 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Many Gifts, One Spirit. Discerning Our Calling From God. 
Message 4 of 5: Pinpointing Your Passion
Scripture: Titus 2:11-14, The Voice
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 10/20/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. This message was inspired by the Network Curriculum by Bugbee, Cousins, and Hybels.

Reflection Questions
What do you notice repeatedly that breaks your heart?

Now let’s get honest. What annoys you, angers you? We’re not talking about an inconvenience. We’re talking about righteous anger. We’re talking about something that if it were changed, it would bring glory to God and new life to others.

Whatever you named is probably your passion.

Passion is the God-given desire that compels us to make a difference
Passion is like gasoline, it drives us. It’s energy, the movement of the Holy Spirit in our life, faith in action.

Passion is a good gift of God that can drive us to good. If the good gift gets twisted it can drive us to trouble. So we seek the Godly gasoline, the Godly passions- truth, justice, healing, belonging, empowering. Seek the things that bring life, things that matter. Making the wrongs right. Making the broken whole.

Passion is often described as hunger. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” – Matthew 5:6

Passion will keep you up at night and get you up in the morning.

Titus 2:11-14, The Voice
11 We have cause to celebrate because the grace of God has appeared, offering the gift of salvation to all people. 12 Grace arrives with its own instruction: run away from anything that leads us away from God; abandon the lusts and passions of this world; live life now in this age with awareness and self-control, doing the right thing and keeping yourselves holy. 13 Watch for His return; expect the blessed hope we all will share when our great God and Savior, Jesus the Anointed, appears again.

Passion is associated with zeal and enthusiasm
en theos – possessed by God, “God within us”

When we come to faith we repent, we turn from our selfish ways to follow Jesus. This passage instructs us to “run away from the passions of this world, abandoning anything that leads us away from God.” We place our trust in Jesus, we turn to run towards God- aware, awake, alive in Christ, watching for the movement of God, expecting the movement of God.

We choose self-control so we may better help others. We live intentionality because we value the time, energy, and resources we’ve been given. We want to do the right thing. God calls us to follow Jesus in this adventure of the Christian life, the saving of the world.

14 He gave His body for our sakes and will not only break us free from the chains of wickedness, but He will also prepare a community uncorrupted by the world that He would call His own—people who are passionate about doing the right thing.

Passion is from the Greek root path meaning “to suffer.” That’s why the period from Jesus’ arrest to his crucifixion and death is called His Passion. Jesus suffers to end suffering.

Compassion- with passion, with those who are suffering. Most of the time our passion is to end some kind of suffering.

Jesus suffers and dies and rises again because he’s passionate about saving the world- ending evil, injustice, sin, death, shame for all time. He comes alongside us in his great compassion so that our suffering may end.

When we become Christians, when we become “little christs,” we say yes to compassion, yes to suffering so that suffering will end.

There’s good news, we don’t have to do it alone. Jesus prepares a community. As you think about what suffering God is calling you to do something about, who’s on your team? Who will you bring together or what group will you join? A single person can’t end malaria, but together we can.

We’re better together, stronger together. Different people each bring their spiritual gifts. We come together, we become the Body of Christ, and the world is made new. The Kingdom comes.

What suffering is God calling you to end and who is on your team?

Eleanor Josaitis, co-founder of Focus: Hope, in downtown Detroit, and she shared what caused her to become passionate about reaching the inner city.

While watching TV one evening in the late 1960s, the program was interrupted by a news bulletin about the March on Mississippi. She saw the brutality being committed against African Americans and decided something had to be done. She and her family moved from the suburbs to the inner city and began Focus: Hope, to dedicate the last 43 years of her life to “intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty, and injustice.” Eleanor had found her passion and she followed through with her words and deeds.

This past week Tee and I spent a great deal of time talking and it prayer over deaths of desperation. Deaths of desperation are a gentler way to talk about suicide.

There were three murder-suicides in Sarasota county last week. One seems to be a situation of domestic violence. The others are spouses caring for an incredibly ill spouse. The situation was overwhelming. The only way out seemed to be death.

ListeningCare to push back against the epidemic of loneliness, isolation, despair. Folks need someone to listen. It’s not counseling, brainstorming solutions, or fixing. It’s creating space for a person to be heard and received just as they are.

The topic isn’t important. Joys or needs could be shared. It’s about making connections.

We’re praying about how we can be trained more deeply so we can offer this deep training to the congregation. This may be something you’re passionate about. Lowering the suicide rate. Lowering the number of people who feel alone or in despair.

Acts 9:36-43. Tabitha/Dorcas  is described as “devoted to good works and acts of charity.” She dies and the community sends for Peter. When he arrives, the widows of Lydda beg Peter to raise her from the dead because she was the one who’d been caring for them when no one else would. She was their safety net when they had none.

Peter raised her from the dead. He answered the call of God to do something way beyond his abilities. Tabitha continued to answer the call to care for the widows of her community.

What would be it like to be so needed, so important to a group of people they begged for you to be raised from the dead?

At the end of your life, you’d like to look back and know you’d done something about … That passion we would name at your celebration of life and give God the glory for because you answered the calling God placed upon your life.

Pinpointing Your Passion Insert
Complete the worksheet to discover your passion. Your passion is where God invites you to serve. Combine your passion with your spiritual gifts, what God invites me to do.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a calling from God
You have a mission, You have a purpose, You are needed
What step will you take today to fulfill your calling?

Prayer: God we honor you and thank you for the spiritual gifts you give us through the Holy Spirit, for the passion and calling your place upon our lives. We are humbled before you, that you would desire us to help you save the world, but you do. You have said I need you and I want you. Help us to hear clearly and see clearly and step out in faith to love and serve alongside you.

Fill us with compassion and empathy. Fill us with fire to see good things come. Fill us Lord because we cannot do this in our own strength. We need you. We always need you.

We ask this in the strong name of Jesus, our Lord, and our Savior. Amen.

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Pinpointing Your Passion © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

One Body, Many Members (1 Corinthians 12)

Sermon Series Spiritual Gifts 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Many Gifts, One Spirit. Discerning Our Calling From God. 
Message 3 of 5: One Body, Many Members
Scripture:  1 Corinthians 12:12-26
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 10/13/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a calling from God,

  • Come follow Me = call to relationship with Christ, call to salvation
  • Come follow Me = call to relationship with others, call to serve

You have a mission from God. You have a purpose.

God gives you spiritual gifts to help you figure out your calling to serve and fulfill your calling to serve. Spiritual gifts are divine enablement, like a superpower. God through the Holy Spirit arranges and empowers the superpowers for us to work together for the glory of God and the common good.

To help us understand this Paul gives us a metaphor- One Body with Many Members. We can understand a human body with many parts fulfilling their purpose, working together well.

This reminds me of Mr. Potato Head. 

  • Feet = spiritual gift of Apostleship, the divine enablement to start new things
  • Ear = spiritual gift Faith, faith comes through hearing (Romans 10:17), the spiritual gift of confidence in God
  • Ear = spiritual gift of Mercy, the divine enablement of being with people in pain
  • Eyes = spiritual gift of Wisdom, the divine enablement of seeing a consequence of choices and applying the scriptures in practical ways
  • Nose = spiritual gift of Discernment, the divine enablement of discerning truth from falsehood, good from evil, right from wrong. “Something smells fishy.”
  • Mouth = spiritual gift of Prophecy, the ability to speak truth to power
  • Hand = spiritual gift of Helps, little things done with great love
  • Hand = spiritual gift of Teaching

There are many more body parts for many more people and spiritual gifts. They work together for the glory of God and the common good.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.

  • Unity in Christ is incredibly important. In three verses, the word “one” is used 6 times. The word “all” is used 3 times. We’re better together.
  • All spiritual gifts are valuable and needed, thus all people are valuable and needed
  • So powerful and important, breaks down how the world divides us – Jews/Greeks, slaves/free (v. 13)
  • 1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

We take the good gift of God and twist it into something it was never meant to be.

People not valuing their own gifts = self-exclusion
15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body.

Story of me freaked out I didn’t have certain spiritual gifts “all pastors have”. I had the false idea that there was a certain gift mix for pastors. 
I didn’t have- leadership, evangelism, shepherding, apostleship
I did have- administration, teaching, wisdom, mercy

The grace and truth- “Everyone in this room is called to be a pastor. Everyone in this room has a different gift mix. You will lead, you will answer your call in the way you are wired. You will bring your gifts to being a pastor.”

We are one body with many members. It’s not about solo-heroic leadership. It’s about us doing it together.

We value each other’s gifts and we do it together. That’s how we make disciples. That’s how we transform the world. That’s how we grow in grace. That’s how we do it- together.

Invitation to discover your spiritual gifts

God’s wired you and given you a mission. It’s good, so don’t self eliminate. God made you you. You’re important and needed.

People not valuing another person and their gifts = exclusion of others
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

We suffer together and we celebrate together. That’s what it means to be the Body of Christ, the Family of God.

Extended Quote by Nadia Bolz-Webber
Sermon on Spiritual Gifts (which, unfairly, doesn’t include snarkiness)
“This ended up being one of my more difficult weeks in recent memory and I found myself having no choice but to rely on the prayers and faith and wisdom and compassion of those brothers and sisters in Christ whom God has put in my life – because frankly I was tapped out. Which is hard because I’d so rather have all the gifts myself and not have to rely on others. But when it feels like a failure on my part that I don’t have the faith or compassion or prayer life or wisdom that I need, I just have to remember that the only real failure is when I fail to recognize that I do actually have all the faith and compassion and prayer and wisdom I need – it’s just that someone else in my life is holding it for me.

See, I believe that it is God’s intention that we need each other. Not in a creepy co-dependent having no boundaries type of way. But in a bearing the face of Christ kind of way because when I cannot see goodness, when I cannot see hope or beauty or the face of Christ in my own heart, in my own life, and through my own eyes I need you to do it for me.”

This is why we’re part of the Body. We need each other. We value each other. We can’t do it alone. We weren’t designed to do it alone.

Accept the invitation to discover your spiritual gifts, to know how valuable you are, how needed you are. God has a purpose for you- to bring glory to God and build up others.

Theme Verse for this series, 1 Peter 4:10-11
10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer- Jesus it is such a great grace that you offer us salvation. Even more so, you offer us the chance to join you in your saving work. You trust us that much. You empower us that much. Reveal to us our spiritual gifts. Reveal to us the calling that you’ve placed upon our lives so we may fulfill it together, so we may fulfill it for your glory, so we may fulfill it for the common good, so we may fulfill it for the building of your Kingdom. Help us to know that we know that we know how valuable we are to you and how valuable we are to each other. God, we ask by the power of your Holy Spirit, that all people would know their value, their purpose, their place in your Body. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

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One Body, Many Members © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon on Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12)

Sermon Series Spiritual Gifts 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Many Gifts, One Spirit. Discerning Our Calling From God. 
Message 2of 5: Spiritual Gifts
Scripture:  1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 10/6/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Each and every one of us as followers of Jesus has a calling from God. We have a mission. We have a purpose for our lives.

The first calling from God is “Come, follow me.”

  • Call to a relationship with God
  • Call to salvation

The second calling from God is also “Come, follow me.”

  • Call to relationship, to follow Jesus out into the world  in relationship and service to others

Upward to God and outward to others- it’s cross-shaped. We have both callings.

The series theme verse is 1 Peter 4:10-11   
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

I have a call to be and a call to do. The big question is, “God, what do you want me to do?” We spend a great deal of time thinking about this and if we’re honest, we’re anxious about this. We’re trying to figure it out and we’re not sure and what if I make a mistake. I want to do the right thing, but it’s a hard thing…

Hear the Good News!
If you are a follower of Jesus, you not only have a calling from God
God gives you spiritual gifts to help you figure out that calling
God gives you spiritual gifts to help you fulfill that calling
God never asks you to do something without equipping you to do it

An easy way to think about spiritual gifts is to think of them like superpowers. Have you ever wanted a superpower? Which one did you want? (When I was little and going through my superhero stage, I wanted to be Lisa Super Steel Nurse.)

We have superpowers, spiritual gifts from God, and we get to join God in saving the world. It’s exciting and God wants us to know about this.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.

God wants us to be informed about spiritual gifts.

Paul then goes into a section about how persons were unbelievers but now they are believers and their lives are to be transformed. You have salvation, you have the Holy Spirit, and you have spiritual gifts.

DESCRIPTION OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

A Spiritual Gift is a Divine Enablement (v. 4-6)

  • A God-given superpower
  • Spirit, Lord, God activates spiritual gifts. This must be important because it’s repeated three times. You don’t have to fall into a vat of radioactive goop. You don’t have to be bitten by a spider. You’re given them for being a follower of Jesus Christ.
  • Variety of gifts, Variety of services, Variety of activities. There’s a great variety of gifts which must be important because it’s repeated three times.
  • Every believer has a least one spiritual gift, many believers have a few- a gift mix that makes you you (v. 7) No human possesses all the gifts. Each person possesses some. The gifts complement one another. We are better together.

Freely given by God

  • Just like salvation is a free gift of God. Just like God’s presence with us in the Holy Spirit is a free gift of God. Spiritual gifts are a free gift of God.
  • Spiritual Gifts cannot be earned or merited or chosen. They are distributed and empowered by the Holy Spirit as the Spirit chooses (v. 11) God is God. We are not.

Given for the benefit of others, the common good (v. 7)

  • Specifically to build up others and to glorify of God. Again, cross-shaped.
  • If you use your spiritual gifts for yourself, it’s like becoming a supervillain.

EXAMPLES OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS
This is the largest list of all the gift lists. There are two other lists plus other miscellaneous scriptures. How many can you find?

8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Wisdom– the divine enablement to apply spiritual truth effectively and practically to meet a need. Folks with the gift of wisdom hear the Spirit providing direction. They see consequences others have trouble seeing. Biblical Example: Abigail in 1 Samuel 25.

The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. – James 3:17

Prophecy– to speak truth to power in order folks can see the truth, in order folks can turn towards God and away from wickedness, in order for folks to be encouraged to do what is right, true, and good. Biblical Examples: Old Testament Prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus in Matthew 23.

Faith- We become followers of Jesus by faith, by placing our trust in Jesus to save us. The spiritual gift of faith is not only faith in God it is confidence in God. Unwavering belief, especially in the face of trouble. Biblical Example: David the shepherd boy facing Goliath.

Isn’t it exciting to think you have some of these superpowers! God has entrusted you with God’s presence. God has entrusted you with the filling of the Holy Spirit. God has entrusted you with a call on your life. God has entrusted you with spiritual gifts in order to know your call and fulfill your call.

Invitation to discover your spiritual gifts

The message concludes with the prayer before Holy Communion. 

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

Sermon- The Plumb Line (Amos 7.8)

Sermon Series Parables 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Parables
Message 1 of 4: The Plumb Line
Scripture: Amos 7:8
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 7/28/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Rev. Jose Nieves

  • Pastor First UMC, Kissimmee
    • Leads school/church partnerships with several local schools
    • A faithful man of God, a powerful man of prayer
  • Two weeks ago, preacher for the High School students, while I was the preacher for the middle school students at camp
    • One morning at camp, I see him, he looks awful. I thought he was sick.
    • He was brokenhearted- Up late following the developments in Puerto Rico
    • He was born there and much of his family still lives there

I suspect you’re brokenhearted over Puerto Rico as well

  • The recent confirmation of extensive corruption among the ruling elite
    • Extortion, Fraud, Favoritism, Mishandling public funds
  • The injustice, abuse, and neglect are hard to take. It rends your heart. But at the root of what makes this possible, is how the ruling elite viewed those they were elected to serve.
    • The revelation of deep-seated disrespect, mocking, contempt of the people, people still trying to recover from hurricanes

People rose up, they joined together and used their voice to speak out against the evil, the injustice, the oppression, and the devaluing of human beings. The people rose up and became prophets. They spoke. truth to power and called for change.

A prophet is empowered by God and called by God to speak truth to power. This is hard, uncomfortable work. It takes tremendous faith and courage and discipline to speak what people don’t want to hear, but need to hear.

How many of us like to read the Old Testament prophets? Not many. It’s hard to read them, the level of truth-telling and pain.

We’ll be spending time with the Old Testament prophets for the next few weeks. The prophets feel very fresh in our day and time. We need to read the prophets regularly.

  1. I need their example of truth-telling and courage. I need the reminder as a child of the One, True, Living God, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I too have a calling to be prophetic. To use my resources, and my influence, and my resources, and my voice to speak out against evil, injustice, and oppression. It’s a part of our calling as the people of God.
  2. I need to hear their message. This is what happens to the people of God when things get twisted and crooked and we lose our way. I need the reminder so I don’t do it. And so that I don’t condone it by my silence and my apathy.

Some of you are asking, but I thought we were going to be studying parables? We are: Old Testament Parables

  • Parables are stories and metaphors with deep spiritual meaning
  • Parables are used by prophets to help people listen; to call people to justice, righteousness, and action.
  • Where do you think Jesus got the idea to use parables? From the prophets!

Amos helps us to have a heart after God’s heart, not a crooked twisted heart. 

  • Amos was a very ordinary person. A shepherd and sycamore-fig farmer.
  • Called by God to be a prophet (not his family business, not a professional corrupted prophet)
  • Lived in the southern kingdom of Judah, traveled to Bethel in the northern Kingdom of Israel to speak truth to power

That power was King Jeroboam II

  • Powerful King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel
  • Successful military leader
    • won battles
    • enlarged their territory
    • generated great wealth for some, a ruling elite
  • Misused his power as king of God’s people
    • Promoted the worship of false gods. As the worship became false, twisted and corrupted, so did their hearts.
    • Promoted corrupt, predatory business practices, an injustice especially harmful to the poor

Amos 8:4-6, The Voice. Like a bowl of ripe fruit, the time was ripe. God would overlook their injustice no longer

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor to ruin, Who asks, “When will the new moon festival be done so we can sell our grain? And when will the Sabbath end so we can sell our wheat? Then we can tamper with our scales and make the bushel measure smaller and the counterweight heavier to cheat our customers. We can buy the needy for silver and the poor and their property for the price of a pair of sandals. We can even sell the chaff we sweep up as grain.”

  • False weights and measures, selling food that was inedible, human trafficking, taking over people’s property and lives

People with voice and influence were either and active part of the corruption or fat, happy and apathetic to it. 

I read that and ask, “Lord is that me?”     

Amos begins speaking out against the injustice. Speaks truth to power so things can change.

  • How could this injustice come from people who were once denied justice and enslaved in Egypt?
  • How could this be if you are children of Abraham, chosen and privileged and covenanted to be a blessing to the nations, to care for the stranger and the poor, to proclaim the salvation of God in word and deed?
  • How could you do this to fellow human beings beloved of God, made in the very image of God?
  • How could this happen if you still worship the One True Living God who rescued you from oppression and established you in the Promised Land?

That was the problem- Their worship was full of hypocrisy, all show. We show something but it’s not the truth of our hearts and souls. It was crooked and their hearts grew crooked  

  • People faithfully attended worship- making offerings and ritual sacrifices
    • Yet became apathetic to injustice or downright embraced injustice
    • Their worship did not change their actions, affect their choices, give them eyes to see every single person as a beloved child of God worthy respect, dignity, and access to resources we all need.
    • Their worship was disconnected from how they treated people
    • Lord is that me?

Amos 5:21-24, NRSV
21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Righteousness = right relationship. Equal, compassionate treatment no matter the social differences

Justice = concrete actions to create righteousness. Right relationship in action. Love in action. God’s beauty, power, and grace in action flowing through us.

Our of our worship flows right relationship with others, ourselves, and the earth.

When we see something that isn’t right we act, we speak, we do something to make it right. The flow of worship in right relationship and justice.

Isaiah 28:17, NIV.
I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line.

plumb line

This is probably the most famous image from the prophet Amos. Someone reminded me you could use a plumb bob as a weapon. It’s heavy and pointed.

Its proper use for thousands of years is to make sure what’s being built stays true. If the ground is uneven, what you’re building can stay true if you use a plumb line. If we just eyeball it, it will be crooked.

No matter how you twist or swing a plumb line it will quickly return to true.

Amos 7:8, The Voice.
Eternal One: What do you see, Amos?
Amos: A plumb line.
Eternal One: Watch what I’m about to do! I am going to put a plumb line up against My people Israel to see what is straight and true, And I will not look the other way any longer.

What would it be like for God to hold a plumb line up next to our lives, up next to our hearts? Would they be shown to be true? Would they be shown living and flowing with grace, hope, justice, and mercy out of the very worship of God?

Or would they be shown to be twisted and crooked?

We do not have to shy away from allowing God to hold up a plumb line to us. With God, there is always the chance for change, for mercy, redemption, forgiveness. The chance to repent and turn. The chance for the healing of our hearts.

May we accept our calling to live true. To be a prophet of God. To walk alongside another. To give voice to one who has no voice.

What keeps you up at night saying, “God something should be done about this?” God is calling you to action.

Lord, help us to hear the call. To lead a life worthy of the call and the grace and hope we’ve found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The closing prayer is based on this devotion by Steve Garnaas Holmes.
A plumb line held straight
by the gravity of love,
without curve or spin of human twist,
plumb line of blessing
unbowed by curse,
unbent by fear or greed,
plumb line seeking, unerring, the center,
all creatures’ belovedness and belonging,
the wellbeing of all Creation.

Measure your acts, O human,
judge your policies, O Nation,
by this and no other.
Does it bless without cursing?
Does it serve without stealing?
Does it join and not divide?

God’s plumb line
will not slide sideways
to favor some over others,
but loves all dearly;
it will not sway to sacrifice one’s thriving
for another’s desires.

The ground is uneven but the line is set.
The corrupt tilt their heads;
the wise discern
and build accordingly.

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The Plumb Line © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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