Send Us Forth, a prayer based on Mark 6.6-13

walk-shoes-walking-feet-grey-gravel-1-1024x534

Based on Mark 6:6-13 NRSV

Jesus,
In the midst of our changing times
In the midst of our brokenness
Our division
Our violence
Our prejudice
Draw us again to your side
Call us and send us in your name

Give us the courage to travel light
To divest and downsize
And embrace the freedom that it brings

Give us the blessing of being fully present
Of trusting you for provision for ourselves
And your saving work
In the moment it is needed

Give us the wisdom to know our role
To move on from failure and rejection
To move on from accomplishment and welcome
The authority you give us does not dictate response
Nor is our faithfulness measured by the response

Ours is to go and to offer
To proclaim your deliverance and offer healing for body and soul
To proclaim your welcome and offer blessing no matter the location
To proclaim your repentance and offer your salvation and hope

We bow, humbly, before the honor of you choosing us
Grant us the authority and grace and strength we need
Send us forth to do your bidding

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Send us Forth © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this prayer in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment to contact me directly for publishing and posting consideration.

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 1, Go

01 GoThe thought behind the photo:
This is the parking lot exit sign at Community United Methodist Church in DeBary. It reminds me that the mission field is all around me. I have the joy and privilege of joining Jesus in his saving work every day. – Lisa <><

As I have read the Gospels over the years, the belief has grown in me that Christ did not come to found an organized religion but came instead to found an unorganized one. He seems to have come to carry religion out of the temples into the fields and sheep pastures, onto the roadsides and the banks of the rivers, into the houses of sinners and publicans, into the town and the wilderness, toward the membership of all that is here. Well, you can read and see what you think. ― Wendell Barry, Jayber Crow

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 28:19-20 NRSV
Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The December 1, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 2:2-5 [The Message]
There’s a day coming when the mountain of God’s House Will be The Mountain – solid, towering over all mountains. All nations will river toward it, people from all over set out for it. They’ll say, “Come, let’s climb God’s Mountain, go to the House of the God of Jacob. He’ll show us the way he works so we can live the way we’re made.” Zion’s the source of the revelation. God’s Message comes from Jerusalem. He’ll settle things fairly between nations. He’ll make things right between many peoples. They’ll turn their swords into shovels, their spears into hoes. No more will nation fight nation; they won’t play war anymore. Come, family of Jacob, let’s live in the light of God.   

Today marks the first day of Advent. A time in the church where we prepare…to wait. But by the beginning of Advent, we have already been prepped by commercials for that big thing we are waiting for: Christmas. The sales following Thanksgiving come earlier and earlier, and this year, some stores opened just hours after folks would probably be having their second slice of pumpkin pie.

A quick walk around the downtown storefronts and one wouldn’t have to use much imagination to be transported to a wintery wonderland in another time and place where visions of sugarplums dance in our heads.

In this passage from Isaiah, however, we are shown another time and place; another vision. A place that we don’t need commercials to prep us for. A place that we long for. A place where justice reigns and God’s house will be established. A place where implements of war and destruction become instruments for peace. A time and a place where the brokenness around us is transformed.

Seems impossible, doesn’t it, to envision this new reality? When is this day coming? The idea of checking off a Christmas shopping list sometimes seems the more attainable task.

But what if we journeyed toward that mountain together and started by saying that today was the day when we would start living and walking in this light of God?

Will you go?

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Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><

Reader's Theater: The Lame Man is Healed (Acts 3)

The Beautiful by Matt Rodriguez

Reader’s Theater Script for Acts 3:1-20 (NRSV)
For three voices. It would be easy to add non speaking roles and simple staging to this script to fully dramatize the story. (the crowd, the lame man, John, etc.)

VOICE ONE:
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. A man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple.

VOICE TWO:
When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said,

PETER:
Look at us

VOICE TWO:
The man fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said,

PETER:
I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you;
in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk

VOICE ONE:
Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

VOICE TWO:
All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

VOICE ONE:
The man clung to Peter and John. All the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished. When Peter saw it, he addressed the people,

PETER:
You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. You rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

By faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.

And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.

In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus.

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Be sure to check out more work by Matt Rodriguez and the other artists at the Rodriguez Project.

Acts 3:1-20 (NRSV) from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

arrangement © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

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

Jesus the Vine: Bearing Fruit

half-dead-half-alive-tree

Half Dead, Half Alive- an oil painting by Bryna B.

John 15:1-2, 8, 16a (NRSV)
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit… My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples… You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…”

From a vine we look for grapes,
and from a Christian we look for a Christian temper, disposition, and life.
– Matthew Henry

In the promise of an ‘abiding’ presence God’s Easter people find not some abstract speculation about a distant or imaginary Trinity, but an invitation to experience the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a saving and liberating presence in the midst of our day-to-day world. – James Boyce

For an incredible poem entitled Pruning by Steve Garnaas-Holmes, click here

Matthew 3:8
Bear the fruit that comes from repentance.

At the word of the prophet
we seize our cutting tools
as if repentance is all slashing and lopping,
and, yes there is pruning,
but the real energy that gives light in this darkness
is not shame at what is wrong or dead,
but delight and hope for the fruit that is alive,
that is hidden deep in soil, deep in winter’s buds.
Repentance is not the “No” of self-disappointment
but the “Yes” of seeking, protecting, nourishing
what might otherwise be choked off.
It’s not mere impatience with what is,
but patience for what is coming to be.
Don’t start with the dead branches.
Start with the fruit. It’s in you.
That’s what kind of tree you are.
– Steve Garnaas Holmes, Fruit of Repentance

Jeremiah 8:13 (NRSV)
When I wanted to gather them, says the Lord, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them.

God expects fruit- the fruit of faith, the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of believing and praying and trusting and seeking and serving. This is an active faith, alive and growing and multiplying. This is a deep faith, rooted in the eternal truth of Christ. – Lisa <><

Prayer for the Fruit of Faith
ONE VOICE:
Jesus, Abiding One,
You welcome us
and give us the joy of welcoming others.
You pour grace into our hearts
and give us the joy of extending grace to our neighbors.
You share good news
and give us the joy of spreading your news throughout the world.

ALL VOICES
We lack nothing.
Our branches are full of leaves.
We seem to blossom, but where is the fruit?

ONE VOICE:
Where are the bodies healed for your glory?
Where are the minds enlightened by your majesty?
Where are the captives rejoicing in your freedom?
Where are the saved crying out in thanksgiving?

ALL VOICES:
Something is wrong.
Some of us think we know.
Some of us don’t want to know.
You know.
Show us before our time has passed.
Show us before we wither and die.

Time of silent listening

ONE VOICE:
Give us the courage to hear and to trust.
Grant us grace to turn and connect.
We surrender to your pruning.

ALL VOICES:
We want to bear fruit for you.
Fruit that is good.
Fruit that will last.
Fruit that comes season after season after season.
We believe.
Help our unbelief.
Amen.

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Prayer for the Fruit of Faith © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia. You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form

For two other posts on John 15, click here and click here

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

Mark Day 11: The Fig Tree

The Accursed Fig Tree by James Jacques Tissot

Gospel of Mark Reading Plan
Day 11 Reading:
Mark 11

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.
– Mark 11:20 (NRSV)

Observation
Mark 11:12-14, 20-25 On his way to the Temple, Jesus looks for figs on a fig tree. Not finding any, he says, “May no one every eat fruit from you again.” (vs. 14) The next day, Peter notices the fig tree has withered from the roots. Jesus uses the fig tree to illustrate how the nation of Israel is not bearing fruit for God, especially the religious leaders who are especially charged to do so. Jesus also uses the opportunity to encourage the disciples to pray specifically, boldly, and in faith, believing that they have already received what they have asked for. (vs. 24)

Application
Many scholars agree that Jesus would have had in mind such passages as Jeremiah 8:13: “When I wanted to gather them, says the LORD, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them.” The fact that Jesus was hungry and approached the fig tree looking for fruit illustrates his identity and authority as the Judge of Israel who finds that the nation, despite its “leafy” appearance, has not produced the fruit God desired…. The destruction of the fig tree stands as a continuing testimony to any nation, institution, church or person that God demands fruit of his creation. – Dr. Mike Feazell

God expects fruit- the fruit of faith, the fruit of believing and praying and trusting and seeking and serving. This is an active faith, alive and growing and multiplying. This is a deep faith, anchored in eternal truth.

Prayer
Lord Jesus,
You welcome us and give us the joy of welcoming others.
You pour grace into our hearts and give us the joy of extending grace to our neighbors.
You share good news and give us the joy of spreading your news throughout the world.

We lack nothing.
Our trees are full of leaves.
We seem to blossom, but where is the fruit?

Where are the bodies healed for your glory?
Where are the minds enlightened by your majesty?
Where are the captives rejoicing in your freedom?
Where are the saved crying out in thanksgiving?

We want to bear fruit for you.
Fruit that is good.
Fruit that will last.
Fruit that comes season after season after season.

Something is wrong, but we don’t know what.
You know. Give us the courage to hear and to act.
Show us before our time has passed.
Show us before we wither and die.
We believe. Help our unbelief. Amen.

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For more information on the Gospel of Mark Reading Plan, click here

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

Christmas 8: The Shepherds’ Visit

The Story of Christmas
Day 8 Reading: Luke 2:15-20

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
– Mary Oliver

Excerpt from The Fifth Day of Christmas by Steve Garnaas Holmes
“The shepherds returned to their fields,
making known what had been told them.”

Take back to your fields
the shepherds’ wonder,
the magi’s perseverance,
Anna and Simeon’s attentiveness,
Joseph’s willingness,
Mary’s yes,
the child’s presence.

As the starlit night closes its eye behind us
the Beloved still comes into the world.
Welcome each moment
prepared to meet God in it.
Bear this wonder into this day,
and the next.

Extended quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer from
God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

We cannot approach the manger of the Christ child in the same way we approach the cradle of another child. Rather, when we go to his manger, something happens, and we cannot leave it again unless we have been judged or redeemed. Here we must either collapse or know the mercy of God directed toward us.

What does that mean? Isn’t all of this just a way of speaking? Isn’t it just pastoral exaggeration of a pretty and pious legend? What does it mean that such things are said about the Christ child? Those who want to take it as a way of speaking will do so and continue to celebrate Advent and Christmas as before, with pagan indifference. For us it is not just a way of speaking. For that’s just it: it is God himself, the Lord and Creator of all things, who is so small here, who is hidden here in the corner, who enters into the plainness of the world, who meets us in the helplessness and defenselessness of a child, and wants to be with us. And he does this not out of playfulness or sport, because we find that so touching, but in order to show us where he is and who he is, and in order from this place to judge and devalue and dethrone all human ambition.

The throne of God in the world is not on human thrones, but in human depths, in the manger. Standing around his throne there are no flattering vassals but dark, unknown, figures who cannot get their fill of this miracle and want to live entirely by the mercy of God.

Richard Crashaw, selected verses from the Shepherd’s hymn
We saw Thee in Thy balmy nest,
Young dawn of our eternal day;
We saw Thine eyes break from the East,
And chase the trembling shades away:
We saw Thee, and we blest the sight,
We saw Thee by Thine own sweet light.

To Thee, meek Majesty, soft King
Of simple graces and sweet loves!
Each of us his lamb will bring,
Each his pair of silver doves!
At last, in fire of Thy fair eyes,
Ourselves become our own best sacrifice!

Some Children See Him by Alfred Burt
red-head-mary-jesus

Some children see Him lily white,
The baby Jesus born this night.
Some children see Him lily white,
With tresses soft and fair.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
The Lord of heav’n to earth come down.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
With dark and heavy hair.

japanese holy family

Some children see Him
almond-eyed,
This Savior whom we kneel beside.
Some children see Him
almond-eyed,
With skin of yellow hue.
Some children see Him dark as they,
Sweet Mary’s Son to whom we pray.
Some children see him dark as they,
And, ah! they love Him, too!

african madonna-and-child-by-mavruk

The children in each different place
Will see the baby Jesus’ face
Like theirs,
but bright with heavenly grace,
And filled with holy light.
O lay aside each earthly thing
And with thy heart as offering,
Come worship now the infant King.
‘Tis love that’s born tonight!

mary-jesus-india

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For information on The Story of Christmas Reading Plan, click here

Some Children See Him
TRO (C) Copyright (renewed 1982) and 1957 (renewed 1985) Hollis Music, Inc., New York, N.Y. International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved Including Public Performance for Profit. Used by Permission.

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