Saint Patrick and Psalms of Protection

celtic-cross-cropPsalms 59, 62, 124 are all psalms of protection. This devotion is based on Psalm 59.

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
I will sing of your might; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been a fortress for me and a refuge in the day of my distress. – Psalm 59:16

Observation
In Psalm 59, the Psalmist describes living in a dangerous place. Each evening violent gangs roam the streets like wild dogs, bloodthirsty and hungry for trouble. (vs. 6, 14, 15) These enemies are pride-filled, mocking the authority’s inability to stop them. (vs. 7) The Psalmist is confident that God will stop them. God will deliver and protect. God is a shield, a fortress, and a refuge in the day of distress.

Application
Sometimes our choices place us in dangerous situations. Our action, inaction, or words play a role in the creation of enemies. Sometimes danger finds us and we are left to wonder at the cause. We experience random hate, thieving, or violence.

God’s protection is for the entirety of our lives- not just our bodies or our property. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we seek to live a Godly and reconciling life. The Holy Spirit’s counsel saves us from the ravages of revenge, bitterness, and unforgiveness. We are empowered to take Godly action in the face of injustice and violence, to speak the truth, to heal, and to transform lives and situations. The death and resurrection of Jesus provide the ultimate shield. They may hurt us, they may even kill us, but we are safe now and always in God’s eternal refuge and home. – Lisa <><

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere when human lives are in danger, when human dignity is in danger. – Elie Weisel

It is very easy to be servants of the word without disturbing the world: a very spiritualized word, a word without any commitment to history, a word that can sound in any part of the world because it belongs to no part of the world. A word like that creates no problems, starts no conflicts. What starts conflicts and persecutions, what marks the genuine Church, is the word that, burning like the word of the prophets, proclaims and accuses: proclaims to the people God’s wonders to be believed and venerated, and accuses of sin those who oppose God’s reign, so that they may tear that sin out of their hearts, out of their societies, out of their laws – out of the structures that oppress, that imprison, that violate the rights of God and of humanity. -Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love

The Breastplate of St. Patrick
Mark Herringshaw writes: “The prayer is often called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” because it seeks God’s protection in a world of both tangible and invisible dangers. Though Patrick of Ireland lived more than 1500 years ago his prayer asking that God would cover him is just as relevant today. Who of us haven’t wrestled with the haunting fear of living in this unpredictable world? Patrick’s solution: Run to God!”

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgment Day.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous people

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

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This post was originally part of a Summer in the Psalms Bible reading plan. In this plan, psalms are grouped based on common themes. Click the link – Psalms Reading Plan

Please leave a comment for more information the use of this devotional in other settings.

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

finding-god-in-oz

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

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

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

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

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

It takes a supernatural courage to face the hurt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

brene-brown-courage-comfort

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

islamophobia-bully-advocate-cartoon

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

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

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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.

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

Psalm 1 for Prayer Beads

Anglican-Prayer-Beads

Anglican Prayer Beads (sometimes known as Protestant Prayer Beads or Christian Prayer Beads) are a relatively new form of prayer, blending the Orthodox Jesus Prayer Rope and the Roman Catholic Rosary. The thirty-three bead design was created by the Rev. Lynn Bauman in the mid-1980s, through the prayerful exploration and discovery of a contemplative prayer group.

Like other prayer bead practices, the rhythm and repetition of the prayers promote a peaceful stillness before a time of silence as we rest in God and/or a time of silence as we listen for God.

prayerbeaddiagramThere are no set prayer patterns for Anglican Prayer Beads. I took that as freedom to compile one of my own. It’s based on a profound portion of the Scriptures, Psalm 1. An added bonus of this particular pattern… it helps you memorize the psalm.

Begin with the cross and invitatory bead. Pray around the circle of cruciform beads and week beads three times in an unhurried manner then exit with the closing prayers for the invitatory bead and cross.

Cross
In the name of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Invitatory Bead
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Cruciform Beads
Save us. Heal us. Strengthen us to serve.
or
Give us eyes to see. Ears to hear. Feet to follow faithfully.

The Weeks
The numbers are to help you move through the seven beads
They are not verse numbers.
1. Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2. but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.
3. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season,
4. and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
5. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
6. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
7. for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Invitatory Bead
The Lord’s Prayer

Cross
Hallelujah! Bless the Lord! Thanks be to God!

Click here for more on the symbolism, use, and several other prayer patterns to use with Anglican Prayer Beads. Click here for even more prayer bead patterns or consider making one of your own like I did. (If you do, post it below!)

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Psalm 1 for Prayer Beads © 2016 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.

Sermon Recording- A Basket on the Nile (Exodus 2:1-10)

baby moses basket

Sermon Series: H2O, Hope to Offer
Messages on the water stories from Surf Shack VBS

Message: Baby in a Basket
Scripture: Exodus 1:6-2:10
Offered 6/5/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

There will always be Pharaohs in this world. We must read this story again and again to remember Pharaoh doesn’t win. We are the legacy of the children of Israel. We are the sons and daughters of those who live in awe of God. We are the heritage of doing the right thing, the hard thing in the face of great evil. – Lisa Degrenia

When the Pharaohs want us silent, we will speak. When they want us submissive, we will be assertive. When they want us unable to think, we will be calm and clever. When they want us cowering, we will be courageous. When they want us divided, we will break down the dividing walls with our compassion. – Lisa Degrenia

Joshua 1:9
Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.”

Worship Resource for this Message 
Opening Prayer (Psalm 18:1-3)
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
My God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
My shield, and the horn of my salvation,
My stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
so I shall be saved from my enemies.

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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.

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

Sermon Recording- Deliver Us From Evil

Serpent and Apple --- Image by © 68/GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Ocean/Corbis

Serpent and Apple — Image by © 68/GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Ocean/Corbis

Sermon Series: 57 Words That Changed the World
Messages on the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:5-15

Message: Deliver Us From Evil
Scripture: Matthew 6:5-15
Offered 5/8/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

The Lord’s Prayer informs, forms, and transforms us and the world. – Lisa Degrenia.

The Evil One in Scripture 
1. A Cosmic struggle organized against God
Ephesians 6:10-12
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

2. The Evil One devours and destroys
1 Peter 5:6-8
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

3. The Evil One is a deceiver and liar
2 Corinthians 11:14
Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

2 Thessalonians 2:9-10
The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

4. The Evil One twists situations into temptations
Satan tempting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden – Genesis 3
Satan tempting Jesus in the wilderness – Luke 4:1-13; Matthew 4:1-11

Worship Resources for this Message 
Renewal of Baptismal Vows
I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of my sins.

I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

I confess Jesus Christ as my Savior, put my whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as my Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.

According to the grace given to me, I will remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world.

Study Resources for this Message
Lord, Teach Us: The Lord’s Prayer & the Christian Life
by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon

The Lord and His Prayer by N. T. Wright

Fifty-Seven Words that Change the World: A Journey through the Lord’s Prayer
by Darrell W. Johnson

A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer by W. Phillip Keller

Our Heavenly Father: Sermons on the Lord’s Prayer by Helmut Thielicke
Read it for free online!

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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.

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

Jesus, The Hen: when it’s time to weep

Detail from Descent from the Cross by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden

Detail from Descent from the Cross by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden

Matthew 23:27; Luke 13:34 NRSV
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Extended quote by Barbara Brown Taylor from The Christian Century (2/25/86)
If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus’ lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone walk into them. Meanwhile, this is the most vulnerable posture in the world –wings spread, breast exposed –but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand. …

… Jesus won’t be king of the jungle in this or any other story. What he will be is a mother hen, who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. She has no fangs, no claws, no rippling muscles. All she has is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first; which he does, as it turns out. He slides up on her one night in the yard while all the babies are asleep. When her cry wakens them, they scatter.

She dies the next day where both foxes and chickens can see her — wings spread, breast exposed — without a single chick beneath her feathers. It breaks her heart . . . but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand.

Extended quote by Jim Harnish from It’s Enough to Make You Cry
Take a good look; a look that penetrates the self-protective shields of social acceptability; a look that goes deeply into the heart; a look that is a finite expression of the infinite love with which God looks out on our world, and it’s enough to make anyone with a heart cry.

It’s what the prophet Jeremiah felt when he looked at his world and wrote, “If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.” (Jeremiah 9:1)

Read the headlines or watch the evening news and we know why Jesus wept over Jerusalem saying, “If they only knew the things that make for peace.” (Luke 19:42)

We weep for residents of Tel Aviv fleeing to bomb shelters and for Palestinians who have nowhere to hide from the attacks that are destroying their homes in Gaza.

We weep for thousands of children making their way across our border only to be caught up in our hopelessly confused and politicized immigration system.

We weep for millions of people who are homeless refugees because of the conflicts in Ukraine, in parts of Africa, and as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We weep for the lives that have been lost in jets that have been blown out of the sky.

And we weep — the way Jesus wept beside the grave of his friend, Lazarus – for the deeply personal wounds, hurts, disappointments that sooner or late come crashing in on every one of us.

With Jeremiah, we ask, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” (Jeremiah 8:22)

I also know how Jeremiah felt when he said: “If only I could flee for shelter in the desert/to leave my people and forget them.” (Jeremiah 9:2)

I’d probably not choose the desert. I might take a house on the beach or a cabin in the mountains. I might just turn off the television, cancel the newspaper, go to a movie and stop paying attention to the pain and suffering around me. Sometimes we’d all like to flee.

Weep or flee? Which will it be? The truth is that there are times for both. There are times when I need to weep for the wounds of the world around me. And there are times when I need to accept Jesus’ invitation, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

So, where is God in all of this? It may be when Jeremiah hears God say, “I am going to refine them, for what else can I do with my people?” (Jeremiah 9:7)

I’m not suggesting that God causes the terrible things that happen in order to teach us a lesson. I’m a Wesleyan, not a Calvinist. Most of the things that make us weep are a direct result of human decisions that are an outright contradiction of the will of God. Our sinful choices are enough to make God cry.

Although God does not cause everything that happens, God is able to use anything that happens to refine us, the way gold and silver are refined. Instead of making us bitter, it can make us better.

The Spirit of God is present in our tears to break our hearts with the things that break the heart of God, to show us the ways in which we contribute to the pain of the world, to form us more fully into the likeness of Christ, and to enable us to participate in God’s healing work in this world. If there is a “balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul” it will be found in the hearts, lives and actions of faithful people who become the agents of God’s love in the lives of others.

Perhaps the Christ-shaped alternative is not just to weep or to flee, but to become God’s healing presence in the world. At least it’s worth praying for.

Click here for a deep reflection and call to lament by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled For the Hurt of my People.

Click here for a thoughtful reflecting on the question of suffering by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Suffering.

In Christian symbolism Jerusalem is everyplace and the ultimate place. Jerusalem is the conflicted city within our hearts and the hoped for heavenly city of promise. Jerusalem is Earth herself. We lament over the world and our continual warfare and our ongoing destruction of land and seas and air. We are the holy place that kills prophets, healers, sages and innocents in the complex chaos of our passions.
– Suzanne Guthrie, Lament Over Jerusalem

The tears which flow from our eyes from time to time are illustrations of the tears which Jesus shed as he looked down upon Jerusalem and lamented, “How often I would have gathered you to myself as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not”. They are signs of the pain in God’s heart when even one sheep goes astray. Tears are an acknowledgement of the Fall, but as they flow from a truly-repentant heart, they are also the first signs of hope. The dam of sinful resistance has collapsed and the Water of Life can now flow. – Steve Harper, The Water of Repentance

Prayer: End the Madness by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Hear our cry!
Head our plea!
Hate compounds
Death surrounds
Evil abounds

Relief supplies rotting on docks
Vaccines waiting on shelves
The unsuspecting shot down
Abortions of convenience
The faithful persecuted
Riots in the streets
Human trafficking
Suicide bombers
Genocide
War

End our madness
Deliver us from bloodshed
Deliver us from us

Come quickly
Come in power
Your power, not ours
Rescue your beloved
Lord, where else can we go?

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

End Our Madness: a prayer for peace, justice and unity

PrejudicePrayer: End Our Madness
Hear our cry!
Head our plea!
End our madness!

Relief supplies rotting on docks
The faithful murdered at prayer
Vaccines waiting on shelves
Abortions of convenience
Riots in the streets
Millions of refugees
Human trafficking
Suicide bombers
Genocide
War

Hear our cry!
Head our plea!
End our madness!

Deliver us from bloodshed
Deliver us from us

Come quickly
Come in power
Your power, not ours
Your peace
Your unity
Your justice
Your hope
Your way, truth and life

Hear our cry!
Head our plea!
End our madness!

Extended quote by Jim Harnish from It’s Enough to Make You Cry
Take a good look; a look that penetrates the self-protective shields of social acceptability; a look that goes deeply into the heart; a look that is a finite expression of the infinite love with which God looks out on our world, and it’s enough to make anyone with a heart cry.

It’s what the prophet Jeremiah felt when he looked at his world and wrote, “If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.” (Jeremiah 9:1)

Read the headlines or watch the evening news and we know why Jesus wept over Jerusalem saying, “If they only knew the things that make for peace.” (Luke 19:42)

We weep for residents of Tel Aviv fleeing to bomb shelters and for Palestinians who have nowhere to hide from the attacks that are destroying their homes in Gaza.

We weep for thousands of children making their way across our border only to be caught up in our hopelessly confused and politicized immigration system.

We weep for millions of people who are homeless refugees because of the conflicts in Ukraine, in parts of Africa, and as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We weep for the lives that have been lost in jets that have been blown out of the sky.

And we weep — the way Jesus wept beside the grave of his friend, Lazarus – for the deeply personal wounds, hurts, disappointments that sooner or late come crashing in on every one of us.

With Jeremiah, we ask, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” (Jeremiah 8:22)

I also know how Jeremiah felt when he said: “If only I could flee for shelter in the desert/to leave my people and forget them.” (Jeremiah 9:2)

I’d probably not choose the desert. I might take a house on the beach or a cabin in the mountains. I might just turn off the television, cancel the newspaper, go to a movie and stop paying attention to the pain and suffering around me. Sometimes we’d all like to flee.

Weep or flee? Which will it be? The truth is that there are times for both. There are times when I need to weep for the wounds of the world around me. And there are times when I need to accept Jesus’ invitation, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

So, where is God in all of this? It may be when Jeremiah hears God say, “I am going to refine them, for what else can I do with my people?” (Jeremiah 9:7)

I’m not suggesting that God causes the terrible things that happen in order to teach us a lesson. I’m a Wesleyan, not a Calvinist. Most of the things that make us weep are a direct result of human decisions that are an outright contradiction of the will of God. Our sinful choices are enough to make God cry.

Although God does not cause everything that happens, God is able to use anything that happens to refine us, the way gold and silver are refined. Instead of making us bitter, it can make us better.

The Spirit of God is present in our tears to break our hearts with the things that break the heart of God, to show us the ways in which we contribute to the pain of the world, to form us more fully into the likeness of Christ, and to enable us to participate in God’s healing work in this world. If there is a “balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul” it will be found in the hearts, lives and actions of faithful people who become the agents of God’s love in the lives of others.

Perhaps the Christ-shaped alternative is not just to weep or to flee, but to become God’s healing presence in the world. At least it’s worth praying for.

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Prayer: End Our Madness © 2015 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.