Sermon- The Sunday After the Shooting (Proverbs 3.19-24)

sunday after shooting

Sermon: The Sunday after the Shooting
Scriptures: Proverbs 3:19-24, The Voice Translation
Offered 11/12/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

While we gathered last week for worship, a gunman was opening fire on the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. It’s believed to be the largest church shooting in history: 27 killed, 20 injured.

It’s devastating news. Even more devastating is the growing frequency of mass shootings in our country. A mass shooting is defined as gun violence with 4 or more persons injured or killed. According to the Mass Shooting Tracker, between October 1 (the day of the Las Vegas Concert Massacre) and last Friday (November 10, 2017- my dad’s birthday) there were 44 mass shootings across 22 different states.
604 persons injured (441 from Las Vegas, 20 Sutherland Springs TX)
131 persons died (59 from Las Vegas, 27 Sutherland Springs TX)

What can we say in the midst of all this pain, horror, death? The truth.

Many of us constant state of grieving and stress
Many of us are afraid, or at least feeling insecure

It’s one thing to experience such violence in the midst of war. (This is why we must honor and thank our veterans). It’s another when violence invades our safe places: home, school, places where we have fun, church. There’s a reason why we call where we worship a sanctuary. It’s to be a place safety, belonging, healing, hope. Now it’s been violated. Again.

When we’re afraid/insecure it’s a short step to losing perspective and another short step to despair. “I guess this is just the way things are now. Nothing I can do about it.”

The shootings just keep coming. We’re hit and hit and hit again with the pain, loss, fear. We want to protect ourselves – build up the security, only let certain people in and certain information in. It’s like building up a callus (Consider persons who work with their hands or the feet of dancers.)

I’m afraid of building up a callus on my heart. (hard-hearted, callous) I need to stay soft in God’s hands.

When we’re afraid/insecure it’s a short step to blaming and demonizing. It’s the fault of-

  • Gun manufacturers
  • Those who sell the guns/ammo
  • Those who own the guns
  • Those who enforce the laws
  • Those who make the laws
  • Lobbyists paying off the politicians
  • “Crazy people”
  • Those who are supposed to follow up on the “crazy people”

This only breeds false stereotypes and prejudice. It polarizes us into camps, “You’re either with us or you’re against us”

The Pro Guns Stereotype
Allow anyone to buy any type of gun and any type of ammunition, when and wherever they want, or they will break down your door, take away your guns, crush your freedom,
kill everyone you love, and put an end to the American way

The No Guns Stereotype
If you own a gun—any gun—you might as well be the one pulling the trigger in all of these terrible mass shootings.

God provides another way- Creation
The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation
The opposite of chaos isn’t order, safety, it’s creation
The Wisdom of God creates

Proverbs 3:19-20, The Voice 
19 It was by wisdom that the Eternal fashioned the earth
and by understanding that He designed the heavens.
20 Through His knowledge, the deep was divided into seas and sky,
and the clouds understood when to let down the morning dew.

The Wisdom of God Creates
The gift of God is God’s perspective and understanding of the situation. The gift of God is the ability to discern what is true, right, and lasting and good. The gift of God is to create something in the midst of pain and loss.

What do we do? Seek God’s wisdom to think past either/or solutions. The situation is often far more complex than that. It’s easier/safer to pick a side and demonize. It takes courage to stay at the table, be curious, ask questions, talk, pray, build consensus, work through the prejudice and complications to real, effective problem solving and action.

There’s a reason why Jesus calls us the Light of the World. There’s a reason we are described as living stones built into a spiritual house. By the grace of God we are Sanctuary- safety, belonging, healing, hope. We are the place where diverse people come together to seek God’s wisdom and out of that wisdom something creative and good is born.

By the grace of God, seeking the creative wisdom of God, it is possible to break through the polarization to something new, good. It’s possible to hold together common sense gun laws and limits while at the same time not demonizing respectful, responsible hunters, marksmen, gun owners and persons who never want to touch a gun. It possible to discuss and address the need for greater mental health access, healthy families, and the power of lobbyists.

Wisdom of God Creates. By the grace of God we will be courageous and we will be wise and we will be used of God for the light will overcome the darkness.

Proverbs 3:21-24
21 My [child], never lose sight of God’s wisdom and knowledge:
make decisions out of true wisdom, guard your good sense,
22 And they will be life to your soul
and fine jewelry around your neck.
23 Then each one of your steps will land securely on your life’s journey,
and you will not trip or fall.
24 Your mind will be clear, free from fear;
when you lie down to rest, you will be refreshed by sweet sleep.

Prayer
Merciful and Mighty God, how wondrous is your wisdom!
Your wisdom is eternal, beautiful, creative, powerful, good.
The strong foundation of life itself, all of life.
Grant us your wisdom that we may discern faithfully and be bearers of your life, goodness, and truth
Grant us your wisdom that we may walk with you all my days, clear-eyed and sure-footed and courageous
Grant us your wisdom that we may be your peace and rest in your peace, each night and forever.

We ask this for the honor and glory of your name, for the building of your kingdom, for the good of our neighbors and ourselves. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to the tech team and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. Videos of these messages are available on the church Facebook Page.

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 © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa by leaving a comment for posting and publication considerations.

Parable of the Talents: Fearless or Fearful? (Matthew 25.14-30)

Parable of the Talents: Matthew 25:14-30

John of the Cross wrote that “In the evening of life we will be judged on love alone.” The two servants, probably more experienced in loving, fearlessly invest their portions of love. Heedless of sheer foolhardiness, they risk ego, rejection, derision, even death, adventurously increasing the master’s wealth of love in the world. The last servant misses the point, and like sinning against the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12:32) the poor clueless man finds himself in the outer darkness for clinging to the supposed safety of burying his love in the ground. John Wesley comments, “So mere harmlessness, on which many build their hope of salvation, was the cause of his damnation.”
– Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure

The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him. He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless. He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the Spirit. This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular of the representative, administrating Spirit. A Christian is fearless. –Tertullian

Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.
– William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (II, ii, 32-37)

Only those who risk going too far will ever know how far they can go.
– T.S. Eliot

Whatever you do you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you into believing your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories but it takes brave men and women to win them. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Moving ahead requires us to face the present with its hardships and afflictions, knowing that these, too, are part of the way. To do this requires a measure of courage, that word formed from the Latin cor, or heart. In such circumstances, the challenge before us is not simply to avoid losing our heart. Rather, it is that of finding our heart, of living “heartfully.” – Mark S. Burrows and John H. Ohlson, Love is a Direction from Weavings, Aug/Sept/Oct 2012

Click here and here and here for three thoughtful reflections on this passage by Steve Garnaas Holmes

Zephaniah 1:12
At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm.”

Philippians 4:13 (NRSV)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
… and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love,
unconditional, everlasting love. Amen.
– Henri Nouwen

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For more information on the use of the scripture translation, art and this resource in other settings, please leave a message in the comments.

Prayer for Violent Times

pulse-orlando-shooting-001Psalm 46:1 NRSV
God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble

God our Refuge, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They run to lonesome places, screaming an alarm
Calm our hearts so we can find you above the fear

God our Strength, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They race to revenge, pounding with anger
Calm our hearts so we can hear you above the hammering

God our Help, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They rush to human strength, grasping for control
Calm our hearts so we can hold to your way, your truth, and your life

Calm our hearts, so they may beat in unison with yours
So healing may flow over bodies and spirits broken by the chaos
So hope may fill families and communities devastated by prejudice and violence
So compassion and peace and unity may rise up among all people

God our Strength, our Refuge, our Help
We entrust our lives to you. Amen.

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Prayer for Violent Times © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Speaking Peace in the Face of the Storm

Quotefancy-806355-3840x2160As I write this, Hurricane Irma has turned toward us. I keep thinking of my friends in the Caribbean, my congregation, my neighbors, and my family who are so far away. There is much to warrant true concern. There is much that is unknown. In the midst of it all, God is near. God’s well of hope and safety and belonging is deep and it is for you. Love one another, make the best decisions you can, pray and trust God. You are not alone.
Your sister and servant in Christ- Lisa <><

Jesus, we see You calming storms
Storm tossed seas and stormy lives
Extend Your power and grace again,
Upon us and all in need

Speak peace and healing over bodies and spirits
overwhelmed by the crashing waves of circumstance
Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

Speak peace and perspective over minds and hearts
adrift in confusion or drowning in fear
Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

Speak peace and hope over people, families, and communities swamped by danger and loss
Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

Speak peace and truth over the media that they may use their influence to build good will rather than stir up anxiety
Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

Speak peace and protection over first responders – firefighters, law enforcement, medical personnel, power workers, and shelter workers- as they risk their lives to help those who are suffering.
Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

Speak peace and belonging over those who are displaced by evacuation – those in shelters, those stranded on highways, those in hotels, those far from loved ones.
Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

Speak peace and well-being over those who are hunkering down- the well prepared, the foolish, and the vulnerable, especially those who are poor or alone.
Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

You are the Prince of Peace.
You are the Resurrection and the Life.
You are strong to save.
Our hope and trust are in You

Offer your own prayers. Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer.

If you are using this prayer in a group setting, one person reads the light print and everyone reads the bold print. 

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Speaking Peace in the Face of the Storm © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer- Lord Save Us, We Are Going Down (Matthew 8.23-27)

CalmingOfTheStorm by Sparling

Calming of the Storm by Darel Sparling

Based on Matthew 8:23-27, Jesus calming the storm

Lord save us, we are going down…
another disease
another divorce
another death

Lord save us, we are going down…
another scandal
another shooting
another suicide

Lord save us, we are going down…
another craving
another closure
another conflict

Lord save us, we are going down…
another addiction
another abuse
another attack

We are afraid
We are undone

We are not alone

You stand
our refuge and strength
our help in storm and struggle
rebuking the crushing chaos

There will be calm
There is calm

Blessed be your Holy Name
Jesus Christ
Our Savior and Lord forever
Amen

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Lord Save Us, We Are Going Down © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer- Trust in Him

afraid-trust-psalm-56-3

Trust in Him and do not fear
The peace of Christ will guard your heart. Alleluia!

Trust in Him and do not worry
The promises of Christ will prove true. Alleluia!

Trust in Him and do not wander
The resurrection of Christ will open the way. Alleluia!

Trust in Him and do not give up
The power of Christ will raise a glorious harvest. Alleluia!

Trust in Him and do not despair
The grace of Christ will heal you and keep you, now and forever. Alleluia!

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This prayer would also work well as an affirmation of faith or call to worship.

Prayer – Trust in Him © 2017 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.

Prayer for Violent Times

pulse-orlando-shooting-001Psalm 46:1 NRSV
God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble

God our Refuge, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They run to lonesome places, screaming an alarm
Calm our hearts so we can find you above the fear

God our Strength, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They race to revenge, pounding with anger
Calm our hearts so we can hear you above the hammering

God our Help, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They rush to human strength, grasping for control
Calm our hearts so we can hold to your way, your truth, and your life

Calm our hearts, so they may beat in unison with yours
So healing may flow over bodies and spirits broken by the chaos
So hope may fill families and communities devastated by prejudice and violence
So compassion and peace and unity may rise up among all people

God our Strength, our Refuge, our Help
We entrust our lives to you. Amen.

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Prayer for Violent Times © 2013 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.