Persevering in Prayer (Luke 18)

john-bunyon-prayer-quote

Persevering in Prayer
Scripture: Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 11/10/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

What can you do with a rubber band?
Rubber bands are elastic. So are Jesus’ parables- stories with a deeper spiritual meaning. They both stretch in many directions.

You can read a parable one day and hear from God. You can read them a month later or even years later and receive another important truth from God.

It reminds us the scriptures are living and active. God meets us exactly where we are in the Word of God.

Luke 18:1-8. The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
From the point of view of followers of Jesus as the widow
1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 Jesus said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Jesus sets up a contrast between God and the unjust judge.

The judge is powerful, probably the most powerful person in his community. He’s worldly, corrupt, slow to respond, indifferent, disrespectful, unbelieving.

God is more powerful, attentive to injustice, quick to respond, faith-full, compassionate.

Even the ungodly relent in the face of persevering. How much more will God answer you when you pray!

Followers of Jesus are to be like the widow, the person with the least amount of power in the community. Folks would have laughed at the powerless widow getting the judge to do what she wanted him to do.

1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.
8 when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

The widow had faith that her persevering would bring a result. Faith looks like praying always and not losing heart. Does God find you resilient and full of faith? Actively trusting in God and persevering in prayer?

How’s your prayer life?

  • Using prayer as a rubber stamp as you make plans to fix whatever needs fixing in your own strength?
  • Using prayer as a last resort when everything else you tried didn’t work?
  • Have you just given up on prayer? You’ve been praying about the same situation for a long time with no change. It’s easy to get discouraged and lose heart.

Luke 11:9-13
Luke 11:9 Jesus said, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

A Translation Closer to the Original Intention- Present Progressive Tense
Jesus said, “Keep on asking, and it will be given you, Keep on seeking and you will find, keep on knocking and it will be opened unto you.  For everyone who continues to ask, receives, and the one who continues to seek, finds, and for the one who continues to knock, it will be opened.  What father among you, if your son asks for a fish will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Example of Persevering Prayers Being Answered

Name your persevering prayer. Keep praying, do not lose heart.

  • Reconciliation of relationship
  • The salvation of a loved one
  • An answer to a question
  • Deliverance from an addiction
  • The end of corruption, evil, injustice, oppression
  • Peace and plenty for all

Trust God is good. Trust God is near and attentive to your needs. Trust God will make the wrongs right. It may not be in this life, it may be in heaven. But it may be now.

Luke 18:1-8. The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
Stretch the parable in a different direction, from the point of view of God as the widow and we as the judge.
2 Jesus said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 

Pleading Widow by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Our gender and power stereotypes told us to assume
the judge is God, which would make us the poor widow.
But wait. Who judges? Who cares neither for God or people?
That would be us. And who continually demands
that we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God?

Sorry, we don’t get the high ground here, denying our privilege,
pretending we’re faithfully imploring God
with our persistent quest for justice.
We’re the ones deaf to the cries of the poor.

God comes in the voice of the vulnerable, the easily ignored
while we in our arrogance easily ignore.

How disconcerting that in this story
the ball is in our court, not God’s!
The demand has been made, over and over.

Jesus warns us: God can outlast us.
But when God comes, will God find us listening?

Prayer and Action
Prayer is coupled with action. If we are praying for that relationship to be reconciled, what are we doing for that relationship to be reconciled? If we are praying for our loved ones to come to faith, what are we doing to create an environment where they could hear the Gospel? If we’re praying for an end to evil, injustice, and oppression, what are we doing to end evil, injustice, and oppression?

The dual truths of persevering in prayer and prayer in action stretch me. I need to pray before I act so I don’t use it as a weapon. I need to persevere in prayer because God is the one who makes things new. I need both.

And I need the Holy Spirit filling me so I don’t lose heart when it seems like nothing’s changing. Persevere in prayer. Prayer and action.

Prayer-
Heavenly Father, we thank you that you hear us. That you want to have a relationship with us. You want to bless us, empower us, encourage us, forgive us.

Help us to talk to you. To talk to you honestly, openly, and often. Help us to persevere in prayer. Help us to not lose heart. Help us to trust you.

Help to know the path we’re on with you is the path of goodness and glory. Help us to know it’s the path of truth and humility, the path of light and life. We need that assurance so we can persevere.

In our praying, help us to hear if there’s an action we are to take. Grant us the courage, grace, and wisdom to act.

You are making us new. You are making this world new. Thank you for the gift of prayer. Amen.

********************
Persevering in Prayer © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

How Jesus Grieves, a sermon for All Saints Day (Matthew 14)

loaves and fish

How Jesus Grieves, a Sermon for All Saints Day
Scripture: Matthew 14:1-21
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 11/3/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Introducing All Saints Day
Traditionally celebrated on November 1st, or the Sunday closest to it
On All Saints Day, we remember…

  • We too are saints (1 Corinthians 1:2-3)
  • Our loved ones who have died
  • Those who have inspired our faith and led us to Christ

For some, All Saints Day is a day of thanksgiving and gratitude. A day of inspiration. For some, a day of beloved memories. A day of sadness because those memories bring a reminder of grief and loss.

Whatever you are feeling, it’s ok. All those feelings are welcome.

Reading of Matthew 14:1-21, Jesus grieving the death of John the Baptist

Jesus’ relative, John the Baptist, is unjustly imprisoned and brutally murdered. John was executed by a weak man, Herod Antipas. Herod was drunk, aroused, showing off. Herod got caught in a bad place. in order to “keep up appearances” before those who had gathered for his birthday, those he had to lead, those who might report his choice to Rome, Herod had John executed.

John had been a part of Jesus’ life from the very beginning, since before the two of them were even born. They met in their mothers’ wombs. At the meeting, John began jumping and preaching in the wilderness of his mother’s womb that Jesus was the Messiah.

John was family, literally family. If anyone understood who Jesus was and what Jesus was called to do, it was John the Baptist. If anyone understood what Jesus is going through- the sacrifices Jesus was making, the mocking, the confrontations, the homelessness, the misunderstandings, the persecution, it was John and now John is dead.

John’s disciples come to tell Jesus and Jesus is shaken by the loss. He’s grieving deeply. It’s one thing to lose a loved one, it’s another to lose a loved one in such an unjust and brutal way.

What does Jesus do? Jesus gets into a boat and crosses the Sea of Galilee to find a quiet place. But when Jesus arrives he does not find a quiet place. Jesus finds people. Thousands of people.

These folks are also grieving the death of John the Baptist. They’re heartbroken, sick, hungry, and oppressed.

Hoping to find quiet, but instead finding people, what rises up inside Jesus? What would rise up inside of you?

What rises up inside Jesus is compassion. Compassion literally means “suffering with.” He hears their cries alongside his own. He understands their pain because he is in pain. What does this pain do? This pain opens Jesus. Opens his heart in compassion, in empathy, his hands in generosity and Jesus helps.

There’s healing in the helping. He helps. He blesses. He feeds. He listens. He comforts. He heals.

Excerpt from an Instagram Post by Jen Willhoite @cobbleworks
“Jesus let himself be interrupted by the pain of others even as he was suffering, reeling in his own. He took what scraps of food and hope there were and offered it all up to Divine Love. He knew something abundant could come from something threadbare and it seemed he knew it started with honest sharing…with himself, with others, and with the Sacred One. He held it all aloft and the bread and meat grew in abundance. …

Maybe it was healing for Jesus to nourish others when he was aching. [What] if suffering alongside each other and giving our hope to God even if it’s just grieving scraps might be the thing that gets us all through. Maybe the 5,000 were fed and Jesus was fed too. Maybe we’re still being fed today by stories like this. Stories that tell us hope matters. That our pain matters. Our friendships matter. Our cries matter. Our gathering matters. Our willingness to say we’re hurting and also be interrupted by the pain of another all matters.”

Amen! It matters. It all matters.
Jesus was grieving and what rose in him was compassion and generosity and hope-
not bitterness, not revenge, not isolation, not despair

This is the power and glory of our Great God rising in the midst of death. This same power and glory of God are rising in you.

Jesus’ brokenness, the crowd’s brokenness, your brokenness – God gathers it and redeems it all. Broken hearts, broken bodies broken systems, broken bits of bread and fish- God gathers it and redeems it all.

This is our truth – God is good, God is strong, God is near. When we claim it and cling to it, this is what makes us saints. 

God’s compassion, generosity, hope rising up in us so we find healing in the helping.

A saint is not a perfect person. Saints are simply people who understand their deep need and turn to God and ask God to bring good out of the pain. That’s what redeeming is- God bringing good out of the pain, out of the brokenness, out of the mess.

Today we remember we are saints. We remember the saints that have gone before us. Claim this life. Say “yes” to it. Place your trust in Jesus and follow him. Be a saint.

And so my brothers and sisters, let us remember who we are in Jesus- wounded healers, saints, set apart by God and for God.

Let us remember our purpose- to lead a devoted life of compassion, generosity, and hope. A life worthy of the calling to which we have been called. A life that inspires faith in others.

Let us recommit ourselves to this life, by first honoring the lives of those who have inspired us-
The heroic and humble who ran the race before us
The martyrs who sacrificed all for the sake of Jesus
And especially those who we have known and loved
who led us to Jesus and encouraged us to deeper faith and service

Let us pray…
Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You surround us with witness after witness to your transforming love
Inspire us and empower us to persevere
Fill our hearts with courage

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You weep with us in our heartbreak and loss
Comfort us and protect us in our mourning
Fill our souls with hope

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You cry out in victory over sin and the grave
Raise us and release us to fulfill your calling
Fill our lives with faithfulness and good works

The message concludes with a prayer consecrating the elements for Holy Communion.

********************
How Jesus Grieves, a sermon for All Saints Day © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

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

********************
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.

********************
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.

********************
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. 

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

Come Down The Mountain (Matthew 17)

Sermon Series Spiritual Gifts 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Many Gifts, One Spirit. Discerning Our Calling From God. 
Message 1 of 5: Come Down the Mountain
Scripture:  Matthew 17:1-15
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 9/29/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a calling from God. They go hand in hand. Each and every one of us. It’s not just for the pastor or the missionary.

It’s just like the Blues Brothers when they say, “I’m on a mission from God.” That could be our catchphrase as well.

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.

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

  • Call to a relationship with Christ
  • Call to salvation

The second calling from God is “Come down the mountain”

  • Call to relationship with others
  • Call to serve

Matthew 17:1-15, The Transfiguration of Jesus
1Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.

What happened six days before? Jesus gathers the disciples and foretells his death and resurrection. Jesus’ foretells his call to serve

  • Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
  • Jesus reveals his call to serve and says you also have a call. You also have a cross.

Almost a week had passed since this conversation. Do the disciples have any clue that this will be a crazy, powerful, holy experience?

2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

Time shatters and Jesus is revealed glorified. Two of the heroes of the faith are there talking to Jesus like they’re old friends. There’s Moses, the one who was with God on the mountain, who brought down the ten commandments and led the people from slavery into freedom. There’s Elijah the prophet, who had many powerful encounters with God on mountains.

Peter, James, and John are in the middle of all this. They receive a glimpse of glory on the top of the mountain.

It isn’t just Jesus’ glory; it’s Moses’ glory and Elijah’s glory. In glory, we won’t be alone. Jesus shows us we will have companions and that it’s always about relationship.

4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

It’s good to get a glimpse of glory. It’s good to be on top of the mountain.

Why would Peter offer to build Jesus, Moses, and Elijah’s dwellings? That seems weird. It was actually a usual practice of those who worshipped false gods in this time period. You’d see the sides of notable mountains dotted with altars and tents, even buildings.

Peter is so excited. He’s like a puppy. We can do this and we can do that. Let’s stay on the mountain. It’s good for us to be here.

This is the temptation, to stay on the mountain. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. We have this new relationship with God and our hearts are starting to be opened, and our eyes are starting to be opened, and our minds are starting to be opened.

We just want to hang out with Jesus on the mountain. There’s a reason why they call it a “mountaintop experience.” We want to stay with Jesus away from the messiness and pain of life.

The second temptation is to want to capture and control the Glory of God. Jesus, let’s build a box for you and a box for Moses and a box for Elijah and we’ll keep all this glory in the box and hang out together on the mountain.

5 While Peter was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud, a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him, I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.

They are hearing the very voice of God. Yes, it is wonder-full, power-full, marvelous, and glorious. But on the mountaintop in the full presence of God, it is also awe-full, mysterious, holy, and overwhelming. All we can do is fall on our faces before the glory of God.

It’s excitement and joy and it’s on my face, “You are God and I am not.”

Steve Garnaas Holmes said, “Let’s be honest: it’s terrifying to stand too close to a speeding train, to get near to the power of God, the light that can change you into your own unknown, the mystery that will surely consume you, the love that will crack your life open till the light all spills out

Jim Harnish said, “They never expected to see Jesus “transfigured in front of them…his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white.”  They never expected to see Elijah and Moses talking with him like old friends. They never anticipated the voice in the cloud that declared, “This is my Son…Listen to him.”  No wonder they were terrified! They were scared stiff by a startling experience of the sacred.”

What would you do?

Jesus leads as he always does. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”

Jesus comes in the midst of being overwhelmed by the power and goodness. Jesus comes and Jesus touches us. God touches us and speaks. What does God always say, “Do not be afraid.”

Yes, it is holy, powerful, mysterious, but God draws near. God desires the relationship and initiates the relationship. God always draws near.

8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

The glimpse of glory was just that … a glimpse … and it was gone.

The first calling from God is “Come, Follow Me.”

  • Call to a relationship with Christ
  • Call to salvation
  • Call to come to the mountaintop
  • Call to experiences the presence and glory of God

The second calling from God is “Come Down the Mountain”

  • Call to relationship with others
  • Call to engagement
  • Call to serve

14 When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, 15 and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water.

The four come down the mountain, down into the valley. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me. (Psalm 23)

We come up the mountain and experience the light, the glory, the goodness of God and we bring that light down the mountain with us so we can come into the shadows, the darkness, the pain, the mess and we can push it all back with the light.

Jim Harnish asks, “Which is more frightening for us? The possibility of some unexpected, overwhelming experience of the sacred? Or the challenge of following Jesus into the shadows and needs of our ordinary lives?”

Hear the Good News Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”

Prayer:
Jesus, give us your glory and give us grace
Grace to follow you up the mountain and down into the valley
Thank you for every loving invitation
You shine. You are glorious. You are Light, O Christ.
Fill us with light.
Grant us a glimpse of your glory.

Save us, O God,
From every temptation
From every false understanding and motivation

Save us from the temptation to just stay on the mountain
Save us from the temptation to never engage
Save us from the temptation
of trying to capture and control your power and glory

You are Mystery, You are Holy, You are God
We bow in wonder and worship

Help us listen
Help us follow
Help us listen
Help us follow
Help us know your touch, your voice
Help us follow you in grace, goodness, light, and service
Amen.

********************
Come Down the Mountain © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.