Growing in Resilience: False Following, based on Isaiah 58.1-2

feet bare bw railGrowing in Resilience
Day 19, Read Isaiah 58
Reflection: False Following,
based on Isaiah 58:1-2, The Voice

Tell My people about their wrongdoing; shout with a voice like a trumpet; Hold nothing back: say this people of Jacob’s line and heritage have failed to do what is right. And yet they look for Me every day. They pretend to want to learn what I teach, as if they are indeed a nation good and true, as if they hadn’t really turned their backs on My directives. They even ask Me, as though they care, about what I want them to be and do, as if they really want Me in their lives.

Eternal One,
You shout truth
Loud and clear like a trumpet blast
Holding nothing back so we might be saved
Give us ears to hear
Souls to receive
Lives to live your holy love

Save us from false following
Pretending to want what you want
Hiding behind pious practices
Rituals for show

Save us from false following
Weaponizing your means of grace
Religion without relationship
Belief without transformation

Save us from false following
Faith without works
Without compassion
Without fruit

Have mercy on us
Forgive us
Save us
Make our faith real

We turn and return to you
And your desiring
Give us ears to hear
Souls to receive
Lives to live your holy love

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

False Following © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Growing in Resilience: Your Spirit and Your Heart, based on Isaiah 57.15

Sacred Heart 3Growing in Resilience
Day 18, Read Isaiah 57
Reflection: Your Spirit and Your Heart, based on Isaiah 57:15, NRSV

For thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

High and Lofty One
Be with me
Forgive me and Heal me
From naming myself better or worse than others
From projecting and protecting a self-image
From claiming I deserve at another’s expense

Renew and Revive my spirit and my heart

Grant me compassion
Teach me judgment without being judgmental
Boundaries without guarding too much
Love without agendas

Grant me courage
Teach me truth without using it as a weapon
Engagement without abuse
Confronting without a win/lose mindset

Grant me hope
Teach me peace without apathy
Rest without laziness
Patience without despair

High and Lofty One
Grant me your spirit and your heart

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Your Spirit and Your Heart © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Growing in Resilience: Hold and Heal, based on Isaiah 53.4-5

crucifixion-statue bwGrowing in Resilience
Day 14, Read Isaiah 53
Reflection: Hold and Heal, based on Isaiah 53:4-5, The Voice Translation

It was our suffering he carried, our pain and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness. We just figured that God had rejected him, that God was the reason he hurt so badly. But he was hurt because of us; he suffered so. Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed him. He endured the breaking that made us whole. The injuries he suffered became our healing.

An extended quote from Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer by Richard Rohr 
The significance of Jesus’ wounded body is his deliberate and conscious holding of the pain of the world and refusing to send it elsewhere. The wounds were not necessary to convince God that we were lovable; the wounds are to convince us of the path and the price of transformation. They are what will happen to you if you face and hold sin in compassion instead of projecting it in hatred.

Jesus’ wounded body is an icon for what we are all doing to one another and to the world. Jesus’ resurrected body is an icon of God’s response to our crucifixions. The two images contain the whole message of the Gospel.

Prayer
Hallelujah to Jesus!
Who gives dignity in response to scorn

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Who offers relationship to the face of rejection

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Who understands our pain
The pain we get
The pain we reap
The pain we sling

silence

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Who accepts wounding and crushing
so we would have forgiveness
so we could offer forgiveness

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Who accepts beating and mocking
so we would have peace
so we could be peace

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Who accepts whipping and torture and death
to hold us and heal us
so we may hold and heal

Silence

***********
Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Hold and Heal © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Growing in Resilience: Soften and Save, based on Isaiah 48.4-6

pottery wheelGrowing in Resilience
Day 9, Read Isaiah 48
Reflection: Soften and Save, based on Isaiah 48:4-6

Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass, I declared them to you from long ago, before they came to pass I announced them to you, so that you would not say, “My idol did them, my carved image and my cast image commanded them.” You have heard; now see all this; and will you not declare it?

Merciful One, soften and save us
We are hardheaded
Obstinate
Obstructive

Merciful One, soften and save us
We are stubborn
Self-willed
Stiff-necked
Bearing the iron yoke of unhealthy pride and false idols

You alone can liberate us
Turn and return us
Metal to flesh
Ears to hear
Eyes to see
Minds supple in your truth
Lips open, declaring your saving power
A whole body rejoicing in our deliverance

Merciful One, soften and save us

***********
Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Soften and Save © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Three reflections on the woman with the alabaster jar (Matthew 26, Mark 14; Luke 7, John 12)

Mary anoints the feet of jesus by Frank Wesley

Mary Anoints the Feet of Jesus by Frank Wesley

Anointing by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Beloved,
may everything I do today
be my anointing of you;
every thought, word and deed
a pouring out of myself for you,
a gift of service, adoration and thanks.

May every act comfort you,
receive your sacred story,
join me to you in your suffering,
embrace your dying
and prepare for what will follow.
In your death may you be wrapped
in the balm of my own heart.

Give me courage to give my gifts
no matter how others may judge them.
May my life give off the aroma
of gratitude and love.
Accept the anointing of my tears,
my prayers, my being.
In your love
I carry the alabaster jar of my life
into this new day.

Why This Waste? by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
The oil is poured
The criticism comes
even while the scent is still thick in the air

Why this waste?

Why worship?
Why take the time?
Why spend the money?
The poor, remember the poor
There’s so much work to be done

Yes beloved, remember
Remember the poor and remember her
The way is And not Or
Worship and Work
Loving God and Loving Neighbor
Looking Up and Looking Out For
The cross-shaped life

The work doesn’t work without the worship
The worship’s unfinished without the work

Pour Forth by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
There… beyond the feasting circle
A woman
Who are you? What is your story?
No name, no voice
Yet coming close with your gifts

Some are easy to see
An alabaster jar full of exotic perfume
Boldly broken,
And you pour forth more gifts
Out pours your heart
Your adoration
Your gratitude
Your passion
Your sacrifice
The air is thick with your story
It oozes down your Beloved’s beard, pooling on his callused hands

The shattering brings the circle silent
The aroma, meant for all to enjoy
Instead draws an angry answer
They will not bear your story

Cutting remarks fly at you through the fragrant veil
Indignant daggers thrust into your offering
How dare you! Who do you think you are?
Too generous
Too extravagant
Too intimate
We have a better way
Such a waste… code for waste her
Shatter her spirit
Quick, to the stones
A broken body is the cure

Stop! Leave her alone declares the Anointed One!
Misspent? Misused?
No! You misunderstand!
You miss the mark!
She did what she could- all that she could
Balming my body for burial

You have loved Me
Censing my sacrifice
Grace made fragrant
An act beyond words
A silent song for the ages

Pour forth

It is blessing. It is beautiful.
You are blessing. You are beautiful.

Soak it in

You there, religious ones
You berate, rebuke and bombard
While she… she breaks open
She breaks through bearing the Good News

Your words will fall forgotten
Her story will stand… remembered

***********
The anointing of Jesus is mentioned in all four gospels and probably recounts two different events. Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8

Matthew, Mark, and John mention the location of Bethany and the woman as Mary, the sister of Matha and Lazarus. Mary is criticized for the extravagance of anointing Jesus with the costly nard rather than selling it and the proceeds given to the poor.

In Luke, the location seems to be in the region of Galilee in the north. The woman is unnamed. Jesus himself is brought into question and criticized for allowing a sinner to touch him.

In Matthew and Mark, Jesus’ head is anointed. In Luke and John it is Jesus’ feet.

The details are interesting, but do not miss the main points- the extravance, the courage, the thanksgiving, the grace, the blessing, the welcome. This is why we remember.

Sermon Recording- Face to Face, The Thief and Jesus (Luke 23.32-43)

thief on cross remember me paradise

Message: Face to Face, The Thief and Jesus
Scriptures: Luke 23:32-43
This message was offered Sunday, 3/18/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. It was inspired by the book Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire. No recording is available due to a technical error.

The opening illustration is sourced and adapted from an interview in The Guardian by Saeed Kamali Dehghan on Friday, April 25, 2014, entitled Iranian mother who spared her son’s killer: ‘Vengeance has left my heart’

In Iran, it is standard practice for families of murder victims to oversee the execution of the murderer. In May 2014, Samereh Alinejad watched as a noose was slipped around the neck of Balal Gheisari, her son Abdollah’s killer. This was her chance to have the vengeance she’d wanted for seven long years.

Iran’s Islamic penal code allows the victim’s heir – in this case, his parents – to personally execute the condemned man as retribution. By pushing away the chair Balal was standing on, Samereh would hang and kill him.

Seconds away from what could have been his final breath, Balal pleaded for his life and called out for mercy. “Please forgive,” he shouted, “if only for my mum and dad,” Samereh recalled. “I was angry, I shouted back how can I forgive, did you show mercy to my son’s mum and dad?”

Samereh clambered up on a stool and slapped Balal across the face.

“After that, I felt as if rage vanished within my heart. I felt as if the blood in my veins began to flow again,” she said. “I burst into tears and I called my husband and asked him to come up and remove the noose.” Balal now finishes serving his prison sentence.

Balal’s mother Kobra, sobbing, reached across the fence separating the crowd from the execution site. She embraced Samereh before reaching to kiss her feet – a gesture of respect and gratitude. “I didn’t allow her to do that, I took her arm and made her stand up … she was just a mother like me, after all.” The two later went to visit Abdollah’s grave.

One week after pardoning Balal, Samereh found a peace lost since her son’s death. “Losing a child is like losing a part of your body. All these years, I felt like a moving dead body,” she said. “But now, I feel very calm, I feel I’m at peace. I feel that vengeance has left my heart.”

Samereh remembers “We couldn’t sleep the night before the execution, we were all awake until morning. Until the last minute, I didn’t want to forgive. I had told my husband just two days before that I can’t forgive this man, but maybe there would be a possibility, but I couldn’t persuade myself to forgive… My husband said, look to God and let’s see what happens.”

Look to God and let’s see what happens

Luke 23:32-39  
32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with Jesus. 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

Jesus is crucified between two criminals. The KJV calls them thieves. The word used in Matthew’s gospel refers to violent armed robbers. The word used in Luke’s gospel refers to one who does evil.

In Matthew’s account, both criminals mock Jesus. Luke’s account provides more detail. The leaders scoff, the soldiers mock, one of the criminals derides Jesus.

  • The leaders in verse 35- He saved others let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one
  • The soldiers in verse 37 – if you are the King of the Jews, save yourself
  • The criminal in verse 39- Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!

All three parties question Jesus’ identity. (If he is the Messiah, if you are the King of the Jews, are you not the Messiah?) Prove yourself Jesus with a display of great power. Jesus’ been hearing this demand from the beginning, starting with the devil in the wilderness. Jesus refuses the temptation yet again.

All three parties call for Jesus to save. (He saved others let him save himself, save yourself, save yourself and us) It’s an echo of the Palm Sunday “Hosannas”, which literally mean “Save Now!” Yes, Jesus will save. It is his mission. He has come to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10) He will do this not by saving himself, but by freely offering himself.

Luke 23:40-43
40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

What if Matthew and Luke are both giving us needed details. What if both criminals were mocking and deriding Jesus and then one changed. Why the change? Why the change from mocking Jesus to the heroism of defending him? Why the change from deriding Jesus to the self-aware humility of confession and asking for salvation?

Look to God and let’s see what happens. What did the second criminal see? In the midst of the pain, the brutality, the shouts, the death the criminal saw:

1. Jesus didn’t return hate for hate.
Jesus didn’t threaten. Jesus didn’t retaliate even though he had the right and power to do so.

2. Jesus forgiving
Verse 34 reports Jesus saying, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus was consistent in his life, in his message, in his mission. The Pharisees never accused Jesus of not practicing what he preached.

Matthew 5:43-45
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven

Matthew 9:11
Jesus said, “I desire mercy not sacrifice for I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

3. Jesus unjustly crucified
Could seeing the injustice open the criminal to seeing a greater spiritual truth- God in Jesus freely laying down his life to take upon himself the poison of the world’s sin? Could the criminal see the depth of God’s love and grace and determination to save the world?

What do you see? Look to God and let’s see what happens!
The criminal is rethinking his life in response to seeing the truth of who God is in Jesus’ words and actions. The same can be true for you.

You too can speak the words of the criminal, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” It is available for you. Jesus help me, deliver me from death, save me.

God remembering is God helping, delivering, and saving.

  • In Genesis 8, God remembers Noah and saves him from the flood
  • Genesis 19, God remembers Abraham and saves him and his nephew Lot
  • Exodus 2, God remembers the Hebrews and saves them from slavery in Egypt

Jesus remembers the criminal and Jesus will remember you. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Today you can be fully present to Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Today, every day, and on into eternity.

Look to God and let’s see what happens

  • Look to Jesus on the cross for you, for your loved ones, for your enemies, for the world
  • Look to Jesus on the cross. Look at the compassion in his eyes. Hear his voice of forgiveness.
  • Look to Jesus on the cross. Cry out, “Remember me, help me, deliver me, save me” and it will be heard and it will be so.

From Paradise Now by Steve Garnaas Holmes, adapted
Jesus, remember me.
Make me again a member of your realm.
Make me part of your healing of the world.
Remember me.
I surrender to your absolute love.
Remember me.
In your hope for the world, remember me.
Even in your suffering, remember me.
In your entering the pain of the world, remember me.
In your love, remember me.
Jesus, I bow in wonder at the expanse of your embrace
the breadth of your inclusion
the surprise of your grace

You seek and seek and seek
Including those I write off as beyond hope
the outcasts
the public sinners
the self-serving
those who collaborate with evil and oppression…

Why am I surprised?
You desire mercy not sacrifice
You are the Great Physician coming to those most in need of healing

Forgive me
Forgive me for forgetting who you are
Forgive me for forgetting my own sin
and isolation
and collaboration

Forgive me for judging
Forgive my self-righteousness
Forgive me for limiting you
when I am so desperately in need of you
I am one of “those most in need” as well
Create in me a clean heart and renew your Holy Spirit within me
Lord have mercy
Lord have mercy on us all

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean 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 join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording – The Sunday After the School Shooting (Repent and Believe the Gospel)

Message: The Sunday After the School Shooting, Repent and Believe the Gospel
Scriptures: Genesis 3:19; Mark 1:15
Offered 2/18/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida, the Sunday after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL.

douglas high school shooting victims

Victims of the School Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL. 17 murdered, 15 more injured
Chris Hixon, 49
Nicholas Dworet, 17
Aaron Feis, 37
Gina Montalto, 14
Scott Beigel, 35
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
Joaquin Oliver, 17
Jaime Guttenberg, 14
Martin Duque, 14
Meadow Pollack, 18
Alex Schachter, 14
Peter Wong, 15
Helena Ramsay, 17
Alaina Petty, 14
Carmen Schentrup, 16
Cara Loughran, 14
Luke Hoyer, 15

douglas high school shooting loved ones

I’ve been haunted by the picture of a woman holding another woman with a cross of ashes on her forehead. The school shooting occurred Valentine’s Day, which was also Ash Wednesday. This woman had been to worship earlier in the day with no idea how her day would end.

As the ashes were applied to her forehead, this is what she heard, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the Gospel.”

Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return (Genesis 3:19)
Remember you are earthy, humus. Remember God gave you the gift of life, that you are made in the image of God, that you are strong, gifted, and beloved of God.

Remember it with humility, for you are humus, human. You are just like everyone else. You are frail, mortal. You are capable of great love and great sin.

The online mass shooting tracker defines mass murder as 3 or more people murdered in one event. They define a mass shooting as 4 or more people shot in a single shooting spree.

From January 1- February 17, 2018, the first 48 days of the year, there have been 43 mass shootings. 83 persons were killed and 151 persons wounded.

Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent…
We wear ashes to remind us of our mortality, our frailty, our humanness, and our need for humility. The ashes also remind us of sackcloth and ashes. In the scriptures, persons would wear sackcloth and ashes when they were grieving the loss of a loved one or the loss of freedom. They would also wear sackcloth and ashes when they were grieving their sin.

My intentional inventory related to all these shootings. I repent and seek God’s forgiveness.

  • I repent of sympathizing with the bereaved families and then too quickly moving on
  • I repent of offering “thoughts and prayers” which cost me nothing instead of risking and caring and working for peace
    • Faith without works is dead
    • Sermons without action is hypocrisy
  • I repent of my participation in our culture of death
    • The violence I tolerate in the name of entertainment
    • The weapons I tolerate in the name of safety and freedom
    • The hard conversations about guns and children I am afraid to have, afraid to lead in our church family because there’s already enough pain in my life,  and I don’t want to add more
  • I repent of the harm I do to others
    • With my words and with my silence
    • With my actions and with my inaction

Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent and believe…
I believe

  • I don’t have to become numb or overwhelmed in the face of wave after wave of violence
  • That we can all have safe schools
  • That we can all have access to great mental health care provided by gifted professionals
  • That it is my responsibility to hold our leaders accountable and to help them be courageous
  • That we can have honest, faithful conversations on difficult topics and still remain brothers and sisters in Christ
  • That we can/must lay aside our divisions to end the plague of gun violence

Why?
Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return: time is short and valuable, life is valuable. Repent: there is time to turn in a new direction, that new direction is toward God.

I don’t just believe, I believe in the Gospel

  • God is good. God is strong. God is love.
  • Our Jesus, the One who healed, taught, prayed for us, understands our pain because he was tortured and murdered, senselessly, unjustly.
  • And our Jesus rose victorious, our Savior and Lord, our Peace, our Hope

I claim the Gospel, the power of the cross and resurrection

  • That breaks the power of grief, despair, and death itself
  • That breaks the cycle of violence, retaliation, fear, apathy

I claim the Gospel, the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me

  • To speak the truth in love, to work for the common good, to pray and to act
  • To seek the wisdom of Almighty God to end the bloodshed because Jesus shed enough for all of us

Ann Voskamp testimony from her blog post
When I stand in the kitchen, stacking dishes on the third day of Lent, our littlest girl flies by me on her wooden push bike, “Looooveeeee you.”

And a heart hurting for a hurting world, I mutter it more to her than to me,
“What in this world does love even mean?”

And our little girl comes to a full stop. Slides off her little Red Rider. And comes back to me.

“You wanna know what Love means?”
She cocks her head, parrots back my words in her high-pitched 3-year-old lisp.

And I look over to her standing there in her mismatched socks and a lopsided ponytail.

“I know what love means, Mama!” She gently laughs like a laying on of hands that heals the rawest wounds.

“Love means this —— “ And she flings her arms open as wide as they can reach.

That wisp of a 3-year-old girl, she’s standing there with her arms stretched wide open — cruciform. Not wearing a cross on her forehead — yet making all of her — arms, hands, body — into a cross. “Yeah, you’re right baby girl — Love means exactly this.”

Remember You are Dust and to Dust, You Shall Return (Genesis 3:19)
Repent and Believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15)

An Invitation to Observe a Holy Lent
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
the early Christians observed with great devotion
the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection,
and it became the custom of the Church that before the Easter celebration
there should be a forty–day season of spiritual preparation.

In this way, the whole congregation was reminded
of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ
and the need we all have to renew our faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Jesus Christ and His Church,
to observe a holy Lent:
by self–examination, and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self–denial;
by acts of generosity, compassion, peacemaking, and service;
and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.

To make a right beginning of repentance,
and as a mark of our mortal nature,
let us now come and bow before our Creator and Redeemer.

Thanksgiving Over the Ashes
Almighty God, you created humanity from the dust of the earth. Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality, our humility, and sorrow for our sin. We admit our eternal need of you and claim the greatness of your eternal grace and forgiveness, in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Imposition of Ashes
Persons are invited forward to receive ashes on their forehead and kneel in confession. The following words are traditionally spoken by those applying the ashes as the ashes are received
Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return. (Gen. 3:19)
Repent, and believe the gospel.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean 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 join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.