When the Spirit Chases You With the Message You Need to Hear

Freedom - A sculpture by Zenos Frudakis

Freedom by Zenos Frudakis

Themes of slavery and freedom keep chasing me this Lenten season.

The message seems to come from random places, but I’m confident this isn’t random. I trust the Holy Spirit is working all of this together for my good. There’s something I need to know and I need to know it now.

First, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 came up in my Scripture Reading Plan
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

This got me thinking about shrouds and shackles and slavery. How am I bound? It also got me thinking about the Spirit’s promise of seeing clearly and freedom.

In my morning sacred reading, I’m making my way through Jesus, a Pilgrimage by James Martin, SJ. It’s glorious and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

A couple of days after the Corinthians passage, my book reading discusses the raising of Lazarus from John 11. More shrouds and shackles! Lazarus is wrapped up like a mummy. The first scripture talked about slavery to condemnation and the law. Now it’s expanded to include slavery to sin and death.

And again the Good News- New Life, Resurrection, and Freedom in Christ! Unbind him!

Selections from John 11:34-44
34 Jesus said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” … 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. … 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

soar by scott erickson

Soar by Scott Erickson

Then came the scriptures associated with Sunday’s sermon on God freeing the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. We serve a God who saves, a God who delivers us from shackles and shame and sin and death. That is our God!

Check out this promise from Exodus 16:6-7. In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord. 

Then this picture came my way. Soar by Scott Erickson. Isn’t it fantastic! All of his work is fresh and powerful.

This piece says to me, “Freedom in the Spirit.” I love the color, the movement, the joy, the flow, the overshadowing companionship.

This reminds me of what my friend Jenny Gehman said the Spirit told her about her word for the year, SOAR. The Spirit said to her, “SOAR- Sweetheart, Open And Rise.”

grit and virtue kimberly mead freedomThen this quote from Kimberly Mead via the great folks at Grit and Virtue. In freedom there is rest. Slaves don’t rest. Sabbath rest, Soul rest, is the fruit of freedom.

So here I am, praying for eyes to see and ears to hear as the Spirit continues to reveal what this means for me. What might all this mean for you, dear one? – Lisa <><

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When the Spirit Chases You With a Message You Need to Hear
© 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
(by Lisa Degrenia, revlisad.com)
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

What I Learned Making Matzo

Sermon Series Bread 1110 x 624Lenten Sermon Series: Bread
This sermon series was inspired by the book Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers by Margaret Feinberg.

Message 1 of 5: Matzo and Manna
Scriptures: Deuteronomy 16:1-3; Exodus 16:13-15
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/1/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire contemporary worship service, including the message which starts at the 33-minute mark.

Andrew McGowanThis is Andrew McGowan. He’s Australian. He’s an Episcopal priest and seminary professor. He’s the Dean of the Divinity School at Yale and an expert in ancient bread making.

Last week we passed out copies of one of his recipes. Andrew’s 18-Minute Kosher Matzo

If we’re thinking about bread in the Scriptures, we have to start at the beginning with the unleavened bread of those running for their freedom from slavery under Pharoah. The Bread of Affliction.

Deuteronomy 16:1-3, The Passover Remembrance Instructions
1 Observe the month of Abib by keeping the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 You shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock and the herd, at the place that the Lord will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3 You must not eat with it anything leavened. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it—the bread of affliction—because you came out of the land of Egypt in great haste, so that all the days of your life you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt.

matzo ingredientsWhat I Learned Making Matzo-
The Bread of Affliction

Last night at about 10:00 pm, I decided to make matzo. I had to come over to the church to get a rolling pin. We didn’t have one. I don’t bake.

Prepare- I had to gather the ingredients. How different was my experience than that of folks in the ancient world, especially slaves? They had to grind the grain into flour by hand. They had to gather the water by hand in the heat of the desert. Was it bitter? Was it nearby? They had to gather whatever they used to make fire by hand.

All I had to do was turn on the oven. But I had to wait for the oven to heat to 490°. A blazing, oppressive 490°. As I waited, I began to imagine the slaves waiting for freedom. The longing. The praying for deliverance for hundreds of years, for generations.

What deliverance have I been praying for for a long long time? My weight. My perfectionism. Who else this very night is longing and praying for deliverance? What’s on their heart?

As I’m waiting, I’m looking at the ingredients. There’s only two- water and flour. No oil. No spices. Not even salt. It is the bread of affliction. I’m baking old fashioned paste.

For the slaves, there was never enough. They were always scraping, always hungry. They made do with so little.

The oven is ready and its time to begin. Real matzo is finished in 18 minutes or less, start to finish. I wound my old school tick, tick, tick timer. On your mark, get set, go.

I began working the water and flour together with my hands like they would have. I used spelt flour, a flour of the ancient world. It has a darker color and rougher texture than refined, white flour. It’s brown. The color of mud.

My mind went to the slaves working the mud into bricks. With tools. With their hands. It the heat of the desert. Soul-breaking as well as back-breaking work.

18 minutes- tick tick tick tick. It’s just sitting there on the counter laughing at me. Will there be enough time? For the slaves, there was never enough time. Never enough time to do all the work for Pharaoh. Tick Tick Tick Tick. Lash of the whip. Shouts of the overseers.

Never enough time. Never enough time. Tick tick tick tick. Never enough time to rest. Rest? There was no rest, you’re a slave.

Exodus 1:13-14
The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

We can’t begin to imagine how bad it was – ruthless is in there twice. Bitter water. Bitter bread. Bitter lives. I can’t think too much. Tick tick tick tick

matzo doughTime to divide the dough into 4 pieces. Division. The divide between the rulers and the slaves. Power and oppression. Division due to fear, injustice, prejudice. God calls us to be peacemakers, to end division. I can’t think about that too much. Time is moving, tick tick tick tick

Time to roll out the dough. Push and pull and push and pull. This is work. I don’t bake. Push and pull and push and pull tick, tick, tick tick.

Work harder. Work faster. Make bread. Make bread without salt. Make bricks. Make bricks without straw. Tick tick tick tick

Then I realized, I am making slave food! I am literally making slave food. Thousands of years later and slavery hasn’t ended. Thousands of years later. Cant’ think about that too much. Tick tick tick tick

The dough became so thin, so fragile. How fragile life is. How fragile life was. Would it tear as I lifted it from the counter to the parchment paper?

Once it’s on the parchment paper you have to take a fork and pierce it. Stab, stab, stab, stab. It’s brutal. The brutality of the slave drivers, of their lives, even their food. Where in my life am I using my words and power in a brutal way?

Mocking, whipping, injustice, stab stab stab stab- a crown of thorns, stab – a spear in the side. My Jesus! The brutality Jesus experienced that we might be free from slavery to sin and death and shame.

matzo finishedI get it into the oven and wonder- what will happen?

Exodus 2:23-25
The Israelites groaned under their slavery and cried out. Out of the slavery, their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.

What’s going to happen with all the slavery, shackles, division, and brutality? God takes notice. God hears our cries.

At first, there was not enough time to work, not enough time to rest. Then there was not enough time to prepare to leave. The Israelites are going. God is saving them. They’re heading out through the sea and through the wilderness and into the promised land.

It is time to leave. Leave, leave now. Tick tick tick tick. In the middle of the night, leave this slavery for freedom. Leave this slavery for home.

That’s what happened to them and that’s what can happen for us. It’s time to leave the slavery for freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom…

Exodus 16:13-15
13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”

What is it? It is manna which literally means, “what is it?.” God frees us and provides for us.

This is manna, not matzo.

Matzo is the bread of Pharaoh. The bread of affliction, slavery, brutality, prejudice, division, exploitation, fear…

God gives manna, the bread of heaven. So different I can’t even wrap my head around it.

What is it?
It’s manna, the bread of heaven.
It’s sweet. It’s flaky. It’s freely given.
I don’t have to push and pull and strive.

It’s rest, freely given.
I’m no longer a slave.
I can sabbath.

Freedom, freely given.

Grace, freely given.

New life, freely given.

New every morning,
day after day after day after day…
for them and for us

Exodus 16:6-7
“…In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning, you will see the glory of the LORD…”

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Sermon- Matzo and Manna © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Ash Wednesday: A Wilderness Prayer (Deuteronomy 8)

man desert path

God of the Ages
Our Deliverer and Provider
We bow in humility before your grace

You feed us with the divine
Your word
Your body

You quench our thirst with living water
A stream in the desert

You guide our feet through snares and snakes

You free us from slavery to sin and self and shame and death

You lead us the long way to holiness and home

Test our hearts
Have we exalted ourselves?
Have we forgotten you?

time of silent reflection and confession

Reveal the truth to us, O God
Exposed by your unrelenting light
Wiped clean with your Wilderness Wind

Grow in us wholehearted allegiance
that our blessing and devotion may never waver
that we may always recognize and trust your desire to do us good
Amen

For more on the themes of wilderness and confession, pray and reflect on Desert by Steve Garnaas Holmes.

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A Wilderness Prayer © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Based on Deuteronomy 8:2-3; 14-16

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.

A Wilderness Prayer (Deuteronomy 8)

man desert path

God of the Ages
Our Deliverer and Provider
We bow in humility before your grace

You feed us with the divine
Your word
Your body

You quench our thirst with living water
A stream in the desert

You guide our feet through snares and snakes

You free us from slavery to sin and self and death

You lead us the long way to holiness and home

Test our hearts
Have we exalted ourselves?
Have we forgotten you?

time of silent reflection and confession

Reveal the truth to us, O God
Exposed by your unrelenting light
Wiped clean with your wilderness wind

Grow in us wholehearted allegiance
that our blessing and devotion may never waver
that we may always recognize and trust your desire to do us good
Amen

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A Wilderness Prayer © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Based on Deuteronomy 8:2-3; 14-16

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.

Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Fruit (Galatians 5)

Sermon Series spirit filled 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Spirit Filled
Message 5 of 5: Pour Out Your Fruit
Scripture: Galatians 5:1, 13-14, 16-25 
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 7/7/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

What is the Fruit of the Spirit?

  • What is your favorite fruit?
  • 9 virtues (character traits) which the Holy Spirit grows in our lives
  • Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control

Who wants more of this in their life? We all do. If you had to pick one to have more of in your life, which would you pick? (I want patience. Give me patience now!)

They are all good like a good piece of fruit. They are good gifts from God.

God expects fruit in our lives. They are the natural progression of being a follower of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit at work in our life. Growth in grace. Being alive and multiplying. Being rooted and grounded in Christ.

This is the fruit of abiding in Christ. The Spirit abides with us and in us. This is the natural fruit from believing and praying and trusting and seeking and serving.

It’s very simple: A follower of Christ should look and act differently than someone yet to believe.

Where’s the fruit? Do we look all that different?

  • Where are the saved crying out in thanksgiving?
  • Where are the bodies, families, and unjust systems healed for the Glory of God
  • Where are the leaders leading out of Godly wisdom and humility?
  • Where are the abused, angry, and addicted rejoicing in Christ’s freedom?

There is fruit my friends, but too often we don’t tell anyone about it. We hide it. We’re afraid of bragging, being weird, we’re shy.

Testimonies of Grace Stimson, Alida Noel Provence, and Pam Rader. 

The Holy Spirit is at work. There is fruit. It’s about having eyes to see it. It’s about wanting it. The Spirit is never forced upon us.

Galatians 5 is all about freedom.

Galatians 5:1
For freedom, Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

  • Freedom from a false understanding of the law which lays a heavy burden on us
  • Purpose of the Law was to show us our need of a Savior- we can’t fulfill the law in our own strength
  • Good gift of the law was twisted into a set of rules – follow the rules you’ll earn God’s love and salvation
  • How are we saved? By grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by your own doing, not of works and rules (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Galatians 5:13-14
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers, and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

  • Wide swing to another end of the spectrum in understanding freedom in Christ
  • Christ has set me free so I can do whatever I want
  • No- our freedom is so we can love and serve one another

In true freedom, we live by the Spirit not the law, not rules
In true freedom, we are guided by the Spirit not our fleshy selfishness or achieving

Galatians 5:16-25 NRSV
16 Live by the Spirit, I say and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious:

  • a “sin list” of 15 actions
  • fornication, impurity, licentiousness (misuse of the good gift of sex)
  • idolatry, sorcery (playing God)
  • Enmities (hostility), strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy
    • Heart of peace sees people as people
    • heart of war sees people as objects, obstacles to be overcome or fixed, projects, problems, a means to an end. People not as people
  • drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. (misuse of the good gift of celebration)

I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

tug of war

Tug Of War Battle: Flesh vs. Spirit, Heart of War vs. Heart of Peace, Old Life without Christ vs. New Life with Christ. Just like in Tug of War, there will be a surrender. Will you surrender to the flesh or will you surrender to the Spirit? Do you want the Fruit of the Spirit or do you want the crazyville of the sin list?

The Fruit of the Spirit is the evidence we’ve surrendered to the Spirit, that we’re finding true freedom in Christ.

There is an awful, scary warning in the middle of this passage. (v. 21) If you act like the sin list you won’t inherit the Kingdom. But I still get angry… I still envy… I want patience NOW… I don’t have self-control over chocolate, or something else.

We’re awakening and becoming self-aware. The warning is serious, we take it seriously, so we get to work. I’ll work on my patience.

Did you hear the W word? I’ll work on being more patient and there we are trapped again. We turn the list of the Fruit of the Spirit into a new set of laws which will bind us. We work hard to achieve them in our own strength.

Truth: We can’t create the Fruit of the Spirit. All we do is surrender to it. 

We give ourselves grace because it takes a long time to bear fruit. If you were to plant a fruit tree, how long would it take before it bore fruit? If you were to plant seeds, how long would it take? The Holy Spirit is the seed.

John 15:4
Jesus said, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

We abide. Every day we open ourselves to the Spirit. Grow fruit in me. It’s that simple.

An apple tree doesn’t have to focus and work really hard to produce apples. It’s the natural result of seed meeting soil, sun, water.

The Holy Spirit is the seed.  The Spirit meets the soil of our soul. It’s watered by our openness and trust, prayer, scripture, community, seeking, surrender.

Give yourself grace. Tell someone about the fruit.

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Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Fruit © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.