Take a Stand, inspired by Jeremiah 1.17-19

stand up speak out

Extended quote from Ragamuffin Reflections by Brennan Manning
The prophet Jeremiah is a striking example of the Biblical paradox that surrender means victory, that in losing our life we find it. (Jesus Christ identifies with Jeremiah more than any other prophet and quotes him most frequently.) In the year 625 BC, the Lord summoned Jeremiah to a prophetic career. Jeremiah’s immediate response was reluctance. “Alas, Sovereign LORD,” he said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young” (Jeremiah 1:6). He was nineteen at the time. Jeremiah was not the confident, self-assured type like Amos or Isaiah. Sensitive, accustomed to the quiet of small-town life, he was temperamentally unsuited for public life and the harsh treatment that is the customary “reward of the prophets.”

Timid and afraid, Jeremiah had no ambition for such a mission. In no way did he want to preach God’s Word to his fellow Israelites. Nothing pleased him more than to be Mr. Nobody, ignored by the ruling clique of royal counselors and priests. How content he would have been to live in the tiny world of his own heart. And so he remonstrated with God, “Ah, Lord God. I am only a boy.” Each of us can sympathize, because Jeremiah is Everyman and Everywoman.

Take a Stand, a devotion inspired by Jeremiah 1:17-19 (NIV)
The words from scripture are found in regular type.

Get yourself ready!
There are things God leaves up to you
Your part of the preparation
Prayer and study and silence
Clearing out the crap so there’s space for what is coming

Stand up and say to them whatever I command you.
Rise now from the green pasture
From the still waters of comfort and slumber
Preparation leads to action
Sanctuary to Taking a Stand

Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.
God alone is God
They do not deserve your reverence
Your awe
They are human
Dust and ashes, just like you

Today I have made you a fortified city,
an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land –
against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.
The call is beyond you
So God makes you more than you
Steadfast
Enduring
Rock and Refuge
Living Stone
Rejected in the Redeeming
Like your Christ
Your Jesus

They will fight
But the battle is the Lord’s

They will fight against you but will not overcome you,
for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.

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On this same theme, consider also reading The Stream of Justice, a stirring encouragement to continue our efforts for peace, freedom, and justice. Written by Steve Garnaas Holmes for Martin Luther King remembrances and similar occasions.

Take a Stand © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Stand Up Speak Out graphic by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Prayer- Make us Your Sanctuary (Ezekiel 37:26)

safe place quote

Ezekiel 37:26 NRSV
I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary among them forevermore.

John 1:14 NRSV
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Glorious One
Covenant Maker
Peacemaker
Our Savior and God
You multiply your goodness
You fill the earth with people and provision
You set your safe place in our midst
You pitch your tent
You abide
Not for a moment or a span
Nor for a year or an age
Forevermore
We glory in your presence
Our living and moving and being is in you
Make us your dwelling place
Make us your sanctuary

Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy tried and true
With thanksgiving I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You
– Sanctuary by John W. Thompson and Randy Scruggs (CCLI Song #24140)

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Make us Your Sanctuary by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia © 2016
You are welcome to use this in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa directly for publishing and posting consideration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End our madness
Deliver us from bloodshed
Deliver us from us

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

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

Sermon Series Recordings: Home for Christmas

Home for Christmas jpg
Sermon Series: Home for Christmas
Message 1 of 4: God Moves In
Scriptures: John 1:1-14; Zephaniah 3:14-20
Offered 11/30/14 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 2 of 4: Making a Home for God
Scriptures: Luke 1:26-38
Offered 12/07/14 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 3 of 4: No Room
Scriptures: Luke 2:1-7
Offered 12/14/14 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 4 of 4: Far From Home
Scriptures: Matthew 2; Psalm 34
Offered 12/28/14 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

© 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer: Far From Home (Matthew 2:13-15)

door-with-key2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas
Days 27 and 28 are set aside for worship and rest
Day 29 Reading: Matthew 2:13-15
Run For Your Life

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Get up, take the child and his mother,
and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you;
for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”
– Matthew 2:13

Click Here for an insightful reflection by Rev. Magrey deVega on the 2015 refugee crisis in the context of Scripture and the Christian tradition. It’s entitled Jesus was also a Refugee.

To live in the world without belonging to the world summarizes the essence of the spiritual life. The spiritual life keeps us aware that our true house is not the house of fear, in which the powers of hatred and violence rule, but the house of love, where God resides. – Henri Nouwen, Behold the Beauty of the Lord

Prayer: Far from Home
Like Mary and Joseph
Circumstances beyond our imagining
Beyond our control
Take us far from home

Jesus, you are with us
You are our help and home

Like King Herod
Our desires for security, pleasure, and power
Lead us down destructive paths
Take us far from home

Jesus, you are with us
You are our help and home

Like the Magi,
Quests for wisdom and direction
A truth we can trust
Take us far from home

Jesus, you are with us
You are our help and home

No matter where we find ourselves
There is a future, with hope
Because Jesus, you are with us
You are our help and home

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This post is part of the 2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas. Click here for more information, including a list of all the readings.

Prayer: Far From Home  © 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

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

Prayer: With us, In us, Amongst us, Through us (John 1:1-18)

baby hand2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas
Day 19 Reading: John 1:1-18
Jesus, The Word Made Flesh

The Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory,
the glory as of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.
– John 1:14

Prayer: With us, In us, Amongst us, Through us
Jesus, we welcome you
God with us, in us, amongst us, through us

Jesus, we need you
God with us, in us, amongst us, through us

Jesus, we trust you
God with us, in us, amongst us, through us

Jesus, we see you
God with us, in us, amongst us, through us

Jesus, we follow you
God with us, in us, amongst us, through us

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Days 20 and 21 are set aside for worship and rest

This post is part of the 2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas. Click here for more information, including a list of all the readings.

Prayer: With us, In us, Amongst us, Through us © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

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

Reader’s Theater: The Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-7)

The Christmas Story readers theaterReader’s Theater: The Birth of Jesus
Based on Luke 2:1-7 NRSV
Parts: Narrator 1, Narrator 2, Narrator 3

NARRATOR
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.

NARRATOR 2
Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

NARRATOR 3
While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

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The Christmas passages from Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2 are “tidings of great joy for all people.” A great way to embody this truth is through multiple readers of multiple ages voicing the beloved story. I hope these simple scripts will help you to do just that. Merry Christmas and may the promises of this Holy Season strengthen you throughout the year! – Lisa <><

Click the link for a master pdf of all The Christmas Story scripts
Reader’s Theater The Christmas Story

Adapted from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Reader’s Theater: The Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-7) © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.