Poem: We Need to Linger

holy week primitive cartoon adapted
Before we get to Easter, we need to linger:
in the vulnerability of the basin and the towel
at the remembrance and promise of the table
in the struggle and betrayal of the garden
in the shadows and shouts of injustice
at the bloody brutal beautiful cross
in the silence of linen and spices and death

For without these, the empty tomb is empty

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Poem: We Need to Linger © 2000 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.

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.

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 20, Good News

beautiful feetThe thought behind the photo:
A few years ago, a friend gave me this fabulous Christmas tree ornament. I’m not a “shoe person”, but I am a pastor, so it came with a different meaning. Every year as I hang it on the tree, I smile thinking about my friend’s blessing and encouragement. Following Jesus and the call he’s placed on my life brought an unexpected change. I expected to be made new, but couldn’t imagine the great grace of “beautiful feet” from bringing good news.

SCRIPTURE: Romans 10:11-15 NRSV
The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

The December 20, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 11:4-6, CEB
Jesus replied, “Go, report to John what you hear and see. Those who were blind are able to see. Those who were crippled are walking. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. The poor have good news proclaimed to them. Happy are those who don’t stumble and fall because of me.”

John is in prison wondering, “Jesus, are you really the one we’ve been waiting for?” While there, he gets reports of all these great things happening; of prophesies coming true: blind seeing, crippled walking, sick being healed.

Wonder how John is feeling right about now. Is he able to rejoice in the fact that Jesus is doing what was foretold, while he’s suffering in prison?

In this season of merriment, how are we bringing good news to those who aren’t joyful? To those who are bound by things beyond their control or grief too great to bear?

Singing “Joy to the World” or “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” may not be well received by those experiencing pain or loss this season, but perhaps you’re able to bring comfort.

What might that look like?

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Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><

Ring the Christmas Bells

Luke 2:17-18 NIV
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Selected verses from I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Hen­ry W. Long­fel­low
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

2 Timothy 4:1-7 NRSV (Paul encouraging Timothy, and us!)
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Selected verses from The Way of the Soul, also known as In Memoriam,
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Matthew 10:7 NRSV
Jesus said, “As you go, proclaim the good news,
‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.'”

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

Mark Day 1: The Good News

Good News by Suzanne Marie Leclair

Gospel of Mark Reading Plan
Day 1 Reading: Mark 1

If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.- Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” – Mark 1:14-15 (NRSV)

Observation
Mark’s Gospel moves quickly through the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry: John prepares the way, Jesus is baptized by John then tempted in the wilderness by the devil, Jesus begins to preach and heal people, he calls the disciples.

Application
The good news is simple: God has come near in Jesus. Jesus fulfills the promises of God, opening the kingdom to all who will believe.
Jesus’ methods are simple: preach, pray, heal

Prayer
Make it simple Lord. We make your work so much harder than it is. Save us from complexity. Keep us focused on what is important: you, your welcome, your healing power, your authority, your saving love. Amen.

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For more information on the Gospel of Mark Reading Plan, click here

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