Prayer- Make Me Complete (Matthew 5.43-48)

love enemies 900x

Based on Matthew 5:43-48

Love your enemies
Pray for those who persecute you
How, oh Lord?

Love your family
Your friends, co-workers, classmates
Your leaders, your neighbors, your competitors…
How, oh Lord?

Love yourself, the Enemy Within
The inner critic, the wounded
The addict, the success, the sinner…
How, oh Lord?

It is beyond me, but nothing is beyond you
In forgiving I reconnect with your forgiveness
In blessing I dive into the deep pool of your provision
In laying down arms I find the war already ended
My heart of peace is your heart beating within me

Jesus, your salvation is wholeness
Make me complete as you are that I may hold and be held
Make me a person of integrity
Molded from my sharp, shattered self
by your everlasting mercy and grace
Amen

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Make Me Complete  © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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.

Prayer- All Lives Matter

2016 summer violence collageThis prayer was offered 7/10/16 during worship at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida in response to a month of overwhelming injustice and violence. 

The vows we make at our baptism, and the vows we renew when we make public commitments to Christ, seem especially poignant given the events of this past week. I remind you of them.

I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil power of this world, and repent of my sin.

I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

I confess Jesus Christ as my Savior, put my whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as my Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.

According to the grace given to me, I will remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world.

This week will mark the 1 month anniversary of the Pulse Orlando Massacre. 49 killed, 53 injured. Most young, Latino/Latina, and most from the gay community.

Two weeks after the massacre, Tuesday June 28, a terrorist attack consisting of shootings and suicide bombings occurred at the international terminal of the Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey. More than 230 people were injured. 45 people were killed in addition to the 3 attackers. The victims were from 11 different countries.

A few days later, last Sunday July 3, at least 298 people were killed and over 246 were injured after a large car bomb explosion in the middle of a busy market in Baghdad. The blast occurred in the Karrada area, the home to many Shia Muslims and a large Christian minority. The attack was part of series of Isis attacks during the holy month of Ramadan.

Two days later, Tuesday July 5, Alton Sterling was fatally shot by police outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was a 37 year old black man. The officers were each 28 year old white men.

A day later, Wednesday July 6, Philando Castile was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop. He was a 32 year old black man. The officer is white.

A day later, Thursday July 7, two black snipers ambushed and opened fire at the end of a peaceful protest in Dallas. 7 officers and two civilians are injured. 5 white officers are dead- Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Brent Thompson.

Genesis 1:27
God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Lord Jesus, help us accept your gift of life
All lives matter
All lives matter because all are made in your image
All lives matter and should be protected and respected
for their worth and dignity are from you
All lives matter and should come home safely to their loved ones
It’s not us and them, it’s just us

Lord Jesus, help us live your gift of love
All lives matter
Yet some are targeted with prejudice and violence
because of the color of their skin
the zip code of their home
their sexuality
what they do for a living

So we speak and pray specifics
Black lives matter
Muslim lives matter
Foreign lives matter
Christian lives matter
Law enforcement lives matter
Latino/Latina lives matter
LGBTQIA lives matter
The Poor, their lives matter
The Young, their lives matter
All lives matter

Break our hearts Jesus that we may weep as you weep
Break our hearts Jesus that we may love as you love
Break our hearts Jesus and raise our voices
that we may speak and act so all may be safe
so all may have opportunity
so all may know belonging

Lord Jesus, take away our fear, our apathy, our silence
Grant us your courage
Grant us your strength
Grant us your perseverance
That we may be your sanctuary, your safe place
That we may live your justice
That we may use your power with wisdom and humility
That we may be your whole and holy people
A people of integrity
That we may speak and act and love again and again and again
Till every dividing wall of hate, fear and mistrust
comes crashing down in your Powerful Name

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace
Fill us with your hope
Fill us with your salt
Fill us with your light

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace
Teach us to pray and teach us to live your prayer
Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

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Prayer- All Lives Matter © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

It would be easy to modify this prayer so different parts could be led by different worship leaders.

Sermon Recording- Giving and Receiving Forgiveness

forgiveness

Sermon Series: 57 Words That Changed the World
Messages on the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:5-15

Message: Giving and Receiving Forgiveness
Scripture: Matthew 6:5-15
Offered 5/1/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

The Lord’s Prayer informs, forms, and transforms us and the world. – Lisa Degrenia.

Colossians 2:13-14
And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.

Psalm 103:12
as far as the east is from the west so far he removes our transgressions from us

2 Corinthians 5:21
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Biblical stories illustrating forgiveness
Luke 7:36-50 and Matthew 18:23-35

If I’m not willing to forgive others then I’m not asking God to forgive me, no matter what words I use. I am asking God to excuse me, but not asking God to forgive me.
– Darrell Johnson

God forgives the penitent and one of the chief evidences of true penitence is a forgiving spirit. – John Stott

Study Resources for this Message
Lord, Teach Us: The Lord’s Prayer & the Christian Life
by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon

The Lord and His Prayer by N. T. Wright

Fifty-Seven Words that Change the World: A Journey through the Lord’s Prayer
by Darrell W. Johnson

A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer by W. Phillip Keller

Our Heavenly Father: Sermons on the Lord’s Prayer by Helmut Thielicke
Read it for free online!

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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.

© 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

God in My Image: an aha moment from Proverbs 6:16-23

Graphic from Dustin Beasley's blog, Endure Life

Graphic from Dustin Beasley’s blog, Endure Life

SCRIPTURE: Proverbs 6:16-23 The Message
Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion:

  1. eyes that are arrogant
  2. a tongue that lies
  3. hands that murder the innocent
  4. a heart that hatches evil plots
  5. feet that race down a wicked track
  6. a mouth that lies under oath
  7. a troublemaker in the family

Good friend, follow your father’s good advice; don’t wander off from your mother’s teachings. Wrap yourself in them from head to foot; wear them like a scarf around your neck. Wherever you walk, they’ll guide you; whenever you rest, they’ll guard you; when you wake up, they’ll tell you what’s next. For sound advice is a beacon, good teaching is a light, moral discipline is a life path.

OBSERVATION
The seven items on the list are destructive choices. They bring separation, pain, and injustice. God offers us the way of goodness and life. Following this path brings direction and protection.

APPLICATION
The first two vows of the United Methodist Baptismal and Membership Liturgy
1. Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
2. Do you accept the freedom and power that God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

Ephesians 4:26-27 NRSV
Be angry but do not sin;
do not let the sun go down on your anger,
and do not make room for the devil.

I am very comfortable with the God of grace, mercy and love. So much so that when a friend in my Bible study class asked me about this passage I didn’t know what to say. God is love and yet God hates. God hates not only evil actions but God also hates people who choose them. How can this be?

Humans can love and hate at the same time, but our hate usually leads to sin. Prejudice, sectarianism, gossip, judging others, labeling, bullying, violence. Hate is not a healthy or faithful option for me.

There is such a thing as the wrath of God. God cries out that oppressors be stopped, that violence end. The cry [in Psalm 137] is not literally to kill babies, but to utterly destroy the offspring of greed and exploitation, to end the line of succession of violence and abuse, to chop off the family tree of hate and fear and selfishness. The change is built on love of the oppressors— but God’s merciful justice requires that some things get destroyed. As Revelation 11:18 says, “Your wrath has come, and the time… for destroying those who destroy the earth.” – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, About That Psalm

God is without sin. Always. God can love and hate without sin. Maybe I’ve tried to box God in to my limitations. Scriptures like this are a reminder that God is greater. God isn’t an enabler who tolerates destructive choices passively. To love means to take a stand. Evil and foolish choices have serious consequences, the main one being they put us in opposition to God. God is good, holy and just and thus opposes all that is not. The wonder and grace of God is that God continues to extend the offer of reconciliation and new life to the opposition.

A God small enough to fit inside your head is not big enough to meet your needs.
– Chuck Missler

PRAYER: Your Word, Your Way
Lord God, help me love you
All of you
I want to know you, follow your path
I want to be wise
Far from foolishness and evil

Help me love your word
All of it
I want to cherry pick passages
Box you in to what is comfortable for me
What I understand and want
Fashion you in my image

You are greater
Your thoughts are greater
Your greatness draws me close
Your greatness weakens my knees in awe, respect and worship

Save me from extremes
too soft, too hard
too tolerant, too legalistic
too much love, too much law
too much me

Help me love you
your word
your way
Always
Amen

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God in a Box graphic courtesy of Dustin Beasley’s blog, Endurelife

This devotion is based on the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here

Prayer: Your Word, Your Way © 2013 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, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

A Few Thoughts on Anger

Ephesians 4:26-27 (NRSV)
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.

Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back — in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you. – Frederick Buechner

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. -Mark Twain

Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved. – Marcus Antonius

Whatever the offense, a fundamental rule for processing anger is this: Do not harm yourself or anyone else. We must learn to manage the physical stimuli that grip us after a hurt. Anger can be as challenging to control as a wild stallion. When wronged, we need to let our emotions subside before acting. This may mean taking a break and removing ourselves physically from the situation. During this time-out, it is important not to replay the offense. – Kathleen Fischer, Forgiving Your Family

Anger, Your Friend by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Anger is not a sin. It’s a feeling.
It’s not your enemy. It’s also not righteousness.
Anger may arise in the face of injustice, or happenstance,
or almost nothing at all.
But it is not “against” those things.
It’s not about those things at all,
but about your response to those things.
Anger is a response to your powerlessness.
Otherwise, you’d simply fix what was wrong.

Anger is your loyal friend: it’s giving you a message
and won’t leave till you get it.
So don’t neglect or suppress your anger:
it will sit there and seethe in your mind’s basement
and become toxic to you and others,
and, consciously or not, you will weaponize it.
Don’t turn your anger against anybody, including yourself.
Just listen to it: it’s telling you about your powerlessness.
And it’s telling you what you care about.

Listen to your anger, and ask:
1. What is not right?
2. Do I really care about this?
This anger could just be a conditioned response.
But it’s letting you know of your misplaced desire
for power and control.
If this thing is not worth caring about,
You can let your anger be, without reacting to it. Just let it be.
And let yourself be powerless. (After all, you are.)
3. If I do care about this, what can I do?
Remember, you’re still powerless.
But let your anger direct your attention to what you can do—
not to hurt, to avenge, or to make yourself feel less powerless,
but to make the situation better.
In action, you will regain your power.
Then thank your friend anger.

Matthew 5:21-25 NRSV
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first, be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.”

Because true prayer is rooted in surrender, anger is the surest way not only to be distracted in prayer but also to be defeated in our attempts to pray. Anger gives rise to thoughts and images which poison the soul. This is why Jesus said that we cannot allow grudges to exist when we are worshiping God. This is why we cannot focus on the speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the log in ours. The manner of our praying is first to remove the blockages so that God’s “water of life” can flow unimpeded into our lives. – Steve Harper, The Manner of our Praying

Making sacred space for genuine mourning over our wounds is essential within the journey of healthy forgiveness. Genuine mourning involves many feelings, including anger and sorrow, which are closely intertwined. …For some of us, it feels safer and easier to rage than to cry. Rage is often our masked tears.
Flora Slosson Wuellner Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey

Yes, I was angry. And I was a little afraid. After all, I’ve not been free in so long. But, when I felt that anger well up inside of me, I realized that if I hated them after I got outside that gate, then they would still have me. I wanted to be free so I let it go.
~Nelson Mandela upon leaving prison after 27 years of confinement. This quote opens an excellent article by Gail Brenner entitled 10 Life-Changing Facts About Anger

A Blessing for Times of Anger
Your anger is real
Your pain is real
Your fear is real

In the honesty of this moment
May you remember
Your Defender is at hand

Anger’s fire will not consume you
Pain’s waves will not overwhelm you
Fear’s furor will not run away with you

God’s love is stronger
Making all things new
Transforming destruction
From death to life

May the Promise claim you
And embrace you
And empower you to
Surrender revenge
Pick up perspective
and wisdom
and grace
and hope
and freedom
and…

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If you know the artist of today’s featured work please let me know so I may give him/her credit.

A Blessing for Times of Anger © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for permission to publish this work in any form.

Praying for Enemies

destroying_my_enemies_by_hellhoundp2k

Destroying My Enemies by hellhoundp2k

Matthew 5:43-48 (The Message)
Jesus said, “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

I find it difficult to conceive of a more concrete way to love than by praying for one’s enemies. It makes you conscious of the hard fact that, in God’s eyes, you’re no more and no less worthy of being loved than any other person, and it creates an awareness of profound solidarity with all other human beings…. And you’ll be delighted to discover that you can no longer remain angry with people for whom you’ve really and truly prayed. –Henri Nouwen

We cannot love our enemies until we see those twin truths:
God loves me. God loves them. – Mary DeMuth

The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared? – Martin Luther

Our Lord Jesus Christ has shown us the ultimate example of love for one’s enemies, both in general and in particular. The Lord forgave those who committed the most evil deed in the world – who crucified Him to the cross, and in such forgiveness the Lord revealed the greatest love. But on a larger scale the Lord also revealed the greatest love for us, sinners, by taking upon Himself the sins of the whole world, and that means our sins, too. Sins are God’s enemies, because they go against the goodness and perfection of God’s creation, and thus the Lord showed love for His enemies, i.e. our sins, by erasing them through His sacrifice on the cross. – Father Rostislav Sheniloff, On Loving One’s Enemies

Luke 6:27-29, 31, 32, 35, 36 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also … Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them… But love your enemies… Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

It’s hard to love someone really,
especially the annoying, the arrogant, the cruel—
because I want to be separate from them.
I don’t want to be one with them,
soiled by their sin, associated with their dirt.
I want to push their boat off in a good direction
but not be in their boat.
But to love someone
is to cease judging their cruel as more cruel than I.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, excerpt from Why It’s Hard to Love

Let your religion be this,
to tend to the unloved,
to heal the world with kindness
as you have been given unearned kindness,
to be present to the grace
that flows in and around you.
And those who are against you—
tend to them, for they are unloved,
heal them with kindness they can’t expect,
be present to the grace hidden even in them;
or you have already abandoned your faith.
– Steve Garnaas Holmes, excerpt from A Thousand Ways

You can’t know everyone’s struggle, but you can honor it. You can’t see everyone’s pain but you can be gentle. You can think highly of everyone even if they’ve learned to make how they live look easy. You can be forgiving; you can be encouraging and not judging; you can give people room to fail and improve; you can free people from your own expectations and projections. You can be so loving, in fact, that though it’s apparently hard for others for you it’s just normal. It won’t be easy, but with discipline you can do it. Be so loving that you make it look easy. – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, They Make it Look Easy

Click the links for other reflections on loving our enemies by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
A Different World and The Other Cheek

Anyway by Kent Keith*
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be good anyway.

Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People need help but will attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

*Kent Keith wrote this poem in 1968. Mother Teresa made it well known by placing it on the wall of her children’s home in Calcutta in a slightly different version. As a result, many have attributed it to her.

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

Day 28: Psalms of Victory

Stop the Violence by Bashir Malik

Today’s Reading
Psalms 21, 76, 144

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; my rock and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues the peoples under me.
Psalm 144:1-2

Observation
Psalm 144 is a warrior’s psalm. The warriors turn to God in the heat of battle- train our hands, deliver us, rescue us, fight for us so that we are able to raise our children and raise our crops in peace.

Application
I am uncomfortable with images of God’s people as warriors and the “expansion” of salvation via force. I think of how often it has been abused- the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust and countless other acts of genocide, discrimination and violence. We are never to be the aggressors, the tyrants, nor the persecutors.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9) Jesus calls us to engage deeply in peacemaking – praying for those who persecute us, turning the other cheek, forgiving 70 X 7, shaking the dust from our sandals as we leave.

Some Christians take these commands as an absolute commitment to a life of nonviolence. I believe the scriptures leave room for those rare occasions when all else fails and life must be defended.

It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work.- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Prayer
Jesus, Prince of Peace, You do not give as the world gives. You give your peace. A peace that passes understanding. A peace that is everlasting. Help me to join you in the hard, hard work of peacemaking. Grant me wisdom, patience, and compassion. Save me from rushing to judgment and anger and domination. Victory without peace is no victory.

Defend those who find themselves in the midst of violence-
Violence between countries
Violence between races
Violence between religions
Violence between students
Violence between family members
Violence over land, over ideas, over food, over rights

Change the hearts of all who seek their way by evil and violence means. End the violence and the death and the hate. Let there be peace on earth. Amen.

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You are invited to join me on a summer adventure through one of the most beloved books in the Bible, Psalms.  To download the Summer in the Psalms reading plan, click here Psalms Reading Plan

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you seek him this summer. – Lisa <><

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