Sermon Recording – Remember You Are Dust (Joel 2, Psalm 51)

ash wedensday with palms

Message: Remember You Are Dust
Scriptures: Joel 2:12-17; Psalm 51:1-12
I’m catching up on some 2017 sermons which haven’t been posted. This sermon was offered 2/26/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Breath in, Breath Out
Which is more important? Inhaling or exhaling?
Which is more important? What we believe or how we behave?

Belief and behavior both matter, just like inhaling and exhaling.
What we believe shapes how we behave.
How we behave demonstrates what we believe.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been walking through the book of James.
It’s a book which focuses on how the followers of Jesus are to behave.
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.
Faith without works is dead.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.

Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) also focuses on behavior.
Turn the other cheek
Go the extra mile
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Do not judge
Do to others as you would have them do to you

Likewise, Jesus’ parable of the final judgment (Matthew 25), as illustrated by the separating of sheep and goats, focuses on behavior. Those welcomed into the kingdom are those who
Feed the hungry
Give the thirsty something to drink
Welcome the stranger
Give clothing to the naked
Care for the sick
Visit those in prison

John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” This isn’t a sentimental, candy-coated feeling. This is love made real in our words and actions. In our sacrifices and steadfastness.

And yet, belief is critically important.
Without it, we are merely humanists
Without it, we are unplugged from the eternal
Unplugged from the “why” of our actions
Unplugged from the “how” of our strength to act

Placing our trust in Jesus Christ opens the way for the Holy Spirit to lead us and transform us: our behavior, our motivation, our perspective on what’s important, our love.

Our belief allows the Holy Spirit to shape us into the very likeness of Jesus.

Following Jesus is about the integration of belief and behavior. By cooperating with God’s grace, we become people of integrity. Integrated. We who are broken become whole. We are “re-membered.”

The integration of belief and behavior is so important we set aside time every year to reflect and focus on it.

  • We face our true selves in the light and love of Jesus.
  • We face our failures, our shortcomings in the grace of Jesus
  • We commit to continued growth in the likeness of our Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit

To help us do this, we use a symbol: ashes
The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder that we are all dust. We are all mortal. We are all imperfect people. Our time here is short. Make it count.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder of our humility. Humility, human and hummus are all from the same root word meaning “of the earth.” We have a common bond with all people and all living things. We are no better or worse.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder of our sorrow, a modern expression of the days’ people displayed their grief by wearing sackcloth and ashes. We grieve the spoiling and wasting of God’s good gift of life. We lament how we’ve hurt God, others, the earth, and ourselves. We mourn our sin.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is in the shape of a cross. A tangible sign of the infinite grace of Jesus Christ that meets us wherever we are and loves us too much to leave us there.

Psalm 103:13b-14, The Voice
The Eternal shows His love for those who revere Him.
For He knows what we are made of
He knows our frame is frail, and He remembers we came from dust.

Jesus accepts us with all our contradictions between what we believe and the way we behave. Jesus draws us, invites us, and empowers us toward new life: A transformed life, a whole and holy life, where belief and behavior are fully integrated with his good and divine will.

Come, see how the ashes and the grace are good.

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 © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording- Down to the Bone (Genesis 32)

Jacob Sermon Series

Sermon Series – Jacob, Punk to Patriarch
Jacob’s journey to faith and accepting his place in God’s plan is full of schemes, betrayal, and family dysfunction. Yet, in the midst of the mess, God remains steadfast- offering relationship, provision, purpose, and new life. In Jacob’s story, we see our own mess and God’s saving grace for us as well.

Message: Down to the Bone
Scriptures: Genesis 32:9-13; 24-28
Offered 9/25/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

God desires to do more than “help out” a bit. God wants to completely transform us. God wants to take a timid heart and set it ablaze with strength and courage, so much so that people know something supernatural has taken place. – Francis Chan

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis reminds us of the divine-human struggle. Susan and Lucy ask Mr. and Mrs. Beaver to describe Aslan (Lewis’s representation of Jesus). They ask if Aslan is a man. Mr. Beaver replies. “Aslan a man? Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion– the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he–quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about being safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

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.

Pentecost Prayer, adapted from the Prayer of St. Alphonsus Liguori to the Holy Spirit

Pentecost by Daniel Rice

Pentecost by Daniel Rice

Pentecost Prayer
Adapted from the Prayer of St. Alphonsus Liguori to the Holy Spirit (1696-1787)
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia (2010)

Most Holy Spirit,
My hope is in your goodness.
I trust Your plan to save my soul and make me holy.

Time and again, I am ungrateful and blind to Your divine inspirations,
I have so often offended You and beg your pardon,
I offer You this cold heart of mine,
and pray You would pierce it with a ray of Your light,
with a spark of Your fire, melt the hard ice of my sin.

You are Divine Spirit:
give me courage against all evil.
You are Fire:
enkindle in me Your love.
You are Light:
brighten my mind with Your wisdom.
You are Dove:
give me innocence of life.
You are Wind:
disperse the storms of my passions.
You are Tongue:
teach me to honor You with my words.
You are Cloud:
shelter me under the shadow of Your protection.
You are Counselor:
walk by my side, guide my steps.

Save me in Your infinite mercy;
so that I may ever bless You, praise You, and love You;
first during this life on earth,
and then in heaven for all eternity. Amen.

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 10, Holy

nativity setThe thought behind the photo:
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
– Phillips Brooks

SCRIPTURE: 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.

The December 10, 2013 devotion from 
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 11:6-10 NRSV
The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Verses 6-10 are famously known as the “peaceable kingdom.” In this beautiful vision of harmony inaugurated by the Messiah, all of creation participates—people, animals and even the land. The place of peace will be the holy mountain of God, and the land will be filled with the knowledge of God.

But the way knowledge is spoken of in this passage isn’t in the way that we understand knowledge. In Hebrew, it is the full living into and experiencing of what is known. So the holy mountain; the earth, will be infused with the reality of God.

What would that look and feel like to enter into what is fully known?
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 <><

Good and Evil

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

Matthew 12:35 NRSV
The good person brings good things out of a good treasure,
and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure

3 John 1:11 NRSV
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good.
Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

Recognizing “the world, the flesh, and the devil” as the classic three sources of evil (and also the source of the “spiral of violence”) —

  1. the world’s agreed-upon systems of self-congratulation and self-protection;
  2. our individual sin, which is then inevitable;
  3. the demonic legitimization of oppressive and destructive power by governments and institutions—

can be a primary tool to help you discern what is truly good and what is often evil. Without discernment, many of us end up calling good evil and evil good, just as Isaiah predicted (5:20) and the murder of Jesus revealed. – Richard Rohr

Romans 7:21 NRS
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 NRSV
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every secret thing, whether good or evil.

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

The shadow self is not of itself evil; it just allows you to do evil without calling it evil. That is why Jesus criticizes hypocrisy more than anything else (eleven times in Matthew’s Gospel). Something that is shocking to many religious people is that Jesus is never upset with sinners; he’s only upset with people who think they are not sinners!
Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

It would be easy for us to think that all of those involved in dehumanizing Jesus were horrible people. If it were only the Roman soldiers, we might say, “Well, the Roman soldiers did terrible things like that.” Or if it were just the thieves on either side of Jesus, we could say, “After all, they were criminals. That’s what you would expect.” But the people who led the charge in dehumanizing and humiliating Jesus were considered the most pious people on the face of the planet in that day. – Adam Hamilton, Final Words

We don’t praise God for evil, we praise God in the midst of evil. Those are critically different responses. And we must avoid the former lest, in our hurry to comfort, we minimize evil and suggest that God is somehow culpable in the very sin he works so actively against.
– Marc Cortez, Three Mistakes We Make When Talking About the Sovereignty of God

In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.
– Deirdre Sullivan, Always Go to the Funeral

Extended quote by Steve Harper from A ‘Greater Good’
Our reactions to evil only make sense because somehow, somewhere, and by someone a “greater good” has been placed in us. In moments of tragedy and suffering, our souls express this “greater good” in a variety of ways…

…in anger that says, “This is wrong and should never have happened.”
…in grief that says, “Someone/something precious has been taken away.”
…in compassion that says, “I care that you are hurting.”
…in stewardship that says, “I will share with you what I have in hopes it will help.”
…in community that says, “We will not allow you to bear this alone.”
…in collective will that says, “We must find ways to insure this does not happen again.”
…in prayer that says, “Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy!”
…in hope that says, “We will come back from this.”
…in worship that says, “God is with us.”

None of this, and more, would ever emerge unless somehow, somewhere, and by someone “a greater good” was put into the deepest part of us, waiting there like a well from which we can draw when evil acts like it has the final word.

Psalm 34:14 NRSV
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

Romans 12:9 NRSV
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;

Romans 12:21 NRSV
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Victorious One,
Every day
Every moment
I face the primal struggle between good and evil
You have overcome
Reveal that truth in me and through me
Every day
Every moment
– Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

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7 Letters of Revelation: Holiness, Look Like the One You Love

pureandholyRevelation 2:18-29 NIV
The Risen Christ says, “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): Only hold on to what you have until I come. To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations– ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery — just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

The first four letters of Christ in Revelation remind us:

  • God is to be our first love. At it’s heart and at it’s start, faith is about relationship. Being precedes doing.
  • We are willing to suffer and sacrifice for who and what we love. This is the depth of God’s love for us. Let us strive to love God this deeply in return.
  • We remain true to who and what we love. As Christ followers, we remain true to His Name. The most ancient confession of faith is the simplest: Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus is our Lord and Savior, our Leader and Forgiver. No person or thing can take the place of Christ.
  • This relationship, this level of love, trust and devotion transforms how we think and how we live. Over time, we look more and more like the One we love, more and more like Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be holy. – Lisa Degrenia <><

Ephesians 5:25-27 NRSV
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.

Titus 2:11-14 NRSV
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Jesus Christ speaks of [the Christians in Thyatira] in words of warmest commendation. I know your deeds, he writes, your love and faith, your service and perseverance (v 19). Here are four sterling Christian qualities indeed. Thyatira not only rivaled Ephesus in busy Christian service, but exhibited the love which Ephesus lacked, preserved the faith which was imperiled at Pergamum, and shared with Smyrna the virtue of patient endurance in tribulation. … But Thyatira’s catalog of virtues is not exhausted yet. I know your deeds, Christ says, and adds: and that you are now doing more than you did at first. The church of Thyatira understood that the Christian life is a life of growth, of progress, of development… The church of Thyatira displayed love and faith, service and endurance, but holiness is not included among its qualities….Holiness of life and character is then another indispensable mark of the real Christian and true church.
– John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

Matthew 23:25-28 NRSV
Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

The world is attracted by lived theology and incarnated truth. Brennan Manning believed that the main reason the church does not grow is that Christians do not live, enact, behave, incarnate the Gospel—leaving people to say, “There’s nothing to it.” I completely agree. We do not need another “church growth” conference to assess our situation and propose strategies for increase as much as we need “let’s get serious Sundays” —weekly opportunities to confess that we have failed to turn word into flesh, and to make new commitments to do so. Our hearts will not feel so phony if we do this, and the world will not think we are selling them a bill of goods. Ironic, isn’t it that a pre-school activity— “show and tell” —could turn out to be what we need most. – Steve Harper reflecting on John 13:31-35 in The Holy Gospel: April 28, 2013 (Year C)

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable. – Brennan Manning

Revive my heart renew my soul
In You O Lord I am made whole
No more in fear will I wander
‘Cause You’re my God, my Lord and Lover
Like a burning fire, be my one desire
I want to be holy just like You
I want to go where You lead me to
With reckless abandon to Your truth
I want to fall deeper in love with You
And deeper and deeper and deeper
And deeper in love with You
– from Just Like You by Matt Maher, (CCLI Song #4510938)

This is the fourth of seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.

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Reflections on the Trinity

Matthew 28:16-20 (NRSV)
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Woven into the warp and woof of the New Testament’s exposition of what it means for us to be holy is the great groundwork that the self-existent, thrice holy, triune God has — in Himself, by Himself and for Himself — committed Himself and all three Persons of His being to bringing about the holiness of His own people. This is the Father’s purpose, the Son’s purchase and the Spirit’s ministry. – Sinclair B. Ferguson

Paradoxically, the One moves from itself into the Three and yet remains One, while the Three return to the One and yet remain Three. The single divinity of the Trinity is undivided and the three Persons of the one divinity are unconfused. We confess Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, divided yet without division and united yet with distinctions.
-St.Thalassius the Libyan

The greatest minds of Christendom have applied reason, philosophical rigor, depth and breadth to understanding and interpreting the the church’s experience of “Father” “Son” and “Holy Spirit”. But in the end, knowing God is as illusive as predicting a firefly’s trajectory over a field of hay after dusk, as futile as keeping track of a drop of rain fallen into the ocean in a storm, as blinding as gazing directly at the sun.
Suzanne Guthrie, At the Edge of the Enclosure

For God to be truth, God had to be one
For God to be love, God had to be two
For God to be joy, God had to be three!
– Richard of St. Victor

Perhaps it would be easier for everyone if God were a bit easier to peg down, but that’s not what is revealed in scripture. Here we have a hard to peg down God from the Beginning. Literally. The Genesis account does not say “Let me make humankind in my own image, but let us make humankind in our own image according to our likeness” This is not a “me” God, but a “we” God. God from the beginning is, not God as bad math, but God as community. The triune nature of God assures that God is in fellowship with God’s self. In the Beginning is Creator, Word and Spirit all co-mingling to bring forth creation. Here God creates communally. – Nadia Bolz Weber, Some Thoughts on the Holy Trinity

What is sometimes called the first philosophic problem of “the one and the many” is overcome in God’s very nature. God is a mystery of relationship, and this relationship is foundationally and essentially love. The three persons of the Trinity are not uniform—but quite distinct—and yet completely oned in total outpouring and perfect receiving. – Richard Rohr

For more than a millennium, the Celtic experience of the Trinity has appeared in a vivid variety of forms, including artwork, poetry, hymns, and prayers. The Three-in-One God is also called upon in blessings such as this one that Alexander Carmichael collected in Scotland in the 19th century and included in the Carmina Gadelica:

The guarding of the God of life be on you,
The guarding of loving Christ be on you,
The guarding of Holy Spirit be on you
Every night of your lives,
To aid you and enfold you
Each day and night of your lives.

Celtic wellsprings of spirituality remind us that the Trinity is not merely an idea to be grasped but a mystery to be experienced and a relationship to be entered into.
– Jan Richardson, The Painted Prayerbook
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