Extending Blessing (Ephesians 3)

detail from the Hagia Sophia mosaic of Christ

detail from the Hagia Sophia mosaic of Christ

For this reason, I kneel before the Father,
from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. – Eph. 3:14-15

Blessing begins with reverence
A reverence for our Wondrous God
Who bends low to welcome us
Birthing us through water and Spirit
Naming us and claiming us
beloved and blessed
Who not only welcomes us but welcomes all
Knitting us together
in the Body Miraculous
Strangers becoming brothers and sisters
A family far beyond class, clan, or culture
Far beyond what we could ask or imagine

I pray that out of his glorious riches
He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. – Eph. 3:16-17

From an incalculable treasure of grace upon grace
God pours out strength
Not as the world gives
Not with obvious outward displays
But hidden in the very depths of our frailty
God pours and floods with blood and breath
The very power of life
Driven and danced by Holy Spirit
That we may find our true home in Christ
Our true self in Christ

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
May have power, together with all the saints,
To grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
And to know this love that surpasses knowledge—
That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Eph. 3:17-19

This power
This companionship
This indescribable, priceless love of Christ
This is the blessing
Infinitely wide and long and high
Poured forth and driven deep
All the way down to the roots- our vines anchored in God’s grace
Rooted and Established- tilled till all the wild branches embrace
and the sweet fruit overflows the cups of justice and joy

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
According to his power that is at work within us,
To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
Throughout all generations, forever and ever! – Eph 3:20-21

Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our lips in blessing
With power to make new

Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our hands in blessing
With power to make whole

Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our hearts in blessing
That the grace poured in by Christ
Would overflow
Generation to generation to generation
An endless procession
To all, in all, and through all

Amen.

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This prayer was inspired by by the Ephesians Reading Challenge. Click Here for more information on the challenge to read and reflect on the entire book of Ephesians 3 times in 3 weeks. 

The Ephesians Reading Challenge accompanied a sermon series entitled Sit Walk Stand which was inspired by Watchman Nee‘s book Sit Walk Stand, a study of Ephesians. You will find recordings and notes from this series on the blog as well.

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

The Songs of Christmas: O Little Town of Bethlehem (Micah 5, Matthew 1)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 9: O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks
Scripture References: Micah 5:2; Matthew 1:20-23
These are the notes from a message offered Sunday, 12/9/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Micah 5:2 (NRSV)
2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

Matthew 1:20-23 (NRSV)
20… an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

History of O Little Town of Bethlehem
In 1868, Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), an Episcopal priest, wrote the beloved O Little Town of Bethlehem for the Sunday school children of his Philadelphia congregation. He was inspired by a horse ride he’d taken a few years earlier on Christmas Eve. He’d ridden from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to assist at the midnight service in the Church of the Nativity.

The lyrics are far more than a description of a sleeping Bethlehem on the first Christmas night. They offer the meaning of Christmas itself, God’s gift of our Savior Jesus Christ and our receiving that gift with thanksgiving and hope.

O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the Everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to all on earth!

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is given;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.

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!

Its Christmas time and I’m longing for hope and home.
Where are you home? Home is…

    • a place where you grow up, discover your calling and voice
    • a place of wonderful memories
    • where you spend a great deal of quality time
    • where you are safe, known, valued, belong

In A Chorus Line, three women each talk about their troubled families, then they sing about finding a home in ballet class.
Up a steep and very narrow stairway to the voice like a metronome
Up a steep and very narrow stairway,
It wasn’t paradise, it wasn’t paradise, it wasn’t paradise but it was home

Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz says it over and over again- There’s No Place Like Home

Its Christmas time and I’m longing for hope and home
The world feels so far from home

  • so fast when home is a place of rest
  • so violent when home is sanctuary and peace
  • so divided when home is a place where we come together
  • so lonely when home is a place where they know your brokenness and still love you

We search for deep relationship in this world and often find disappointment, sometimes even abuse and betrayal.

Then there’s that voice.

  • You are not enough
  • You will never be enough no matter how much you own or achieve
  • If you reveal your true self you will be rejected; you will be abandoned and alone forever

My friends that is not the voice of God. It’s a voice from your past, or the voice of your inner critic, or the voice of the accuser. It’s the voice of sin and shame, not God.

Hear the Good News! God offers us another story, another voice!

Joseph’s dream of a home is shattered when his fiance announces she’s pregnant with the long-awaited Messiah. He decides to end the engagement quietly but is visited by an angel in his dream. The angel tells Joseph, “Mary will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” And that’s exactly what happens.

God is coming for us. This is Good News of Christmas. This is God’s story of hope and home.

When we place our trust in Jesus, when we say, “yes” to follow him, Jesus saves us from sin- what we have done, what we have left undone, broken state of creation itself. Jesus saves us from isolation, separation, brokenness, disintegration, shame.

Jesus doesn’t just save us from. Jesus also saves us for– for relationship, redemption (good from the bad), for hope and an eternal home.

Henri J.M. Nouwen, with John S. Mogabgab, in a Spirituality of Homecoming says:
God is not in the distant heavens or in the hidden depths of the future, but here and now. God has pitched a tent among us. Even more than that, God has made a home in us so that we can make God’s home our home. We find our way home by following Jesus.

Story of Quinton’s Moore’s conversion after hearing the story of the Prodigal Sons

Its Christmas time and I’m longing for hope and home
We find our way home by following Jesus

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!

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CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.

The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.

This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.

Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:

  • Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is the big idea?
    • Why is it important?
    • How does this truth connect with my life?
  • Have a conversation with God about this truth.
  • Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.

Additional Ideas:

  • Journal your reflections
  • Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
  • Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
  • Sing or listen to the song
  • Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face

I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <

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O Come O Come Emmanuel reflections © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Let me bless you, a plea for coming home based on Matthew 13.54-58

Coming-Home-Title

Based on Matthew 13:54-58, Jesus’ homecoming

I leave home
I grow
I change

But those I’ve been apart from can’t see it
They only know my past
My first shoots from the family tree
Where I began

My newness is so strangely new
My empowerment so curious
and unexpected

Yes, I am who I was
Yes, I am who I’m becoming
My dear ones, receive and rejoice in both
Let me bless you

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Let me bless you, a plea for coming home based on Matthew 13:54-58
© 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.

Sermon Recording- There’s No Place Like Home (Revelation 21 and 1 Peter 2)

finding-god-in-oz

Sermon Series – Finding God in Oz
The Wizard of Oz is a powerful allegory for so many of our foundational Christian beliefs. Walk with us as we Find God in Oz.

Message: There’s No Place Like Home, a Message on the Now and Not Yet of Heaven
Scriptures: Revelation 21:1-5, 22-26 and 1 Peter 2:9-12
Offered 10/30/16, All Saints Sunday, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

Excerpt of At the Ballet from the musical A Chorus Line
Up a steep and very narrow stairway to the voice like a metronome
Up a steep and very narrow stairway
It wasn’t paradise, it wasn’t paradise, it wasn’t paradise
but it was home

From Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk, Success, failure and the drive to keep creating
Gilbert is a successful author, best known for her memoir Eat, Pray, Love. It took 6 years of failure before Gilbert was finally published. Why did she continue to put herself through that pain? “I loved writing more than I hated failing at writing. Which is to say I loved writing more than I loved my own ego. Which is ultimately to say I loved writing more than myself.”

Writing is her home. She returns to it again and again in failure or success. “I will always be safe from the random hurricanes of outcome as long as I never forget where I rightfully live.”

Revelation 21 is one of many places in the scripture where we get a glimpse of heaven. Heaven is not a dream due to a bump on the head, it’s real, trustworthy and true. This gives us hope. We don’t get there by wishing on a star, or riding a tornado, or sprouting wings like a bluebird. Our Jesus gets us there – we are saved by grace through faith, not works or magic. If we confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord, believe in our hearts God raised him from the dead we will be saved. It’s about placing our trust in his life, death and resurrection. It’s available for all. This gives us hope, too. -Lisa Degrenia <><

2 Peter 3:13 NRSV
But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

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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.

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

Sermon Recording- Jacob’s Dream and God’s Great Grace (Genesis 28)

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: Jacob’s Dream and God’s Great Grace
Scriptures: Genesis 28:10-22
Offered 9/11/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

Your dreams are both powerful and rebellious. They are not bound by your fears, inertia, pain, or what your grandmother said about you. They don’t have to fit your cramped idea of who you think you are. They don’t have to be reasonable, nor do they have to please your parents, your boss, or the church. They are free to take you to interior places you can’t imagine and challenge the way you run your life—and the way your life runs you.
They can be outrageous, daring, playful, zany, sexy. They speak truth as they point to your particular needs for growth. They highlight the changes you are now strong enough to make. Your dreams are full of parts of you that you have denied, disguised in your own easily decipherable dreamcode. Best of all, your dreams are a venue in which God’s presence can be discerned. Your dreams are free to express your natural human spirituality even if you are turned off to organized religion.
– Tilda Norberg, The Chocolate-Covered Umbrella

The translation used in this message comes from The Five Books of Moses by Everett Fox

The prayer following the message is Turn and Return by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
We Fall away
Slip away
Turn away
Hide away
Run away
Push away
Go our way
Lose our way

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your Presence?
You Pursue

Woman sweeping
Spirit drawing
Hound dog tracking
Lover calling
Brood Hen gathering
Shepherd searching
Racer enduring
Father waiting… praying… hoping… looking… running… embracing
Our turning and returning

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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.

Sermon Recording- Here is Your Son, Here is Your Mother

jesus crucifixion mother son

Sermon Series: Final Words from the Cross
The Scriptures record Jesus speaking 7 phrases as he hung upon the cross- important and powerful final reminders of who he was and what it means to follow him.

Message: Here is Your Son… Here is Your Mother
Scripture: John 19:23-27
Offered 3/06/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

SCRIPTURE AND SONG: John 19:23-27
ALL SINGING- Where You There?
United Methodist Hymnal #288, verse 1
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

ONE: John 19:23-25 NRSV
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is what the soldiers did.

ALL SINGING
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

ONE: John 19:25-27 NRSV
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

ALL SINGING
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Exodus 20:12 NRSV
Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Galatians 3:28 NIV
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Mark 3:35 NRSV
Jesus’ words, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother”

Peter Storey, Listening at Golgotha
This poignant interchange on Good Friday is a marker for a revolution in our understanding of community. Jesus entrusts the life and welfare of another to one of his followers, and he places upon that new relationship the value we reserve for our closest family unit. No longer will the obligation of mutual care depend upon blood relationship, but all will be welcomed as the one family of Christ. No more will our first loyalty be to tribe or nation or clan. For Christians, “whoever does the will of God” will be our mothers, our sisters, our brothers, our fathers. From now on the followers of Jesus will receive one another as gift, to be welcomed, honored, and cherished simply because Jesus has given them to us.

Peter Storey, Listening at Golgotha
From the cross where he is nailed, Jesus nails us to each other.
In doing so, he is giving birth to a new community.

mother son collage

Resources for this sermon
Final Words From the Cross by Adam Hamilton
Listening at Golgotha by Peter Storey

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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.

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.