Sermon Recording: The Pruning Season (John 15.1-8)

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Message 5 of 5
Scripture: John 15:1-8
These are the notes from a message offered 11/18/18, the Sunday before Thanksgiving at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. This is the last post in the series. I pray they have been an encouragement to you.

John 15:1-58
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing…. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

This feels like bearing fruit:  

  • Dedicating the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes
  • The marriage of our eldest daughter Elyse to a very faithful, honorable man named Sam. We see the fruit of faith in their lives. We see all the folks along the way who planted seeds of faith which are now blossoming.
  • Tamara’s Baptism- This was the first adult baptism in 4 years.

We’ve been having conversations amongst the missions team and later the leadership council about fruitfulness. Fruit-full. It’s what drove me to this scripture.

Jesus gives us many illustrations of who we are as his followers. We are the Bride of Christ. We are a building made with living stones. We are the Body of Christ. We are the Family of God. We are the Branches of a Vine. Jesus is referring to a grapevine in this instance.

Over and over and over again it says you will bear fruit, you will bear fruit, you will bear fruit.

That is the longing of my heart. It is also the thing that haunts me because having only one adult baptism in 4 years feels like we could bear much more fruit than that. We’re called to bear more fruit than that.

So we started having conversations in the mission team. We have incredibly faithful leaders in that area. We talked about the tens of thousands of dollars being raised for mission efforts- The United Methodist Women’s efforts, the Rummage Sale, our regular Sunday offerings for connectional giving which supports missionaries and projects around the world. We also do local programs like the Day 4 Hope back to school event.

We started having honest conversations about what is bearing fruit. It drew us to a question. As the Body of Christ are we suffering from multi-system organ failure? Are we dying? Or is it as we see in this passage, is it time for some pruning?

I am a novice when it comes to plants. I’ve planted some veggies but I’ve never had to prune. My mother had rose bushes and she would cut them back to nubbins. It looked like she was hurting the plant, but actually, she was helping the plant.

Pruning can feel like loss. Like harm. Like damage. It’s hard to do.

So we started talking about pruning. What in the life of the congregation was bearing fruit? What could we prune and make it more fruitful? What were some things that it was time for us to not do them anymore?

We’d been invited by the conference to be apart of an effort called Dinner Church. We prayed about it and went to meetings. It was about starting a new worship service based on meals. It was very clear. There was not one person in the congregation who felt like we were called to it. Ok, that’s not what we’re supposed to do.

Then we started to have conversations around some of our big efforts, including the Day 4 Hope back to school event. It takes thousands of dollars, 10 months to plan, over 200 volunteers.

We’ve been doing Day 4 Hope for 4 years and we came to the realization there was no fruit. It was absolutely good. It was good to give kids school supplies and the eye exams and the dental check and medical check, haircut, gift certificates, and photos.

We had not built any relationships with the families. We tried. The relationship with the school was at a standstill. Was it time to prune?

The missions team took some proposals to the leadership council and we had some hard conversations. We said, “Yes.” Yes, we are not called to do Dinner Church. Yes, it is time for the season of Day 4 Hope to come to an end.

It was at that moment I’m thinking, ok Lord, multi-system organ failure or pruning? What is it, Lord? In the midst of the leadership, I heard it’s time for pruning.

Please refer to the reaching ministries handout for the next portion of the message.

In our history, we are a generous people. We are generous with time, money, resources, love, grace, hope. It’s time to prune that generosity into something face to face. If we’re really honest, it’s so much easier to give money and stuff to someone else to do the ministry for us than to be face to face ourselves.

Bearing fruit, being fruit-full, means being face to face. Relationship building, skin in the game, a ministry of presence, faith in action, servant-hearted, choosing to be a hometown missionary.

We are the ones sent to this community. We are the branches. We have the fruit and so many others are in need of it.

Reaching Ministries

  • Trinity Preschool
  • Trinity Family Ministries
  • Partnership with Phillippi Shores Elementary School Teachers
  • GlorYoga
  • Brookdale Assisted Living on Swift
  • Fish of Sarasota- rides to doctor’s appointments

We are at a new season in our life here at Trinity.

John 15:4-5
4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing

In order to be fruit-full, we need this abiding. In this abiding, God removes every branch that bears no fruit. (Verse 2) We give thanks to God for removing our

  • Sin, Shame, Guilt
  • Prejudice, Evil, Injustice
  • Hate, Apathy, Isolation

It is removed so that the Holy Spirit can abide in us. So that something new can happen, we can bear more fruit.

More fruit in our character, the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control

Our lives are changed as we share the fruit we are bearing. We become fruit-full. It’s wonderful to help someone else do ministry but it does not excuse us from the calling God places on our lives to bear fruit ourselves. Our own calling.

What bears fruit is pruned to make it bear more fruit. (Verse 2) Our character is changed bearing the Fruit of the Spirit. Our community is changed as we bear the fruit of faith.

  • Things start going down- the crime rate, acts of violence, the unemployment rate
  • Things start coming up- the number of kids graduating, the number of kids who can read well, the number of people who have hope, the number of folks who place their trust in Jesus, the number of folks whose lives are changed.

The seeds bear fruit and there is a harvest. This is who we are. This who you are. This is who we can be. 

We’ve been talking about what it means to be resilient for weeks now. Now we’re at the point where the resilience begins to bear fruit.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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.

Sermon Recording: Shall, Making the Path (Isaiah 40)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624
Message 4 of 5
Scripture: Isaiah 40:3-5
These are the notes from a message offered 11/4/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

Romans 5:1-5, The Path to Hope
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Isaiah 40:3-5, The Way to Make the Path
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Shall, by Lisa Degrenia
The time is now, for you have called, O God
The place is now, for you have spoken

Yes, it is a wilderness, a desert even
So dry, so rough, so uneven
Yes, the gap is so very wide between the high and the low

But, you have called
You have spoken
Not an if or when or maybe
Not even a try

You have spoken shall

Every valley shall be lifted
Every mountain shall be made low
The uneven shall be made level
The rough shall be made smooth

So we will persevere in this wilderness of preparing
We will not forge a path or blaze a trail but make a highway
A highway for your coming
For your glory, O God shall be revealed in this place
And all shall see it
All shall see it together

Book Recommendation: Canoeing The Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger

LEWIS AND CLARK AND THE MEN OF THE CORPS OF DISCOVERY

  • Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson in 1804 to find the Northwest Passage
  • Purpose: Commerce
    • Finding the route believed to connect the Missouri River with the Pacific would make commerce possible across the continent and the riches of Asia that lay beyond.
  • Purpose: Control
    • Whichever nation found the Norwest Passage first, and then controlled it, would control the destiny of the continent.

What they thought would happen:

  • Travel the Missouri River to its source
  • Over the next hill, they would find another river. They could then calmly coast to the Pacific Ocean because that’s the way the river would be flowing
  • What they found was the Rocky Mountains, mountains like they’d never seen. So high, so long, so steep. They were unprepared. Everything they had been told was absolutely wrong.

Lewis and Clark List of Hardships 

  • ANIMALS: Plagued by Mosquitoes and Small Pesky Flies. Encounters with Grizzly Bears
  • MISSOURI RIVER: Fighting against strong currents and shifting sandbars. Dangerous hazards caused by navigating rapids and obstacles in the water
    • Exhaustion from the daily grind of moving the heavy keelboat up the Missouri River that involved arduous rowing, pulling the keelboat through shallows using a rope from onshore (called cordelling) or pushing the heavy boat with long poles (poling)
      • The boats were not canoes but a keelboat (55 feet long, 22 oars at its sides, and a cannon mounted in the bow)
    • The Great Falls proved to be a difficult challenge. The men had to bypass the falls which involved carrying their canoes, supplies, and equipment all by hand for over 1 month
  • THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS: Later in the journey it was necessary to abandon travel by water and physically carry the boats. This process called portaging, proved to be very draining and extremely time
    • Traveling over harsh, tough terrain
    • The harrowing journey on the rough Lolo trail through the Bitterroot Mountains
  • WEATHER: Enduring extreme weather conditions such as intense, blistering heat, the bitter cold, blizzards, hailstorms, snow, and continuous rain
    • In the winter months, it was often difficult to find food
  • NATIVES: Confrontations with hostile Natives and Natives who were invaluable to their survival and success. (Sacagawea)
  • LENGTH OF THE TRIP: The outward journey and the return journey home covered over 7000 miles. May 14, 1804, to September 23, 1806 – two years, four months and ten days
    • As the journey progressed illnesses became an increasing problem
    • Hard to find supplies along the way

Their journey was nothing like what they expected. Everything they had been told was wrong. They were unprepared.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Somewhere you never expected? How does it feel to be that out of your element? That unprepared?

At that point, you have a decision to make. Lewis and Clark had a decision to make. You can turn around and go back. (Sometimes you can’t go back.) Or you can just stay where you are. Pitch a tent. Build a city. Or we can try to move forward. Off the map. Into the unknown.

Lewis and Clark decided to move forward. They adapted. They abandoned the boats, their safety net because they were no longer helpful. They were known for their skill on the water and now they would need to become hikers.

They moved forward. This is resilience, perseverance, endurance. Moving forward in the face of adversity. Moving forward in the face of the unknown. Moving forward in the face of suffering. Moving forward.

So many of us find ourselves in these positions. I did not expect to be here- divorced, fired, widowed, my family in multiple states, financial crisis…

So many of us did not expect to find ourselves in the face of the unknown but because of the grace of God, the power of God, the presence of God, we can move forward.

Lewis and Clark were able to move forward because

  • they made the decision to move forward
  • people came alongside them to move forward

We too can move forward. We can make the decision, we have people who will come alongside us, and we have God in Jesus Christ, the pioneer, and perfecter of our faith who is already out there ahead of us. For us, with us, behind us, before us, above us moving us forward.

I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Christianity is a movement. A movement forward. We are a pilgrim people.

Isaiah 40:3-5, The Way to Make the Path
A voice cries out: The voice is God shouting “Come on!”

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

This is what our God does. Our God moves that mountain so we can keep moving forward. Our God raises us up out of that valley so we can keep moving forward. Our God fills in the potholes so the rough places are made smooth. Our God takes those winding, curvy, rollercoaster-y ways and makes them smooth so we can move forward

It may not feel that way when we’re walking it. It may feel like a mountain high or a valley low or rough and twisty. But God is making a way where there seems to be no way.

This is resilience. Do you trust God to make a way where there seems to be no way? Trust God.

God is not only going to make a way for you, but God is also going to help you make a way for others. All of a sudden you’re going to find yourself a Sacagawea helping someone make their way.

It’s all grace. It’s all goodness. That’s the God we serve, we know, we love. That’s the God who saves us.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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.

Sermon Recording: Faith Doubt and Lament (Psalm 130)

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Message 3 of 5
Scripture: Psalm 130
These are the notes from a message offered 10/28/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

This message and recording also include our annual All Saints Remembrance, where we thank God for our departed loved ones and friends, especially those who have helped us to find faith or grow in our faith. 

Resilience Series Review: Resilience isn’t so much bouncing back from adversity but moving forward in the midst of it. Romans 5 reminds us of the path to hope. Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

Psalm 130: 1-2, The Message. The author of this translation of the Bible died this week, Pastor Eugene Peterson.

Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.

When an old wound is triggering unhealthy responses, I seek the help of a counselor to address it. When life is overwhelming, it’s also helpful to speak with a spiritual director. A spiritual director asks, “How’s your soul? How’s your relationship with God during this situation?” After some prayerful listening, a spiritual director often suggests a spiritual practice to help you stay connected to God.

At a session a few months ago, after sharing, the spiritual director asked me if I practiced lament. I didn’t. I hadn’t even thought about the spiritual practice since seminary. I started practicing lament and it helped greatly.

Common Fears of Expressing our Anguish to God (Fear of practicing Lament)  

  • Appear weak. I have to be strong for myself and others.
  • Burden my loved ones and friends
  • Only increase my pain leading me down the path of despair rather than the path of hope. What if I can’t stop the floodgates once I get started?
  • Seems unfaithful to question, complain, doubt. It isn’t!

Lament in the Scriptures

  • We find laments from the beginning to the end of the Bible. From the ground crying out over the murder of Abel in Genesis to the martyrs crying out for justice in the book of Revelation.
  • 1/3 of the Psalms
  • The book of Job
    • Job 3:11 Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?”
  • The Old Testament Prophets often lament. The prophet Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet.
    • For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no healer there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? –  Jeremiah 8.21-22
    • If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.” (Jeremiah 9:1)
  • An entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations- written concerning the fall of Jerusalem

Jesus Lamented

  • Weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. Reminds us we can lament our personal pain.
  • Weeping over Jerusalem. Reminds us we can lament people not recognizing the gift of grace/salvation and the brokenness of society.
    • If they only knew the things that make for peace (Luke 19:42)
  • Weeping all night in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Crying out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.

Lament is not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God is real. God cares. God understands our pain. God can and wants to help. 

What is Lament?
“Lament is not despair.  It is not whining.  It is not a cry into a void. Lament is a cry directed to God. It is the cry of those who see the truth of the world’s deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace. It is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are.” – Emmanuel M. Katongole, Reconciling All Things, p. 78

We teach preschoolers how to pray using simple words. Help. Thanks. Wow! (praise) (A big shout out to Anne Lamott for her book of the same title). We need to also teach them Sorry (confession) to lament- Ouch! Us big kids need the same lessons.

How to Practice Lament

1. Rest

  • To lament, we must stop. Feel it fully. Recognize what we’re up against.
  • We medicate with activity. Busyness keeps us distant and the pain at bay.
  • Rest is “not an invitation to become unconcerned about the conflict and chaos in the world but to imagine that the salvation of the world does not ultimately depend upon us.”
  • Rest enables us to cease from grasping, grabbing, striving, trying to be God

2. Direct our cries to God

  • “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1)

3. Make your Complaint

  • express your anger, pain, heartache, sadness- Uncensored feelings
  • ask heartfelt questions
    • “How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:2-3)
    • I do not understand what is going on. This makes no sense. How long? Why?”
    • Questions can be more than requests for information, they can also be cries of pain.

4. Make Your Request

  • Describe the affliction. It might include rage against your enemies
  • Look toward me, and have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.  Put an end to my affliction and my suffering, and take away all my sins. Behold, my enemies are many, and they hate me violently. Preserve my life, and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. (Psalm 25:16-20)

5. Affirm your trust in God

  • God’s presence
  • God’s power in the past
  • The attribute/character of God
  • The promises of God that you’re thankful for and that you are claiming

Psalm 130:5-8           
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord!  For with the Lord, there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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.

Sermon Recording: The Path to Hope (Romans 5)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624
Growing in Resilience: When Suffering Stays
Message 2 of 5
Scripture: Romans 5:1-5
These are the notes from a message offered 10/21/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

Resilience isn’t so much bouncing back from adversity but moving forward in the midst of it

The Story of Asha Mevlana

Asha Mevlana cancerWhen Asha Mevlana was 24, she had a great job at a start-up, an apartment in New York’s SoHo, lots of friends, a beautiful head of hair, and a pearl-shaped problem in her left breast. She thought it was a cyst. Her mom had a cyst around the same age. It turned out to be breast cancer.

The defining moment of her suffering, however, wasn’t the diagnosis, or the biopsy, or the eight months of chemo, or her baldness. The life-altering moment came when her doctors announced that she was cancer-free.

Something had changed. Everyone around her had gone on blithely living their lives, talking about the crummy weather, the long lines at Starbucks, and American Idol. They seemed to value such inconsequential things, and she found herself yearning for a time when she did as well. Life seemed empty. She wasn’t religious, but she found herself praying: “Just give me a second chance and I’m going to change my life.”

Asha did. She took a new path. Asha risked leaving her safe job to pursue a lifelong dream of being a professional musician.

Asha now plays an electric 7-string viper violin. She’s toured with many well-known artists, played in the American Idol Band, appeared on The Tonight Show, the Ellen Show and the Grammy’s. She currently plays with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Asha Mevlana TSO

We often think suffering will end us. Instead, it can open us to a new path. For followers of Jesus, suffering is part of the path to hope: suffering to endurance to character to hope

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we are justified by faith…

Sin separates us from God. We cannot bridge the gap- no amount of good deeds, generous gifts to charity, kindness, rule following. We can’t get there in our own strength. God knows this and sends Jesus to bridge the gap. When we place our trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our Leader and Forgiver, we cross the bridge of faith. We are saved. Its Just-as-if-I’d never sinned. We are no longer separated from God. It is a gift of grace to be received. And there’s more…

Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

Those who are justified also receive peace, grace, the ability to stand before God and with God, and hope. We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. We have a future full of hope. The word “boast” (kauchometha) also means “rejoice” or “exalt in.”

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know, He holds the future and life is worth the living just because he lives. – Bill Gaither

Hope is not optimism

  • Optimism involves the expectation that things are eventually going to get better – we will bounce back
  • It’s easy to candy coat situations with Optimism
  • Hope is rooted in the real, in the truth
  • Hope asserts that no matter what may come, no matter how bad things may get, God’s word and promises will prevail
  • There is a hope in Christ located beyond our immediate circumstances
    • Example: A terminally ill patient may not be optimistic about the treatment he is undergoing but may remain hopeful that God keeps God’s promise of resurrection.

Romans 5:3
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, (what?!?!)

We do not boast/rejoice because we are suffering. We boast/rejoice in the midst of suffering. Suffering cannot squash our boasting/rejoicing because it is anchored in hope of the future.

  • A future sharing God’s glory
  • A future which transcends suffering
  • Suffering is temporary grace is eternal, salvation is eternal

Romans 8:31-32
31 … If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? … 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:3-5
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

And there’s more! Endurance, character, hope, love. There’s more than one kind of hope. A hope of the future and a hope of the now. Hope in things above and hope for things here below.

THE PATH TO HOPE: SUFFERING, ENDURANCE, CHARACTER, HOPE
God does not delight in suffering and God does not cause suffering. God’s presence and power bring good out of suffering. We can experience that goodness right now.

  • God creates a path from suffering to hope- suffering to endurance to character to hope
  • We can move forward down the path in the midst of the suffering
    • Moving forward with energy and motivation to act, to dare, to keep trusting
    • We can move forward with a sense of growth in resilience and resolve in the midst of the suffering
  • God is creating a greater and greater capacity in us for hope and for the outpouring of God’s love
    • Like a potter gently opening up the clay to make a vessel, God opens up our heart for God’s love to be poured in
    • This love isn’t sentimental and sweet. The love pouring in is Agape. It’s the sacrificial, resurrection, sin eating, death defeating, love of God in Christ which saves us is now.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;  struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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.

The Songs of Christmas: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 21: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Scripture: Luke 2:8-14; John 14:27
These are the notes from a message offered Christmas Eve, 12/24/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth 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!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn the households born
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!”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  • One of most celebrated men of his age
  • People read and memorized his poems and still do so today

Longfellow was also a broken man, struggling to hold on to his faith in God in the midst of tragedy after tragedy after tragedy. The celebrity and renown did not help.

Longfellow’s Personal Pain

  • His first wife and daughter both died
  • His second wife died in a tragic home fire. She was working with candlewax and her dress caught fire. He heard her screaming and came running. He was badly burned while trying to save her, too burned to attend her funeral. He grew his trademark beard because he couldn’t shave due to the scars.
  • His son entered into service during the Civil War without his father’s knowledge or permission and was significantly wounded in battle.

Maybe you’ve experienced some personal tragedy as well. Maybe you are feeling the same way as Longfellow

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!”

Longfellow’s Painful Culture
• Longfellow wrote this at the height of the civil war, no end in sight
• Neighbor slaughtering neighbor in each other’s backyards
• Written only a few months after the battle of Gettysburg (46,000-51,000 casualties)

Maybe this Christmas you are feeling hate is strong in our time as well. Maybe you are carrying the weight of our divisiveness and brokenness as a nation. Maybe it’s hard to sing Joy to the World this year.

It was hard back when Jesus was born, too. There was the Roman occupation. The people were oppressed. Mary and Joseph had personal troubles. They were forced to travel while Mary was “great with child.” When they arrived in Bethlehem there was no room to be found. Jesus is born in the midst of animals. There is no crib. He’s laid in a manger. There is no peace on earth.

And yet what do the angels sing? “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth peace, goodwill! God favors you!”

Mary heard it- God favors you. The shepherds, the bottom of the social order of the day, heard it from the angels- God favors you. Over and over again the scriptures tell us you are beloved, you are known.

God made that so real in coming as a babe. God could have come as a king- triumphant, valiant. God could have come as a warrior- laid waste to all the enemies. But God comes as a baby. Who doesn’t love a baby? Who can’t approach a baby? Beautiful, frail, fresh, innocent… into a world that so very much needed it.

God came back then in Bethlehem. God came that Christmas when Longfellow was struggling to hold on to his faith. God comes for us, now. Whether we are joyful and celebrating. Whether we are heartbroken and facing another medical treatment. Whether we are broken and sobbing over the destruction of homes or the building of dividing walls between all of us. God comes.

There’s another stanza of this poem:

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.”

Generation after generation is tempted to loneliness and division and shame and hopelessness. But again and again, the bell rings out, the song is sung, “Peace on earth goodwill to men.”

This is why we can hold on. This is why we can hope. This is why we can sing, “Peace on earth goodwill to men.”

Jesus on the night before he gave himself up for us said to those few gathered around the table with him…

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you
I do not give to you as the world gives
Do not let your hearts be troubled
Do not let them be afraid

Peace be with you.

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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 <

************
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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!

***********
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 <

************
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.

The Songs of Christmas: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus (Psalm 34, Haggai 2, Galatians 5)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
November 27: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Scripture References: Psalm 34:4; Galatians 5:1; Haggai 2:7
Theme: Longing for Deliverance

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Charles Wesley 
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to thy glorious throne.

Prayer:
Jesus, we long for you
Watching, waiting, expecting

Jesus, we long for you
You, the hope of all the earth
You, the desire of every nation
You, the key to every prison

You do not merely release the captives
You shatter the bonds of fear and sin

Come Mighty Savior!
We long for your deliverance
Take our strongholds and give us freedom
Take our numbers and give us names
Take our sentences and give us life

Additional Resources:

Psalm 34:4 (NKJV) I sought the Lord, and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears.

Galatians 5:1 (NKJV) Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

Haggai 2:7(NKJV)  “And I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,” says the Lord of hosts.

From Wikipedia
In 1744, Charles Wesley considered Haggai 2:7 and looked at the situation of orphans in the areas around him. He also looked at the class divide in Great Britain. Through this train of thought, he wrote “Come, Thou long expected Jesus” based upon Haggai 2:7 and a published prayer at the time which had the words:

“Born Your people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now Your gracious kingdom bring. By Your own eternal Spirit, rule in all our hearts alone; by Your all sufficient merit, raise us to Your glorious throne. Amen.”

***********
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 <><

************
Come Thou Long Expect Jesus reflections © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.