Sermon Series- Wild Man, the Life and Witness of John the Baptist, Parts 3-5

Sermon Series- Wild Man, The Life and Witness of John the Baptist
Message 3 of 5: Increasing and Decreasing
Scripture: John 3:22-30, John Answers His Disciple’s Concerns

Offered Sunday, 3/7/2021 via Facebook Live at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

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Sermon Series- Wild Man, The Life and Witness of John the Baptist
Message 4 of 5: Faith and Doubt
Scripture: Matthew 11:2-11, John’s Question from Prison

Offered Sunday, 3/14/2021 via Facebook Live at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

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Sermon Series- Wild Man, The Life and Witness of John the Baptist
Message 5 of 5: Bad Things Happen
Scripture: Mark 6:17-29, The Death of John the Baptist

Offered Sunday, 3/21/2021 via Facebook Live at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

This message includes a remembrance of the eight persons murdered in Atlanta a few days before. Xiaojie Tahn, Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Soon Chung Park, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Yaun, Paul Andre Michels

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You can find us live on Facebook Sundays at 9 AM and 10:30 AM, and Wednesdays at 8 AM.

© 2021 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Tell Me, Dear Tree: A Lenten Hymn of Sacrifice

Crucifixion Tree outside the walled city of Mdina. Photo by Antoine Pace via TrekEarth.com

Jesus’ suffering on the cross was a correct diagnosis and revelation of the human dilemma. It was an invitation to enter into solidarity with the pain of the world, and our own pain, instead of always resisting it, avoiding it, or denying it. Lady Julian of Norwich, my favorite Christian mystic, understood it so well, and she taught, in effect, that “There is only one suffering and we all share in it.” – Richard Rohr

Tell me, Dear Tree
A Lenten hymn of sacrifice
Meter- 86.86 double (CMD)
Suggested tune: KINGSFOLD (United Methodist Hymnal #179)

Tell me dear tree on which my Lord, my blessed Lord did hang,
How could you hold the spotless Lamb, be party with the gang?
That cheerless day, that shadowy hour, my blessed Savior died,
to free my soul for heavenly things, O tree, you must have cried.

Yes all your fibers must have screamed for you one time did live
a green and growing tree, alive, but your whole self did give
to be the instrument of death, to be the very tree
to be the place for Christ to die upon dark Calvary

Wait! Do I hear a shout of joy from somewhere deep within?
Your duty done; the battle won so all the world might win.
How beautiful your love for Him. He sewed it long ago
You bore the weight. You took the stain, and now the world must know

The tree of death felt every wound, felt all the pain and loss.
She loved her maker through it all, was glad to be His cross.
Teach me dear tree on which my Lord, My precious Lord did die
To treasure grueling duties done so Christ is lifted high

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BONUS- Steve Garnaas Holmes offers a simple, powerful reflection and prayer on John 3:14-15 entitled Lifted Up on his blog, Unfolding Light.

© 1992, revised 2009 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form. Lisa is especially interested in collaborating with someone to set this text to original music.

Two Prayers Based on John 2 -3

Summer in the Scriptures John

Prayer based on John 2:13-25
Jesus Cleanses the Temple

Merciful Savior
You offer your house to the nations
for worship and prayer
forgiveness and healing
community with you and with others

Come and cleanse your house again

Forgive us for losing sight of your agenda
Forgive us for all the obstacles
we put in the way of people connecting with you

Come and cleanse your house again

Drive out the mistrust, false teaching, and prejudice
Turn over the tables of gossip, hypocrisy, and apathy
Empty us of addiction to money, things, and power

Come and cleanse your house again

Return us to humility, charity, and sacrifice
Fill your house with welcome, growth, and redeeming love
Bathe us in your grace and holiness
so everything we do draws people to you
and brings honor to your name
Amen.

Summer in the Scriptures John (1)

Prayer based on John 3:1-21
Nicodemus and Jesus

Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.” – John 3:5-6

Holy Spirit
Pregnant with twins- Truth and New Life
Welcome home to my spirit
Let it be with me according to your word

Reveal yourself in my thoughts
Bring forth encouragement and counsel
Deliver righteousness and justice in every choice
Carry hope and healing in every touch

Give birth not just in me, but to a whole new generation,
a people so full of your gifts and power they never labor in vain

Open our eyes to the glory that is possible
Open our hearts to the great responsibility- is it of flesh or is it of you?
Open us to the fullness of you. Amen.

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For the next few months, I’m reading a chapter from the Gospels each day. This is part of the Summer in the Scriptures reading plan sponsored by the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Click Here for the reading plan.

You’re most welcome to read along and to join the Facebook discussion group, Summer in the Scriptures. You don’t need to be a Methodist or attend a Methodist church. All are welcome and all means all.

As part of the Facebook group, I’ve been supplying prayers based on the day’s reading. Feel free to post your prayers and observations based on the readings here or there as well.

May the grace of the Gospels, the challenge, and the call, inspire us to great faith and great good works in Jesus’ name. – Lisa <

Come, and Cleanse Your House Again © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Born of the Spirit © 2020 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.

There’s More to Life Woman of Samaria (John 4.3-26)

woman at well olive wood statue carving

Olive Wood carving of the Woman at the Well from Jerusalem. We brought this treasure back with us from our recent trip.

Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 2 of 5: Woman of Samaria (Woman at the Well)

Scripture: John 4:3-26
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/31/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Rebekah Lyons testimony of God’s unconditional love. Rebekah is the mother of a child with Down syndrome.

Reading of John 4:3-26

The Woman at the Well
In the ancient world, your place as a woman was defined by your connection to a man:
Father, Brother, Husband, Son. We’re not just talking about social status- we’re talking access to what’s needed to survive.

  • Shelter from the extreme heat and cold of the desert
  • Food in your belly and clothes on your back
  • Loving relationships to weather you through the cruelties of life
  • Access to water on a regular basis

Where is her father? Most likely deceased.

Where is her brother, her sons, her children? Maybe she had none.

Where is the husband? Scripture tells us she’s had five husbands. Could it be in this harsh and cruel environment she’s lost five husbands to death? Maybe.

Could it be that because men in this time and culture controlled marriage and controlled divorce, could it be that she’s been thrown away five times? Told to go, you are not wanted.

The man she’s with now will not claim her legally. She has been shared and shamed, a survivor of cruelty and abuse.

She is an outcast in her community. We know this because in the ancient world went to the well based on their status. The most respected admired women would visit the well first, and she’s drawing her morning water at noon.

She is alone. Not in the company of the other women. Not enjoying their camaraderie and community.

This unnamed woman is barren of security. She’s been thrown away, driven away, shared and shamed, outcast, isolated.

She finds herself at Jacob’s well and today there’s a man there. He is Jewish. She is Samaritan. I imagine what is going through her mind and heart: How much more shame and disgrace am I going to get today? Jews and Samaritans don’t hang out. Am I going to hear from this man’s lips, “Half-breed! Heretic!”?

No. She hears from the lips of our Jesus respect. Good News.

They’re at a well, so Jesus uses the metaphor of water to share the Good News of Living Water, cleansing, refreshing, restoring, new birth. It is available to her.

He gives her a chance to reveal herself and she does. She’s honest and truthful. He recognizes it. The conversation could have gone any direction,  at that point and she dives in deep theologically.

Jesus sees her, not what people label her. He sees how she’s been abused, her great need, her wounds, and yet he sees her giftedness. He sees her keen mind.

They begin a discussion like rabbi and to rabbi. Where do we worship and how do we worship and is there a place for me in worshiping God?

This is the longest theological discussion in the four Gospels. This unnamed woman of Samaria.

Deep down, deep down, deep down the question she is asking and the question each and every one of asks is: Does God want me and does God love me?

That is the core question. My community threw me out. They’ve shamed me and abused me. The Jews say I’m not worshiping in the right place in the right way. The Messiah is coming …

The core question: Does God want me and does God love me. The answer is always Yes! Always! 

It is yes to the woman of Samaria and it is yes to us.

No matter what the world names us. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. No matter what we’ve done to survive. The answer is always Yes!

The love of God is unconditional love. The love of God comes without judgment. “God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17)

This emptiness, this dryness, this wilderness, can only be quench by Jesus’s living water, Jesus’s saving love.

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

– Chorus of Reckless Love by Cory Asbury

This week the Towery boys found it and claimed it for themselves. Rebekah Lyons saw it in the unconditional love of her son with Down syndrome. A great gift that he’s sharing. The woman at the well finds it in Jesus and shares it as well. She becomes one of the first evangelists. She runs back to the people who’ve been awful to her and says, “I think the Messiah is at the well.” They come, Jesus stays with them for days and many are saved.

Closing Prayer from Ephesians 3
Repetition of the word love

17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Insert your name or someone else’s name as a prayer of blessing that you/they would know the unconditional love of God and place their trust in Jesus as their Leader and Forgiver (Lord and Savior).

Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen ___________. Fill ___________’s soul with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in his/her heart. May love be the rich soil where ________’s life takes root. May it be the bedrock where ___________’s life is founded, so that together with all of Your people, he/she will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God may Your fullness flood through __________’s entire being. Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.

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Woman of Samaria (Woman at the Well) Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Be sure to also check out Steve Garnaas Holmes reflection Woman at the Well on his blog Unfolding Light.

 

There’s More to Life Nicodemus (John 3.1-17)

Nicodemus coming to christ

Nicodemus Coming to Christ by Henry Ossawa Tanner 

Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 1 of 5: Nicodemus

Scripture: John 3:1-17
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/24/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

It would make sense that you get to a point where you’ve been studying and training in something and you feel you don’t need a coach or teacher anymore. You have mastered the topic or skill.

But the truth is we always need teachers, mentors, and coaches. I have a masters of divinity, but I in no way have mastered divinity.

Who pastors the pastor? I have a spiritual director named Pam. A spiritual director is different from a counselor or teacher. A spiritual director asks, “How is your soul?” and then recommends spiritual practices to keep me connected to God and spiritually healthy.

In January, Pam reminded me of this promise: The fullness of Christ is ours. What would it be like to continue to ask for more and more? There’s always more!

That took us to Ephesians 3:16-21. This Lent, we’re using this beautiful prayer to pray for the fullness of Christ to be made real in the lives of others. (individuals or groups of people)

Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen ___________. Fill ___________’s soul with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in his/her heart. May love be the rich soil where ________’s life takes root. May it be the bedrock where ___________’s life is founded, so that together with all of Your people, he/she will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God may Your fullness flood through __________’s entire being. Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.

The theme of power is repeated 3 times in this prayer:                 

  • Power for strength
  • Power to know Christ and understand the depth of his infinite love
  • Power at work in us to do awe-inspiring things

This is what I long for, what I’m seeking, more and more of the Spirit, Savior, and the Father. Maybe you do, too. Would you pray this prayer for me sometime this Lenten season? I know I can’t receive the infinite gifts of God in my own strength. What would it be like for you to walk up to someone and say, “Would you insert my name this week in the prayer?” Anyone would be delighted to do that for you.

Nicodemus was longing for and seeking this as well. He appears 3 times in the Gospel of John. The beginning of Jesus’ ministry, in the middle defending Jesus, and at Jesus’ burial. A person who grows in his faith and the infinite love of God.

John 3:1-2, Nicodemus is introduced 

Pharisee- literally “Separated One”

  • Separated himself out for God, distinguished himself, by strict discipline in the study of God’s Word and applying the lessons of the Scriptures through rituals that he might lead a pure, holy, clean life
  • No separation between what he does for a living and who he is as a follower of the One True Living God, integrated life
  • Seeker of truth, Seeker of God, dedicated his entire life to this
  • Rabbi, Teacher of Israel, maybe even THE teacher
  • Pharisee of Pharisees
  • One of the best minds in Israel and it has served him well as he rose to an elite position
  • We don’t know if he was born into a family of advantage or if he worked his way up to his position of power, influence, respect, prosperity, security

Member of the Sanhedrin – the Great Sanhedrin of 71 judges in Jerusalem, the ruling council of all Israel

Nic at Night

  • Did Nicodemus come on his own to see Jesus?
  • Did the Sanhedrin send him in an official capacity?
    • “We know you are a teacher who has come from God”
    • They heard of the miracles
    • They heard his teaching
    • Turned over the tables in the temple
    • Sanhedrin sends Nicodemus, their brightest, best, most respected to check out Jesus
    • Root out people pretending to be the Messiah to maintain the fragile peace with Rome
    • Go at night. This is how the Sanhedrin does things, sneaky things – under the cover of darkness. Don’t go in the daytime, it might legitimize Jesus.

He’s come to find out who Jesus is- and Jesus tells him. But Jesus is also going to tell Nicodemus about Nicodemus. Jesus is going to look into his soul and see his seeking and trying and how it’s falling short. Nicodemus, there is more. Nicodemus, even after all you have earned, learned and achieved there is more.

Quote from Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire A lifetime of studying and teaching the word, and now Nicodemus is face to face with the Word incarnate. He comes in darkness, now he stands in the glowing presence of the Light of the World.

Reading John 3:1-10

If religious training were enough then Nicodemus would have all he needs for the fullness of God. If self-discipline were enough… If power and position were enough…

How many times do we strive after the things of God like Nicodemus? We pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and put on our big girl pants and we stand and we learn, learn, learn and practice, practice, practice.

Jesus says you can’t have the Kingdom of God in your own strength. There is more and it is available to you.

Nicodemus is baffled because this is what he thought would work and it hasn’t. It won’t. He’s baffled to find what does work in this poor, homeless, uncredentialed rabbi from nowhere.

Imagine yourself listening to Jesus alongside Nicodemus.

  • The cool of the night, the quiet of no modern noises, wind
  • Where are you? In old Jerusalem? On the Mount of Olives?
  • You must be born from above. You must be born again. You must be born of water and Spirit.
  • Sence of openness and delight and invitation.
  • Come, sit at my feet. Let me be your rabbi, your master. Come, let me be your Messiah, Savior. You do not need to strive this way to save yourself.
  • Come and know me, and know true power- the life-transforming power of the Spirit
  • Come and know me, and receive the power to understand that God’s divine love is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced
  • Come and know me for I am Love

John 3:16-17 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

The life of a Pharisee was a life of struggle and condemnation. Jesus was offering Nicodemus life. Just as Jesus is offering us life. ‘

You must be born from above. You must be born again. You must be born of water and Spirit.

Many of us do not remember our baptism. We were carried into the arms of the church by a loved one. Baptism is always about recognizing God’s grace more than recognizing our work.

But there must be many moments, when we say, “Yes, I’ve been born of water. I’ve been named and claimed by God in my baptism. But God I desire to be born of Spirit as well. Your holy presence alive in me, awakening me, saving me from me trying to save myself.”

Invitation to be baptized for the first time or reaffirm your baptism and to ask God to be born of water and Spirit. 

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Nicodemus Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.