Sermon- The Palm Sunday Path

Jesus Palm Sunday Benedictine Sisters Turvey AbbeyThe Palm Sunday Path
Scripture: Mark 11:1-10
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 4/5/2020 via Facebook Live for Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of me leading worship in our empty sanctuary, including the message which starts around the 19-minute mark.

Mark 11:1-10, NRSV
1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 

4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them what Jesus had said, and they allowed them to take it. 

7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Imagine two mountains with a valley between them. One is the Mount of Olives. Jesus and his followers start on the far side near the villages of Bethphage and Bethany. They make their way up to the top of the Mount of Olives and what does Jesus see?

He looks down the slope and sees the olive grove and olive press of Gethsemane

He looks up the other mountain, the top’s been cut off in order to build the 35 acre Temple complex. On the left, he sees the teaching steps where he probably questioned the rabbis when he was 12. The steps where he now teaches when he comes to the Temple.

On the right, Jesus sees the Antonio Fortress where the Roman soldiers are garrisoned.

There between them, gleaming white and gold in the sun, the Temple of the One True Living God. Jesus can see the flames from the sacrifices, smell the char of the meat and perfumed prayers.

At the top of the Mount of Olives, Jesus can see all of Jerusalem before him. Jesus can see thousands of people making their way to market, work, worship, and home. And Jesus can see where they do the crucifixions. He can see his future on the cross.

What does Jesus do? Jesus continues on the path.

Jesus could have chosen an easier path, the path of Comfort
A quiet life, a tiny life in tiny Nazareth. Carpentry is honorable work. He’s been doing it for a couple of decades and he could continue. Morning prayer walks on the rolling hills of Galilee stopping to overlook the beautiful Sea of Galilee. Sweet sabbaths in the synagogue. Jesus could have chosen home and family, privacy, simplicity, comfort.

Jesus could have chosen a different path, the path of Control
He could have called down the armies of heaven to overthrow the Romans, and the evil one. He could have placed himself on David’s earthly throne and made every wrong right. He could have raised his hand and said “peace, be still” to the whole world.

Jesus could have chosen an easier path or a different path. He could have saved himself instead of saving the world… but he didn’t.

Jesus didn’t choose comfort and he didn’t choose control.
Jesus chose courage. He chose the courageous path of God.

Jesus hears the people around him as they’re making their way down the path. Ordinary people, simple people, excited and hopeful to announce him to Jerusalem.

“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Hosanna does not mean Hooray! It means Help!
Hosanna means Save Now!

The men, women, children walking with Jesus waving their branches weren’t thinking, “Save us from slavery to sin and death and shame.” They were thinking closer to home.

Save us from the Romans
Save us from the corruption of the Temple
Save us from hunger and thirst

Maybe you’re thinking closer to home, too.

If you were to cry Hosanna today, Save Now today, what would you want?
I would want Jesus to save us from the pandemic
Save us from the disease and the dis-ease
Save us from the cruelty of isolation
Save us from the slavery of financial ruin
Save us from the oppression of unknowing
Save us, Jesus, save now!
These are good prayers!

I want Jesus the King
Jesus the Healer
Jesus the Fixer, just like they did
Hosanna! Save Now!

That’s what Jesus chose to do- to save
Jesus looked at the great need all around him and chose the long game, the big picture, the one thing only he could do no one else.

Jesus chose the hard, courageous path for the greater need, the greatest need. He chose to save the world.

Jesus chose the path of injustice, betrayal, denial, abandonment. Jesus chose the path of mocking, whips, thorns, nails. Jesus chose the courageous path of crucifixion and death so he could open to us the path of victory and eternal life.

Hosanna doesn’t mean Hooray! It means Save Now!
Salvation doesn’t mean fixed. Salvation means wholeness.
Lord knows that’s what we need right now.

We need it for ourselves
We need it for our families
We need it for our economy
For Christ’s church
For our healthcare system
For our world

Lord, we need your salvation. We need your wholeness and we need it now. In our sickness, our suffering, our lamenting, our loss. And that’s what you give us now.

You are the Lamb of God
You are the King of Kings
You are the Christ, the Anointed One, the Savior of us all

We cling to you and we cling to your cross
We cry Hosanna! Save Now!

Make your wholeness real in us
And real in all. Amen.

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The Palm Sunday Path © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Pandemic and the Person of Christ

Sermon Series Bread 1110 x 624Lenten Sermon Series: Bread
This sermon series was inspired by the book Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers by Margaret Feinberg.

Message 5 of 5: Five Barley Loaves- Community and Social Distancing
Scriptures: Jesus’ I AM statements from the Gospel of John
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/29/2020 via Facebook Live for Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of me leading worship from my home office, including the message which starts around the 20-minute mark.

This message concludes our sermon series entitled Bread. It was supposed to be on a passage from John 6 where Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life.”

I’ll be honest with you, I went to John 6 and knew I didn’t want to dive deeply into that one passage. It’s complicated. It’s full of misunderstanding and arguments and Jesus trying to explain his real presence in Holy Communion.

It’s important, but it felt really heavy given the pandemic and quarantine. I didn’t want to be in my head and I didn’t want to preach on an argument. I don’t need that right now and suspect you don’t either.

What I need right now is Jesus.

This passage from John 6 led me to all the other I AM statements from Jesus in the Gospel of John. That’s what I needed. I needed to be reminded of who Jesus is- I AM, I Am, I AM…

I AM the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 38)
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…. I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”

Jesus is the Bread of Life, come down from heaven like manna in the wilderness. Jesus came that we might have a journey of faith with him to the promised land, with him home to heaven.

Jesus provides spiritual food and drink for the journey of faith and is that food and drink himself. Food/bread leads us to the next I AM statement…

I AM the Vine (John 15:1-2, 5)
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. … 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.

Hunger needs food/Bread and thirst needs something to drink, Vine/wine.

Every branch that bears no fruit is removed- what keeps us stuck, what hinders us. Jesus is unburdening us for the journey.

Every branch that bears fruit is pruned to bear more fruit. We are tended so the good will grow and flourish.

Jesus gives food for the journey, drink for the journey, unburdens us for the journey, brings good fruit along the journey, and makes the journey itself possible. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. We need Jesus.

I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus makes it possible for us to be on the journey and Jesus is the journey. Jesus is the Way. We can trust Jesus’ way because it is true. We can trust Jesus’ way because it is life.

We need life right now. We can stay on the path, stay on the journey in this time of pandemic by trusting and following Jesus.

I AM the Gate (John 10:7-9)
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

Jesus is not only the Way, the journey itself, but he is also the Gate. Anyone can enter the journey of faith, the journey of salvation, through Jesus. All this talk of sheep, listening, and pasture (more food for the journey!) leads us to…

I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14-15)
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. … I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.

The Shepherd knows us, calls us, fights for us, defends us, tends us, provides for us, leads us like a shepherd leading his flock, and lays down his life for us. Jesus lays down his life as the Way so we may cross into a life with God forever.

Jesus laying down his life is the cross. Jesus laying down his life is his death and being laid in a tomb. And yet, Jesus has the power to take up his life again and to take us up with him. (John 10:17-18)

Jesus is the Bread and Vine- food and drink for the journey
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life
Jesus is the Gate- how we enter the journey
Jesus is the Shepherd, leading us on the journey, we can hear and follow

Jesus is the Way, the Shepherd we follow, and the Light for every step of the journey.

I AM the Light of the World (John 8:12, 14a)
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life…. I know where I have come from and where I am going”

Light of the World… Whoever follows… The journey of faith is for all people. Anyone, everyone can join.

Light of Life… even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:12)

If you’re feeling things are dark right now, Jesus remains the Light. We can trust that light is there even when we can’t sense it. I pray that light would breakthrough for you right now.

I know where I have come from and where I am going. We can trust Jesus’ truth and experience to lead us because he knows where he’s going. He knows how to get us home.

We can trust this because of the last I Am statement. In this passage, Jesus is talking to Martha, the sister of Lazarus. She’s heartbroken over her brother’s death. It seems all is lost.

I AM the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-27)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Imagine Jesus asking us that right now. Do you believe this?

Do you believe I am the Bread of Life?
That I am the Vine and you are the branches?
Do you believe I am the Way, the Truth and the Life?
Do you believe I am the Gate?
Do you believe I am the Good Shepherd?
Do you believe I am the Light of the World?
Do you believe I am the Resurrection and the Life?

In this day, in the midst of the pandemic, in the midst of the physical separation, in the midst of wondering about the future, in the midst of the loss and the loneliness, I say, “I believe.”

Martha said it before Lazarus was raised from the dead. She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Before everything is made right, I’m going to stand with my sister Martha and say, “Yes, I believe.” I pray you will believe, too.

If you’re doubting these promises are for you, do not doubt. They’re offered to you as grace and goodness. No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter what you’ve done. These promises are for you and for all, so I pray you will say yes and believe.

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The Pandemic and the Person of Christ © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

TED Talk Notes: The Three Secrets of Resilient People by Lucy Hone

Dr. Lucy Hone’s statement, “Adversity doesn’t discriminate” captured my heart. It revealed a truth I’d been living for a long time with those I serve as their pastor, the larger community and world I serve, and my own experience.

If adversity is a universal experience, could it be resilience is also universally accessible?

I and Dr. Hone agree. Yes!

After sharing her own experience of crushing loss, Dr. Hone says, “I didn’t need to be told how bad things were. Believe me, I already knew things were truly terrible. What I needed most was hope. I needed a journey through all that anguish, pain, and longing.”

She offers these strategies for rising up from adversity, for accessing resilience.

1. Resilient people know suffering is a part of life for all humans.

2. Resilient people carefully assess situations, knowing what they can and cannot change. We are hardwired to notice the negative. “Our threat focus, our stress response, is permanently dialed up.” Resilient people notice both the negative and the good. Focusing attention on the good, such as practicing gratitude, brings perspective and higher levels of happiness. Finding the good takes intentionality and effort.

3. Resilient people ask themselves, “Is what I’m doing helping me or harming me?” This powerful question provides boundaries and control over decisionmaking.

She closes with, “I won’t pretend that thinking this way is easy. And it doesn’t remove all the pain. But if I’ve learned anything over the last five years, it’s that thinking this way really does help. More than anything it has shown me that it is possible to live and grieve at the same time and for that, I will be always grateful.”

flower breaking through concrete

What strategies help you grow and stay resilient? 

From the official TED Talk Notes: “Dr. Lucy Hone is a director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience, a research associate at AUT University, a published academic researcher, best-selling author and contributor to Psychology Today, the Sunday Star Times and Next magazine.”

Dr. Hone’s book is Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything.

Micah 7:8, ESV
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed

Romans 5:1-5 ESV
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

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Ted Talk Summary © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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A Glimpse of Glory, a reflection and prayer for Transfiguration Sunday

a glimpse of glory

I’m realizing more and more I need the rhythm of seasons. In Florida, we don’t really have them unless you count snowbird (tourist), pollen, lovebug, and hurricane. ⁠

Then I remembered I have the rhythm of the Christian year. We’re at a transition between the season after Christmas (Epiphany) and the season before Easter (Lent). ⁠

The scripture that marks this transition is Jesus’ transfiguration. Here’s the prayer that came from reading that story again. ⁠

How does the rhythm of seasons help you? Leave a comment below.⁠

A Glimpse of Glory
We bow in wonder and worship. You are Mystery. You are Holy. You are God.

You shine. You are glorious. You are Light, O Christ.
Fill us with light. Grant us a glimpse of your glory.

Save us, O God. Save us from the temptation to just stay on the mountain.

Save us from the temptation to never engage with injustice and need.

Save us from the temptation of trying to capture and control your power and glory. Save us, O God.

You give us your glory and you give us your grace. Grace to follow you up the mountain of revealing and grace to follow you down the mountain, into the valley of a different revealing.

Help us to listen. Help us to follow. Strengthen and sustain us in every place, in every way, for your honor and glory. Amen.

The Transfiguration of Jesus
Every year, Christians remember how Peter, James, and John caught a glimpse of Glory. You can read the story of Jesus’ transfiguration in Matthew 17:1–20; Mark 9:2–29; Luke 9:28–43; and 2 Peter 1:16–18.

There they were on top of a mountain with Jesus. Suddenly, he is transfigured before them. His clothes shine with a dazzling brightness no one has ever seen.

At this moment time shatters. Past, present, and future come together in holy communion. Jesus converses with Moses and Elijah, the faithful ones who came before to prepare the way.

As Peter starts making plans for them all to settle and stay on the mountaintop, a voice from above overshadows them, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

The glimpse was just that … a glimpse … and with that, it’s gone.

Jesus’ first invitation is “Come, Follow Me.” Come up the mountain. Come experience the presence and glory of God.

The second invitation is “Come Down the Mountain.” Come experience the presence and glory of God in the needs of others.

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A Glimpse of Glory © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Morning Prayer for the New Year

close up of coffee cup on table

Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

Imagine waking up every morning, and the first words out of your mouth are this prayer of commitment and openness to God by Steve Garnaas Holmes. Now that’s a New Year’s resolution worth keeping! Happy New Year, dear ones. – Lisa <><

God, help me today
to love with gusto,
to forgive with courage,
to look for your grace,
to seek presence, not comfort,
to be grateful in all things,
to receive you in whatever form you come to me.

Help me today to be who you create me to be,
not what others desire,
to trust you in what is difficult,
to let your love flow through me
without impediment or hesitation,
to be present in this life,
not hankering after one I imagine.

I surrender myself to your love thriving in me,
love that unites me with all your Beloved,
with all Creation, with you:
for even though I am not fully aware
I am fully yours,
and I give you my thanks;
I give you my life.
Amen.
~ God, Help Me Today by Steve Garnaas Holmes

I’m grateful for the faithfulness, artistry, and voice of Steve Garnaas Holmes who generously allows me to repost his meaningful work. I cannot recommend his blog highly enough. You’ll find him at unfoldinglight.net. – Lisa <><