Re-posting two wonderful reflections by Steve Garnaas Holmes based on Exodus 16. In the first he compares God’s provision of manna in the wilderness to those escaping slavery to the steadfast provision of what we need to get through our own wilderness. The second is an important reminder of the dangers of greed. Consider subscribing to his blog, Unfolding Light. – Lisa <><
In the morning there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that God has given you to eat.“
What gets you through the desert?
What gets you through?
What gets you through the chemo,
the healing from abuse, the bad marriage,
what gets you through
the job that tries to kill you,
the dark alley of the shadow of death,
the rotten places, the placeless places,
the evil you fear, the evil you’ve done,
your daily inadequacy,
what gets you through?
Some will call it courage or stamina,
luck or faith or reaching down deep.
But you know it’s not you, not yours.
It’s given. To you. For you.
From the Holy One.
The thread you follow,
the source you drink from,
the encouraging voice,
the Divine desire that you thrive,
the gift amid the desolation,
you find it anywhere—
the usual, the impossible,
You learn to recognize it.
You learn to receive it.
For that grace that gets you through
you learn to say thank you.
You learn to count on it,
and be surprised,
Those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. Some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. Morning by morning they gathered it,
as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.
God’s vision of justice
is that everyone has what they need.
Manna in the wilderness,
the widow’s jar of meal,
laborers in the vineyard,
feeding the five thousand,
God’s forgiveness upon each heart:
each is given what they need.
It is gift,
that you can’t earn or possess.
Your excess rots in your hands.
What you have beyond your need
you have taken from your neighbor.
It poisons you.
Starve your greed
and feed on justice.
Until all have what they need
even God is hungry.
Prayer based on Mark 9:14-29, Jesus healing a boy possessed by a destructive spirit
Answer us, Great God of Justice,
Lord of Hope
Bringer of Change and New Life
Finish your good and generous work
Release us from
the chains of this moment, born of imprisoned years
the distractions and false calls of those who cannot help
the apathy keeping us from seeing, speaking, and caring
the smallness of your Kingdom stealing our courage to try
the slowness of your Kingdom chipping away at our enduring
We believe, help our unbelief
Raise us from our comas to stand with you
Release our petified voices
Deliver us of our demons
You have made us new
You are making us new
You are making all things new
This prayer was offered 7/10/16 during worship at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida in response to a month of overwhelming injustice and violence.
The vows we make at our baptism, and the vows we renew when we make public commitments to Christ, seem especially poignant given the events of this past week. I remind you of them.
I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil power of this world, and repent of my sin.
I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
I confess Jesus Christ as my Savior, put my whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as my Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.
According to the grace given to me, I will remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world.
This week will mark the 1 month anniversary of the Pulse Orlando Massacre. 49 killed, 53 injured. Most young, Latino/Latina, and most from the gay community.
Two weeks after the massacre, Tuesday June 28, a terrorist attack consisting of shootings and suicide bombings occurred at the international terminal of the Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey. More than 230 people were injured. 45 people were killed in addition to the 3 attackers. The victims were from 11 different countries.
A few days later, last Sunday July 3, at least 298 people were killed and over 246 were injured after a large car bomb explosion in the middle of a busy market in Baghdad. The blast occurred in the Karrada area, the home to many Shia Muslims and a large Christian minority. The attack was part of series of Isis attacks during the holy month of Ramadan.
Two days later, Tuesday July 5, Alton Sterling was fatally shot by police outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was a 37 year old black man. The officers were each 28 year old white men.
A day later, Wednesday July 6, Philando Castile was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop. He was a 32 year old black man. The officer is white.
A day later, Thursday July 7, two black snipers ambushed and opened fire at the end of a peaceful protest in Dallas. 7 officers and two civilians are injured. 5 white officers are dead- Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Brent Thompson.
God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Lord Jesus, help us accept your gift of life
All lives matter
All lives matter because all are made in your image
All lives matter and should be protected and respected
for their worth and dignity are from you
All lives matter and should come home safely to their loved ones
It’s not us and them, it’s just us
Lord Jesus, help us live your gift of love
All lives matter
Yet some are targeted with prejudice and violence
because of the color of their skin
the zip code of their home
what they do for a living
So we speak and pray specifics
Black lives matter
Muslim lives matter
Foreign lives matter
Christian lives matter
Law enforcement lives matter
Latino/Latina lives matter
LGBTQIA lives matter
The Poor, their lives matter
The Young, their lives matter
All lives matter
Break our hearts Jesus that we may weep as you weep
Break our hearts Jesus that we may love as you love
Break our hearts Jesus and raise our voices
that we may speak and act so all may be safe
so all may have opportunity
so all may know belonging
Lord Jesus, take away our fear, our apathy, our silence
Grant us your courage
Grant us your strength
Grant us your perseverance
That we may be your sanctuary, your safe place
That we may live your justice
That we may use your power with wisdom and humility
That we may be your whole and holy people
A people of integrity
That we may speak and act and love again and again and again
Till every dividing wall of hate, fear and mistrust
comes crashing down in your Powerful Name
Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace
Fill us with your hope
Fill us with your salt
Fill us with your light
Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace
Teach us to pray and teach us to live your prayer Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers
When we don’t speak, people die.
If we are silent people die
Speak! Keep speaking- Speak up, Speak out
Keep speaking until
Hate is overcome by affection
Bullying is overcome by blessing
Discrimination is overcome by opportunity
Violence is no more
This place looks like heaven
– Lisa Degrenia
In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations. – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe. – Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Speech
A Statement from the Bishop and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church in Response to the June 12, 2016, Violent Crime of Hate against the LGBTQ Community in Orlando, Florida
2016 Florida Annual Conference Resolution– Help End Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning Individuals
Prayer offered by the Rev. Dr. Steve Harper at the Florida Annual Conference prayer vigil for all involved with the Pulse Orlando Shooting
We come before you in this moment as one human family, all of us created in your image and intended to glorify you with our lives–particularly in the ways we treat each other.
We also stand in your presence as heirs of the first sin after the Fall–the sin of murder, continuing to behave like Cain in our refusals to care for the lives of others, harming and murdering them with our words, our actions, our silence, and our judgment.
We come before you confessing our sins of commission and omission–the sins of saying and doing too much or too little–the sins of silence and shunning–the sin of self -righteousness which is no righteousness at all.
Forgive us for all the ways we have failed to love one another, to care for one another, and as the shooting in our city reveals, the particular ways we have failed to love our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, LatinX family, and their allies– turning a deaf ear to their pain and acting against them in ways which create a spirit of fear and a culture of discrimination that spawns acts of violence.
We especially lament the ways we have failed to love as Christians and as United Methodists, ways we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves–creating the false impression that our silence, our skewed perspectives and our retributive actions reflect the will of God. We humbly repent and are sorry for these our misdoings. The remembrance of them is grievous unto us.
Move among us by your Holy Spirit and remove our hearts of stone, replacing them with hearts of flesh that love you and everyone with a love as inclusive as your love for the world. Remove all walls that divide and drive far from us the desire to ever build a wall again.
We pray for the souls of the departed–those killed in the Pulse nightclub, and for their families and friends who grieve their deaths. We pray for the others who have been wounded, those whose lives will from now on be marked by this tragedy. And we pray for the soul of the one who committed this crime, and for his family and friends who are shamed and saddened by what he did.
We thank you for all those in the law enforcement and medical communities who risked their lives and offered their care to save others, and for our civic and religious leaders who must now guide us to beat our swords into plough shares and study war no more.
God, dwell among us to give us comfort, but not simply a comfort which enables us to move beyond our grief, but a comfort which causes us to move beyond our sin, so that we may be instruments of your peace–daily sowing love where there has been hatred, replacing injury with pardon, instilling faith where there has been doubt–until that day when justice rolls down and mercy like an ever flowing stream. Amen
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.
Ezekiel 33:1-9 NRSV
The word of the Lord came to me: O Mortal, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one of their number as their sentinel; and if the sentinel sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people; then if any who hear the sound of the trumpet do not take warning, and the sword comes and takes them away, their blood shall be upon their own heads. They heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; their blood shall be upon themselves. But if they had taken warning, they would have saved their lives. But if the sentinel sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any of them, they are taken away in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at the sentinel’s hand.
So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.
Jesus, Word made flesh,
Teach me to speak
Fill my mouth with your warning and wisdom
Raise my voice in alarm- with a cry of truth, justice and repentance
Open my lips in hope- with your call to salvation and healing
Your word is sharp- a two edged sword
Your word is challenge and change agent
Your word is life- grace and freedom
Breaking chains and falsehood
Destroying idols, prejudice, and dividing walls
Give me your words
Give me your sight and insight
Give me your courage, steadfast and persevering
Give me all I need to be your sentinel
That we may all live
This prayer was written in response to the Pulse Orlando massacre. In reading Ezekiel 33, I felt God calling me to speak out more by both naming the violence and injustice of our society and using my voice to speak peace, welcome, truth, and justice. God creates by speaking and invites us to join our voices to this saving work. When we don’t speak, people die. – Lisa <><
1. Say the Lord’s Prayer first thing when you wake in the morning and/or as the last thing before you go to sleep.
2. Use the Lord’s Prayer as your table grace before a meal.
3. When someone shares a joy or a problem with you, pray the Lord’s Prayer together to intentionally acknowledge the saving presence and action of God on your behalf.
4. Repeat the prayer slowly in the rhythm of your breathing. Meditating on God’s Word in this fashion centers us and quiets us- body, mind, and spirit. Meditation is an essential practice in our noisy and fast paced world.
Sunday- Our Father who art in heaven
Monday- Hallowed be thy name.
Tuesday- Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Wednesday- Give us this day our daily bread
Thursday- Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us
Friday- Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Saturday- For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
6. Darrell W. Johnson in his book Fifty-Seven Words That Change the World believes the heart of the Lord’s Prayer is the phrase “on earth as it is in heaven.” As such, he finds it helpful to repeat the phrase after each petition.
Our Father who art in heaven
Hallow your name on earth as it is in heaven
Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread on earth as it is in heaven
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us on earth as it is in heaven
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one on earth as it is in heaven
For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
7. Both N.T. Wright and Darrell Johnson suggest using each petition of the Lord’s Prayer as a starting point for praying for God’s transforming power in the world.
Wright says, “We live, as Jesus lived, in a world all too full of injustice, hunger, malice, and evil. This prayer cries out for justice, bread, forgiveness and deliverance. If anyone thinks those are irrelevant in today’s world, let them read the newspaper and think again.”
Thus “Kingdom come” leads us to pray specifically for places and persons in need of peace and just systems of governance and business. “Daily Bread” – access to and the just distribution of life’s essentials. “Forgiveness” for sins of omission and commission, for the redemption of personal, corporate, and systemic sin. “Deliver us from evil”- deliverance from “powers and principalities”, along with deliverance from unseen evil and the Evil One
Here’s an example from Johnson:
Our Father, your name is hallowed in heaven; hallow it on earth, in me, in my family, in this city. O Father, your kingdom has come in heaven; cause it to come on earth, in my house, in my neighborhood, in this country. O Father, your will is done in heaven; make it be done on earth, in my work place, in the work places in Vancouver and Seattle and Dallas and Mexico City and Tokyo and Baghdad and Calcutta and Nairobi. O Father, your name be hallowed; your kingdom come, your will be done on Main Street and Wall Street, as it is in heaven.
Prayer: End Our Madness
Hear our cry!
Head our plea!
End our madness!
Relief supplies rotting on docks
The faithful murdered at prayer
Vaccines waiting on shelves
Abortions of convenience
Riots in the streets
Millions of refugees
Hear our cry!
Head our plea!
End our madness!
Deliver us from bloodshed
Deliver us from us
Come in power
Your power, not ours
Your way, truth and life
Hear our cry!
Head our plea!
End our madness!
Extended quote by Jim Harnish from It’s Enough to Make You Cry
Take a good look; a look that penetrates the self-protective shields of social acceptability; a look that goes deeply into the heart; a look that is a finite expression of the infinite love with which God looks out on our world, and it’s enough to make anyone with a heart cry.
It’s what the prophet Jeremiah felt when he looked at his world and wrote, “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)
Read the headlines or watch the evening news and we know why Jesus wept over Jerusalem saying, “If they only knew the things that make for peace.” (Luke 19:42)
We weep for residents of Tel Aviv fleeing to bomb shelters and for Palestinians who have nowhere to hide from the attacks that are destroying their homes in Gaza.
We weep for thousands of children making their way across our border only to be caught up in our hopelessly confused and politicized immigration system.
We weep for millions of people who are homeless refugees because of the conflicts in Ukraine, in parts of Africa, and as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We weep for the lives that have been lost in jets that have been blown out of the sky.
And we weep — the way Jesus wept beside the grave of his friend, Lazarus – for the deeply personal wounds, hurts, disappointments that sooner or late come crashing in on every one of us.
With Jeremiah, we ask, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” (Jeremiah 8:22)
I also know how Jeremiah felt when he said: “If only I could flee for shelter in the desert/to leave my people and forget them.” (Jeremiah 9:2)
I’d probably not choose the desert. I might take a house on the beach or a cabin in the mountains. I might just turn off the television, cancel the newspaper, go to a movie and stop paying attention to the pain and suffering around me. Sometimes we’d all like to flee.
Weep or flee? Which will it be? The truth is that there are times for both. There are times when I need to weep for the wounds of the world around me. And there are times when I need to accept Jesus’ invitation, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)
So, where is God in all of this? It may be when Jeremiah hears God say, “I am going to refine them, for what else can I do with my people?” (Jeremiah 9:7)
I’m not suggesting that God causes the terrible things that happen in order to teach us a lesson. I’m a Wesleyan, not a Calvinist. Most of the things that make us weep are a direct result of human decisions that are an outright contradiction of the will of God. Our sinful choices are enough to make God cry.
Although God does not cause everything that happens, God is able to use anything that happens to refine us, the way gold and silver are refined. Instead of making us bitter, it can make us better.
The Spirit of God is present in our tears to break our hearts with the things that break the heart of God, to show us the ways in which we contribute to the pain of the world, to form us more fully into the likeness of Christ, and to enable us to participate in God’s healing work in this world. If there is a “balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul” it will be found in the hearts, lives and actions of faithful people who become the agents of God’s love in the lives of others.
Perhaps the Christ-shaped alternative is not just to weep or to flee, but to become God’s healing presence in the world. At least it’s worth praying for.