A Heap of Empty Words (Matthew 6)

words pile scraps

Matthew 6:7-8
Jesus said, “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

You are there in the midst of my prattle
and my hiding

Thank you for your patient presence
Thank you for calling me again to what is deeper and true

Forgive me for defaulting to well-worn words
Empty language borrowed from ritual or even scripture
Help me come to you honest and real
nothing veiled, nothing hidden
Help me come to you present and fresh
new every morning

Matthew 6:9-10
Jesus said, “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Glory to You, Heavenly One
Abba, Maker, Creator
I long for your kingdom, the fullness of your grace and victory

The longing is a sign of you in me
Abide more and more, so I not only long but look and see
Abide forever, so I not only long but pray and speak and act
Full-filling your words
now mine

****************
A Heap of Empty Words © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

What Kind of King? a reflection and prayer based on Psalm 96.10-13

crownPsalm 95:10-13
Proclaim to the nations: ‘God is king.’
The world He made firm in its place;
He will judge the peoples in fairness.

Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad,
Let the sea and all within it thunder praise,
Let the land and all it bears rejoice,
All the trees of the wood shout for joy at the presence of the Lord for He comes,
He comes to rule the earth.

With justice, He will rule the world,
He will judge the peoples with His truth.

What kind of King is God?

  • Creator/creative
  • A fair and truth-full Judge
  • Present and Coming
  • A just Ruler of all the earth

Prayer
Lord God, King of all Creation
Ruler of planets and peoples

Receive our rejoicing
For your abiding presence and redemptive return

Receive our shouts of gladness
For your justice, your fairness, your truth victorious

Strengthen and inspire
So we may persevere in proclaiming and praise

We labor and yearn for your glorious day
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
Amen

************
What Kind of King? © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Full Full Nets, a prayer based Jesus Calling the Disciples (Mark 1)

80_1cast_your_netMark 1:14-20, NRSV
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Jesus,
You call me from what I know to something new
From a life on this sea with this family
From the nets of generations before me

You call me to a new beginning
A new being and doing
You call me to follow
To move and become

Help me turn towards you
Help me follow
Help me believe and trust you fully
Immediately
Help me live into my chosenness
To lay down what I know and pick up anew

Empower me to go out with you
Across, beyond, into the deep
Bringing in your wild, shining kingdom
Full, full nets
Full, full nets
Full, full nets

************
Full, full nets © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Songs of Christmas: Hail to the Lord’s Anointed (Isaiah 42; Jeremiah 23; Psalm 72; Luke 4)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 1: Hail to the Lord’s Anointed by James Montgomery (1771-1854)
Scripture References: Isaiah 42:16; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Psalm 72:1-7; Luke 4:16-19
Theme: Showers of Blessing

Hail to the Lord’s Anointed by James Montgomery
Hail to the Lord’s Anointed, Great David’s greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, To set the captive free;
To take away transgression, and rule in equity.

He comes with succor speedy to those who suffer wrong;
To help the poor and needy, and bid the weak be strong;
To give them songs for sighing, their darkness turn to light,
Whose souls, condemned and dying, are precious in his sight.

He shall come down like showers upon the fruitful earth;
Love, joy, and hope, like flowers, spring in his path to birth.
Before him on the mountains, shall peace, the herald, go,
And righteousness, in fountains, from hill to valley flow.

To him shall prayer unceasing and daily vows ascend;
His kingdom still increasing, a kingdom without end.
The tide of time shall never His covenant remove;
His name shall stand forever; that name to us is love.

Prayer:
Reign and Rain down, Glorious One
Salvation flows from your coming
Living water to our desert
to our frail clay
to our dust

Creation flows from you
New life springing up
Hope and wholeness
Budding and blooming in our wasteland

Let all the earth drink of you
The fullness of your unfailing love
Flood us and fill us
That we may carry this great grace as it carries us

Additional Resources:

Isaiah 42:16
I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them.

Jeremiah 23:5-6
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

Psalm 72:1-7
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound until the moon is no more.

Luke 4:16-19
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Excerpt from History of Hymns: “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” by C. Michael Hawn
Montgomery began writing poetry at age 10, inspired by the hymn of the Moravians, the same group that inspired John Wesley. Despite flunking out of school at age 14, Montgomery found a job in 1792 at a radical weekly newspaper, the Sheffield Register. He assumed the leadership of the paper not long after when the previous editor fled the country fearing persecution for his politics.

At this point, Montgomery changed the name of the paper to the Iris and served for 31 years as editor, during which he was a tireless supporter of social justice. He was jailed twice for his radical views, using the time in prison to write poetry.

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

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

The Songs of Christmas: Savior of the Nations, Come (Matthew 1, John 1, Philippians 2)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
November 28: Savior of the Nations, Come by St. Ambrose (340-397)
Scripture References: Matthew 1:18; John 1:10-14; Philippians 2:5-7
Theme: Christ, the Heroic Racer

Savior of the Nations, Come by St. Ambrose
Savior of the nations, come, Virgin’s Son, make here Your home!
Marvel now, O heav’n and earth, That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood, by the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh—Woman’s offspring, pure and fresh.

Here a maid was found with child, Yet remained a virgin mild.
In her womb this truth was shown: God was there upon His throne.

Then stepped forth the Lord of all from His pure and kingly hall;
God of God, yet fully man, His heroic course began.

God the Father was His source, back to God He ran His course.
Into hell His road went down, back then to His throne and crown.

For You are the Father’s Son who in flesh the vict’ry won.
By Your mighty pow’r make whole all our ills of flesh and soul.

From the manger newborn light shines in glory through the night.
Darkness there no more resides; in this light faith now abides.

Glory to the Father sing, Glory to the Son, our king,
Glory to the Spirit be now and through eternity.

Prayer:
All Hail our Heroic Savior, Jesus Christ
Heroic to leave perfection and glory
Heroic to choose an impoverished, bloody birth
Heroic to become frail flesh
Divine, yet disregarded, disowned, destroyed

Heroic to pioneer the path of mercy, grace, and new life
Heroic to run the race, to persevere, to win our victory
Heroic to give everything to make us whole and holy

We stand to honor and revere you
We bow in humility and thankfulness
We step out in faith to follow your lead. Amen.

Additional Resources:

Matthew 1:18
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 2:5-7
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

John 1:10-14
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,[b] full of grace and truth.

The hymn affirms the same themes about Jesus Christ as the Nicene Creed
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human.

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

************
Savior of the Nations, Come reflections © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording- Face to Face, The Thief and Jesus (Luke 23.32-43)

thief on cross remember me paradise

Message: Face to Face, The Thief and Jesus
Scriptures: Luke 23:32-43
This message was offered Sunday, 3/18/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. It was inspired by the book Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire. No recording is available due to a technical error.

The opening illustration is sourced and adapted from an interview in The Guardian by Saeed Kamali Dehghan on Friday, April 25, 2014, entitled Iranian mother who spared her son’s killer: ‘Vengeance has left my heart’

In Iran, it is standard practice for families of murder victims to oversee the execution of the murderer. In May 2014, Samereh Alinejad watched as a noose was slipped around the neck of Balal Gheisari, her son Abdollah’s killer. This was her chance to have the vengeance she’d wanted for seven long years.

Iran’s Islamic penal code allows the victim’s heir – in this case, his parents – to personally execute the condemned man as retribution. By pushing away the chair Balal was standing on, Samereh would hang and kill him.

Seconds away from what could have been his final breath, Balal pleaded for his life and called out for mercy. “Please forgive,” he shouted, “if only for my mum and dad,” Samereh recalled. “I was angry, I shouted back how can I forgive, did you show mercy to my son’s mum and dad?”

Samereh clambered up on a stool and slapped Balal across the face.

“After that, I felt as if rage vanished within my heart. I felt as if the blood in my veins began to flow again,” she said. “I burst into tears and I called my husband and asked him to come up and remove the noose.” Balal now finishes serving his prison sentence.

Balal’s mother Kobra, sobbing, reached across the fence separating the crowd from the execution site. She embraced Samereh before reaching to kiss her feet – a gesture of respect and gratitude. “I didn’t allow her to do that, I took her arm and made her stand up … she was just a mother like me, after all.” The two later went to visit Abdollah’s grave.

One week after pardoning Balal, Samereh found a peace lost since her son’s death. “Losing a child is like losing a part of your body. All these years, I felt like a moving dead body,” she said. “But now, I feel very calm, I feel I’m at peace. I feel that vengeance has left my heart.”

Samereh remembers “We couldn’t sleep the night before the execution, we were all awake until morning. Until the last minute, I didn’t want to forgive. I had told my husband just two days before that I can’t forgive this man, but maybe there would be a possibility, but I couldn’t persuade myself to forgive… My husband said, look to God and let’s see what happens.”

Look to God and let’s see what happens

Luke 23:32-39  
32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with Jesus. 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

Jesus is crucified between two criminals. The KJV calls them thieves. The word used in Matthew’s gospel refers to violent armed robbers. The word used in Luke’s gospel refers to one who does evil.

In Matthew’s account, both criminals mock Jesus. Luke’s account provides more detail. The leaders scoff, the soldiers mock, one of the criminals derides Jesus.

  • The leaders in verse 35- He saved others let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one
  • The soldiers in verse 37 – if you are the King of the Jews, save yourself
  • The criminal in verse 39- Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!

All three parties question Jesus’ identity. (If he is the Messiah, if you are the King of the Jews, are you not the Messiah?) Prove yourself Jesus with a display of great power. Jesus’ been hearing this demand from the beginning, starting with the devil in the wilderness. Jesus refuses the temptation yet again.

All three parties call for Jesus to save. (He saved others let him save himself, save yourself, save yourself and us) It’s an echo of the Palm Sunday “Hosannas”, which literally mean “Save Now!” Yes, Jesus will save. It is his mission. He has come to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10) He will do this not by saving himself, but by freely offering himself.

Luke 23:40-43
40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

What if Matthew and Luke are both giving us needed details. What if both criminals were mocking and deriding Jesus and then one changed. Why the change? Why the change from mocking Jesus to the heroism of defending him? Why the change from deriding Jesus to the self-aware humility of confession and asking for salvation?

Look to God and let’s see what happens. What did the second criminal see? In the midst of the pain, the brutality, the shouts, the death the criminal saw:

1. Jesus didn’t return hate for hate.
Jesus didn’t threaten. Jesus didn’t retaliate even though he had the right and power to do so.

2. Jesus forgiving
Verse 34 reports Jesus saying, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus was consistent in his life, in his message, in his mission. The Pharisees never accused Jesus of not practicing what he preached.

Matthew 5:43-45
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven

Matthew 9:11
Jesus said, “I desire mercy not sacrifice for I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

3. Jesus unjustly crucified
Could seeing the injustice open the criminal to seeing a greater spiritual truth- God in Jesus freely laying down his life to take upon himself the poison of the world’s sin? Could the criminal see the depth of God’s love and grace and determination to save the world?

What do you see? Look to God and let’s see what happens!
The criminal is rethinking his life in response to seeing the truth of who God is in Jesus’ words and actions. The same can be true for you.

You too can speak the words of the criminal, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” It is available for you. Jesus help me, deliver me from death, save me.

God remembering is God helping, delivering, and saving.

  • In Genesis 8, God remembers Noah and saves him from the flood
  • Genesis 19, God remembers Abraham and saves him and his nephew Lot
  • Exodus 2, God remembers the Hebrews and saves them from slavery in Egypt

Jesus remembers the criminal and Jesus will remember you. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Today you can be fully present to Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Today, every day, and on into eternity.

Look to God and let’s see what happens

  • Look to Jesus on the cross for you, for your loved ones, for your enemies, for the world
  • Look to Jesus on the cross. Look at the compassion in his eyes. Hear his voice of forgiveness.
  • Look to Jesus on the cross. Cry out, “Remember me, help me, deliver me, save me” and it will be heard and it will be so.

From Paradise Now by Steve Garnaas Holmes, adapted
Jesus, remember me.
Make me again a member of your realm.
Make me part of your healing of the world.
Remember me.
I surrender to your absolute love.
Remember me.
In your hope for the world, remember me.
Even in your suffering, remember me.
In your entering the pain of the world, remember me.
In your love, remember me.
Jesus, I bow in wonder at the expanse of your embrace
the breadth of your inclusion
the surprise of your grace

You seek and seek and seek
Including those I write off as beyond hope
the outcasts
the public sinners
the self-serving
those who collaborate with evil and oppression…

Why am I surprised?
You desire mercy not sacrifice
You are the Great Physician coming to those most in need of healing

Forgive me
Forgive me for forgetting who you are
Forgive me for forgetting my own sin
and isolation
and collaboration

Forgive me for judging
Forgive my self-righteousness
Forgive me for limiting you
when I am so desperately in need of you
I am one of “those most in need” as well
Create in me a clean heart and renew your Holy Spirit within me
Lord have mercy
Lord have mercy on us all

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean 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 join us live on our Facebook page at 9am 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.

Like our sister Mary, a Christmas Affirmation

mother-of-god-icon-l

Like our sister Mary, we say yes

Yes to your favor
Your presence
Your blessing

Yes that we are enough just as we are
Where we are

Yes to your calling
and the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon us to fulfill it

Yes to bearing and birthing
Your Word and your Promises and your Kingdom
in this time and place

Yes to all things being possible with you

Like our sister Mary we say
Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant
As you have said, let it be done to me
in me
through me

Like our sister Mary we sing and celebrate you
Our God, Our Liberator
For though we are your humble servants
You have noticed us

******************
This affirmation is offered for all, but especially for those who lead God’s people during the holy-days of Christmas. It can be an weary and stressful time. It’s easy to miss the wonder and grace of God’s intimate presence with so much responsibility. The stakes feel sky high. Breathe, trust, receive brothers and sisters. The promises are for you as well.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas! – Lisa <><

Like our Sister Mary © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

Based on Luke 1:26-48, The Voice translation