You Will Be Found, a prayer based on Jeremiah 29

Jeremiah 29:13-14
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”

Lord Jesus, we seek yousearch for god
We long for you
in the depths of our hearts
in the soul of our souls
down to our bones

Show us where our seeking is incomplete

Where all isn’t all
Where our hearts are splintered and scattered
by false loves and misplaced trust

You are already searching for us
finding us, choosing us
You are already delivering us
from our slave chains and imprisonments

We are found
You will be found
Glory to you, our Savior
Amen

Prayer based on Jeremiah 29 © 2017 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.

Sermon Recording- If I Only Had a… Friend (Ephesians 4)

finding-god-in-oz

Sermon Series – Finding God in Oz
The Wizard of Oz is a powerful allegory for so many of our foundational Christian beliefs. Walk with us as we Find God in Oz.

Message: If I Only Had A…. Friend
Scriptures: Ephesians 4:11-16
Offered 11/6/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

The Wizard of Oz characters lament, “If I only had a brain, a heart, a home, the nerve.” What “If I only had a” is really “If I only were a”? It’s not a question of having a thing or a circumstance. It’s a longing of being. The Scarecrow wants a brain, but really means he longs to be a smarter person. The Tin Man wants a heart, a desire to be an emotionally whole person. Dorothy wants to go home. Could this be her way of saying she wants to be a person who is less impulsive or a person who makes better decisions or thinks through the consequences of choices? Lion wants nerve, to be a courageous person who is ready to be who he was created to be.

They think the wizard is going to give them these things and then they’ll live happily ever after. Instead, the wizard places them in danger and then merely points out the obvious. They’ve already found what they were looking for. Where? In each other. In caring for each other, supporting one another, seeing each other through trials, mentoring, and inspiring one another they have become what they longed for. What they really needed was a friend.
Lisa Degrenia <><

John 15:15 NRSV
Jesus said, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant[b] does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”

From The Way of Transforming Discipleship by Trevor Hudson and Stephen D. Bryant
I have a hunch that if Jesus were to walk down the streets of your town or city today, he would look around at all those who are isolated and disconnected and say something like this:

“Come to me, all you who want to belong, and I will give you a table to sit around.
Come to me, all you who feel disconnected.
Come to me, all you who are lonely, cut off, rejected, and marginalized.
Come to me. Come home. Come be part of the family that I want to share with you.”

Additional Resources

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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.

sermon © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording- I Thirst

crucifixion pierce flow thirstSermon Series: Final Words from the Cross
The Scriptures record Jesus speaking 7 phrases as he hung upon the cross- important and powerful final reminders of who he was and what it means to follow him.

Message: I Thirst
Scripture: John 19:28-29
Offered 3/20/16, Palm Sunday, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Click Here for a blog post with my poem I Thirst, which is referenced throughout this message.

I Thirst
Holy Jesus, our Lord and our God, is thirsty as he hangs on the cross.
This is not an everyday dryness that is easily satisfied by turning a faucet,
This is a deep, deadly thirst few of us have known.
A burning, raging thirst of exposure and dehydration

By this time in His torture, Jesus’ body is a festival of pain

  • Cramps sweep through his muscles, knotting them, and yet he must use them to lift himself to breath
  • His back, bloody and open down to the bone from the scourging, scrapes against the craggy tree every time he moves
  • The lacerated veins and crushed tendons of his wrists and ankles throb with incessant anguish
  • There’s a deep, crushing pain in the depths of his chest (it’s his pericardium slowly filling with fluid). As the heaviness closes in, his heart struggles to pump what little is left of his thick, sluggish blood.

Each variety of misery goes on and on and on, increasing with every moment that passes – hour after hour and he’s nearing hour 6.

How does he choose to describe this?
How does he describe the reality of his pain and passion?
He says– I Thirst

He could have quoted Psalm 22 again, the one that begins, “My God My God why have you forsaken me…”
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws
You lay me in the dust of death.

But that is too much.
All his swollen tongue can say is… I thirst

Yes, Jesus is physically thirsty, but it’s more than that.
To thirst is also to long for something that is essential.

It’s this thirst, this longing that is consuming him
Is he longing for revenge?
Longing for companionship?
Is he longing to come down from the cross? No
It’s his longing that’s keeping him on the cross, in the place of pain and sacrifice

What are you thirsty for? You ever had a thirst that kept you somewhere painful?
A longing that consumes you?
Stuck in the past because you long for the good old days
Unable to put down roots because you long for a more perfect place
Never enjoying the moment because you’re longing
to finish the project  – finish school – finish the treatment – finish looking for true love

To thirst is to long for something that is essential.
Is what you are thirsting for essential?
If you get it, will it satisfy you?
Or like cool water on a hot day will it meet the need only for your to need more soon

Consider Gollum in Lord of the Rings. He stays in the place of pain thirsting, longing for the ring. But it never satisfies.
Our longings can become distorted, even destructive
We can long for things that do not matter do not last
Our longings can steal our time, our attention, our money, our relationships, our life
At their worst, they get twisted into compulsions or even addictions

Jesus says, “I thirst.” But because it’s Jesus we know it is a perfect, holy longing.
(longing can be good, beautiful, and worthy of the place of pain)

What is so essential to Jesus that he’s allowing it to consume him?
He’s longing for righteousness (fancy church word alert)
that crossed-shaped, right relationship with God, others, yourself, your stuff, the earth.

I thirst
I thirst for you – because you cannot drink the bitter cup I must drink
I thirst for you – because I desire that none should be lost
I thirst for you – so that you may drink of me, the living water

Jesus, the Living Water, flows because he drank the cup and is now being poured out

Only a few hours before, Jesus gathers his closest followers for a meal, he raises a cup and says, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Only a few hours before, as Jesus was being arrested, Peter drew his sword; but Jesus told him, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Jesus drinks the cup and pours himself out on the cross … I thirst, I thirst for you

Jesus’ thirsting, his essential consuming longing, is for righteousness and that we would drink deeply of it- so that he would become in you, me, and all who believe a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

Only a short time before, Jesus talks with a man seeking answers in the night
Be born again of water and the Spirit

Only a short time before, Jesus talks with an downcast woman at a public well
Drink the water I give you and never thirst again

Only a short time before, Jesus cries out in the midst of a festival
Let anyone who is thirsty come to me
Let the one who believes in me drink
Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water

Holy Jesus, our Lord and our God, is thirsty as he hangs on the cross.
Not the everyday dryness that is easily satisfied by turning a faucet,
but the deep, vital thirst all of us may now know because of his saving work
The cleansing, satisfying thirst for righteousness
Take the cup- drink deeply

2 Corinthians 5:21
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Psalm 63:1         
O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 42:1-2 NIV             
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Matthew 5:6 NIV            
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Resources for this sermon
Final Words From the Cross by Adam Hamilton
Listening at Golgotha by Peter Storey
Dryness and Darkness, Thirst and Desire: Why Lent Matters a sermon by Bishop Ken Carter based on Psalm 63

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I Thirst © 2001 Lisa 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.

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.

© 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Reader’s Theater: Jesus, Bread of Life (John 6:28-40)

christ eucharist bread icon
ALL SINGING:
Eat this Bread
by Robert Batastini and Jacques Berthier
United Methodist Hymnal #628
or
Hungry, verse 1 and chorus
by Kathryn Scott
CCLI Song # 2650364
or
another song of your choosing

The instruments continue during the scripture reading.

VOICE ONE:
The crowd asked Jesus,

CHOIR or CONGREGATION:
What must we do to perform the works of God?

JESUS:
This is the work of God- that you believe in him whom he has sent.

VOICE ONE:
What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

JESUS:
Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven,
but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

CHOIR or CONGREGATION:
Sir, give us this bread always.

JESUS:
I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

ALL SINGING:
Eat this Bread or Hungry vs 1, chorus
Or another song of your choosing

JESUS:
You have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.

ALL SINGING:
Eat this Bread or Hungry vs 1, chorus
Or another song of your choosing

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Adapted from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Reader’s Theater: Jesus, Bread of Life (John 6:28-40)
© 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer: For Grace to Bear Suffering

Ecco Homo, an anonymous work of the Early Renaissance, via Wikimedia Commons

Ecco Homo, an anonymous work of the Early Renaissance, via Wikimedia Commons

Often prayer begins as a longing in the heart, a longing for love, a longing for connection, a longing to make contact with a Power greater than ourselves. Sometimes it begins as a desperate need for help, peace, strength, or comfort. Other times prayer’s beginning is a deep hope for others — an ache for suffering to stop, for the earth’s healing, for care of the poor. Sometimes prayer begins in fear. We reach out for something to save us, to protect us, to let us know that we’ll be OK. Sometimes prayer feels like a longing that’s been met, like a deep spring of peace welling up within our hearts, spilling over and filling us with gratitude and love.
– Dorothy C. Bass and Don C. Richter, Way to Live

When we try to live in solidarity with the pain of the world—and do not spend our lives running from necessary suffering—we will surely encounter various forms of “crucifixion.” Many say pain is merely physical discomfort, but suffering comes from our resistance to, denial of, and our sense of injustice or wrongness about that pain. This is the core meaning of suffering on one level or another, and we all learn it the hard way. As others have said, pain is the rent we pay for being human, but suffering is to some degree optional. The cross was Jesus’ voluntary acceptance of undeserved suffering as an act of total solidarity with all the pain of the world. Deep reflection on this mystery can change your whole life. – Richard Rohr, Holding the Darkness

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me
And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God
Who loved me and gave himself for me

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
With Dignity
Humility
Forgiveness

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
With Compassion
Truth
Perseverance

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
Knowing my sufferings are not like his
and not like others
yet shared with the universal longings of all humanity
Real and Painful and Deep
No need for comparison
Only companionship

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
As Christ bore his for all
All I will ever suffer
All we all will ever suffer
Will be made known
Will be made whole
Through his love and self giving

In this I believe
and trust
and follow
and hope
In this I am made new
Thanks be to God!
Hallelujah!
Amen!

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For Grace to Bear Suffering © 2014 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.

Pray Without Ceasing

pray without ceasing1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 (NRSV)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.

Prayer is a request for what is good, offered by the devout of God. But we do not restrict this request simply to what is stated in words. We should not express our prayer merely in syllables, but also through the attitude of our soul and in the virtuous actions we do in our life. This is how you pray continually — not by offering prayer in words, but by joining yourself to God through your whole way of life, so that your life becomes one continuous and uninterrupted prayer. – Basil the Great

Extended quote by Steve Harper from Let us Pray: The Essence of Prayer
Here is my distilled essence of prayer. First, prayer is attitude. This means it includes occasional acts, but it is actually an ongoing disposition of the heart, not limited to fixed times of devotion.

Second, prayer is abandonment. It is taking every moment and saying, “Not my will but thine be done.” It is the surrender of egotism and the offering of our lives to God–what Saint Francis called being “an instrument of Your peace.”

And third, prayer is attentiveness, so that God can communicate with us as much in the ordinary moment as in the spectacular ones.

Almost everything else about prayer emerges from one of these three elements. In them we find the foundation for both personal and corporate prayer.

Extended quote by Augustine of Hippo from his Discourse on Psalm 37
And all my desire is before you (Ps 37:10)… This very desire of yours is your prayer; and if your desire is continual, your prayer is continual too. It was not for nothing that the Apostle said: “Pray without ceasing” (1Thes 5:17). Can we unceasingly bend our knees, bow down our bodies or uplift our hands, that he should tell us: Pray without ceasing? No; if it is thus he bids up pray, I do not think we can do so without ceasing.

But there is another way of praying, interior and unbroken, and that is the way of desire. Whatever else you are doing, if you long for that sabbath, you are not ceasing to pray. If you do not want to cease praying, do not cease longing.

Your unceasing desire is your unceasing prayer. You will lapse into silence if you lose your longing. Who did lapse into silence? Those of whom it has been said: “Because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold” (Mt 24.12). The coldness of charity is the heart’s silence; its glowing ardor, the heart’s outcry. If charity is always present, you are ever crying out; if always crying out, you are ever longing; if longing, you have not forgotten the everlasting repose.

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For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Two Simple Questions for Spiritual Self Examination

Open, Listening. Taken at the Life Enrichment Center Fruitland Park. Photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Open, Listening. Taken at the Life Enrichment Center Fruitland Park. Photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Examen by Steven Garnaas-Holmes
From his blog Unfolding Light
Reprinted with permission

The voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
”Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight a path for the Holy One:”
… Bear fruit worthy of repentance.
                  —Matthew 3:3, 8

The ancient examen, or examination of consciousness, is a simple, two-part prayer of discernment, reviewing a recent time period (a day, an hour, week, whatever).

         • When did I feel closest to God or most in harmony with life?

Give thanks for the “consolations:” those moments when you felt the gift of life, and the presence or grace of God. Be mindful that the grace in those moments, and the God who granted it, are still with you.

         • When did I feel most out of touch or out of harmony with God or life?

Embrace also the “desolations:” the sorrow, warning, loss or other response arising from those moments when you felt out of harmony, when you felt life drain from you. Be mindful that God was with you then and is now. The inner discord you feel is the Spirit nudging you back toward the path of Life. Within you is an innate desire to be in harmony with God. Dwell with that longing; it is your repentance. Follow it: it is the path of the Holy One. Let it guide you. It is the light that will lead you through the darkness to God.