Praying for Your City

greetings from sarasota flThe good folks at The Center for Action & Contemplation and Mile High Ministries in Denver, Colorado, have written a beautiful prayer adapted from Walter Brueggemann’s Prayers for a Privileged People. It’s hoped it will inspire Christians to pray for their local communities.

As per their invitation, it’s been adapted for my local community, Sarasota FL. Please feel free to adapt it for your own.  

The prayer may be read in a group with one voice reading the regular print and all voices reading the bold print or it may be prayed alone. After the prayer, please pause for silence.

May the movement of the Holy Spirit through these sacred words and silence birth in us a fresh movement of compassionate action. How fitting as we honor those who have worked for freedom, equality, and justice, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and our Jesus.
– Lisa <><

Loving God, you have set us in families and clans, in cities and neighborhoods.
Our common life began in a garden, but our destiny lies in the city.

You have placed us in Sarasota. This is our home.
Your creativity is on display here through the work of human hearts and hands.

We pray for Sarasota today—for the East Side, West Side, North, and South.
For Riverwood, Siesta Key, Pinecraft, Newtown, Palmer Ranch, and The Meadows.
We pray for our poorest neighbors and for powerful people in offices downtown. We pray for people from the ’hood and the barrio,
for seasonal “snowbirds,” college students, and the new urbanites.

We pray for Sarasota’s neighbors:
Bradenton, Osprey, Nokomis, Lakewood Ranch, Venice, Myakka, and others.
And for sister cities in Scotland, Mexico, France, Israel, Russia, China, and Switzerland —and a thousand other cities connected to our own.

In all our neighborhoods this day there will be crime and callous moneymaking;
there will be powerful people unable or unwilling to see the vulnerable who are their neighbors.
There will also be beautiful acts of compassion and creativity in all these places—forgiveness and generosity; neighbors working together for a more just community.

Help us see this place as something other than a battleground between us and them, where our imaginations are limited by win/lose propositions and endless rivalry.
Show us a deeper reality, God: Show us your playground, and invite us to play.

Like the city of your dreams, make this a city where those who were once poor enjoy the fruits of their labor;
A place where children are no longer doomed to misfortune, but play safely in the streets under the watchful eyes of caring, healthy adults;

A place where former rivals and natural enemies work and play together in peace;
And where all people enjoy communion with you.
We pray in the name of the one who wept over the city, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Time of silence

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Adapted from Beyond Our Efforts: A Celebration of Denver Peacemaking (Mile High Ministries: 2019), 251; and Walter Brueggemann, “This City . . . of God,” Prayers for a Privileged People (Abingdon Press: 2010), 157.

A Message in Light of the Potential United Methodist Church Split (Psalm 46)

body of christ
A Message in Light of the Potential UMC Split (Psalm 46)
Scripture: Psalm 46
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 01/05/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire worship service, including the message.

Psalm 46
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

In the last few days, most major news outlets ran stories on a potential split in the United Methodist Church. Hearing this news brought up many feelings and questions for me.

What did it bring up for you?

Below you’ll find a link to an article with the most accurate information. The article includes links to the actual mediation document and a frequently asked questions article. We’ll also have copies in the church office. I encourage you to read it.

United Methodist Traditionalists, Centrists, Progressives & Bishops sign agreement aimed at separation

We will be reading this article together tomorrow – Monday, January 6 – at the Leadership Council Meeting. The meeting begins at 6:00 pm in Haley Hall. You are welcome to attend.

The mediation document is a proposal, not a decision. Those who can make a decision for our denomination will gather in May in Minneapolis. This group is called The General Conference and is made up of United Methodist laity and clergy from around the world.

Here’s some background information to give you some context. It’s quoted from the Frequently Asked Questions Document
For the past 47 years, The United Methodist Church has struggled unsuccessfully to achieve consensus and compliance with regard to matters of human sexuality. The Special Session of General Conference in 2019 caused significant harm. This work is a significant attempt to not replicate the mood or climate created in St. Louis in 2019. It acknowledges that even in the midst of faithful attempts to stay together, we no longer can remain as one denomination. The divisions are simply too vast. This work is important because it provides a pathway of reconciliation and grace through separation and offers us an opportunity to bless and send one another into a new reality rather than continue to fight and rend our way into irrelevance and destruction.

This latest attempt at a path forward is new for all of us. There are still many questions. As I know more I will continue to share. Be on the lookout for upcoming times of prayer, listening, and discussion.

Hear this my dear ones:
God is faithful and true and at work. God is Sovereign. Jesus is Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit still speaks and transforms. No human decision changes this.

We are all made in the image of God. All have sacred worth.

We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. All are in desperate need of forgiveness and salvation and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Our mission has not changed- Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World

Our vision has not changed- God is love. We are called to share that love and the hope we’ve found in Jesus Christ with all people.

No matter what is decided, people will leave and people will come.

No matter what is decided, it will not be a magic bullet to kill the church nor a magic bullet to revive the church.

God will redeem the pain and harm we’ve caused one another. Let it end now.

Our denomination is a 12 million-member global church representing very different cultures and values. Likewise, our congregation is diverse in many ways, including strong convictions on these issues and other issues. It’s been this way for a long time.

Look around this room. What do you see? More importantly, who do you see?

We are not issues; we are people, faithful real people drawn together by our need and love of Christ.

What are we to do? Love one another and serve one another. Love and serve Sarasota. In doing so, we love and serve God.

They will know we are Christians by our love, our love made real in our words and actions, in the way we honor one another and work together in the midst of our differences. The world needs to see this.

I love you and respect you no matter your position on this issue or any other issue. I will continue to serve you with every ounce of grace, strength, and skill the Holy Spirit empowers in me and through me. I invite you to do the same.

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A Message in Light of the Potential UMC Split © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Christ Have Mercy, a prayer of confession based on Matthew 9.9-13

christe eleison

Mercy is not merely feeling sympathy. Mercy is extended by one who has the power to condemn or punish but chooses not to. We choose not to criticize, not to say, “I told you so,” not to exact our “pound of flesh” — not to avenge. As Jesus shows us in his interaction with the woman caught in adultery, mercy does not look back at what the person has done but forward to what the person can do in the future. – Mary Lou Redding. The Power of a Focused Heart: 8 Life Lessons from the Beatitudes

Christ have mercy on me,
a sinner.

I have failed to love as You Love
I have treated others as objects and obstacles
– less than human
– less than made in the image of God

I have elevated goals, persons, and things to the throne of my heart
I have procrastinated
I have wasted your precious gifts of time and talent and money

I am proud in unhealthy ways
I am apathetic
I have raised myself too high
Hid myself too low

Trusting in you and your promises
I call on your Mighty Name for mercy
I ask your forgiveness, Gracious Savior
I surrender to your healing, Great Physician
I claim your resurrection power, Risen One

You are already here
Calling me from the old to the new
Speaking my name
Welcoming me to table
Hallelujah! I will follow…

Based on Matthew 9:9-13, The Call of Matthew
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

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Christ Have Mercy, a prayer of confession © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
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Make Me Your Love (John 13)

Sacred Heart 3John 13:33-35
Jesus said, “Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Son of God
Savior
Sacrifice

Your love is Fierce and Forever
Abounding and Intimate
Generous, Goodness, and Grace

Fill me with your Spirit
Make me your love

It is your command
It is your way
It is your gift
It is You and your work

Yes, make me your witness
And yes, make me your will
But first and always, make me your love
Amen

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Make Me Your Love © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Sermon based on The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss (James 2, Galatians 3)

sermon series dr seuss 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 5 of 6: The Sneetches

Scripture: James 2:1-4, 8 and Galatians 3:23-29
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/24/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

sneetches 1Reading of James 2:1-4, 8 NRSV

Reading of The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss

What extent are you willing to go to in order to belong?
For me:

  • Staying on the track team in Middle School even though I came to realize I hated running
  • Buying the latest- saving for a pair of Candie’s shoes in middle school and now the latest face cream
  • Yoyoing in weight since I was age 7
  • Staying silent in a conversation even though I disagreed or had a different idea to solve the problem

What extent are you willing to go to in order to belong?

  • Go into debt to keep up appearances
  • Keep a crazy busy schedule because busy people are wanted people
  • Or the kids have to be well rounded to get into college
  • Keep on going to the bar even though you know you have a drinking problem and shouldn’t be there but the bar where everybody knows your name
  • Stay in the abusive relationship
  • Hide who you really are or at least try to

Sneetches collageThe evil one loves to keep up distracted and divided
McBean is the real enemy of the Sneetches. The real villain. He delights in exploiting the Sneetches’ lack of trust in one another. He has a heart of war. The Sneetches are a means to his greedy end. McBean perpetuates and manipulates the waste of time, energy, and money in order to prove who is in and who is out when there’s really no such thing.

Jesus invites us to turn all this waste and destruction and division on its head. It is so important to Jesus that he dies for it. 

Galatians 3:23-29 talks about clothing ourselves with Christ. Imagine all the stuff we put on in order to belong. How others label us. The things advertisers say will make us belong. Things we believe we have to do in order to belong. We put it all on and cover up who we really are.

Taken to an extreme, it’s the stars the Nazi’s made the Jews wear in order to label them other.  It’s why Dr. Seuss picked stars for this story.

In Christ, we’re invited to take it all off. Take off all the things that hide us and label us because now we’ve put on Christ. Here we stand. This is how God now sees us and how we now see each other, through putting on Christ.

Reading of Galatians 3:23-29 (NRSV)

And so the question we asked at first- What extent are you willing to go to in order to belong – is turned on its head because Christ went to the extent of death on the cross so we could belong. Just as we are.

The new question is this: What extent are you willing to go to in order to ensure everyone knows belonging in Christ? So that you know it and the person sitting next to you and the person you see in the grocery store and the person at the bank and your neighbors and your kids know it. So the folks who are very very different from you know it.

General Conference: The decision-making body of the United Methodist Church, the General Conference, has gathered to discern God’s call regarding sexuality, inclusion, and the unity of the Body of Christ. Hold in your prayers the delegates, the whole church, the millions of people in the LGBTQ+ community who feel the heat of the spotlight, and the world that may learn something about God.

The following prayer is by Steve Garnaas Holmes. It contains some small adaptations.

God of love,
may we approach one another with the intent to love,
first and last,
and submit all our intentions to love.

May our intent be to heal, not to win,
to bless, not to curse,
to join, not to divide.
Help us do your will, not ours.

May we listen humbly, speak honestly and discern obediently.

Save us from justice without mercy,
righteousness without humility, victory without love.
As your word says,
If we do not have love we are nothing. —1 Corinthians 13.2

May we examine our own righteousness more vigorously than others’.
May we demonstrate your goodness, not our own.

May we honestly examine our norms and expectations,
our judgments of those who are different,
our exclusion of those who threaten our superiority
and our comfort.

May we be mindful of every person’s wounded need
to be loved, to be included, to be honored,
every person’s desperation to be good enough to belong.

May we remember your justice is love,
your command is mercy,
your judgment is grace.

God of love, give us wisdom that is love,
fill us with courage that is love,
empower us for victory that is love alone.

By your Spirit help us to do no harm,
to do all the good we can,
and to stay in love with you.

We pray in the love and the company of Jesus,
who served in love, who died for love,
and who rises in us with victorious love
and who clothes us with belonging and love
Amen.

If you have never known a place of belonging, you can know it here in God’s family. This is where I found it. You can find it, too. Think about all the folks in your life searching for belonging, for someone who understands and listens, for unconditional love, searching for God. Remember them as well.

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The Sneetches Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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