What’s Rising Up in You While Staying at Home? (Matthew 16)

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 4 of 5: What’s Rising Up in You While Staying at Home?
Scriptures: Matthew 16:5-12
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/22/2020 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 24-minute mark.

Elan Gale is an author and television producer best known for his work on The Bachelor. On twitter (@theyearofelan), he started a game called Your Quarantine Nickname– how you feel right now + the last thing you ate out of the cupboard. (ie snack)

I put the game up on Facebook and here are a few of the answers.
Nadine- Blessed Strawberry
Lynn- Blessed Avocado Toast
June- Sleepy Peanut Butter
Stacey- Tired Oreo Thins
Susan- Happy Biscuit
Sam- Happy Dark Chocolate
Sherrill- Chipper Almond Chips
Cheri- Tolerable Acceptance Cherry Turnover
Mine is Privileged Apple

It’s a silly game. We need some laughter and silliness right now. It’s quite fun to see what everyone likes to snack on. It’s also a helpful game. It helps us identify our feelings, what is rising up in us during this time of pandemic and physical distancing.

Let’s think of what’s rising up inside of us like yeast. A tiny bit of yeast mixed with dough makes bread rise.

Our feelings can feel big or little, but they work like yeast. Whatever feeling is going on inside of us mixes into the whole of us. It causes things to rise- our perspective, our words, our actions. What’s rising up in you?

Matthew 16:5-12, The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees
5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 They said to one another, “It is because we have brought no bread.” 8 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? 9 Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” 12 Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

What is Yeast? According to the Food Network 
“Yeast is a living microscopic single-cell organism that, as it grows, converts its food (through a process known as fermentation) into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This trait is what endears yeast to winemakers, brewmasters, and bread bakers.

Yeast produces bubbles in beer and champagne, alcohol in beer and wine, and a light, fluffy loaf of bread.

To multiply and grow, all yeast needs is the right environment, which includes moisture, food (in the form of sugar or starch) and a warm, nurturing temperature (70 to 85 degrees F is best). Wild yeast spores are constantly floating in the air and landing on uncovered foods and liquids.”

Yeast is everywhere, it’s wild. A basic mixture of water and flour, given enough time, will rise on its own. Water + flour + time = leavened bread. Leavened bread’s been around for over 5,000 years, since at least the time of the Egyptians. Commercial yeast wasn’t invented until 1868.

Yeast is also part of a healthy mix of bacteria in your gut. It can help you absorb vitamins and minerals from your food, and even fight disease.

Yeast is everywhere. yeast is wild. Yeast is already in you.

Jesus isn’t warning us about an outside contaminant- that virus, that bread, those people, the teaching of those people. Jesus is reminding us that the same yeast in the Pharisees and Sadducees is already in us.

The Pharisees were rabbis, teachers. The Sadducees were the clergy overseeing worship at the Temple in Jerusalem. I’m a teacher and I’m clergy. I need to hear this passage. We all need to hear this passage. I have the same tendency to take a good gift of God and twist it into something controlling and not of God.

What’s rising up within you. Our real enemy isn’t what rises up in others, but what rises within us.

We may all be snacking right now, but we’re also all fasting right now.

  • Fasting certain activities- work, school, shopping, sports, appointments
  • Fasting independence because we believe it will save lives. We’re in self-quarantine. We’re not traveling. There are borders closing.
  • Fasting face to face contact- families are separated, healthcare workers are living at the hospital

What does fasting do? It removes filters and brings up what’s inside of us. It can bring up the good, but it can also bring up the junk.

What’s rising up in you during this time of unknown and isolation? All feelings are welcomed by God. Feel all the feels. Feelings can have shadow sides. They can get twisted into something that’s harmful to us and harmful to others.

Are you feeling concern or has it been twisted into worry? There’s a difference. Worry puts us into a fight, flight, or freeze mindset. Concern opens us up. Concern seeks the truth and turns it into compassion towards myself and others

Are you feeling grief/lament or has it been twisted into despair? Lament is a good gift of God. There’s an entire book of the Bible called Lamentations. This past week I had some ugly, snot running down my face, wailing moments lamenting the news that people were dying alone and grieving alone because of the quarantines. I was undone.

Maybe you’re grieving events being postponed or canceled? Weddings are being postponed. Graduations are being canceled. Many of this year’s high school graduates were preschoolers in the shadow of 9/11.

Despair is a twist of grief/lament. It’s hopelessness, “all is lost”, and disconnects us from God. Grief/Lament acknowledges the loss and disappointment but keeps us moving through it honestly. The process of grief/lament helps us release what we thought would happen so we can begin to imagine how things can happen differently.

Are you feeling brokenhearted or angry? People need access to medical testing and treatment. People aren’t able to work and need financial help. Brokenhearted, righteous anger rises up in us calling us to justice and action. This is wrong and something must be done. Our motivation is driven by empathy and compassion.

Anger can get twisted into hardheartedness and destructive anger. The world and others are a threat so I begin to blame, judge, avoid, control, and fix. This may have happened to the Pharisees and Sadduccees given the Roman oppression and apathy of God’s people to practice their faith.

Rick Warren said, “In the Bible, yeast is often a metaphor for pride and arrogance. Why? When you put yeast in dough, what does it do? It puffs it up, and if you put in too much, it blows it up.”

My quarantine name is Privileged Apple. I can work from home. I have the technology I need. I have a job. There are folks whose jobs and paychecks have disappeared. I want this to draw me to love and bless my neighbor with all that I have.

My privilege could draw me into arrogance and classism. I have the advantages which would allow me to stockpile and hoard and protect me at the expense of my neighbor. That is not the love of God. The love of God means I take care of myself in light of taking care of others. I remember my neighbor, care for my neighbor because we’re all connected. We’re all beloved of God.

I see so much goodness rising up in you. Recognizing the blessing of God, the peace of God, the joy of the Lord which is our strength. Allow it to flow through your hands and hearts to others.

If you’re feeling something else, feel all the feels, yet allow the perspective of God to move in you and through you for your good.

Philippians 4:8-9
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

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What’s Rising Up in You While Staying at Home? © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Quotes: Deny Yourself

Quotefancy-217426-3840x2160Matthew 16:24-26, Mark 8:34-37, and Luke 9:23-25 (NRSV)
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

Self-denial is not a mask for self-contempt, but the necessary means for achieving self-mastery; for self-mastery makes possible our self-giving and self-fulfillment. Sin is not wanting too much, but settling for too little. It’s settling for self-gratification rather than self-fulfillment. -Scott Hahn

You will soon be asked to let go of some part of your false self, which you foolishly thought was permanent, important, and essential! You know God is doing this in you and with you when you can somehow smile and trust that what you lost was something you did not need anyway. In fact, it got in the way of what was real. – Richard Rohr 

Follow me. One of the most compelling sentences in the Bible. Two words, when spoken by Jesus, create a sense of power and mystery and awe. To follow is to enter into the unknown, to give your life over to another. We rarely want to do this. Yet at the same time it is exactly what we desire: to be led into a better place, a better world, a better life. – Daniel Wolpert, Leading a Life with God

Following Jesus does not mean imitating Jesus, copying his way of doing things. If we imitate someone, we are not developing an intimate relationship with that person. Instead, following Jesus means to give our own unique form, our own unique incarnation, to God’s love. To follow Jesus means to live our lives as authentically as he lived his. It means to give away our ego and follow the God of love as Jesus shows us how to do it. – Henri J. M. Nouwen, A Spirituality of Homecoming

The point of following Jesus isn’t simply so that we can be sure of going to a better place than this after we die. Our future beyond death is extremely important, but the nature of the Christian hope is such that it plays back into the present life.
~ N. T. Wright, Simply Christian

Lord, spare me from my wishes, that I may be free for you.
Spare me from my little self, that I may be my divine self.
Spare me from my life, that, dying, I may become yours.
– Excerpt of a prayer entitled Spare Me by Steve Garnaas-Holmes. For more on the ideas of denying our “little self”, ego, and false-self click over to another reflection by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Deny Yourself

“Denying yourself” in its Jewish context means resting in the righteousness of Jesus and denying yourself of the righteousness that comes from performance of the law.
– Simon Yap, What is the meaning of “denying yourself”? 

Yap invites us to consider Leviticus 16:29; Numbers 29:7; Leviticus 23:32; Leviticus 23:27; Leviticus 16:31.

What we are all searching for is Someone to surrender to, something we can prefer to life itself. Well here is the wonderful surprise: God is the only one we can surrender to without losing ourselves! The irony is that we actually find ourselves, but now in a whole new and much larger field of meaning. – Richard Rohr

In the spiritual life, the word ‘discipline’ means ‘the effort to create some space in which God can act’. Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied… to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on. -Henri Nouwen

Extended Quote from Steve Garnaas Holmes
To deny yourself is not to punish yourself, or to take on misery. It’s not to live in denial, to turn your back on who you are, but the opposite. We falsely see ourselves as finite, discreet individuals, separate from the world, in danger at any moment of disappearing back into the abyss. It’s not the real truth, but an image of our “self” that the ego uses to manage our consciousness. And we believe it. We spend our lives—mostly unconsciously— protecting that little “self,” and in particular its power, security and esteem. (Hence Jesus’ temptations in the desert.) It’s what St. Paul calls “the flesh.” He doesn’t mean our body; he means something even smaller, contained within our body, limited by our fears and appetites.

But we aren’t such little “selves.” We are part of something infinite. By the life of Holy Spirit in us we are members of the infinite Body of God, who dwells in us and we in God. We are sustained not by our own protection of our little lives but by the life-giving fountain of grace welling up within us to eternal life, flowing with perfect, infinite compassion.

To “deny ourselves” is to deny whatever fears keep us from loving fully. It is let go of our self-centeredness, to say no the illusion, to transcend our ego, to abandon our little skull-caged, death-leashed bit of fear and desire and instead become the infinitely alive and loving children of God we truly are. As those who embody God’s love we give of our lives for love; we are not afraid even of death, because we trust that with love and grace God overabundantly renews life in us. So we follow Jesus out of our selves and into infinite life: without fear we take up our cross, practice compassionate self-giving and join Jesus in loving the world into its newness. You are love; you are Beloved. Deny anything less, and love without limit.

Extended Quote from Nadia Bolz-Weber
Sermon on Losing Your Life and How Jesus Isn’t Your Magical Puppy

This saying of Jesus that we are to deny the self and lose our life to gain it has been abused and perverted. Perverted into messages like “If you want to be a follower of Jesus you must deny your Queerness, pick up your cross of heterosexuality and follow him.” Or “deny your dignity and pick up your cross of continued domestic abuse and follow him.” Or “deny your experience and pick up your cross of trusting religious authorities to tell you what to believe.”

I wanted to convince you that when Jesus says deny yourself, that maybe it’s really denying the self that wants to see itself as separate from God and others. Deny the self that believes that spirituality is a suffering avoidance program. Deny the self that does not feel worthy of God’s love. Deny the self that thinks it is more worthy of God’s love than it’s enemy is. Deny the self that thinks it can do itself. Deny the self that is turned in on the self.

Because I really want you to know that dying to that false self no matter how painful, will bring you real life.

***********
Click here for another incredibly honest and faithful sermon on the “deny yourself, take up your cross” passage by Nadia Bolz-Weber, entitled “A Sermon on Addiction and the Problem with our Me-based Solutions.”

Click here for a reflection on how denying yourself intersects with social justice by Steve Garnaas Holmes.

For quotes on “taking up your cross”, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please leave a comment

Take Up The Cross, a prayer based on Matthew 16.24-28

take-up-your-cross-0022Based on Matthew 16:24-28

Merciful Jesus, give me the courage to deny privilege
To lay down favor and safety
in order to take up the cross of opportunity and justice

Merciful Jesus, give me the courage to deny consumerism
To lay down convenience and gratification
in order to take up the cross of sustainability and generosity

Merciful Jesus, give me the courage to deny prejudice
To lay down apathy and segregation
in order to take up the cross of diversity and true love

Merciful Jesus, have mercy on me
Show me what to pick up and what to lay down
that I may lose and loose
in order to find and bind
all that is of you
that I may bear all that leads to life
and give me the courage to help others do the same
Amen

*****
For more inspiration, go to The Resistance and Fruit of Gratitude and Not Safe, both by Steve Garnaas Holmes.

Take Up the Cross © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Quotes: Deny Yourself

Quotefancy-217426-3840x2160Matthew 16:24-26, Mark 8:34-37, and Luke 9:23-25 (NRSV)
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

Self-denial is not a mask for self-contempt, but the necessary means for achieving self-mastery; for self-mastery makes possible our self-giving and self-fulfillment. Sin is not wanting too much, but settling for too little. It’s settling for self-gratification rather than self-fulfillment. -Scott Hahn

You will soon be asked to let go of some part of your false self, which you foolishly thought was permanent, important, and essential! You know God is doing this in you and with you when you can somehow smile and trust that what you lost was something you did not need anyway. In fact, it got in the way of what was real. – Richard Rohr 

Follow me. One of the most compelling sentences in the Bible. Two words, when spoken by Jesus, create a sense of power and mystery and awe. To follow is to enter into the unknown, to give your life over to another. We rarely want to do this. Yet at the same time it is exactly what we desire: to be led into a better place, a better world, a better life. – Daniel Wolpert, Leading a Life with God

Following Jesus does not mean imitating Jesus, copying his way of doing things. If we imitate someone, we are not developing an intimate relationship with that person. Instead, following Jesus means to give our own unique form, our own unique incarnation, to God’s love. To follow Jesus means to live our lives as authentically as he lived his. It means to give away our ego and follow the God of love as Jesus shows us how to do it. – Henri J. M. Nouwen, A Spirituality of Homecoming

The point of following Jesus isn’t simply so that we can be sure of going to a better place than this after we die. Our future beyond death is extremely important, but the nature of the Christian hope is such that it plays back into the present life.
~ N. T. Wright, Simply Christian

Lord, spare me from my wishes, that I may be free for you.
Spare me from my little self, that I may be my divine self.
Spare me from my life, that, dying, I may become yours.
– Excerpt of a prayer entitled Spare Me by Steve Garnaas-Holmes. For more on the ideas of denying our “little self”, ego, and false-self click over to another reflection by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Deny Yourself

“Denying yourself” in its Jewish context means resting in the righteousness of Jesus and denying yourself of the righteousness that comes from performance of the law.
– Simon Yap, What is the meaning of “denying yourself”? 

Yap invites us to consider Leviticus 16:29; Numbers 29:7; Leviticus 23:32; Leviticus 23:27; Leviticus 16:31.

What we are all searching for is Someone to surrender to, something we can prefer to life itself. Well here is the wonderful surprise: God is the only one we can surrender to without losing ourselves! The irony is that we actually find ourselves, but now in a whole new and much larger field of meaning. – Richard Rohr

In the spiritual life, the word ‘discipline’ means ‘the effort to create some space in which God can act’. Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied… to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on. -Henri Nouwen

Extended Quote from Steve Garnaas Holmes
To deny yourself is not to punish yourself, or to take on misery. It’s not to live in denial, to turn your back on who you are, but the opposite. We falsely see ourselves as finite, discreet individuals, separate from the world, in danger at any moment of disappearing back into the abyss. It’s not the real truth, but an image of our “self” that the ego uses to manage our consciousness. And we believe it. We spend our lives—mostly unconsciously— protecting that little “self,” and in particular its power, security and esteem. (Hence Jesus’ temptations in the desert.) It’s what St. Paul calls “the flesh.” He doesn’t mean our body; he means something even smaller, contained within our body, limited by our fears and appetites.

But we aren’t such little “selves.” We are part of something infinite. By the life of Holy Spirit in us we are members of the infinite Body of God, who dwells in us and we in God. We are sustained not by our own protection of our little lives but by the life-giving fountain of grace welling up within us to eternal life, flowing with perfect, infinite compassion.

To “deny ourselves” is to deny whatever fears keep us from loving fully. It is let go of our self-centeredness, to say no the illusion, to transcend our ego, to abandon our little skull-caged, death-leashed bit of fear and desire and instead become the infinitely alive and loving children of God we truly are. As those who embody God’s love we give of our lives for love; we are not afraid even of death, because we trust that with love and grace God overabundantly renews life in us. So we follow Jesus out of our selves and into infinite life: without fear we take up our cross, practice compassionate self-giving and join Jesus in loving the world into its newness. You are love; you are Beloved. Deny anything less, and love without limit.

Extended Quote from Nadia Bolz-Weber
Sermon on Losing Your Life and How Jesus Isn’t Your Magical Puppy

This saying of Jesus that we are to deny the self and lose our life to gain it has been abused and perverted. Perverted into messages like “If you want to be a follower of Jesus you must deny your Queerness, pick up your cross of heterosexuality and follow him.” Or “deny your dignity and pick up your cross of continued domestic abuse and follow him.” Or “deny your experience and pick up your cross of trusting religious authorities to tell you what to believe.”

I wanted to convince you that when Jesus says deny yourself, that maybe it’s really denying the self that wants to see itself as separate from God and others. Deny the self that believes that spirituality is a suffering avoidance program. Deny the self that does not feel worthy of God’s love. Deny the self that thinks it is more worthy of God’s love than it’s enemy is. Deny the self that thinks it can do itself. Deny the self that is turned in on the self.

Because I really want you to know that dying to that false self no matter how painful, will bring you real life.

***********
Click here for another incredibly honest and faithful sermon on the “deny yourself, take up your cross” passage by Nadia Bolz-Weber, entitled “A Sermon on Addiction and the Problem with our Me-based Solutions.”

Click here for a reflection on how denying yourself intersects with social justice by Steve Garnaas Holmes.

For quotes on “taking up your cross”, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please leave a comment