My Needs, My Hopes- a prayer based on Matthew 4

left human hand photo

Photo by Jonas Ferlin on Pexels.com

What would it be like to turn toward Jesus right now and place everything into His healing hands? All you are planning and working for. All you are feeling and longing for. All that weighs heavy upon you – for yourself, those you know, and our weary world.

God is near. God is good. God is strong to save.
Let us pray…

Jesus, my Light, my Savior
Breaker of Chains
Bringer of Grace and Hope

I’ve been carrying this by myself
I hear your call to repentance
The turning will save me
Save us

I’ve been trying to make it right in my own strength
I hear your Good News
The trusting will save me
Save us

I place every need into your healing hands
name your needs

I place every hope into your divine care
name your hopes

I’m listening
pause in silence

Thank you for receiving it all
Receiving me

In you, I find rest and wholeness
In you, I find life
Now and New and Forever
Blessed be your Name. Amen.

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My Needs, My Hopes, a prayer based on Matthew 4 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Your Healing Hands, a prayer based on Matthew 4

healing hand lightMatthew 4:12-17, 23-25
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

Jesus, Resurrected One
Light of New Life
Breaker of Chains
Bringer of Grace and Hope

You are moving, speaking, inviting
We hear your call to repentance, the turning will save us
We hear your Good News, the trusting will save us

We place every need into your healing hands
our loved ones, our enemies, ourselves
our work, our congregations, our denomination
our community, our nation, our world
our hopes, our security, our failures, our future

We place every need into your healing hands
We will find rest and wholeness there
Hallelujah, Glory to your Holy Name

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Your Healing Hands © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording – Jesus, The Bread of Life (John 6, Matthew 4)

I am Jesus

Message: Jesus, The Bread of Life
Scriptures: John 6:28-40
I’m catching up on some 2017 sermons which haven’t been posted. This is message 1 of 7 in a Lenten sermon series entitled I AM Jesus. It was offered 3/05/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’m sorry, no recording is available, just the notes.

Lenten Sermon Series – I AM Jesus
Who does Jesus claim to be? Join us this Lent as we explore his seven I AM statements from the Gospel of John.

Click Here for a Reader’s Theatre version of John 6:28-40, which includes a contemporary or traditional sung response.

Late Night Snack
Ever go to the refrigerator, open the door and stare. You’re hungry but you don’t know what you want. So you nibble on something, but it just doesn’t do the trick.

You close the door, you’re still hungry, at least you think you’re hungry. You could actually be bored, stressed, sad, exhausted, thirsty, lonely… You walk away, but a few minutes later you’re back. You open the door again hoping something new has magically appeared. You nibble some more of this and some of that, but you’re not satisfied.

Hunger is a good gift of God. It’s built into us to remind us we need something- food and water. Without hunger, we will die.

Hunger in our stomach is a good gift of God. There’s a deeper hunger which is also a good gift of God- a hunger in our souls. As the hunger in our stomachs reveals we need food, so the hunger in our souls reveals we need something. That something is a someone, Jesus the Bread of Life, the only One who can satisfy.

This is what Jesus was trying to explain to the huge crowd in today’s scripture reading. The day before, Jesus was teaching, sharing the Good News of God’s grace and hope. It grew late in the day. Rather than send everyone away for dinner, Jesus performed a miracle. A child offered his lunch, 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus received them, gave thanks, blessed them, and they were multiplied to feed over 5000 people.

So the next day, did the crowd come to saving faith? No. The crowd didn’t follow Jesus out of devotion and thanksgiving. They followed Jesus around the Sea of Galilee for another meal. They only wanted Jesus as consumers- entertain us again with your stories, feed us again for free.

Jesus, be like Moses
Moses freed the people from their oppressors
Moses brought down bread from heaven
Moses fed an entire nation for decades

John 6:32 Then Jesus said to them, “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. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

The classic temptation is to turn something into something it’s not, including Jesus

We turn food into something it’s not

  • We eat for comfort instead of for hunger.
  • We self-medicate with food and suffer from eating disorders in hopes of finding some control.
  • We have food insecurity and food deserts in a culture of plenty
  • We overprocess food, twisting a healthy blessing into something that makes us sick
  • We’re served huge portions and at the same time huge amounts of food is wasted

Professor and Author Jeffrey Sachs reminds us, “For the first time in history, we have as many people dying of obesity as dying of starvation.”

The classic temptation is to turn something into something it’s not and to seek temporary things for what only Jesus can supply
Need rest, buy sleep- best bed, sheets pillows
Need joy, buy entertainment
Need relationship and belonging, buy companionship
Need a home, a safe place, buy a house
Need satisfaction, buy food and drink

It the classic first temptation of the Devil to Jesus in the Wilderness
Jesus, turn something into something it’s not meant to be to satisfy your need
Jesus, fulfill the need in your own strength
Jesus, become a consumer

Matthew 4:1 Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness- to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

4 But he answered,
“It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Moses didn’t supply the freedom and the bread, God did
Jesus wasn’t sent to be dinner and a show
Jesus came to satisfy the deepest needs and the deepest hungers of all time

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…. 40… All who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day

Come. Lent is the season where

  • We come face to face with your deepest need- salvation.
  • We come face to face with the truth, asking God to reveal what is false, create in us clean hearts, and to fill us with what truly satisfies.
  • Where we refocus our appetites on God and what pleases God, rather than ourselves.
  • Where we feast on Jesus and are nourished by his grace.

We receive bread into our body and it sustains life. We receive Jesus into our soul by grace through faith and it sustains life forever. Jesus is the bread of life. Come to him.

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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 © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Wilderness: a place to prepare

Not by Bread Alone by Michael Dudash

Matthew 14:23 (NRSV)
And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.

Jim Harnish defines “the wilderness as the barren space between where we’ve been and where we are going; the empty place between a familiar, comfortable past and an unfamiliar, often risky future. It’s the place where we, like Jesus, are tempted to find some short cut to get to Easter without going through Lent; to leap ahead to the future without dealing with the very normal feelings of anxiety, sadness, loss, or fear that are always a part of every change or transition in our lives.”

On more than one occasion Jesus withdrew to deserted places to pray. Perhaps they reminded him of the wilderness experience that launched his ministry. There too life was seen and tempted in its elemental simplicity. Where the tempter sought to redefine life’s basic elements as fame and security and a full belly, Jesus discerned the exquisite but taxing simplicity of faithfulness to God in the absence of abundance… Jesus’ withdrawal perhaps has less to do with escaping ministry and more to do with seeking the strength to reengage and keep perspective. Simplify. Simplify.
– John Indermark, Traveling the Prayer Paths of Jesus

To thirst for God is to desire God; it is to know that God is essential. Sometimes we have to be in the wilderness before we recognize our thirsts, our desires. The Bible speaks of wilderness as a place of testing, trial, emptiness, absence. The rabbis called the wilderness the school of the soul. In the wilderness we discover the essential.
Kenneth H. Carter Jr., Pray for Me

If you therefore go to the desert to be rid of all the dreadful people and all the awful problems in your life, you will be wasting your time. You should go to the desert for a total confrontation with yourself. For one goes to the desert to see more and to see better. One goes to the desert especially to take a closer look at the things and people one would rather not see, to face situations one would rather avoid, to answer questions one would rather forget. – Alessandro Pronzato, Meditations on the Sand

The desert sometimes issues its own invitation: “Come! Enter into my silence, my uncluttered solitude, my stark beauty, and I will show you depths of your own soul you never knew you had. Come and listen to the Holy One who speaks within, tells you that you are loved, and clarifies your call to service. Come and find strength; let grace encompass you; let go of the baggage; and wait simply for God.”
– Elizabeth J. Canham, A Table of Delight: Feasting with God in the Wilderness

In the spiritual tradition, wilderness is the place where we leave the world behind and place ourselves at God’s disposal. – Daniel Wolpert, Leading a Life with God

The word “presence” is a relational term. The real Presence is offered in the Eucharist, but if we don’t know how to be present to the Presence there is no presence; certainly no “real” presence that can change you. What we’re doing in contemplation is learning, quite simply, how to be present. We’re learning how to access what is — and how to offer ourselves to it. – Richard Rohr

Somehow we know that without silence, words lose their meaning; that without listening, speaking no longer heals; that without distance, closeness cannot cure. Somehow we know that without a solitary place, our actions quickly become empty gestures. The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the spiritual life and should therefore be the subject of our most personal attention.
– Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit

I wonder if we are afraid of being silent. Do we fear that if we suspend words and thoughts the world will stop or something terrible might happen to us? … Are we afraid that if we practice this kind of prayer, we might discover our falsehoods and pretenses? Maybe our brokenness and vulnerability would be exposed. These fears can seem terrifying, but they should not deter us. God is above us, below us, beside us, and within us. And we know from the revelation of God in Christ that this God loves us. We need not be afraid. So the purpose of contemplative prayer is to listen, to be loved, and to love. The purpose is not to get what we need or what we think we need but to allow God to commune with us and communicate grace and goodness in the deepest part of our being. – Daniel Vestal, Being the Presence of Christ: A Vision for Transformation

If we picture all the obstructions between us and God as a wilderness, Lent presents us with time to clear and cultivate a part of that wilderness, to create an open space in it. In this newly opened space, we may live more freely and commune more closely with the divine. We can transform this wilderness and make it our home, our garden, a place that invites God in and asks God to stay.
Sarah Parsons, A Clearing Season: Reflections for Lent

Matthew 4:1-4 (NIV)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

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Be sure to also check out Jan Richardson’s post, Where the Breath Begins

Resisting Temptation

The temptation of Jesus in the Desert by William Hole. Public Domain

Matthew 4:1 (NRSV)
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

James 1:12-16 (NRSV)
Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved.

Let the enemy rage at the gate,
let him knock, let him push, let him cry, let him howl, let him do worse;
we know for certain that he cannot enter save by the door of our consent.
– Francis de Sales

Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole.
Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in.
– Billy Sunday

Everybody is tempted. It is a myth that says you’re going to get to a point in your spiritual life where you’re not tempted. In fact, the more mature you become, the more Satan is going to put you on his “most wanted” list. If we were more consistent in confessing our temptations, we wouldn’t have to confess our sins. Rick Warren

It is a mark of the evil spirit to take on the appearance of an angel of light. He begins by whispering thoughts that are suited to a devout soul and ends by suggesting his own.
-Ignatius Loyola

Every life is a march from innocence, through temptation, to virtue or vice.
-Lyman Abbott

Every conquering temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before. -William Butler Yeats

Temptation is like a knife, that may either cut the meat or the throat of a man;
it may be his food or his poison, his exercise or his destruction. – John Owen

There is no greater victory of evil than the reaction of guilt and despair which it arouses in those who have committed a sin, or of fear, anger and hate in those who have been wronged. Conversely, there is no greater victory over evil than to refuse to give in to these feelings, to refuse to act on them, to harbor them or justify them. We defeat evil – in ourselves, in others or in the world – when we refuse to react to it with more evil, but respond to it with repentance, forgiveness, and love.
-Irma Zaleski, The Way of Repentance

We usually know what we can do,
but temptation shows us who we are.
-Thomas Kempis

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)
But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.

1 Peter 5:8-10 (NRSV)
Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary, the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.

Jesus went to the wilderness – a place of wild beasts and demons; of roaming, tormented spirits; the dangerous meeting place of God and frail human beings; the strange abode of ministering angels. Here the devil prowls like a roaring lion seeking souls to devour. In Lent, Christians are called again to the soul’s desert, but without John the Baptist for an Advent guide. Rather, as John of the Cross wrote, we go forth with no other light or guide than the one burning in my heart.
Suzanne Guthrie, Until an Opportune Time

I saw all the devil’s traps set upon the earth,
and I groaned and said, “Who do you think can pass through them?”
And I heard a voice saying, “Humility.” -Anthony the Great

Temptation by Steve Garnaas Holmes
God, I confess
I want the power
to make things as I wish them,
to turn stones to bread, this to that,
to have the world as I desire, not as it is.
I renounce my hunger for power.
Your love alone is my power.

I confess
I want to manage what others think of me,
I want authority, status, belonging,
the kingdoms of the world.
I renounce my hunger for status.
You lone are my belonging.

I confess
I want the security of freedom from pain,
from risk, from sacrifice,
as if I could leap from a height and be unhurt.
I renounce my fear of suffering.
You alone are my security.

Spirit of love,
be my power, my security, my belonging;
overwhelm the fears of my ego
and re-direct my desires,
that I may trust you, belong to you,
and bear your love alone.

I breathe your love.
I breathe your love.
Amen.

Psalm 31:1-5 (NRSV)
In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

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