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

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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 © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording- Face to Face, Judas and Jesus

Judas coins

Message: Face to Face, Judas and Jesus
Scriptures:  Matthew 26:14-16
This message was offered Sunday, 3/04/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. It was inspired by the book Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire

Holy Week is so special, most of the days have a name

  • Palm Sunday- The day Jesus entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna” and a crowd waving palm branches (Matthew 21:1-11; Luke 19:29-44; Mark 11:1-11; John 12:12-19)
  • Fig Monday – The day Jesus cursed the fig tree for not bearing fruit (Matthew 21:18–22; Mark 11:12–14 and 11:20–25)
  • Tuesday is unnamed. It is the day Jesus turned over the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple, was confronted by the Jewish leadership, and witnessed the widow making her offering in the temple treasury
  • Maundy Thursday – The day Jesus gives a new commandment, a new mandate, a new mandatum. “Love one another just as I have loved you.” (John 13:34-35)
  • Good Friday- The goodness and love of God seen in the death of Jesus
  • Holy Saturday, sometimes Silent Saturday- Jesus is in the tomb
  • Easter Sunday- The resurrection of Christ

Wednesday is one of my favorites. Spy Wednesday, the day Judas betrays Jesus. (cue the James Bond music)

Matthew 26:14-16 NRSV
14 One of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

Jesus chose Judas to be one of his closest disciples- one of the twelve. They were together for three years, yet it seems Judas never placed his trust in Jesus. He never crossed the threshold of faith.

How could this be? All that time in the very presence of Jesus, all he heard, all he saw.
How could this be?

  1. He had no choice. Judas was predestined to betray Jesus. No, we believe in free will
  2. Judas was driven by his own agenda- driven by greed, driven by power
  3. Maybe it was something more subtle. Judas was just being practical.

Judas was the disciple with the head for business. Jesus put him in charge of the money. When the woman with the alabaster jar anointed Jesus with costly perfume, Judas complained about the extravagance. “You should have sold that perfume and given the money to the poor.”

Judas was being practical in thinking of himself. He often kept some of the money he was to watch for himself, so the extravagant gift was money out of his pocket

When the tide of popularity began to turn against Jesus, Judas started looking ahead, taking precautions to protect himself, socking away a little more money here and there. Just in case.

To Judas, he wasn’t being greedy, it wasn’t stealing, it wasn’t a betrayal. He was just being practical. “I’ve left everything. I’ve done so much. I earned that money. I need to take care of myself.”

Then Jesus starts confronting the religious leaders, people with influence, people with power. The leaders are like a huge pot of stew- bubbling with hate, jealousy, and paranoia. Judas gets wind of what’s cooking- the leaders are plotting to kill Jesus. Judas’ mind starts calculating- if they kill Jesus, they’ll come after his followers next.

To Judas, his shift in loyalties wasn’t a power grab, it wasn’t a betrayal. He was just being practical.  “If Jesus was determined to dig his own grave, I’ll just help him with the shovel. He’s asking for it. It’s inevitable. I need to look out for myself. There’s no dishonor in jumping from a sinking ship. And the thirty pieces of silver? Well, that’s just a life preserver, a little something to keep me afloat until I land somewhere.”

So on Spy Wednesday, Judas makes the deal with the Jewish leaders

Now it’s Thursday, time to celebrate the Passover

A time to look back-back to the nation’s deliverance from four hundred years of Egyptian slavery. A time to look forward— forward to the time when the Messiah will bring peace, freedom, and salvation.

Jesus and the disciples gathered around a low-lying table to celebrate the feast. They recline on padded mats, propping themselves on the left arm, leaving the other free to handle the food.

Each type of food reminds them of the nation’s first Passover.

  • The bowl of herbs, vinegar, and salt is a reminder of the bitter years of slavery
  • The flat cakes of yeast-less bread are a reminder of their hurried departure
  • And finally, there is the roasted lamb, a symbol of deliverance.

What broke Pharaoh’s oppressive fist that first Passover was a final, climactic plague—
a visit from the angel of death to kill every firstborn son. To spare the Jews from that fate, God instructed them to kill a lamb and sprinkle its blood on the sides and tops of the doorframes outside their homes. When the angel of death saw this evidence of faith, it passed over that house and traveled on to another.

Tonight, heaven will be preparing its Passover Lamb- an innocent lamb, without spot or blemish. Jesus’ blood will mark a wooden cross outside the city. A perfect, once for all sacrifice. All Jerusalem will behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

What God in Jesus was choosing to do was anything but practical

Earlier in the upper room, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, teaching them a final lesson about love and serving. Two of those feet belonged to Judas. Dusty and calloused. How could Judas bear it? How could Jesus? What Jesus was choosing to do was anything but practical.

Jesus has so much to tell his disciples. But so little time. A hush falls over the room as he speaks, “He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.”

Many things have been said against Jesus. Never once did But the Pharisees accused him of not practicing what he preached. In these last minutes with his betrayer, the Savior lives his own words from the Sermon on the Mount,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

It is anything but practical

Now it is time for Jesus to unmask his betrayer. “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”

At the mention of a traitor in their midst, the disciples begin to ask, “Is it I?”

“It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”

It was customary for the master of the feast to put bits of lamb onto a piece of unleavened bread, dip it into the bitter herb sauce, and hand it to his guests. And it was customary to offer the first piece to the most honored guest. Jesus hands the bread to Judas . . . to take . . . and to eat. Jesus honors Judas. Jesus offers bread to lips whose kiss would betray him. It is anything but practical.

The dramatic moment is not only an unmasking of the traitor but a final offer of salvation. Does Judas feel regret? Does he question his choice? There’s still time to choose another path, but he doesn’t.

“What you are about to do, do quickly.”

With those words, Jesus acknowledges Judas’ choice. They would both go their separate ways to separate trees.

Judas makes the practical choice.
The choice Jesus makes is anything but practical.
What choice will you make?

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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 © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer- Make Me Complete (Matthew 5.43-48)

love enemies 900x

Based on Matthew 5:43-48

Love your enemies
Pray for those who persecute you
How, oh Lord?

Love your family
Your friends, co-workers, classmates
Your leaders, your neighbors, your competitors…
How, oh Lord?

Love yourself, the Enemy Within
The inner critic, the wounded
The addict, the success, the sinner…
How, oh Lord?

It is beyond me, but nothing is beyond you
In forgiving I reconnect with your forgiveness
In blessing I dive into the deep pool of your provision
In laying down arms I find the war already ended
My heart of peace is your heart beating within me

Jesus, your salvation is wholeness
Make me complete as you are that I may hold and be held
Make me a person of integrity
Molded from my sharp, shattered self
by your everlasting mercy and grace
Amen

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Make Me Complete  © 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.

Prayer- Come, Good Gardener (John 15, Matthew 5)

vineyard grape vine

Based on John 15:1-17 and Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus,
we live, move, and have our very being
in the vineyard of your abundant grace

Grow in us
your vulnerability, generosity, and mercy
that we may join you
in breaking the cycle of retaliation and revenge

Come, Good Gardener
For the honor and glory of your name we pray
For the hope of a new humanity we follow
Amen!

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Come, Good Gardener © 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.

A Few Thoughts on Anger

Ephesians 4:26-27 (NRSV)
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.

Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back — in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you. – Frederick Buechner

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. -Mark Twain

Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved. – Marcus Antonius

Whatever the offense, a fundamental rule for processing anger is this: Do not harm yourself or anyone else. We must learn to manage the physical stimuli that grip us after a hurt. Anger can be as challenging to control as a wild stallion. When wronged, we need to let our emotions subside before acting. This may mean taking a break and removing ourselves physically from the situation. During this time-out, it is important not to replay the offense. – Kathleen Fischer, Forgiving Your Family

Anger, Your Friend by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Anger is not a sin. It’s a feeling.
It’s not your enemy. It’s also not righteousness.
Anger may arise in the face of injustice, or happenstance,
or almost nothing at all.
But it is not “against” those things.
It’s not about those things at all,
but about your response to those things.
Anger is a response to your powerlessness.
Otherwise, you’d simply fix what was wrong.

Anger is your loyal friend: it’s giving you a message
and won’t leave till you get it.
So don’t neglect or suppress your anger:
it will sit there and seethe in your mind’s basement
and become toxic to you and others,
and, consciously or not, you will weaponize it.
Don’t turn your anger against anybody, including yourself.
Just listen to it: it’s telling you about your powerlessness.
And it’s telling you what you care about.

Listen to your anger, and ask:
1. What is not right?
2. Do I really care about this?
This anger could just be a conditioned response.
But it’s letting you know of your misplaced desire
for power and control.
If this thing is not worth caring about,
You can let your anger be, without reacting to it. Just let it be.
And let yourself be powerless. (After all, you are.)
3. If I do care about this, what can I do?
Remember, you’re still powerless.
But let your anger direct your attention to what you can do—
not to hurt, to avenge, or to make yourself feel less powerless,
but to make the situation better.
In action, you will regain your power.
Then thank your friend anger.

Matthew 5:21-25 NRSV
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first, be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.”

Because true prayer is rooted in surrender, anger is the surest way not only to be distracted in prayer but also to be defeated in our attempts to pray. Anger gives rise to thoughts and images which poison the soul. This is why Jesus said that we cannot allow grudges to exist when we are worshiping God. This is why we cannot focus on the speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the log in ours. The manner of our praying is first to remove the blockages so that God’s “water of life” can flow unimpeded into our lives. – Steve Harper, The Manner of our Praying

Making sacred space for genuine mourning over our wounds is essential within the journey of healthy forgiveness. Genuine mourning involves many feelings, including anger and sorrow, which are closely intertwined. …For some of us, it feels safer and easier to rage than to cry. Rage is often our masked tears.
Flora Slosson Wuellner Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey

Yes, I was angry. And I was a little afraid. After all, I’ve not been free in so long. But, when I felt that anger well up inside of me, I realized that if I hated them after I got outside that gate, then they would still have me. I wanted to be free so I let it go.
~Nelson Mandela upon leaving prison after 27 years of confinement. This quote opens an excellent article by Gail Brenner entitled 10 Life-Changing Facts About Anger

A Blessing for Times of Anger
Your anger is real
Your pain is real
Your fear is real

In the honesty of this moment
May you remember
Your Defender is at hand

Anger’s fire will not consume you
Pain’s waves will not overwhelm you
Fear’s furor will not run away with you

God’s love is stronger
Making all things new
Transforming destruction
From death to life

May the Promise claim you
And embrace you
And empower you to
Surrender revenge
Pick up perspective
and wisdom
and grace
and hope
and freedom
and…

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If you know the artist of today’s featured work please let me know so I may give him/her credit.

A Blessing for Times of Anger © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for permission to publish this work in any form.