Persevering in Prayer (Luke 18)

john-bunyon-prayer-quote

Persevering in Prayer
Scripture: Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 11/10/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

What can you do with a rubber band?
Rubber bands are elastic. So are Jesus’ parables- stories with a deeper spiritual meaning. They both stretch in many directions.

You can read a parable one day and hear from God. You can read them a month later or even years later and receive another important truth from God.

It reminds us the scriptures are living and active. God meets us exactly where we are in the Word of God.

Luke 18:1-8. The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
From the point of view of followers of Jesus as the widow
1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 Jesus said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Jesus sets up a contrast between God and the unjust judge.

The judge is powerful, probably the most powerful person in his community. He’s worldly, corrupt, slow to respond, indifferent, disrespectful, unbelieving.

God is more powerful, attentive to injustice, quick to respond, faith-full, compassionate.

Even the ungodly relent in the face of persevering. How much more will God answer you when you pray!

Followers of Jesus are to be like the widow, the person with the least amount of power in the community. Folks would have laughed at the powerless widow getting the judge to do what she wanted him to do.

1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.
8 when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

The widow had faith that her persevering would bring a result. Faith looks like praying always and not losing heart. Does God find you resilient and full of faith? Actively trusting in God and persevering in prayer?

How’s your prayer life?

  • Using prayer as a rubber stamp as you make plans to fix whatever needs fixing in your own strength?
  • Using prayer as a last resort when everything else you tried didn’t work?
  • Have you just given up on prayer? You’ve been praying about the same situation for a long time with no change. It’s easy to get discouraged and lose heart.

Luke 11:9-13
Luke 11:9 Jesus said, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

A Translation Closer to the Original Intention- Present Progressive Tense
Jesus said, “Keep on asking, and it will be given you, Keep on seeking and you will find, keep on knocking and it will be opened unto you.  For everyone who continues to ask, receives, and the one who continues to seek, finds, and for the one who continues to knock, it will be opened.  What father among you, if your son asks for a fish will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Example of Persevering Prayers Being Answered

Name your persevering prayer. Keep praying, do not lose heart.

  • Reconciliation of relationship
  • The salvation of a loved one
  • An answer to a question
  • Deliverance from an addiction
  • The end of corruption, evil, injustice, oppression
  • Peace and plenty for all

Trust God is good. Trust God is near and attentive to your needs. Trust God will make the wrongs right. It may not be in this life, it may be in heaven. But it may be now.

Luke 18:1-8. The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
Stretch the parable in a different direction, from the point of view of God as the widow and we as the judge.
2 Jesus said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 

Pleading Widow by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Our gender and power stereotypes told us to assume
the judge is God, which would make us the poor widow.
But wait. Who judges? Who cares neither for God or people?
That would be us. And who continually demands
that we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God?

Sorry, we don’t get the high ground here, denying our privilege,
pretending we’re faithfully imploring God
with our persistent quest for justice.
We’re the ones deaf to the cries of the poor.

God comes in the voice of the vulnerable, the easily ignored
while we in our arrogance easily ignore.

How disconcerting that in this story
the ball is in our court, not God’s!
The demand has been made, over and over.

Jesus warns us: God can outlast us.
But when God comes, will God find us listening?

Prayer and Action
Prayer is coupled with action. If we are praying for that relationship to be reconciled, what are we doing for that relationship to be reconciled? If we are praying for our loved ones to come to faith, what are we doing to create an environment where they could hear the Gospel? If we’re praying for an end to evil, injustice, and oppression, what are we doing to end evil, injustice, and oppression?

The dual truths of persevering in prayer and prayer in action stretch me. I need to pray before I act so I don’t use it as a weapon. I need to persevere in prayer because God is the one who makes things new. I need both.

And I need the Holy Spirit filling me so I don’t lose heart when it seems like nothing’s changing. Persevere in prayer. Prayer and action.

Prayer-
Heavenly Father, we thank you that you hear us. That you want to have a relationship with us. You want to bless us, empower us, encourage us, forgive us.

Help us to talk to you. To talk to you honestly, openly, and often. Help us to persevere in prayer. Help us to not lose heart. Help us to trust you.

Help to know the path we’re on with you is the path of goodness and glory. Help us to know it’s the path of truth and humility, the path of light and life. We need that assurance so we can persevere.

In our praying, help us to hear if there’s an action we are to take. Grant us the courage, grace, and wisdom to act.

You are making us new. You are making this world new. Thank you for the gift of prayer. Amen.

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

How Jesus Grieves, a sermon for All Saints Day (Matthew 14)

loaves and fish

How Jesus Grieves, a Sermon for All Saints Day
Scripture: Matthew 14:1-21
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 11/3/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Introducing All Saints Day
Traditionally celebrated on November 1st, or the Sunday closest to it
On All Saints Day, we remember…

  • We too are saints (1 Corinthians 1:2-3)
  • Our loved ones who have died
  • Those who have inspired our faith and led us to Christ

For some, All Saints Day is a day of thanksgiving and gratitude. A day of inspiration. For some, a day of beloved memories. A day of sadness because those memories bring a reminder of grief and loss.

Whatever you are feeling, it’s ok. All those feelings are welcome.

Reading of Matthew 14:1-21, Jesus grieving the death of John the Baptist

Jesus’ relative, John the Baptist, is unjustly imprisoned and brutally murdered. John was executed by a weak man, Herod Antipas. Herod was drunk, aroused, showing off. Herod got caught in a bad place. in order to “keep up appearances” before those who had gathered for his birthday, those he had to lead, those who might report his choice to Rome, Herod had John executed.

John had been a part of Jesus’ life from the very beginning, since before the two of them were even born. They met in their mothers’ wombs. At the meeting, John began jumping and preaching in the wilderness of his mother’s womb that Jesus was the Messiah.

John was family, literally family. If anyone understood who Jesus was and what Jesus was called to do, it was John the Baptist. If anyone understood what Jesus is going through- the sacrifices Jesus was making, the mocking, the confrontations, the homelessness, the misunderstandings, the persecution, it was John and now John is dead.

John’s disciples come to tell Jesus and Jesus is shaken by the loss. He’s grieving deeply. It’s one thing to lose a loved one, it’s another to lose a loved one in such an unjust and brutal way.

What does Jesus do? Jesus gets into a boat and crosses the Sea of Galilee to find a quiet place. But when Jesus arrives he does not find a quiet place. Jesus finds people. Thousands of people.

These folks are also grieving the death of John the Baptist. They’re heartbroken, sick, hungry, and oppressed.

Hoping to find quiet, but instead finding people, what rises up inside Jesus? What would rise up inside of you?

What rises up inside Jesus is compassion. Compassion literally means “suffering with.” He hears their cries alongside his own. He understands their pain because he is in pain. What does this pain do? This pain opens Jesus. Opens his heart in compassion, in empathy, his hands in generosity and Jesus helps.

There’s healing in the helping. He helps. He blesses. He feeds. He listens. He comforts. He heals.

Excerpt from an Instagram Post by Jen Willhoite @cobbleworks
“Jesus let himself be interrupted by the pain of others even as he was suffering, reeling in his own. He took what scraps of food and hope there were and offered it all up to Divine Love. He knew something abundant could come from something threadbare and it seemed he knew it started with honest sharing…with himself, with others, and with the Sacred One. He held it all aloft and the bread and meat grew in abundance. …

Maybe it was healing for Jesus to nourish others when he was aching. [What] if suffering alongside each other and giving our hope to God even if it’s just grieving scraps might be the thing that gets us all through. Maybe the 5,000 were fed and Jesus was fed too. Maybe we’re still being fed today by stories like this. Stories that tell us hope matters. That our pain matters. Our friendships matter. Our cries matter. Our gathering matters. Our willingness to say we’re hurting and also be interrupted by the pain of another all matters.”

Amen! It matters. It all matters.
Jesus was grieving and what rose in him was compassion and generosity and hope-
not bitterness, not revenge, not isolation, not despair

This is the power and glory of our Great God rising in the midst of death. This same power and glory of God are rising in you.

Jesus’ brokenness, the crowd’s brokenness, your brokenness – God gathers it and redeems it all. Broken hearts, broken bodies broken systems, broken bits of bread and fish- God gathers it and redeems it all.

This is our truth – God is good, God is strong, God is near. When we claim it and cling to it, this is what makes us saints. 

God’s compassion, generosity, hope rising up in us so we find healing in the helping.

A saint is not a perfect person. Saints are simply people who understand their deep need and turn to God and ask God to bring good out of the pain. That’s what redeeming is- God bringing good out of the pain, out of the brokenness, out of the mess.

Today we remember we are saints. We remember the saints that have gone before us. Claim this life. Say “yes” to it. Place your trust in Jesus and follow him. Be a saint.

And so my brothers and sisters, let us remember who we are in Jesus- wounded healers, saints, set apart by God and for God.

Let us remember our purpose- to lead a devoted life of compassion, generosity, and hope. A life worthy of the calling to which we have been called. A life that inspires faith in others.

Let us recommit ourselves to this life, by first honoring the lives of those who have inspired us-
The heroic and humble who ran the race before us
The martyrs who sacrificed all for the sake of Jesus
And especially those who we have known and loved
who led us to Jesus and encouraged us to deeper faith and service

Let us pray…
Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You surround us with witness after witness to your transforming love
Inspire us and empower us to persevere
Fill our hearts with courage

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You weep with us in our heartbreak and loss
Comfort us and protect us in our mourning
Fill our souls with hope

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You cry out in victory over sin and the grave
Raise us and release us to fulfill your calling
Fill our lives with faithfulness and good works

The message concludes with a prayer consecrating the elements for Holy Communion.

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How Jesus Grieves, a sermon for All Saints Day © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

A Prayer and Graphic for Each Beatitude

I’ve been offering a series of reflections and prayers based on the Beatitudes on my Instagram account (@revlisad). It’s been so rewarding to prepare the graphics, I thought you might want to see them as well. Feel free to share them on your social media platforms. I pray they are a blessing to you. – Lisa <><

Beatitudes title

Beatitudes 1 poor in spirit

Beatitudes 2 Mourn

Beatitudes 3 meek

Beatitudes 4 hunger thirst

Beatitudes 5 merciful

Beatitudes 6 pure heart

Beatitudes 7 Peacemaker

Beatitudes 8 persecution

Beatitudes receive blessing
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Beatitude Prayer Graphics © 2019 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.

Celebrating Your Life and Witness, a resource for preplanning the worship services following your death

Ria Munk on her Deathbed, Gustav Klimt (1912), Oil on canvas

Ria Munk on her Deathbed by Gustav Klimt. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a growing trend to not have a funeral or memorial service following the death of a loved one.

Hear my plea- have the service!

Those who remain need it. It’s a critical part of a healthy grieving process. We need to stop, gather, remember, and give thanks in a season of death. It’s a mile marker moment. If we don’t stop, it will chase us.

Christians have even more reasons to gather. We stand on thousands of years of tradition. Good, meaningful, helpful traditions. Traditions of gathering as a community to lament, gathering to embrace the consolation of Christ, gathering to hear the testimony of a faithful Christian witness, gathering to claim Christ’s victory over death and offer of eternal life.

Here’s the heartbreaking part- I’ve sat with many Christian families who tell me their dying loved one told them “don’t go to the bother” of a service or “don’t go to the expense”. They think they are doing their loved ones a kindness, but the truth is they aren’t.

Here’s another heartbreak- If your worship planning is left up to family members who do not value your faith, there may be no service at all. These dear ones don’t understand how meaningful and vital this type of worship experience is.

Think about how not having a service would affect your friends who are believers. Think of the opportunity lost for your own family to hear about your faith and what Christ makes available to them as well.

In my tradition, a worship service following the death of a loved one does not have to be complicated or expensive or formal. It can be in a church or funeral home or cemetery, but it can also be on the beach or in a living room. It can be both faith-full and welcoming for those yet to believe.

The important thing is to stop, gather, remember, and give thanks.

Take time to pre-plan the worship service following your death. To do so is a tremendous gift to your loved ones since they will not have to make these decisions in the midst of grieving. To do so is a witness to your faith in the promises of Christ.

Click the link below for resources to help you pre-plan. Feel free to leave questions or ideas in the comments. I pray these resources are a blessing and a balm to you and those you love. – Lisa <><

CLICK HERE for a pdf of the following resources

  • Descriptions of the different types of worship services which may take place following a death. Remember, there’s no one right way to remember and give thanks for a life. Different types of services and locations are often combined at the preference of the family.
  • Descriptions of the different parts of a worship service to help in your planning.
  • A worksheet to record your planning decisions
  • A worksheet to help you write your testimony

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Celebrating Your Life and Witness, a resource for planning the worship services following your death © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Growing in Resilience: Comfort Us, based on Isaiah 61.10

Isaiah 61 10 robesGrowing in Resilience
Day 22, Read Isaiah 61
Reflection: Comfort Us, based on Isaiah 61:10, NRSV

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Comfort us
Comfort us who mourn
When one suffers, we all suffer

Hear our lament for the ways we hurt one another and in turn hurt you
Our words weapons instead of life

Hear our wails for all shattered by sin and fear and shame

Hear our groans for all bent low beneath watching and waiting
for another in pain
or their own

Hear our tears for all captive to
their poverty
their addiction
their loneliness
their otherness

Hear our grieving for the powerful misusing their influence
The Forgotten… forgotten

Comfort us
Comfort us who mourn
Comfort us in your coming
Your freeing
Your healing

In your deliverance, there is a crown for our ashes
The oil of gladness pouring across tender brows till it pools in our clavicles

In the nakedness of our need you clothe us
Garments of Salvation
Robes of Righteousness
Jewels of our Belovedness
You dress us in your Victory
Wrapping us in your Joy and Delight
Swaddling us in your Promises made real

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Comfort Us © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.