Independence Day Prayer for Unity (Psalm 133)

Psalm 133 Ben Shahn

Psalm 133 by Ben Shahn

Psalm 133
How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life forevermore.

On this Independence Day, I long for our neighborhoods and nation to experience the freedom of this psalm- the freedom of true unity. I long for the dividing walls to come crashing down. I long for an end to destructive division.

In this Psalm, the goodness of God-breathed unity is compared to the anointing of Aaron as high priest and dew on the mountains of Hermon and Zion in Israel.

True unity is precious, like sacred, costly oil or a trusted source of water in the wilderness.

True unity brings abundant blessing to an entire community. It is generous and lavish. There is so much oil it runs down Aaron’s beard and on to his robe. There is so much dew it can sustain plants, animals, and people on a mountainside.

True unity means goodness for all. It is pervasive, crossing unjust boundaries. The anointing oil is mixed with spices so the aroma pervades the gathering. The dew makes way for fragrant flowers, fruits, and crops which are enjoyed by the whole community.

True unity is holy and unique. The oil is set apart for the ritual anointing of a priest or king. It is used for no other purpose. Mount Hermon is set apart for its height and snow, the highest point in the region at over 9,000 feet. Mount Zion near Jerusalem is set apart for the worship of God. True unity sets a group of people apart, a rare and beautiful light in our world.

Holy God
One yet Three
Reach into the abundance of your companionship
Bring forth unity and healing in our land
Pour out peace on violent homes and hearts
Shower compassion on selfish and short-sighted motives
Rain down generosity and understanding
so all are covered in blessing and harmony and life
Forevermore
Forevermore
Amen

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Independence Day Prayer for Unity © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Our Peace (Ephesians 2)

people crossEphesians 2:13-18
Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Jesus
You are our peace

You proclaim it
You create it
You bring us near

Without you there is
No safety
No belonging
No nurturing
No identity rooted beyond this dust

Without you we are
Anchorless
Strangers, Aliens
Outsiders, Outcasts, Orphaned

Our need is so deep, so desperate
So beyond us
It took flesh, your flesh to make peace
Your torture puts hostility to death
Your broken body breaks down every dividing wall
Your blood makes us blood

What wondrous truth
What dazzling grace

Bring us near again, Jesus
Help us remember and re-member
Make us one in your generous, fierce love

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This prayer was born from the Ephesians Reading Challenge. Click Here for more information on the challenge to read and reflect on the entire book of Ephesians 3 times in 3 weeks. 

The Ephesians Reading Challenge accompanied a sermon series entitled Sit Walk Stand which was inspired by Watchman Nee‘s book Sit Walk Stand, a study of Ephesians. You will find recordings and notes from this series on the blog as well.

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

Prayers Remembering Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day

memorial day military graveIntroduction
READER ONE:
We gather this Memorial Weekend with persons all over our nation to remember those who make great sacrifices in service to their country and to pray for God’s promised peace.

READER TWO:
The 3rd Saturday of May is Armed Forces Day. It is set aside to honor men and women who currently serve in the United States Military. While we remember them throughout the year, we will especially remember them today.

READER ONE:
The last Monday in May is Memorial Day. It is set aside to honor military service members who died while serving in the military. It was first called Decoration Day because graves were decorated with flowers and flags. It was changed to Memorial Day to put the emphasis on the fallen, not the graves. We will also remember them today.

READER TWO:
November 11th is Veterans Day. It is set aside to honor all who served in the military, living or dead. We will set aside time in November to honor them, thank them, and remember them.

Memorial Prayer
READER ONE:
Jesus, we hear your words, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13 NRSV)

READER TWO:
Please turn to the list in your program as we honor those who are currently serving as active duty military or as reservists.

Read the list

If you know of anyone else currently serving in the Armed Forces, please speak their names now that we may honor and bless them as well.

Pause as persons respond

PASTOR:
Almighty God, we are grateful for those who are willing to sacrifice and to serve. Strengthen the men and women mentioned here today and all who risk their lives to protect others. Help all military personnel to serve with honor, wisdom, and compassion. Guard them against hard-heartedness, despair, and evil. Strengthen and bless their families, especially when they are separated one from another. Surround them with your protection, your grace, and your peace.

A person enters with a large, lit, white candle. If possible, consider using a service member in uniform.

PASTOR:
Let us pause for a moment of silence as we remember and honor those who died while serving their country in the armed forces.

Moment of Silence

PASTOR:
Merciful God, we recognize those who made the ultimate sacrifice, putting the welfare of others ahead of their own safety. We are grateful and humbled by their actions. Strengthen and comfort their friends and family members as they remember and grieve. Amen

READER ONE: Micah 4:1-4 NRSV
Hear these words of promise and hope from the prophet Micah.
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

ALL:
God of Love, it is your will for the nations to seek you and to know you.
It is your will for us live together in peace, provision, and equity.
Forgive us our warring ways.
End the selfishness and corruption.
End the mistrust and misinformation.
End the violence.
Bring wholeness and hope to every system, relationship, and person broken by war.
Show us where we can join you in your great work of peace.
Give us the courage to act and your wisdom to know what to do.
We ask this in the strong name of Jesus
The Savior of the World,
The Lord of All,
The Prince of Peace…

Conclude singing Let There Be Peace on Earth

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Prayers Remembering Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day
© 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording: Helping Things Go Right (1 Samuel 24.8-22)

Sermon Series pursuing peace 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Pursuing Peace
Message 4 of 4: Helping Things Go Right
Scripture: 1 Samuel 24:8-22
These are the notes from a message offered 10/7/18, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. This is the last post in the series. I pray they’ve empowered and inspired you to be a peacemaker.

Psalm 34:14  Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

Can you have a heart of peace in the midst of violence?

  • Can a soldier have a heart of peace? War is part of the job
  • Can a survivor of violence have a heart of peace toward their attacker? It’s complicated. There are issues of safety and justice.
  • The short answer is “yes.” David shows us it’s possible. Here’s the way he did it.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN DAVID AND KING SAUL

  • After David killed Goliath, King Saul puts him in charge of his army.
  • David wins many battles, and he becomes well known and popular
  • Whenever David comes home from war, the women would come out dancing and singing: “Saul has struck down thousands, and David has struck down tens of thousands!”

If King Saul had a heart of peace how would he respond when he heard this?

  • Celebrate along with the others
  • Praise God for sending a person with such bravery, faith, and skill

But, King Saul has a heart of war

  • Furious, suspicious, jealous of David. So jealous he wants David dead.

A Heart of War puts us in the box. We are imprisoned by our wounds and sinful desires.              

  • I’m better than David, I’m the anointed king
  • Maybe I’m actually worse than David. Is he a better leader? A better warrior? More beloved of God?
  • But, I deserve to be honored more than David. I’m the king.
  • And it’s important that I’m seen as the one in charge. I must be seen as the king.

As a result of his heart of war, 

  • King Saul is more and more troubled in his mind and spirit so David would be summoned to play his harp to soothe the king. One day while David was playing the harp for King Saul, the king hurls his spear at him. David dodges it just in time, and the spear shot into the wall. Saul throws another spear; David dodges that one, too
  • King Saul sends David again and again into incredibly dangerous battle situations. David is victorious.
  • King Saul then starts sending people to kill David
  • In 2 chapters, 1 Samuel 18 and 19, Saul tries to kill David 12 times. David runs away and hides in the desert
  • Finally, King Saul decides to go after David himself, taking 3000 men with him.

They come across a cave, so King Saul dismounts and heads into the cave to relieve himself (verse 3, yes it means what you think it means). What the king doesn’t know is that David and his men are sitting deeper in the cave

David’s men start encouraging David to kill the king. Then they volunteer to kill the king for David.

Here’s what David does

  • He sneaks up behind the king and cuts off a corner of his cloak lets him leave unharmed.
  • Then David scolds his men for wanting to attack the king. David has a heart of peace.

I Samuel 24:8 Afterwards, David also rose up and went out of the cave and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.

  • David initiates a conversation rather than letting Saul just leave
  • David approaches with no weapon and bows exposing his neck to the king
  • David shows respect for Saul’s position as King and respect for him as a human being.

1 Samuel 24:9 David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of those who say, ‘David seeks to do you harm’? 10 This very day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you into my hand in the cave, and some urged me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not raise my hand against my lord; for he is the Lord’s anointed.’

  • We have the power to choose how we respond. We call on the Holy Spirit to help us choose well. David was a man after God’s heart, consistently seeking God’s strength and guidance.
  • David chooses to break the cycle of conflict. The war stops with me.

1 Samuel 24:11 See, my father, see the corner of your cloak in my hand; for by the fact that I cut off the corner of your cloak, and did not kill you, you may know for certain that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you are hunting me to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between me and you! May the Lord avenge me on you, but my hand shall not be against you. 13 As the ancient proverb says, ‘Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness’; but my hand shall not be against you. 14 Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead dog? A single flea? 15 May the Lord, therefore, be judge and give sentence between me and you. May he see to it, and plead my cause, and vindicate me against you.”

  • David reminds Saul of their relationship- Saul had been like a Father to David. Saul’s son Jonathan was David’s best friend. David was married to Saul’s daughter Michal.
  • Another reminder of relationship- Saul is a powerful king and David is his loyal servant (a dead dog, a flea).

The Peacemaking Pyramid from The Anatomy of Peace

The Peacemaking Pyramid from The Anatomy of Peace

David reminds us how to help things go right. He starts by cultivating his own heart of peace. He builds a relationship and reminds Saul of their relationship professionally and personally. It’s not hard to imagine David listening to Saul poor out his anguish as he played the harp for him. This built empathy within David for Saul. David communicates with Saul when he didn’t have to. David speaks the truth about how his actions show he is not at war with Saul.

Jesus does the same. Come to us with a heart of peace. Reaching out to us to establish and build a relationship. Jesus understands our deepest dreams, needs, pains, and hope. Jesus listens and empathizes. Jesus is compassionate toward us. Jesus communicates with us, revealing the truth of who he is and who we are and who we can be when we are reconciled to one another.

1 Samuel 24:16-22
16 When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” Saul lifted up his voice and wept. 17 He said to David, “You are more righteous than I; for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. 18 Today you have explained how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. 19 For who has ever found an enemy, and sent the enemy safely away? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. 20 Now I know that you shall surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. 21 Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not wipe out my name from my father’s house.” 22 So David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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.

7 Prayers for General Conference 2019

umc_prays_logo_final-690x380

The General Conference, the decision-making body of the United Methodist Church, will be meeting in St. Louis Missouri starting today. They will be considering the greater inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in the leadership and life of our UMC tradition. There are faithful people with diverse points of view who will be making these decisions and millions more watching and waiting. It is a mile marker moment in our life together and we’re feeling it. 

Thank you for praying with us and for us. – Lisa <>< 

Prayer 1 for General Conference: Surrender
Read Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

In light of General Conference, what would it be like to turn toward Jesus and place everything in His healing hands? All you are planning and working for. All you are feeling and longing for. If you’re willing to do this by the grace of God and invite all at General Conference to do the same, please join me in this prayer.

Your Healing Hands by Lisa Degrenia
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
We will find life, now and forever
Hallelujah! Glory to your Holy Name!

Prayer 2 for General Conference: Confession
Read Mark 6:1-5

It is far too easy to dismiss persons with a different point of view. To label, judge, ridicule, blame. To build the dividing walls of us and them, winners and losers, faithful and sinner, insider and outsider. How have you done this? Will you confess your contempt and invite all at General Conference to do the same? 

Confessing Contempt by Lisa Degrenia
Contempt is so painful
To be dismissed, disregarded
Questioning instead of dignity
Accusation instead of personhood

I have felt its sting and hollowness
As have you, my Jesus
Heal my wound

I have wielded this weapon, fully conscious of its destructive power
You never have, my Jesus
Forgive me and heal all I have hurt

Make my ways like yours, my Jesus
Deliver me from a spirit of demonizing, suspicion, and contempt
Help me hear their needed messages
Help me see all as you see them, beloved, and needed
Especially those who are different from me
Especially those who are hard to love

I am most ashamed of aiming contempt at you, my Jesus
I have failed in your command to love
I am so very sorry
Forgive me, renew me, abide in me so there is
More of my true me
More of you and your ways
More of your grace extended through me
For the healing of the world

1 John 1:9 NRSV
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Prayer 3 for General Conference: Joy
Read 1 Chronicles 16:23-27 (NRSV)

Nehemiah 8:10
… the joy of the Lord is your strength.

What are you feeling concerning General Conference? Fear, hope, determination, confusion, pain… Would you dare to feel joy? To sing and shout God’s greatness and glory. To claim again God’s steadfast character and presence. If you desire the Lord’s joy to be your strength and long for all at General Conference to do the same, please join me in this prayer.

Your Joy is our Strength by Lisa Degrenia
Wondrous God
Father-Son-Spirit
Your joy is our strength
Nothing more
Nothing less
Nothing else
Grant us grace to receive you and your joy
Grant us grace to trust it above all other powers and plans
Grant us grace to bear it and share it as generously as you
For the honor is yours
The majesty is yours
and Your kingdom is at hand
Amen

Prayer 4 for General Conference: Power
Matthew 3:11, NRSV
John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

If you desire the power of the Holy Spirit for yourself and for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

Come Holy Spirit by Lisa Degrenia
Come Holy Spirit
Come again as cleansing fire, burning away all that is false and fruitless

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as guiding fire, lighting the way through our wilderness

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as refining fire, purifying our words, our ways, and our hearts

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as prophetic fire, calling us to courage and action

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as surprising fire, dancing atop every believer, breaking down barriers, opening lips with Good News

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as empowering fire, inspiring us, emboldening us to use your gifts to bless and bring your Kingdom

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as unifying fire, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Amen.

Prayer 5 for General Conference: Likeness of Christ
Luke 19:41-42a, NRSV
As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!”

As we grow more and more into the likeness of Christ, what breaks his heart breaks ours, what he desires for all people becomes our desire. If you desire to receive these gifts for yourself and for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

Prayer for a Broken Heart by Lisa Degrenia
Break our hearts, Jesus
That we may weep as You weep
Love as You love

Break our hearts Jesus and raise our voices
that we may speak and act so all may be safe
so all may have opportunity
so all may know belonging

Lord Jesus
Take away our fear, our apathy, our silence

Grant us
Your courage, Your strength,
Your perseverance, Your heart

That we may be Your sanctuary
Your safe and sanctified place of presence

That we may live Your justice
and use Your power with wisdom and humility

That we may be Your whole and holy people
A people of integrity

That we may speak and act and love
again and again and again
till every dividing wall of hate, fear, and mistrust
comes crashing down in Your Powerful Name

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, Savior of the Nations,
teach us to pray and teach us to live Your prayer…

Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

Prayer 6 for General Conference: Humility
Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, NRSV

Our humility helps all involved experience the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. If you desire to receive this gift for yourself and for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

The Humble Way by Lisa Degrenia
Jesus, you are gentle, lowly, vulnerable
You choose to be with us in our weakness
You win the world with your love, sacrifice, and humility

Your power is made perfect in
our weakness
our transparency
our vulnerability
our surrender
our honesty with our dusty condition

Free us from posing as experts with all the answers
Free us from silver-tongued speech
Free us from human conceiving and scheming

Let us know nothing with certainty other than the eternal truth
that you are the Anointed One, the Liberating King,
who was crucified on our behalf

We receive you and your saving
We welcome your wisdom and offering
We entrust all you have given us back into your hands
We rely on you, Holy Spirit, to demonstrate your power
that our faith, the faith of those we serve, the faith of those yet to believe
may be rooted in you alone. Amen

Prayer 7 for General Conference: Peace
Jesus tells the story of the Religious Teacher (Pharisee) and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14 so that those who have a heart of war may receive the gift of a heart of peace. The first steps to receiving this gift are honesty, transparency, confessing our need and our desire for a heart of peace to replace our heart of war.

If you desire a heart of peace and desire a heart of peace for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

Heart of Peace by Lisa Degrenia
Jesus, You are the Great Physician coming to those in need of healing.
You are the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world.
You are the Prince of Peace offering all a heart of peace.

Jesus, we 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 we write off as beyond hope.
You even include me.

Forgive me, Jesus.
Forgive me for forgetting who you are.
For forgetting who I am in you.

Forgive and heal my wounds.
Forgive and heal my brokenness, my sin.

Forgive me for judging.
Forgive my hurtful words and actions.
Forgive my self-righteousness.

Forgive me Jesus for limiting you.
I am so desperately in need of you.

Create in me a clean heart and renew your Holy Spirit within me.
Create in me a heart of peace.
I open myself to your gift
and pray all your people will receive it as well.
Amen.

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7 Prayers for General Conference © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording: Someone Who Understands (Mark 6.30-34)

Sermon Series pursuing peace 1110 x 624

This service took place in our fellowship hall due to an air conditioning problem in the sanctuary. For a recording of the entire service, including the sermon, go to our Facebook page.

Sermon Series: Pursuing Peace
Message 3 of 4: Someone Who Understands
Scripture: Mark 6:30-34
These are the notes from a message offered 9/30/18, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting this series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they empower and inspire you to be a peacemaker.

A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell.  He painted a sign advertising the 4 pups and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt a tug on his overalls. He looked down into the eyes of a little boy.

“Mister,” he said, “I want to buy one of your puppies.” “Well,” said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat off the back of his neck, “These puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money.” The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer. “I’ve got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?”  “Sure,” said the farmer. And with that, he let out a whistle. “Here, Dolly!” he called.

Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur.  The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight. As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse.  Slowly another little ball appeared, this one noticeably smaller. Down the ramp, it slid. Then in a somewhat awkward manner, the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up…

“I want that one,” the little boy said, pointing to the runt. The farmer knelt down at the boy’s side and said, “Son, you don’t want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you as these other dogs would.”

With that, the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers.  In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe.  Looking back up at the farmer, he said, “You see sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.” With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and picked up the little pup for the child.

We long for someone who understands. How many of us here

  • Have lost a job/been out of work
  • Have started over in a new town
  • Experienced the death of a parent
  • are cancer survivors or are going through treatment
  • have experienced a miscarriage
  • have been so excited about something you wanted to shout

It’s easier for us to understand when we’ve been through a similar experience. The beautiful thing is, even if we haven’t been in someone’s situation, we can try to understand. We can look below the surface of words and actions to what’s really driving those words and actions. We can empathize. Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

Moving from a heart of war to a heart of peace first requires humility- admitting our brokenness, our wounds, the shards of sin in our heart. In humility, we admit our need for God’s help, healing, and forgiveness.

The next step is empathy. God’s healing and forgiveness give us eyes to see and hearts to understand.

  1. Eyes to see ourselves and others as bearers of common wounds that need healing, rather than as adversaries to be defeated or competitors to be outdone
  2. Eyes to see the hurt beneath others’ anger, rather than as aggressors meriting our retaliation
  3. The ability to approach those with whom we disagree as mutual explorers of the mystery of GOD
  4. The ability to consider every person as a beloved child of God with infinite worth and dignity, rather than as an object of our desire or correction or charity or a means to our ends
  5. Eyes to see “the other” through the eyes of Christ, rather than through the lenses of partisan politics, racial prejudices, socioeconomic class, gender, and national borders (Excerpted and adapted from How We See Others Matters by Bishop Kenneth L. Carder, retired.)

Mark 6:30-34 (NRSV)     
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had … how would you respond?

How Jesus responds – As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Jesus could have been upset. These people were obstacles to their much-deserved rest. Instead, he looked below the surface to see their deep need. The why behind their actions. Jesus had compassion, empathy. He saw them and engaged them from a heart of peace.

After all, isn’t Jesus the ultimate expression of God’s empathy? God, the Creator of the Universe, Almighty, high and exalted. How can we related to this? So God comes in Jesus- the One who shows us God understands our pain, temptation, and needs. The One who shows us God understands loneliness, poverty, hunger, friends, betrayal, injustice, even death itself. This is why we place our trust in Jesus.

As followers of Jesus, as Christians, literally “little Christs,” we can empathize because God empathizes.

John 8:2-11 (NRSV)
2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?” 6 They said this to test him so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

The leaders approach Jesus and the woman with a heart of war. They want to trap Jesus and she is a means to an end. Some think Jesus knelt to the ground to write the sins of the crowd so they too would see themselves as sinners and empathize with the woman. What if Jesus was writing things they had in common as a means of helping the crowd empathize?

However they arrived at empathy, look at the results. No condemnation. Peace. The chance of a new life.

My friend Pru reminded me last week that being made in the image of God is what gives us our value, but it’s also what gives us our power. The power to empathize. The power to choose the ways of Jesus- Life, Hope, Peace

Romans 12:14-16a (NRSV)           
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.16 Live in harmony with one another; …

As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re called to foster peace in the midst of evil, controversy, and conflict.

  • We are honest about our feelings and our failings
  • We break the cycle of conflict, often with an act of generosity or kindness
    • the war stops with me
  • We have the power to choose how we respond and we call on the Holy Spirit to help us choose well
  • We look below the surface behaviors to imagine what might really be going on
    • What is driving and informing these words or actions?
  • We empathize
    • “Those people who are hardest to love, need love the most”
  • We see people as people
    • not obstacles, objects, not a means to an end, or projects
    • I see you, I value you because you are made in the image of God
  • We believe changing our words and actions can change the world
    • By the grace of God, we can have a heart of peace and live out of a heart of peace

Psalm 34:14, Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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: Recognizing a Heart of War (James 3.13-18)

Sermon Series pursuing peace 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Pursuing Peace
Message 2 of 4: Recognizing a Heart of War
Scripture: James 3:13-18
These are the notes from a message offered 9/23/18, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting this series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they empower and inspire you to be a peacemaker.

Psalm 34:14        Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

Way of Being Diagram from The Anatomy of Peace

We can see behaviors- our words and actions. But these are the tip of the iceberg. Behaviors are born deep within us coming from a heart of peace or a heart of war.

As we read the scripture, look for the heart of peace and the heart of war.

James 3:13-18 The Voice
13 Who in your community is understanding and wise? Let his example, which is marked by wisdom and gentleness, blaze a trail for others. 14 If your heart is one that bleeds dark streams of jealousy and selfishness, do not be so proud that you ignore your depraved state. 15 The wisdom of this world should never be mistaken for heavenly wisdom; it originates below in the earthly realms, with the demons. 16 Any place where you find jealousy and selfish ambition, you will discover chaos and evil thriving under its rule. 17 Heavenly wisdom centers on purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, and other good fruits untainted by hypocrisy. 18 The seed that flowers into righteousness will always be planted in peace by those who embrace peace.

Pastor Lisa picks up a hand mirror and tells the story of growing up watching a children’s program called Romper Room. The teacher often used a mirror to say goodbye to the children and to encourage them to be “do bee’s,” those who do good.

Every time you see your reflection remember you are made in the image of God.

  1. God’s intention for you is wholeness. Salvation means wholeness. Wholeness looks like
    • Vs 13. wisdom and gentleness
    • Vs 17. wisdom, purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, good fruits
  1. God’s intention for you is clarity- for you to clearly see your talents, your beauty, your value, your purpose, how beloved you are to God

Max Lucado quote                                                                         
If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning… Face it, friend. He is crazy about you!

God came in Jesus to reveal all these things about you and to prove God’s love. Jesus lived, healed, taught, imprisoned, tortured, crucified, died rose again so we could know that we know that we know this. So we could become this. When we know this and live out of this we have a heart of peace.

But the mirror is broken. Shattered by sin- our own choices, choices of others, circumstances of life, the brokenness of our world.

All we have is a shard. It’s hard to see with just this little bit of mirror. We forget who we look like, that we look like God. This is why we need Jesus.

Forgetting colors how we see situations and how we see others. It’s like looking through at the world through tinted lenses, or with blinders on like a horse. Or like we have an eye disease- only seeing the periphery or only seeing the middle.

anatomy of peace boxesThis limited view boxes us into how we respond to situations and people.

  1. Better-than box
    • I see the world as competitive, troubled
    • I’m better than most folks because I know what’s right and I do what’s right. The world needs me to be the example and to fix it.
    • I get impatient with all these incompetent fools who screw everything up
  1. Worse-than box
    • I see the world as hard, against me, ignoring me
    • I’m not as good as others. I’m broken, helpless.
    • If I’m truthful, I’m jealous and bitter towards those people with all the advantages
  1. I Deserve box
    • I see the world as unfair, unjust. It owes me.
    • People constantly take advantage of me and don’t appreciate me
    • I resent those ungrateful people depriving me and mistreating me. I deserve better.
  1. Must be seen box
    • I see the world watching me, judging me. I always wonder what people are thinking.
    • I feel anxious, stressed because I need to get it right. I need to be well thought of.

Do you recognize yourself in any of these boxes? Does it color how you view situations and people?

My friend, there is no shame. You have just forgotten who you are. Instead of holding on to the truth of who you really are you’re holding on to the mirror shard. You’re holding on to the wounds and brokenness and separation and sin

What happens if you hold on to the shard. You continue to wound yourself. And you wound others.

You’re living out of a heart of war. Here’s the good news. You can change. You can live out of a heart of peace.

Luke 18:9-14 (NRSV). The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Jesus tells this parable to people who have a heart of war so they can receive a heart of peace. The first step is honesty, transparency, confessing our need and desire for a heart of peace to replace our heart of war.

If you desire a heart of peace, please join in this prayer.

Jesus, you are the Prince of Peace. You can give us a heart of peace. Jesus, we 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 we write off as beyond hope, including me.

Jesus, You are the Great Physician coming to those in need of healing. You are the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world. You are the Prince of Peace granting me a heart of peace.

Forgive me, Jesus. Forgive me for forgetting who you are. For forgetting who I am in you.

Forgive and heal my wounds. Forgive and heal my brokenness, my sin.

Forgive me for judging. Forgive my hurtful words and actions. Forgive my self-righteousness.

Forgive me Jesus for limiting you. I am so desperately in need of you.

Create in me a clean heart and renew your Holy Spirit within me.

Create in me a heart of peace. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The new is coming. The new has come. Amen.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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.