Praying for Your City

greetings from sarasota flThe good folks at The Center for Action & Contemplation and Mile High Ministries in Denver, Colorado, have written a beautiful prayer adapted from Walter Brueggemann’s Prayers for a Privileged People. It’s hoped it will inspire Christians to pray for their local communities.

As per their invitation, it’s been adapted for my local community, Sarasota FL. Please feel free to adapt it for your own.  

The prayer may be read in a group with one voice reading the regular print and all voices reading the bold print or it may be prayed alone. After the prayer, please pause for silence.

May the movement of the Holy Spirit through these sacred words and silence birth in us a fresh movement of compassionate action. How fitting as we honor those who have worked for freedom, equality, and justice, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and our Jesus.
– Lisa <><

Loving God, you have set us in families and clans, in cities and neighborhoods.
Our common life began in a garden, but our destiny lies in the city.

You have placed us in Sarasota. This is our home.
Your creativity is on display here through the work of human hearts and hands.

We pray for Sarasota today—for the East Side, West Side, North, and South.
For Riverwood, Siesta Key, Pinecraft, Newtown, Palmer Ranch, and The Meadows.
We pray for our poorest neighbors and for powerful people in offices downtown. We pray for people from the ’hood and the barrio,
for seasonal “snowbirds,” college students, and the new urbanites.

We pray for Sarasota’s neighbors:
Bradenton, Osprey, Nokomis, Lakewood Ranch, Venice, Myakka, and others.
And for sister cities in Scotland, Mexico, France, Israel, Russia, China, and Switzerland —and a thousand other cities connected to our own.

In all our neighborhoods this day there will be crime and callous moneymaking;
there will be powerful people unable or unwilling to see the vulnerable who are their neighbors.
There will also be beautiful acts of compassion and creativity in all these places—forgiveness and generosity; neighbors working together for a more just community.

Help us see this place as something other than a battleground between us and them, where our imaginations are limited by win/lose propositions and endless rivalry.
Show us a deeper reality, God: Show us your playground, and invite us to play.

Like the city of your dreams, make this a city where those who were once poor enjoy the fruits of their labor;
A place where children are no longer doomed to misfortune, but play safely in the streets under the watchful eyes of caring, healthy adults;

A place where former rivals and natural enemies work and play together in peace;
And where all people enjoy communion with you.
We pray in the name of the one who wept over the city, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Time of silence

***********
Adapted from Beyond Our Efforts: A Celebration of Denver Peacemaking (Mile High Ministries: 2019), 251; and Walter Brueggemann, “This City . . . of God,” Prayers for a Privileged People (Abingdon Press: 2010), 157.

A Prayer for Veterans

800px-Korean_War_Veterans_Memorial_-_July_2012

Korean War Veterans Memorial, photo by Agamitsudo via Wikimedia Commons

Let us pause to honor, thank, and remember all who served in the military, living or dead.

Speak the names of veterans you know, including yourself if you served in the military.⁠⁠

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)⁠

Jesus, we are grateful for those who are like you, those who sacrifice and serve for a greater good. Strengthen all we have mentioned and thousands more who put the welfare of others ahead of their own safety.⁠

Help all military personnel to serve with honor, wisdom, and compassion. Guard them against hard-heartedness, despair, and evil. ⁠

Bring help and healing to all who still struggle in body and mind because of what they have experienced.⁠

Strengthen and bless military families, especially when they are separated one from another. Console and comfort military families, especially those who continue to grieve loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice. ⁠

Surround us all with your protection. Fill us all with your grace. Lead us all with your truth and light.

Micah 4:1-4 NRSV
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.

God of All, it is your will for the nations to seek you and to know you.
It is your will for us to live together in peace, provision, and equity.

End the selfishness.
End the mistrust and misinformation.
End the violence.

Bring wholeness and hope to every system, relationship, and person broken by war.

Empower us all to pray and work for your promised peace.
Give us the courage to act and your wisdom to know what to do.

We ask this in the strong name of Jesus
Our Savior, our Lord
The Prince of Peace
Who taught us to pray…

Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

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

Be the Beatitude, Be the Blessing (Matthew 5)

Sermon Series beatitudes 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: The Beatitudes, God’s Surprising Blessing
Message 4 of 4: Be the Blessing
Scripture:  Matthew 5:1-12
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 9/15/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

The Ladder of the Beatitudes by Jim Forest was inspired by a beautiful, sacred painting from the late 1100s entitled The Ladder of Divine Ascent. It’s a painting of monks climbing a ladder towards Jesus in Heaven illustrating the journey of faith.

The angels, saints, siblings in Christ are praying for us and cheering us on in the faith as we make our way to be more and more like Jesus, as we make our way to heaven. The devil and demons are working hard to distract us and tempt us so we fall off the path.

Jim Forest sees this painting and thinks- that ladder is like the Beatitudes. We climb the Beatitudes, step by step, one after another. The Beatitudes are the natural progression of a faithful life.

(I got a stunt double to climb the ladder for me this week! One step for each Beatitude.)

5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

This is the first half of the Beatitudes. It seems the first two Beatitudes and the third and 4th Beatitudes are paired. The fifth and sixth are also paired, as are the seventh and eighth. (Like taking two steps at a time.)

First two are paired in recognizing our need of God. I recognize I am poor in spirit. I recognize I am a spiritual beggar. I cannot save myself. I am in need of salvation and God provides it. Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Blessed are those who mourn. As I begin to look at myself I get honest with my sin, my shame, my guilt, my mistakes. I get honest with the mess I’m in and recognize I need forgiveness. I need new life. The first two Beatitudes are about recognizing our need.

The second two Beatitudes are about recognizing our strengths. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. I recognize I am strong and I have gifts. I place it under the authority and discipline of God.

I recognize I have the Holy Spirit living in me, I have hungers, thirsts, passion, fire, appetites. I ask God to focus all of that good energy into righteousness- right relationship with God, with others, between others, with myself, and with creation. God focus that good energy so I don’t use it in ways that are weapons, in ways that don’t last, in ways that are false.

The first two steps are about bowing in humility to God. The next two steps are about standing in the truth of who God made me.

In the first two steps, I recognize I am dust and ashes. In the next two steps, I claim I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

The first four Beatitudes prepare us for the last four Beatitudes. There’s a great deal of internal work going on in the first four Beatitudes. The higher we climb, the more external this blessing becomes, the more action-oriented.

The first 4 prepare us so we’re in the right soul place to join Jesus in the adventure of saving the world. I am named blessed so that I can be a blessing. 

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
I remember back all the way to the first step when I needed mercy. In fact, there isn’t a time when I don’t need mercy. The Beatitude checks all the passion, fire, hungering and thirst strength to make sure I am not using it as a weapon. I am using it in a merciful way.

God is all-powerful. God is strong to save. Does God wield that as a weapon? No. God wields God’s power mercy-fully.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Checks our motivation. Is my motivation to have Jesus sitting on the throne of my heart, to see the world as Jesus sees it? (How’s the view from up there?

God, I want to want what you want. I want your motivation to be my motivation. “Pure in heart” is about having an undivided heart. A divided heart has one foot with Jesus and one for our selves. It’s like having two people trying to sit on the throne at the same time. It’s not going to happen.

If we’re really honest we can’t multitask. We can’t do two things at the same time with any kind of skill or accomplishment. We can’t serve 2 masters.

Do I want to build myself up or am I building up others, building the Kingdom? Jesus, I want to see you and join you and glorify you.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. As we step out in faith to be a blessing to others, we begin to see Jesus in the folks we are with. We see God right here, right now.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
How often do we pray for peace? We want peace of mind and heart, in our family, safety, security, calm, comfort.

Jesus is Jewish. When he’s thinking about peace he’s thinking about Shalom. Shalom is about the well-being of all creation. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, the right relationship of everything.

When I do this, folks will see Jesus in me and say, “that must be a child of God.”

The well-being of persons, the earth, systems so they are just and fair, governments so they have the best interest of all people. It’s big picture. The higher we go, the more we can see.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
The followers of Christ have been called to peace. … And they must not only have peace but also make it. And to that end, they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ, nothing is to be gained by such methods. … His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce hatred and wrong. In so doing they overcome evil with good and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus is raising us up to be prophets. Jesus is raising us up to be like him in his power to heal and to be ready for the persecution when it comes.

There’s a long history of persecution and harassment for God’s children. Placing our trust in Christ and living a life that looks more and more like his stirs things up.

When you start practicing mercy, peacemaking, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, your life is going to look different and people are going to notice. Not all of that notice is going to be positive. This Beatitude is honest enough to admit it.

We climb the ladder of the Beatitudes. It’s all leading up to so loving Jesus and desiring to follow him, that I will risk persecution. The higher you go on the ladder, the more risk there is.

Closer and closer to Jesus. I want to see thinks as you see them. I want to do things as you do them. Closer and closer to heaven- your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In order to get to heaven, you have to die. In order to be fully a part of heaven on earth, you have to die to self and be raised to new life in Jesus Christ. 

The higher we climb, the more we die to self.

  • Blessed are the Poor in Spirit- God, help me to die to trying to save myself and doing things in my own strength.
  • Blessed are those who Mourn- God, help me to die to sin and self-centeredness.
  • Blessed are the Meek- God, help me die to unbridled strength. I never want my power, talents, and strength to be used as a weapon.
  • Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness- God help me die to division, to prejudice, anything which keeps apart from one another.
  • Blessed are the Merciful- God, help me to die to revenge, resentment, and payback.
  • Blessed are the Pure in Heart- God, help me to die to trying to serve two masters. Be the leader of my life. Sit on the throne of my heart. Give me an undivided heart, a heart after your own heart.
  • Blessed are the Peacemakers- God, help me to die to evil, injustice, oppression. Help me to die to violence and hate. Help me to die to me and mine, us and them, because in your kingdom it is only us.
  • Blessed are the Persecuted- God, help me to die to approval, popularity, and safety. Help me to die to hiding my faith and risk aversion. God make me courageous in wherever you would lead me.

The main symbol of Christianity isn’t the star of Bethlehem or the empty tomb. It’s the cross- an instrument of injustice and mocking and torture and death.

If you’re going to be a Christian, be a Christian, fully alive in Christ. Christian literally means “a little Christ.” Everything that goes along with following Jesus. If you’re going to be a Christian, then be a Christ. Be the blessing.

********************
Be the Beatitude, Be the Blessing © 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
********
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.

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

*****************
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.