Sermon Recording: The Pruning Season (John 15.1-8)

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Message 5 of 5
Scripture: John 15:1-8
These are the notes from a message offered 11/18/18, the Sunday before Thanksgiving at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. This is the last post in the series. I pray they have been an encouragement to you.

John 15:1-58
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing…. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

This feels like bearing fruit:  

  • Dedicating the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes
  • The marriage of our eldest daughter Elyse to a very faithful, honorable man named Sam. We see the fruit of faith in their lives. We see all the folks along the way who planted seeds of faith which are now blossoming.
  • Tamara’s Baptism- This was the first adult baptism in 4 years.

We’ve been having conversations amongst the missions team and later the leadership council about fruitfulness. Fruit-full. It’s what drove me to this scripture.

Jesus gives us many illustrations of who we are as his followers. We are the Bride of Christ. We are a building made with living stones. We are the Body of Christ. We are the Family of God. We are the Branches of a Vine. Jesus is referring to a grapevine in this instance.

Over and over and over again it says you will bear fruit, you will bear fruit, you will bear fruit.

That is the longing of my heart. It is also the thing that haunts me because having only one adult baptism in 4 years feels like we could bear much more fruit than that. We’re called to bear more fruit than that.

So we started having conversations in the mission team. We have incredibly faithful leaders in that area. We talked about the tens of thousands of dollars being raised for mission efforts- The United Methodist Women’s efforts, the Rummage Sale, our regular Sunday offerings for connectional giving which supports missionaries and projects around the world. We also do local programs like the Day 4 Hope back to school event.

We started having honest conversations about what is bearing fruit. It drew us to a question. As the Body of Christ are we suffering from multi-system organ failure? Are we dying? Or is it as we see in this passage, is it time for some pruning?

I am a novice when it comes to plants. I’ve planted some veggies but I’ve never had to prune. My mother had rose bushes and she would cut them back to nubbins. It looked like she was hurting the plant, but actually, she was helping the plant.

Pruning can feel like loss. Like harm. Like damage. It’s hard to do.

So we started talking about pruning. What in the life of the congregation was bearing fruit? What could we prune and make it more fruitful? What were some things that it was time for us to not do them anymore?

We’d been invited by the conference to be apart of an effort called Dinner Church. We prayed about it and went to meetings. It was about starting a new worship service based on meals. It was very clear. There was not one person in the congregation who felt like we were called to it. Ok, that’s not what we’re supposed to do.

Then we started to have conversations around some of our big efforts, including the Day 4 Hope back to school event. It takes thousands of dollars, 10 months to plan, over 200 volunteers.

We’ve been doing Day 4 Hope for 4 years and we came to the realization there was no fruit. It was absolutely good. It was good to give kids school supplies and the eye exams and the dental check and medical check, haircut, gift certificates, and photos.

We had not built any relationships with the families. We tried. The relationship with the school was at a standstill. Was it time to prune?

The missions team took some proposals to the leadership council and we had some hard conversations. We said, “Yes.” Yes, we are not called to do Dinner Church. Yes, it is time for the season of Day 4 Hope to come to an end.

It was at that moment I’m thinking, ok Lord, multi-system organ failure or pruning? What is it, Lord? In the midst of the leadership, I heard it’s time for pruning.

Please refer to the reaching ministries handout for the next portion of the message.

In our history, we are a generous people. We are generous with time, money, resources, love, grace, hope. It’s time to prune that generosity into something face to face. If we’re really honest, it’s so much easier to give money and stuff to someone else to do the ministry for us than to be face to face ourselves.

Bearing fruit, being fruit-full, means being face to face. Relationship building, skin in the game, a ministry of presence, faith in action, servant-hearted, choosing to be a hometown missionary.

We are the ones sent to this community. We are the branches. We have the fruit and so many others are in need of it.

Reaching Ministries

  • Trinity Preschool
  • Trinity Family Ministries
  • Partnership with Phillippi Shores Elementary School Teachers
  • GlorYoga
  • Brookdale Assisted Living on Swift
  • Fish of Sarasota- rides to doctor’s appointments

We are at a new season in our life here at Trinity.

John 15:4-5
4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing

In order to be fruit-full, we need this abiding. In this abiding, God removes every branch that bears no fruit. (Verse 2) We give thanks to God for removing our

  • Sin, Shame, Guilt
  • Prejudice, Evil, Injustice
  • Hate, Apathy, Isolation

It is removed so that the Holy Spirit can abide in us. So that something new can happen, we can bear more fruit.

More fruit in our character, the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control

Our lives are changed as we share the fruit we are bearing. We become fruit-full. It’s wonderful to help someone else do ministry but it does not excuse us from the calling God places on our lives to bear fruit ourselves. Our own calling.

What bears fruit is pruned to make it bear more fruit. (Verse 2) Our character is changed bearing the Fruit of the Spirit. Our community is changed as we bear the fruit of faith.

  • Things start going down- the crime rate, acts of violence, the unemployment rate
  • Things start coming up- the number of kids graduating, the number of kids who can read well, the number of people who have hope, the number of folks who place their trust in Jesus, the number of folks whose lives are changed.

The seeds bear fruit and there is a harvest. This is who we are. This who you are. This is who we can be. 

We’ve been talking about what it means to be resilient for weeks now. Now we’re at the point where the resilience begins to bear fruit.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

*****************
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 based on Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (2 Corinthians 5)

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Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 2 of 6: Green Eggs and Ham

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:14-20
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 1/27/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Dr. Seuss Trivia
1. What is the first Dr. Seuss book to be published? And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. It was rejected 27 times before it was finally published by Vanguard Press in 1937

Top 5 Best Selling Dr. Seuss Books

  • #5           Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990)
  • #4           Dr. Seuss’s ABC (1963)
  • #3           The Cat in the Hat (1957)
  • #2           One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (1960)
  • #1           Green Eggs and Ham (1960)

Bennett Cerf, Dr. Seuss’s editor, bet him that he couldn’t write a book using 50 different words or less. (The Cat in the Hat used 225 different words) He took the challenge and came up with Green Eggs and Ham, which uses exactly 50 different words.

The 50 words, by the way, are: a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.

green eggs and ham

Read of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.

Sam-I-am is…

  • Determined
  • Offering something good, believes it down to his bones
  • In it for the long game
  • Inventive
  • Creative
  • Joyfully Persistent

Joyful Persistence
Have you ever been determined to offer someone something good?

  • Would you, could you buy this house?
  • Would you, could you be my spouse?
  • Would you, could you eat your greens?
  • Would you claim sobriety?
  • Would you could you come to Why?
  • Or drive for Fish, give that a try?
  • Or serve our preschool families?
  • Or come to this week’s POV?

Sam I AmWhat if Green Eggs and Ham represented the Good News? What if all followers of Jesus Christ were as joyfully persistent as Sam? (Dr. Seuss did not intend this interpretation)

  • Would you, could you come to Christ?
  • Repent, be baptized, claim new life?

Sam takes his calling seriously – He goes, goes, goes therefore to make disciples of those who like green eggs and ham. He is convinced they are good. Sam is joyfully persistent in staying in relationship, offering, inviting, entreating. He is an ambassador for green eggs and ham. We are ambassadors for Christ.

What drives Sam to try again and again – what would drive us?

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For the love of Christ urges us on because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.

We understand resistance. Resistance to try new things, to understand a different perspective, to meet new people, to go to new places. Why does everything have to keep changing?

We know it takes time to open ourselves to something new. It takes many invitations before we say, “yes.” So why do we give up so quickly in offering something so needed and so good, a saving relationship with Jesus?

We know it takes many invitations, so let’s just expect it and do it. Let’s be joyfully persistent so others can know salvation in Christ Jesus.

Reading of 2 Corinthians 5:17-20  So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to usSo we are ambassadors for Christ since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

  • Go therefore and claim your call
  • Share Good News with one and all
  • Listen deeply, share your story,
  • Point to Christ for all the glory.
  • Try and try and try again
  • What’s there to lose, so much to win
  • Would you, could you come to Christ?
  • Repent, be baptized, claim new life?

***********
Green Eggs and Ham Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording: Shall, Making the Path (Isaiah 40)

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Message 4 of 5
Scripture: Isaiah 40:3-5
These are the notes from a message offered 11/4/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

Romans 5:1-5, The Path to Hope
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Isaiah 40:3-5, The Way to Make the Path
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Shall, by Lisa Degrenia
The time is now, for you have called, O God
The place is now, for you have spoken

Yes, it is a wilderness, a desert even
So dry, so rough, so uneven
Yes, the gap is so very wide between the high and the low

But, you have called
You have spoken
Not an if or when or maybe
Not even a try

You have spoken shall

Every valley shall be lifted
Every mountain shall be made low
The uneven shall be made level
The rough shall be made smooth

So we will persevere in this wilderness of preparing
We will not forge a path or blaze a trail but make a highway
A highway for your coming
For your glory, O God shall be revealed in this place
And all shall see it
All shall see it together

Book Recommendation: Canoeing The Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger

LEWIS AND CLARK AND THE MEN OF THE CORPS OF DISCOVERY

  • Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson in 1804 to find the Northwest Passage
  • Purpose: Commerce
    • Finding the route believed to connect the Missouri River with the Pacific would make commerce possible across the continent and the riches of Asia that lay beyond.
  • Purpose: Control
    • Whichever nation found the Norwest Passage first, and then controlled it, would control the destiny of the continent.

What they thought would happen:

  • Travel the Missouri River to its source
  • Over the next hill, they would find another river. They could then calmly coast to the Pacific Ocean because that’s the way the river would be flowing
  • What they found was the Rocky Mountains, mountains like they’d never seen. So high, so long, so steep. They were unprepared. Everything they had been told was absolutely wrong.

Lewis and Clark List of Hardships 

  • ANIMALS: Plagued by Mosquitoes and Small Pesky Flies. Encounters with Grizzly Bears
  • MISSOURI RIVER: Fighting against strong currents and shifting sandbars. Dangerous hazards caused by navigating rapids and obstacles in the water
    • Exhaustion from the daily grind of moving the heavy keelboat up the Missouri River that involved arduous rowing, pulling the keelboat through shallows using a rope from onshore (called cordelling) or pushing the heavy boat with long poles (poling)
      • The boats were not canoes but a keelboat (55 feet long, 22 oars at its sides, and a cannon mounted in the bow)
    • The Great Falls proved to be a difficult challenge. The men had to bypass the falls which involved carrying their canoes, supplies, and equipment all by hand for over 1 month
  • THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS: Later in the journey it was necessary to abandon travel by water and physically carry the boats. This process called portaging, proved to be very draining and extremely time
    • Traveling over harsh, tough terrain
    • The harrowing journey on the rough Lolo trail through the Bitterroot Mountains
  • WEATHER: Enduring extreme weather conditions such as intense, blistering heat, the bitter cold, blizzards, hailstorms, snow, and continuous rain
    • In the winter months, it was often difficult to find food
  • NATIVES: Confrontations with hostile Natives and Natives who were invaluable to their survival and success. (Sacagawea)
  • LENGTH OF THE TRIP: The outward journey and the return journey home covered over 7000 miles. May 14, 1804, to September 23, 1806 – two years, four months and ten days
    • As the journey progressed illnesses became an increasing problem
    • Hard to find supplies along the way

Their journey was nothing like what they expected. Everything they had been told was wrong. They were unprepared.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Somewhere you never expected? How does it feel to be that out of your element? That unprepared?

At that point, you have a decision to make. Lewis and Clark had a decision to make. You can turn around and go back. (Sometimes you can’t go back.) Or you can just stay where you are. Pitch a tent. Build a city. Or we can try to move forward. Off the map. Into the unknown.

Lewis and Clark decided to move forward. They adapted. They abandoned the boats, their safety net because they were no longer helpful. They were known for their skill on the water and now they would need to become hikers.

They moved forward. This is resilience, perseverance, endurance. Moving forward in the face of adversity. Moving forward in the face of the unknown. Moving forward in the face of suffering. Moving forward.

So many of us find ourselves in these positions. I did not expect to be here- divorced, fired, widowed, my family in multiple states, financial crisis…

So many of us did not expect to find ourselves in the face of the unknown but because of the grace of God, the power of God, the presence of God, we can move forward.

Lewis and Clark were able to move forward because

  • they made the decision to move forward
  • people came alongside them to move forward

We too can move forward. We can make the decision, we have people who will come alongside us, and we have God in Jesus Christ, the pioneer, and perfecter of our faith who is already out there ahead of us. For us, with us, behind us, before us, above us moving us forward.

I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Christianity is a movement. A movement forward. We are a pilgrim people.

Isaiah 40:3-5, The Way to Make the Path
A voice cries out: The voice is God shouting “Come on!”

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

This is what our God does. Our God moves that mountain so we can keep moving forward. Our God raises us up out of that valley so we can keep moving forward. Our God fills in the potholes so the rough places are made smooth. Our God takes those winding, curvy, rollercoaster-y ways and makes them smooth so we can move forward

It may not feel that way when we’re walking it. It may feel like a mountain high or a valley low or rough and twisty. But God is making a way where there seems to be no way.

This is resilience. Do you trust God to make a way where there seems to be no way? Trust God.

God is not only going to make a way for you, but God is also going to help you make a way for others. All of a sudden you’re going to find yourself a Sacagawea helping someone make their way.

It’s all grace. It’s all goodness. That’s the God we serve, we know, we love. That’s the God who saves us.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

*****************
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 based on Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss (1 Peter 1)

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Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 1 of 6: Horton Hatches the Egg

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3-7
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 1/20/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Why are Dr. Seuss books classics?

  • Rhythm and Rhyme
  • Inventive Illustrations
  • Universal Themes
  • Modern Parables- Stories with a deeper meaning. Those deeper meanings are often Biblical truths.

horton hatches the egg bookReading of Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss

Horton makes a courageous commitment. He remains faithful to that commitment even when doing so leads to

  • Frustration
  • Inconvenience
  • Pain
  • Sickness
  • Ridicule
  • Sacrifice
  • Threat of death
  • Sold into slavery

What breaks my heart is the return of Lazy Mayzie and her reclaiming the egg she abandoned. The story has a happy ending (Elephant Bird!) Even so, Horton would have remained true even without reward. He’s courageously committed.

“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent!”

Does anyone do this anymore? Have you ever made a Horton level commitment? What prevents you?

  • What if I commit to the wrong thing?
  • What if I miss out on something better? I’ll be trapped!
  • I’ve got plenty of time to make a commitment later
  • What if the commitment impacts the way I want to live my life like it did Horton?
  • As Lazy Mayzie says, “It’s work, how I hate it, I’d much rather play!”

Commitment is easy to come by when it is superficial, doesn’t cost us anything, temporary, or new. (How are those New Year’s resolutions going?) Commitment takes work. The work is to keep at it- day after day, year after year after year.

Eugene Peterson wrote a book entitled A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. It’s hard but it’s worth it.

Keys to Making a Horton Level Commitment. (Adapted from 5 Keys to Commitment by Ryan Dunn)

1) Define “The Why”, the deep reason for the commitment. I am committed to my sobriety because… I am committed to my marriage because… I am committed to starting this business because… I am a committed follower of Jesus Christ because…

2) Remember “The Why.” Keep it in front of you, especially when the commitment becomes hard work and sacrifice.

3) Live the commitment moment to moment. I’m going to eat healthy for the rest of my life. No! I’m going to make the best next faithful choice. Little choices add up to a big and lasting commitment.

4) Expect some failure. It will happen. Choose to fail forward: practice forgiveness, learn from the failure, keep showing up.

5) Don’t go it alone. We need the gift of each other and we need God.

Who can you think of who’s made a Horton level commitment? Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We think of the super saints. Ordinary people can make a Horton level commitment as well.

Have you made a Horton level commitment to Jesus?    

When we decide to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow Him, we become nothing more than fans.- Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan

Reading of 1 Peter 1:3-7. “The Why” of making a Horton level commitment to Jesus.

  • His great mercy
  • New birth
  • A living hope
  • Jesus already made a Horton level commitment to us in his coming, homelessness, ridicule, torture, death, and resurrection
  • an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. No situation or evil can touch it.
  • Salvation and Heaven
  • God’s protection

This is why we rejoice and keep to a courageous commitment in the midst of suffering and trials for the sake of Christ.

Have you made a Horton level commitment to Jesus? You can. Anyone can.   

  • Not a nominal Christian- in name only
  • Not a CEO (Christmas Easter only)
  • Not a commitment of convenience
  • Not a fair-weather Christian
  • Not a fan

WORSHIP RESOURCES
For Courage to do Justice by Alan Paton
O Lord,
open my eyes that I may see the needs of others;
open my ears that I may hear their cries;
open my heart so that they need not be without succor;
let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong,
nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
and use me to bring them to those places.
And so open my eyes and my ears
that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee.
Amen.

***********
Horton Hatches The Egg Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording: Faith Doubt and Lament (Psalm 130)

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Message 3 of 5
Scripture: Psalm 130
These are the notes from a message offered 10/28/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

This message and recording also include our annual All Saints Remembrance, where we thank God for our departed loved ones and friends, especially those who have helped us to find faith or grow in our faith. 

Resilience Series Review: Resilience isn’t so much bouncing back from adversity but moving forward in the midst of it. Romans 5 reminds us of the path to hope. Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

Psalm 130: 1-2, The Message. The author of this translation of the Bible died this week, Pastor Eugene Peterson.

Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.

When an old wound is triggering unhealthy responses, I seek the help of a counselor to address it. When life is overwhelming, it’s also helpful to speak with a spiritual director. A spiritual director asks, “How’s your soul? How’s your relationship with God during this situation?” After some prayerful listening, a spiritual director often suggests a spiritual practice to help you stay connected to God.

At a session a few months ago, after sharing, the spiritual director asked me if I practiced lament. I didn’t. I hadn’t even thought about the spiritual practice since seminary. I started practicing lament and it helped greatly.

Common Fears of Expressing our Anguish to God (Fear of practicing Lament)  

  • Appear weak. I have to be strong for myself and others.
  • Burden my loved ones and friends
  • Only increase my pain leading me down the path of despair rather than the path of hope. What if I can’t stop the floodgates once I get started?
  • Seems unfaithful to question, complain, doubt. It isn’t!

Lament in the Scriptures

  • We find laments from the beginning to the end of the Bible. From the ground crying out over the murder of Abel in Genesis to the martyrs crying out for justice in the book of Revelation.
  • 1/3 of the Psalms
  • The book of Job
    • Job 3:11 Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?”
  • The Old Testament Prophets often lament. The prophet Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet.
    • For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no healer there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? –  Jeremiah 8.21-22
    • If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.” (Jeremiah 9:1)
  • An entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations- written concerning the fall of Jerusalem

Jesus Lamented

  • Weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. Reminds us we can lament our personal pain.
  • Weeping over Jerusalem. Reminds us we can lament people not recognizing the gift of grace/salvation and the brokenness of society.
    • If they only knew the things that make for peace (Luke 19:42)
  • Weeping all night in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Crying out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.

Lament is not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God is real. God cares. God understands our pain. God can and wants to help. 

What is Lament?
“Lament is not despair.  It is not whining.  It is not a cry into a void. Lament is a cry directed to God. It is the cry of those who see the truth of the world’s deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace. It is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are.” – Emmanuel M. Katongole, Reconciling All Things, p. 78

We teach preschoolers how to pray using simple words. Help. Thanks. Wow! (praise) (A big shout out to Anne Lamott for her book of the same title). We need to also teach them Sorry (confession) to lament- Ouch! Us big kids need the same lessons.

How to Practice Lament

1. Rest

  • To lament, we must stop. Feel it fully. Recognize what we’re up against.
  • We medicate with activity. Busyness keeps us distant and the pain at bay.
  • Rest is “not an invitation to become unconcerned about the conflict and chaos in the world but to imagine that the salvation of the world does not ultimately depend upon us.”
  • Rest enables us to cease from grasping, grabbing, striving, trying to be God

2. Direct our cries to God

  • “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1)

3. Make your Complaint

  • express your anger, pain, heartache, sadness- Uncensored feelings
  • ask heartfelt questions
    • “How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:2-3)
    • I do not understand what is going on. This makes no sense. How long? Why?”
    • Questions can be more than requests for information, they can also be cries of pain.

4. Make Your Request

  • Describe the affliction. It might include rage against your enemies
  • Look toward me, and have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.  Put an end to my affliction and my suffering, and take away all my sins. Behold, my enemies are many, and they hate me violently. Preserve my life, and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. (Psalm 25:16-20)

5. Affirm your trust in God

  • God’s presence
  • God’s power in the past
  • The attribute/character of God
  • The promises of God that you’re thankful for and that you are claiming

Psalm 130:5-8           
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord!  For with the Lord, there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

*****************
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: The Path to Hope (Romans 5)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624
Growing in Resilience: When Suffering Stays
Message 2 of 5
Scripture: Romans 5:1-5
These are the notes from a message offered 10/21/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

Resilience isn’t so much bouncing back from adversity but moving forward in the midst of it

The Story of Asha Mevlana

Asha Mevlana cancerWhen Asha Mevlana was 24, she had a great job at a start-up, an apartment in New York’s SoHo, lots of friends, a beautiful head of hair, and a pearl-shaped problem in her left breast. She thought it was a cyst. Her mom had a cyst around the same age. It turned out to be breast cancer.

The defining moment of her suffering, however, wasn’t the diagnosis, or the biopsy, or the eight months of chemo, or her baldness. The life-altering moment came when her doctors announced that she was cancer-free.

Something had changed. Everyone around her had gone on blithely living their lives, talking about the crummy weather, the long lines at Starbucks, and American Idol. They seemed to value such inconsequential things, and she found herself yearning for a time when she did as well. Life seemed empty. She wasn’t religious, but she found herself praying: “Just give me a second chance and I’m going to change my life.”

Asha did. She took a new path. Asha risked leaving her safe job to pursue a lifelong dream of being a professional musician.

Asha now plays an electric 7-string viper violin. She’s toured with many well-known artists, played in the American Idol Band, appeared on The Tonight Show, the Ellen Show and the Grammy’s. She currently plays with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Asha Mevlana TSO

We often think suffering will end us. Instead, it can open us to a new path. For followers of Jesus, suffering is part of the path to hope: suffering to endurance to character to hope

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we are justified by faith…

Sin separates us from God. We cannot bridge the gap- no amount of good deeds, generous gifts to charity, kindness, rule following. We can’t get there in our own strength. God knows this and sends Jesus to bridge the gap. When we place our trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our Leader and Forgiver, we cross the bridge of faith. We are saved. Its Just-as-if-I’d never sinned. We are no longer separated from God. It is a gift of grace to be received. And there’s more…

Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

Those who are justified also receive peace, grace, the ability to stand before God and with God, and hope. We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. We have a future full of hope. The word “boast” (kauchometha) also means “rejoice” or “exalt in.”

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know, He holds the future and life is worth the living just because he lives. – Bill Gaither

Hope is not optimism

  • Optimism involves the expectation that things are eventually going to get better – we will bounce back
  • It’s easy to candy coat situations with Optimism
  • Hope is rooted in the real, in the truth
  • Hope asserts that no matter what may come, no matter how bad things may get, God’s word and promises will prevail
  • There is a hope in Christ located beyond our immediate circumstances
    • Example: A terminally ill patient may not be optimistic about the treatment he is undergoing but may remain hopeful that God keeps God’s promise of resurrection.

Romans 5:3
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, (what?!?!)

We do not boast/rejoice because we are suffering. We boast/rejoice in the midst of suffering. Suffering cannot squash our boasting/rejoicing because it is anchored in hope of the future.

  • A future sharing God’s glory
  • A future which transcends suffering
  • Suffering is temporary grace is eternal, salvation is eternal

Romans 8:31-32
31 … If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? … 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:3-5
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

And there’s more! Endurance, character, hope, love. There’s more than one kind of hope. A hope of the future and a hope of the now. Hope in things above and hope for things here below.

THE PATH TO HOPE: SUFFERING, ENDURANCE, CHARACTER, HOPE
God does not delight in suffering and God does not cause suffering. God’s presence and power bring good out of suffering. We can experience that goodness right now.

  • God creates a path from suffering to hope- suffering to endurance to character to hope
  • We can move forward down the path in the midst of the suffering
    • Moving forward with energy and motivation to act, to dare, to keep trusting
    • We can move forward with a sense of growth in resilience and resolve in the midst of the suffering
  • God is creating a greater and greater capacity in us for hope and for the outpouring of God’s love
    • Like a potter gently opening up the clay to make a vessel, God opens up our heart for God’s love to be poured in
    • This love isn’t sentimental and sweet. The love pouring in is Agape. It’s the sacrificial, resurrection, sin eating, death defeating, love of God in Christ which saves us is now.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;  struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

*****************
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: When Suffering Stays (2 Corinthians 12)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624
Growing in Resilience: When Suffering Stays
Message 1 of 5
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:6-10, The Voice
These are the notes from a message offered 10/14/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

CINDY CAGLIUSO’S TESTIMONY
As most of you know I work at the Central Florida Pregnancy Center. We accept donations of baby items. About 6 weeks ago a man came by with cases of formula. Of course, we accepted them. He went on medical mission trips to Africa, but the formula would expire before his next trip. After he left, we realized the formula was only for use in feeding tubes. We could not use it. We were disappointed. Ugh. Now to find a place for which to give it. I put the cases in the back room and figured I’d have to call around at some point to find a place to donate them….  

On Friday, October 12th, a caseworker called from Jacksonville. One of her clients had quickly moved to escape the hurricane and left with barely enough formula for her child for one day. They were living 2 towns over. She said the family had no money. Did we have any formula to give her – she needed feeding tube formula. WHAT???!!!! We were about to close for the night, but couldn’t imagine making the woman wait until Monday. 5 phone calls later and the very young woman came by and walked out with 8 cases of feeding tube formula for her child. I kept trying to tell both her and the caseworker “You don’t understand! We are not medical! We don’t carry this stuff – we took it in by mistake! This is God! God did this!” I told the executive director and she said: “I thought you got rid of that stuff.” I said “No! Why did we have this? Why did we take it?” – and she said, “Because God knew you would need it.”

Home from work late on a Friday after a long week. All of us had smiles on our faces. God is so good. God has provided for me personally in amazing ways this week. God loves us all. Those who know Him and those who don’t. Praise God!

It’s easy for us to think this is what life should be like all the time for the faithful. Everything working out for the best in powerful and miraculous ways. But life isn’t like that. When it isn’t, it’s easy for us to begin to question –  Is there something wrong with me? Am I doing something wrong? Is God fickle?

VIDEO: When God Doesn’t Make Sense from Explore God

Sometimes it’s easy to identify the why of our suffering. We’re experiencing the consequence of our own choices or we get caught in the backwash of someone else’s choice. Sometimes we don’t know why. It’s just the brokenness of this world.

RESILIENCE
Resilience as bouncing back from adversity, like a rubber ball

  • Easy for us to connect resilience with Restoration of what was lost
    • I lost my home in the hurricane, but I just have to hang in there till it’s rebuilt
    • 3 major Florida storms in 3 years:
      • Matthew (2016 to the Atlantic coast)
      • Irma (2017 to the southern Gulf Coast)
      • Michael (2018 to the panhandle)
  • Easy for us to connect resilience with Recovery like from an ailment
    • I broke my leg and just have to soldier on until it’s better

What if the house doesn’t get rebuilt? What if the leg doesn’t get better? (Like a rubber ball with no air) What if the suffering stays? What does that say about me and my faith, what does it say about God?

What if resilience isn’t so much about bouncing back, it’s about moving forward in the midst of adversity (Like tossing the ball. It works even if there’s no air in it. )

This is the resilience we the Apostle Paul talking about in 2 Corinthians 12:6-10.

  • Paul wrote most of the New Testament
  • Nurtured churches from Turkey in Asia Minor all the way to Italy on the other side of the Mediterranean
  • Had a face to face encounter with the Risen Christ
  • Experienced divine revelations of the mysteries of heaven
  • Paul had reason to boast, but he didn’t. He had every reason to experience the favor and blessing of God in a life without adversity, but he didn’t.

2 Corinthians 12:6, The Voice
6 So if I want to boast, I won’t do so as a fool because I will be speaking the truth. But I will stop there, since I don’t want to be credited with anything except exactly what people see and hear from me.

Paul only wanted people to see what he did in Jesus’ strength and hear his testimony of who Jesus is.

2 Corinthians 12:7-8, The Voice
7 To keep me grounded and stop me from becoming too high and mighty due to the extraordinary character of these revelations, I was given a thorn in the flesh—a nagging nuisance of Satan, a messenger to plague me! 8 I begged the Lord three times to liberate me from its anguish;

Paul was a man of extraordinary faith, courage, and fruitful service to Christ. Yet he had a “Thorn in the flesh.” Some think it may have been an eye problem, limp, bad temper, or even mean-spirited person constantly criticizing him. He describes it as anguish, a nagging nuisance. He also knew his thorn was not from God.

Paul prayed, no begged, three times for God to deliver him. Just like Jesus praying three times in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion. The answer for Paul and Jesus was the same – The suffering is staying. But…

2 Corinthians 12:9-10, The Voice 
9 and finally God said to me, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on—I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me. 10 I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong.

God’s grace is sufficient! God’s power is made perfect in our weakness!            

Paul came to see God doing good in the midst of the thorn

  • It kept Paul humble and close to God
  • It made for an even greater testimony because people could easily see Paul couldn’t do it in his own strength
  • The affliction didn’t leave but Paul became resilient in Christ.

God’s grace is sufficient! God’s power is made perfect in our weakness!

Paul continues to move forward in the midst of adversity (2 Corinthians 11)

  • 5 times flogged, 39 lashes each
  • Beaten with rods
  • tried to stone him to death
  • Shipwrecked- over 24 hours in the water
  • Robbed
  • Hunger and thirst
  • Cold and nakedness
  • Constant persecution and debating from those who oppose Jesus
  • Care of all the church

Does Paul or Jesus wait till everything’s right before continuing their mission? No!

Does anyone doubt Paul’s faith or Jesus’s faith because they experience suffering? No!

Does anyone doubt God is at work in powerful ways in Paul’s life or Jesus’ life because they experienced opposition? No!

No one doubts you either!         

God’s grace is sufficient! God’s power is made perfect in our weakness!

Lay aside the excuse of “I’ve got to get my act together first” and move forward with Christ

  • Say yes to placing your trust in Jesus
  • Say yes to a commitment to Christ
  • Say yes to baptism
  • Say yes to joining that small group
  • Say yes to stepping out with Christ to serve
  • Say yes to sharing your need with others

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NRSV         
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed

In Christ we are resilient!

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