Sermon Recording – Looking Forward (Luke 2.22-38)

looking forward

Message: Looking Forward
Scriptures: Luke 2:22-38
Offered 1/7/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

How do we stay looking forward, especially when the pull to the past is so strong? How do we look forward when we’re feeling stuck in our present reality? How do we run the race of faith with perseverance and finish well? How do we stay open, expectant and eager for God’s next step for us?

We duly celebrated at his birth… with the star we ran, with the magi we worshiped, with the shepherds we were enlightened, with the angels we glorified him, with Simeon we took him up in our arms, and with the chaste and aged Anna we made our responsive confession. – Gregory of Nazianzus

Who are Simeon and Anna? We meet them between Jesus’ birth and the arrival of the Wise Ones. Jesus is about 6 weeks old. Mary and Joseph bring him to Jerusalem for the traditional sacrifices/rituals associated with the birth of a firstborn son and the purification of a new mother. While there, the family encounters two senior citizens, let’s call them seasoned saints. They’re Biblical models of persevering faith and looking forward. Their trust in God and attention to spiritual practices kept them open, expectant, and longing for the promised Messiah.

Anna and Simeon
1. Are Righteous and Devout
Righteous = Right relationship with God, others, themselves, earth. They live a cross-shaped life long before the cross. Righteous describes their being.

Devout = Devoted. This describes their doing. They are intentional about staying open to the presence of God. You prioritize what you’re devoted to. What are you devoted to? If you want to know just check your calendar and your checkbook.

Martin Luther put it this way, “Show me where a man spends his time & money, and I’ll show you his god.”

Persevering/Long-Haul faith doesn’t just happen. It takes intentionality and consistency, like preparing for the Olympics. Consistent spiritual practices keep us open to God’s presence, strengthen our resolve, keep us looking forward.
Anna and Simeon are looking for God and looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises.

2. The Holy Spirit rests on them
This is a result of their faith and practices. It’s so clear it’s repeated three times in the passage. (verses 25-27)

What spiritual practices are you using to stay open to God’s presence, so the Holy Spirit will rest on you? (prayer, scripture reading, fasting, Sabbath, tithing, serving, etc.) These practices are timeless. They’re the same practices used by Anna and Simeon.

3. Looking forward
As a result of their faith and practices, Anna and Simeon anticipate and expect God to move and act. They have tremendous faith and trust in God. They have perspective, keeping a right proportion between looking forward and looking back like a car’s windshield and rearview mirror.

4. Looking forward to the consolation of Israel
Anna and Simeon move beyond “what’s in it for me” faith to a bigger picture. Me to We. (Again consider a car’s windshield) They’ve embraced the very heart of God, that the Messiah would bring salvation for all people. This helps them to finish well.

Simeons’s Song, Luke 2:29-32
Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.

All of this is available for us as well.

Prayer
Holy Spirit, as you rested on Simeon and Anna, so rest on me
Keep me expectant and open to your appearing
Make me a model of your compassion and wisdom
Make me a sign of your persevering grace and transforming power

Holy Spirit, rest on me
Keep my eyes clear, open, looking forward
Fill me with anticipation of you fulfilling your promises
Keep me trusting in your goodness and victory for the world

Save me from despair and falsehood
Grant me true perspective and faith
Keep me looking forward
Not just for myself, but for the greater good, for all
Take me beyond me to the fullness of your heart and plan
For you prepare salvation for all people,
The Jews and the Gentiles
The insiders and the outsiders
We all need you and we can all be saved. Hallelujah!

Holy Spirit touch me
Cleanse me
Enlighten me
Fill me
Strengthen me
Reveal to me
Rest on me
Amen

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

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

Jesus, the Coming Messiah- Teacher and Comforter (Isaiah 50, Matthew 4)

Jesus, The Coming Messiah
Jesus, The Coming Messiah: Advent Readings from Old Testament to New
December 15: The Messiah as Teacher and Comforter
Readings: Isaiah 50:4-11; Matthew 4:23-24

Isaiah 11:1-10, The Voice
The Lord, the Eternal, equipped me for this job— with skilled speech, a smooth tongue for instruction. I can find the words that comfort and soothe the downtrodden, tired, and despairing. And I know when to use them.

Matthew 4:23-24, The Voice
And so Jesus went throughout Galilee. He taught in the synagogues. He preached the good news of the Kingdom, and He healed people, ridding their bodies of sickness and disease. Word spread all over Syria, as more and more sick people came to Him. The innumerable ill who came before Him had all sorts of diseases, they were in crippling pain; they were possessed by demons; they had seizures; they were paralyzed. But Jesus healed them all.

Prayer
Hallelujah to Jesus!
The Word spoken in creation
So we would know light and new life

Hallelujah to Jesus!
The Word made flesh
So we would know grace and truth

Hallelujah to Jesus!
The Word of Divine Comfort
Who hears our cries and draws near

You hear and you bear
You bear our disgrace and shame
You bear our burdens and disease

No one, no thing, no situation
Can stand against you
You, Eternal One, Eternal Word
You persevere while they come to an end

You
Our Savior
Our Sustainer
Our Shelter
Our confidence is in you

The next devotion will focus on Jesus’ suffering, which is also a major theme in Isaiah 50:4-11.

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Thank you for setting aside times this Holy Season to seek the One we celebrate.

Jesus, The Coming Messiah is an Advent Bible Reading Plan highlighting the Old Testament prophesies and passages which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus.

As you read each passage, consider how this description of Jesus the Messiah reveals his character, motivation, and purpose. How does this description inspire you to trust Jesus and his promises? How will you apply and share what you have discovered? I look forward to your comments.

If you’re in Sarasota, please drop by Trinity United Methodist Church for one of our seasonal events or services or just to say, “Hi.” You’re always welcome and wanted.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas! – Lisa <><

The Messiah as Teacher and Comforter © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayers, Quotes, and Reflections on Gratitude

Gratitude by Donna Betts

Psalm 118:28-29
You are my God, and I will praise you;
You are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
His love endures forever.

Start here by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Those mornings when you wake up burdened,
already thinking Oh why bother,
start here:

thank God for one thing.

One person whom you love will do,
though even a remarkable coincidence is acceptable.
You don’t even need to go into peaches,
the color blue, or migratory birds,
or a child’s laugh you heard the other day,
let alone the angelic speech of nerve synapses
or the inscrutable ballet of spiral galaxies,
or God’s outlandish love for you.

Just one thing to give thanks for.

Then resolve to live the day
in adequate gratitude for that one thing,

and begin.

Prayers, Quotes, and Reflections on Gratitude
Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, – a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.
~George Herbert

What does the Lord require of followers? The Lord requires gratitude. And for those of us in the Christian tradition, Jesus wants our gratitude to increase more and more until, like a holy flame, it burns within us and we burst into songs and deeds of thankfulness to God and neighbor. To express genuine gratitude to God, our deeds must demonstrate our love, trust, and service. – Beauty Maenzanise

When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking God for being so generous to you. If you drink wine (or coffee), be mindful of God who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank God for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who ordered things this way. When the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love and praise their Creator. – Basil the Great

Resentment indicates we are still trying to fill the emptiness with something we think we deserve. Gratitude is the sign that God has filled the hole; indeed, that God has become the Whole in Whom we live, move, and have our being. – Steve Harper

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. -John F. Kennedy

It is literally true, as the thankless say, that they have nothing to be thankful for. He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as if he had no fire. Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient.
~W.J. Cameron

Jesus calls us to gratitude. He calls us to recognize that gladness and sadness are never separate, that joy and sorrow really belong together, and that mourning and dancing are part of the same movement. That is why Jesus calls us to be grateful for every moment that we have lived and to claim our unique journey as God’s way to mold our hearts to greater conformity with God’s own. The cross is the main symbol of our faith, and it invites us to find hope where we see pain and to reaffirm the resurrection where we see death. The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads us to new life.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen, A Spirituality of Living

Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all. ~William Faulkner

Grateful living: an alchemic operation of converting “disgraceful” things into grateful events. ~ Raimundo Panikkar

How to practice gratitude? Research shows that those who keep a simple gratitude journal felt happier, more optimistic, and even slept better at night. Renowned psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman guarantees that if you (a) write a 300-word letter to someone who changed your life for the better, (b) hand-deliver it to the recipient, (c) read it out loud to them, then “You will be happier and less depressed one month from now.” – reposted from Daily Good

In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. – Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others.
~Marcus Tullius Cicero

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Be sure to check out Nadia Bolz Weber’s sermon, Thank You (a sermon), on the classic gratitude text, Luke 17:11-19, Jesus healing ten lepers.

Focus Me, a prayer based on Philippians 4

philippians4-8thinkontheseBased on Philippians 4:6-9

Almighty God,
Most powerful, most near, most good
I surrender my worries to you
I have asked, you will supply
I have made my needs and desires known
You will bring goodness and mercy

Thank you for your steadfast love and faithfulness
Thank you for your saving power
Thank you for grace upon grace

Your peace surpasses all need and understanding
Guard my heart with your peace
Guard my mind with your peace
Guard me now and always in Christ Jesus my Lord, the Prince of Peace.

Focus my attention and hope on your goodness, your truth, your honor, your justice. All are at work in your world.

Focus my attention and hope on your goodness, your purity, your delight, your commending. All are at work in your world.

Focus my attention and hope on your goodness, your excellence, your praise. All are it work in your world.

All are at work in me, my situation, this very moment.

Focus my attention, my power, my resources to keep doing all you show me to be right, for you are with me, God of Peace and Hope.

Focus me on your promises that I may persevere, no matter the season or situation, for the building of your kingdom and the glory of your name. Amen.

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Focus Me © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Expectant, a prayer for greater faith

Holy One
You are at work, your saving work
Help me to trust this truth and to live expectantly

Expecting to see people come to faith
Growing in faith

Expecting to see people freed from poverty,
Delivered of disease
Making sacrifices for the greater good

Expecting to see prayers answered
Jobs found
Bills paid

Expecting to see wars end
Corruption abandoned
Justice and opportunity abounding

Expecting to see lives unshackled from addiction
Families made whole
Neighborhoods and Nations open
and welcoming
and hope-full

You make the crooked straight and the rough places a plain
You make a way when there seems to be no way

Give me eyes to see
A heart full of faith
Lips quick to testify in thanksgiving and praise

Glory, Glory Hallelujah to our God on high!
Glory, Glory Hallelujah to our God with us!
Amen!

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Expectant, a prayer for greater faith © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Overwhelmed, a prayer for times of great need

Quotefancy-1754147-3840x2160I am standing with you in love and prayer as the storm comes. Jesus stands with you, too- protecting you, strengthening you. You are safe with Jesus. Nothing can separate you from his saving love and mighty power.

It is likely the storm will interrupt our ability to speak with each other. I will be faithful to pray and to write. Thank you for your prayers. God brought us together and God will bring us together again. Hallelujah! God is steadfast and faithful and strong to save.
Your sister and servant in Christ, Lisa <><

Lord Jesus, fill us with your faith and courage
so we are never overwhelmed by great needs
but rather overwhelmed with your great grace
Your great strength
Your great compassion
Your great presence
Your great hope
Fulfill your gifts of greatness in great and good works
for the honor and glory of your name
for the saving of lives
for the redemption of your world
Amen

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Overwhelmed, a prayer for times of great need © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Calm the Storm in Me (Mark 4.35-41)

hurricane-irma-satellite-noaa-ht-jc-170905_12x5_992

A satellite image of Hurricane Irma released by NOAA

In a group setting, the words in regular print are spoken by one voice and the words in bold print are spoken by all.

When the waves rise high above our ability to see your face…
Still my soul, Lord Jesus,
Calm the storm in me

When the howling wind and the pouring rain drown out the sound of your voice…
Still my soul, Lord Jesus,
Calm the storm in me

When the thunder and the lightning distract us from Your presence in every circumstance…
Still my soul, Lord Jesus,
calm the storm in me
that I may re-member in your presence
that I may be light in the chaos
that I may be of use to you in your saving and restoring work

Calm the Storm in Me by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, based on Mark 4:35-41
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Calm the Storm in Me © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.