Be the Beatitude, Be the Blessing (Matthew 5)

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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.

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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.

The Ladder of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

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Sermon Series: The Beatitudes, God’s Surprising Blessing
Message 3 of 4: The Ladder of the Beatitudes
Scripture:  Matthew 5:1-7
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 9/8/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Yes, this message was preached while climbing a ladder. 🙂

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 are cheering and praying for them in the top left corner. The faithful are cheering and praying for them in the bottom right corner.

You’ll also see shadowy demons trying to pull them and tempt them so they will off the ladder. At the bottom is the face of the devil- big, blue, cold, eating one of the monks who’s fallen.

Jim Forest sees this painting and thinks- that ladder is like the Beatitudes. We climb the beatitudes, one after another, and it brings us closer and closer to being like Jesus, seeing things like Jesus, and following him in his saving work. The Beatitudes are the natural progression of a faithful life.

Step 1: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

  • There’s nothing I can say or do or give to earn my salvation
  • I come to God as a spiritual beggar, I have nothing to offer God
  • I recognize my need and turn to Jesus. “Jesus, I am in need of forgiveness and salvation. I place my trust in you as my Lord and Savior.”
  • When I do, I receive the gift of salvation and the Kingdom. I’m now an heir, a child of the King.

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • You’ve got to earn your salvation. Get good to get God.
  • If I believe this, I misstep. I’m not even on the ladder.
  • Truth- Jesus save me. I cannot save myself.

Step 2: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted

  • I stop trying to save myself and take a good look at myself
  • I get honest about what a mess I am
  • I mourn my mess- my sin, my poor choices, things said and done, things left unsaid and undone. How I’ve hurt myself, others, God.
  • I mourn and I surrender the burden of my guilt to God.
  • I confess and I receive forgiveness.
  • “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9
  • The burden of my guilt is lifted and I’m comforted

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • Mourning means to keep beating myself up over my sins and mistakes. I must continue to carry that guilt and shame like a cross.
  • Truth- Jesus took the beatings and carried the cross so I wouldn’t have to.

Step 3: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth

  • Meekness is strength under authority
  • I recognize I am powerful. I am strong, talented, resourced. I am filled with the Holy Spirit. I have a calling upon my life. God empowers me and gifts me in order to live out this call.
  • I recognize this and own it and place all my strength under Christ’s authority. “All that I am and all that I have I give to you and to your service. You are God and I am not.”
  • Jesus says, “You are ready to join me in the great adventure of going out and saving the world because you are now meek.”
  • That’s what it means to inherit the earth. We join Jesus in saving and blessing, in being generous and kind and light.

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • Meekness is about being in control, never take a risk, institutionalized, quiet, timid, shy, passive, a wimp, a doormat
  • Truth- Jesus says, “Let’s go! It’s an adventure out there!”

The higher I get, the stronger I hold on to the ladder! We start climbing the ladder and things start looking different. We’re getting closer to Jesus and closer to heaven. We’re getting a new perspective and we realize we can’t do this without Jesus and so we hold on really tight. 

Step 4: Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

  • Hunger and Thirst = Appetite, Longing, Craving
  • This is the beatitude of passion. The beatitude of fire. The overwhelming longing that life should be on earth as it is in heaven.
  • Jesus Christ doesn’t say
    • Blessed are those who think it would be a good idea if we all got along
    • Blessed are those who have a heart for peace in our world
    • Blessed are those who think righteousness is a good idea
  • Hungering and thirsting for righteousness– a right relationship with God, with others, between others, with ourselves, with creation
  • Jesus says blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
    • people who want what is right as urgently as a person in the desert wants a glass of water, as a child in a refugee camp cries desperately for a crust of bread.
    • When we hunger and thirst for the things of God, we are filled

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • Something else will fill us. We are fooled and cheated by Unworthy Appetites. We pour all our passion into something that doesn’t last, doesn’t satisfy, and doesn’t fill us

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • Our passion and fire for righteousness gets twisted, becomes destructive. We fight fire with fire.
  • We start trying to fix people and force people to do what we believe is right.
  • That’s how you get the Crusades, Jihad, Spanish Inquisition, people burning each other at the stake. None of this is of God.

That’s why we have step 5: Blessed are merciful, for they will receive mercy

  • When I was hurting people what did I need most in the world in order to change? I needed mercy.
  • We remember where we’ve been. We remember our spiritual poverty and our need for forgiveness and grace. We remember we needed mercy and that’s exactly what God gave us.
  • I received mercy. I know what it can do. I am now mercy-full and can pass it along to others.

What do you hunger and thirst for?  

Where is God calling you to not only spread righteousness with your passion and your joy but also spread mercy with your openness and your grace and your peace?

We remember we’re spiritual beggars. We’ve found some bread. Won’t you come for the bread, too? It’s all about invitation. Won’t you come and sit with me? Won’t you come and walk with me? Won’t you come to see what I have seen?

Prayer– God we thank you for the fire of the Holy Spirit which gives us passion, grace, and a calling upon our life. God, we thank you for mercy which keeps things in perspective so we don’t hurt people while we’re trying to help them. God, fill us with hungering and thirsting and God fill us with mercy, that we may be fully yours and join you in this great adventure of saving the world. We need you Jesus and we love you. We pray that everything we do gives you honor and glory and draws people close to you. Amen.

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The Ladder of the Beatitudes © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Blessed are the Meek, a Sermon from The Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

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Sermon Series: The Beatitudes, God’s Surprising Blessing
Message 2 of 4: Blessed are the Meek
Scripture:  Matthew 5:1-5
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 9/1/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Read Matthew 5:1-5
The beginning of the Beatitudes at the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Jim’s Ride from The Man from Snowy River
One of my favorite movies growing up was The Man from Snowy River. In this movie, a rich Australian rancher buys a prize Arabian stallion. One day the stallion escapes and joins a mob of wild horses. The rancher rounds up as many hands as possible and the chase begins- thundering hooves shake the majestic Australian hills. Faster and faster they race until the mob bolts down a steep embankment. Let’s see what happens next…

The trained horses and riders will not follow the mob down the steep embankment. They stop. They know better. They call it a day.

Suddenly, one horse and rider blazes past the group and down the hill after the mob. (It’s one of the most exciting horse sequences ever filmed.) It’s our hero- Jim Craig.

He and his horse are not afraid. They move as one, a powerful team. They are strong. All watch amazed at what they can do together. The chase continues and in the end, Jim brings in all the wild horses.

How would you describe Jim and his horse?
They are one, synced, inseparable
Fearless, beautiful, strong

Man from snowy river jim horse

Together, Jim and his horse are a perfect example of meekness.

When you hear the word meek what comes to mind:
Quiet, shy, timid
Passive, Wimp, Doormat

We’ve lost the actual definition of the word “meek” and we must reclaim it. In Greek word for “meek,” praus, is used to describe a wild animal whose power was now disciplined for work, strength under authority.

We know we are at our best when we are disciplined and accountable:
You work with a coach and your game improves
There’s a reason why Weight Watchers and AA and Disciple Bible Study works
The structure makes us stronger- it’s a gift
We’re stronger together

The Natural Progression of the Beatitudes at work in a life

Blessed are the poor in spirit  
There’s nothing I can say or do or give to earn my salvation
I come as a spiritual beggar, I have nothing to offer God
I am in need of forgiveness and salvation. I know what I need.
I place my trust in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I receive the Kingdom
I’m now an heir, a child of the King

Matthew 5:3
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn  
I stop trying to save myself
I take a good look at myself
I get honest about what a mess I am
I mourn my mess- my sin, my poor choices
Things said and done, and left unsaid and undone
How I’ve hurt myself, others, God.
I mourn. I surrender my burden to God.
I confess. I receive forgiveness.
The burden of my guilt is lifted and I’m comforted

Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek  
Yes I am a spiritual beggar
Yes I am honest about my sin and need of forgiveness

If we stopped at this point, it would make sense to claim we are wimps and doormats. But if we stop here, we wouldn’t have the whole truth.

We must also recognize we are powerful
I am strong, gifted, talented, resourced

I place everything I have and everything I receive from the Holy Spirit, all my strength, under God’s authority. All that I am and all that I have I give to you and to your service. You are God and I am not. You be Jim, I’ll be the horse.

Matthew 5:5
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Snowy River Metaphors
Before we place our trust in Jesus we’re like the mob of horses- wild, rebellious, destructive, undisciplined. For some of us, we look wild and do wild things. For others, we may not look that way on the outside, but that’s what’s going on on the inside. We are unsettled, anxious, struggling.

After we place our trust in Jesus we grow to be like Jim and his horse. Strength under authority. One with God. Moving in concert with God. All of a sudden there’s direction to this power, direction to this talent.

We are more than we are by ourselves because we are one with God. We begin to understand we can be courageous, we can risk for the glory of God and the common good.

The last thing Jesus wants is for you to start following him and you become like the ranch horses- too safe, too careful, too tame, whipped, broken, timid, institutionalized.

That’s not meekness. That’s not who we really are.

All this talk of poverty of spirit and mourning our sin might make us think being a Christian is about being a wimp- passive, timid, doormat.

No! God is calling us to a life of adventure. We recognize we cannot save ourselves. We recognize we can hurt others and hurt ourselves. We place our strength under the authority of Jesus and now we are ready to join Jesus in the adventure of saving the world.

We’re in the right heart space to do it.

We’re ready to go where Jesus leads, in the way Jesus leads
Loving our enemies
Welcoming the outsider
Ending prejudice and oppression
Speaking the truth in love            ‘
Generous, sacrificial, joyful,
Compassionate, empathetic,
Powerful, and humble

We are now ready to be meek

2 Timothy 1:7
for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said:
The meek love their God so much that they desire to obey even the least command that he gives, simply out of love to him. The meek in spirit are like a photographer’s sensitive plates, and as the Word of God passes before them, they desire to have its image imprinted upon their hearts.

Where are you strong and powerful? How are you bringing that strength under God’s authority and leading? So you may be one and join Jesus in the great adventure of the saving of the world.

The message ends with the prayer before Holy Communion.

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Beatitudes Sermon, Blessed are the Meek © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

7 Prayers for General Conference 2019

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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 based on Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss (Matthew 23)

sermon series dr seuss 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 4 of 6: Yertle the Turtle

Scripture: Matthew 23:1-12
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/10/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

How do you define power?

  • I can do anything I want whenever I want with whoever I want with no consequences. No, this isn’t even possible.
  • Our actions and words are always tied to others. They ripple.
  • Power is Influence

Everyone has some power and influence. We’re all interconnected and it all ripples. It might be massive or small or somewhere in-between

  • Imagine the power and influence of a world leader next to a teacher
  • an inventor
  • a farmer
  • a parent/grandparent
  • an author
  • a police officer
  • a child

Who influenced you?

  • A family member, a teacher, a coach
  • Maybe someone you never met. Someone you read about in a book or they wrote a book or created a piece of art which influenced you.

Power is influence. Others are using their power which is flowing towards us and we are using our power which is flowing towards others.

How will you use your power and influence?

Reading of Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Suess  

yertle the turtle collage

How will you use your power?

  • Think about how one person has the power to bring goodness, healing, and change
    • Like little Mack’s burp
    • Sometimes we think “I don’t have the power of the leader of a company or city or nation.” You have power. Often it’s the little things done with great love which change the world.
    • Example: Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus because it was an injustice and how it rippled through an entire system of injustice
    • Examples: Mr. Rogers, Gandi, Dr. Seuss
  • Think about how one person has the power to bring pain, injustice, oppression, and harm. How one person’s actions can ripple through a family, a school, a community, or even the world.
    • Yertle is modeled after Hitler

Yertle the Turtle is such a simple story and yet it beautifully contrasts the power of one. The power of one to do good in Mack using his voice, in doing a small thing which ends an injustice. Yertle using his power and twisting it something it was never meant to be.

Power is a good gift of God. It is neither good nor bad. It is a gift. How will you use the gift? Will you use it for good, healing, grace, and hope or will you twist it into something it was never meant to be.

Jesus had a great deal to say about this. We’ll read one the times he spoke about it.

Matthew 23:1-7 
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.

  • Jesus had many encounters with the scribes (lawyers), Pharisees and rabbis (teachers), and priests (clergy)
  • One way to twist the gift of power is to twist it with hypocrisy. You lay down the rules but you are above them and don’t have to practice them yourself. How frustrating and unjust.

4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.

  • Power misused brings burdens on others.

5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.

  • Practicing faith in order to be seen, to show off
  • Self-centered, prideful, arrogant
  • Demanding respect, demanding the place of honor

C.S. Lewis Quote from Mere Christianity
As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.

Proverbs 16:18
Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Jesus is saying there is another way to wield the good gift of power. Look at the way Jesus wielded power himself. Look at the humility of Jesus, the grace, the welcome.

Jesus wielding his power to heal. Jesus wielding his power to give voice to those who have no voice. Wielding his power to be in solidarity with people others had labeled outcast, insignificant, and other.

Jesus wielding his power as a servant, never demanding title or position. Jesus wielding his power to the point of death, the point of blood and torture and sacrifice and generosity and wielding his power to take up his life again in resurrection.

This is the other way to use the good gift of power and influence.

Matthew 23:8-12 
Jesus said: 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Jesus said, “I have not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

How will you use your gift of power and influence? 
Will you let go of your ego? Will you let go of your willfulness and surrender wholly to God’s self-giving passion for the love and salvation of the world?

Will you take up your cross for the oppressed, the outcast, those yet to follow Christ?

Will you carry in your heart and prayers the sorrow of another?

Will you speak truth? Will you stand alongside those the world labels do not count and have no voice?

Will you mentor?

Will you welcome?

Will you use your power and influence for good and for the glory of God?

Little things can make a huge difference if they are done with love and grace. If they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Worship Resources
An Invitation to Christ by Dimitri of Rostov
Come, my Light, and illumine my darkness.
Come, my Life, and revive me from death.
Come, my Physician, and heal my wounds.
Come, Flame of divine love, and burn up the thorns of my sins
kindling my heart with the flame of thy love.
Come, my King, sit upon the throne of my heart and reign there.
For you alone are my King and my Lord.

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Yertle the Turtle Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.