Blessing College Students as They Leave for School

student college dorm

Blessing College Students as They Leave for School
We offer this blessing during worship the second Sunday in August. This is usually the last Sunday our college students are in worship before they return to school.

The students are invited to stand where they are seated. (Option: If the congregation is small enough, the students could be introduced at this time and/or given a gift.) The rest of the congregation is then invited to stand and lay a hand of support and blessing on the student closest to them.

Option: The blessing may begin with an invitation for the congregation to offer their own prayers for the students silently or aloud. The following prayer concludes the time of blessing.

ONE: Holy One,
Bless and protect these college students
as they leave us to begin another school year.

Keep them encouraged and full of hope.
Surround them with godly influences and opportunities.

Fill them with discernment,
that they may remain focused, disciplined and far from foolishness.

Grant these students the mind of Christ-
that they may grow in your wisdom and truth
that they may serve with both power and compassion
that they may carry your light throughout their campuses

Thank you for these students
and for providing the resources for them to continue their education.
Thank you for family members, friends, teachers, and coaches
who have mentored and supported them so that this day might be possible.
Thank you for creating us with the capacity to think, speak, discover and reason.
We rejoice in these good gifts from you and give you the honor and glory for them.

Receive our thanks and extend your blessing in the name of Jesus,
who saves us and leads us and teaches us to pray…

Finish with all praying The Lord’s Prayer

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Blessing College Students as They Leave for School © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

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

 

Why you should memorize Numbers 6.24-26, The Priestly Blessing

priestly blessing Numbers 6

Chuck Swindoll wrote, “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified” (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, 61).

What a powerful reminder of the benefits to memorizing scripture. Let’s add one more, especially regarding Numbers 6:24-26. You will always have something to offer when its time to pray out loud. 

Many people are terrified of praying out loud. Some are scared of public speaking, but far more are concerned they won’t choose the right words, or say them in the right way. (That’s a whole discussion for another blog post!)

Numbers 6:24-26 is an ancient, timeless blessing packed with rich, deep meaning.

Asked to say grace before a meal? Use Numbers 6:24-26.

Asked to say a few words for a graduation, anniversary, birthday, retirement, or other celebration? Use Numbers 6:24-26.

Use it when someone just shared their troubles with you.
When someone is ill or headed for a medical test.
At the birth or adoption of a child.
When its the last time you’ll see a dear one before a move or a trip…

It’s always the right thing to say because its a blessing straight from God’s Word. 

The easiest way to always have Numbers 6:24-26 at the ready is to memorize it. Then you can look the person in the eye, and offer the blessing with every ounce of your being.

Numbers 6:24-26 (NRSV)
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

The Meaning of Numbers 6:24-26
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;

  • May the Lord constantly bring good into your life
  • May the Lord protect you and guard all that is sacred and precious about you

25 The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

  • Imagine how a person’s face lights up when they hold a baby. God’s face shines on you in the same way. This is a reminder that God delights in you. May you know how beloved you are.
  • Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting better than what we deserve. We all need grace. Grace upon grace.

26 The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

  • Imagine you walk into a room and a person is working at a computer. She stops what she’s doing and looks up at you, giving you her full attention. God is fully attentive to you. God is here, already at work, already reaching out to you, already loving you.
  • May you know God’s presence and peace

Fun Facts: In ancient times, God through Moses instructed Aaron and his sons to give this blessing to God’s people. Aaron and his sons served God’s people as priests, thus the name priestly blessing. This blessing is still used today by both Christians and Jews.

HOW TO MEMORIZE SCRIPTURE
Dr. Andrew Davis memorizes entire books of the Bible. In his free, online memorization method booklet, he says, “Saying a verse one hundred times in one day is not as helpful as saying it every day for one hundred days. The absolute key to successful Scripture memorization is repetition over a long time period. This is how you retain old verses while learning new ones.”

Applying Dr. Davis’ method to Numbers 6:24-26

  • Day 1
    • Read Numbers 6:24 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 2:
    • Recite Number 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Read Numbers 6:25 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:25 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 3:
    • Recite Number 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Recite Numbers 6:25 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Read Numbers 6:26 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:26 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 4
    • Recite Numbers 6:24-26 from memory and continue to do so daily.

Other helpful memorization techniques

  • Write the scripture you want to memorize several times for several days
  • Post the scripture where you will see it often- on your refrigerator, on your bathroom mirror, in your planner, on your calendar, etc.
  • Make up a tune or find a tune so you can sing the scripture. If you aren’t a singer, say the scripture rhythmically.
  • Create hand motions or use American Sign Language to help you remember the scripture.

What other scriptures have you memorized and how have you found it helpful?

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Why you should memorize Numbers 6:24-26 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern, incorporating verses of America the Beautiful

mlk prayer pilgrimage

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the 1957 ‘Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom’.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern
ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, first verse

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

ONE:
Lord of All,
As we draw near another Independence Day,
we confess our dependence on you.
Thank you for extending abundance, mercy, and protection
to our nation through the years.
Every resource, freedom, and opportunity we have is a good gift from you.
Without you, we are lost.

ALL:
In humility, we seek your face.
In repentance, we turn from our ungrateful, destructive and selfish ways.
In faith, we call on your power to forgive our sin and heal our land.

ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, second verse

O beautiful for heroes prov’d in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country lov’d, and mercy more than life.
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness and ev’ry gain divine.

ONE:
Pour out your Holy Spirit on those who govern our land,
Leaders of our nation, our state, and our community
and all who are running for office.

Grant them a love of justice.
Open their minds with wisdom and compassion,
so all people may be treated fairly and with dignity.

Open their ears to the cries of the desperate and powerless
so cycles of poverty, disease, and abuse may be broken.

Open their eyes to see how best to respond
and open their hearts with courage to do the right thing,
even when pressured to do otherwise.

Dawn a new day of integrity and servant leadership upon our land.
Shower down your Spirit of collaboration for the common good
that there may be lasting peace and plenty for all.

The congregation is invited to lift up their own prayers for our nation

ONE:
We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Leader and Savior forever, Amen.

Option: We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Leader and Savior forever, who taught us to pray, Our Father, who art in heaven….

ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, fourth verse

O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.

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For other prayers suitable for Independence Day try A Prayer for our Country or Independence Day Prayer or A prayer of examen for our national holiday, all by Steve Garnaas-Holmes.

America the Beautiful by Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel A. Ward.
Public Domain.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Leave a comment for posting and publication considerations.

A Heap of Empty Words (Matthew 6)

words pile scraps

Matthew 6:7-8
Jesus said, “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

You are there in the midst of my prattle
and my hiding

Thank you for your patient presence
Thank you for calling me again to what is deeper and true

Forgive me for defaulting to well-worn words
Empty language borrowed from ritual or even scripture
Help me come to you honest and real
nothing veiled, nothing hidden
Help me come to you present and fresh
new every morning

Matthew 6:9-10
Jesus said, “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Glory to You, Heavenly One
Abba, Maker, Creator
I long for your kingdom, the fullness of your grace and victory

The longing is a sign of you in me
Abide more and more, so I not only long but look and see
Abide forever, so I not only long but pray and speak and act
Full-filling your words
now mine

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A Heap of Empty Words © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Extending Blessing (Ephesians 3)

detail from the Hagia Sophia mosaic of Christ

detail from the Hagia Sophia mosaic of Christ

For this reason, I kneel before the Father,
from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. – Eph. 3:14-15

Blessing begins with reverence
A reverence for our Wondrous God
Who bends low to welcome us
Birthing us through water and Spirit
Naming us and claiming us
beloved and blessed
Who not only welcomes us but welcomes all
Knitting us together
in the Body Miraculous
Strangers becoming brothers and sisters
A family far beyond class, clan, or culture
Far beyond what we could ask or imagine

I pray that out of his glorious riches
He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. – Eph. 3:16-17

From an incalculable treasure of grace upon grace
God pours out strength
Not as the world gives
Not with obvious outward displays
But hidden in the very depths of our frailty
God pours and floods with blood and breath
The very power of life
Driven and danced by Holy Spirit
That we may find our true home in Christ
Our true self in Christ

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
May have power, together with all the saints,
To grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
And to know this love that surpasses knowledge—
That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Eph. 3:17-19

This power
This companionship
This indescribable, priceless love of Christ
This is the blessing
Infinitely wide and long and high
Poured forth and driven deep
All the way down to the roots- our vines anchored in God’s grace
Rooted and Established- tilled till all the wild branches embrace
and the sweet fruit overflows the cups of justice and joy

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
According to his power that is at work within us,
To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
Throughout all generations, forever and ever! – Eph 3:20-21

Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our lips in blessing
With power to make new

Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our hands in blessing
With power to make whole

Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our hearts in blessing
That the grace poured in by Christ
Would overflow
Generation to generation to generation
An endless procession
To all, in all, and through all

Amen.

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

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

Extending Blessing © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Standing in the Armor of God (Ephesians 6)

sit-walk-stand

Sermon Series: Sit Walk Stand
Inspired by Watchman Nee‘s book Sit Walk Stand, a study of Ephesians

Message 3 of 3: Standing in the Armor of God
Scripture: Ephesians 6:10-18
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 6/2/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Click Here for more information on the Ephesians Reading Challenge
Read the entire book of Ephesians 3 times in 3 weeks

The main theme of Ephesians: Moving with Christ from death to life. Christianity is a movement, a journey of faith.

In his book, Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee divides the book of Ephesians into three main sections.

  • Sit, chapters 1-3
    • Sitting with Christ, Resting in God, Receiving from God, our identity and being
  • Walk, chapters 4-6:9
    • Walking the Walk, Living a life in the Spirit in practical ways, movement of faith
  • Stand, chapter 6:10-24
  • Sit, Walk, Stand seems out of order. A baby learns to sit, then stand, then walk. Yet in the spiritual life, we sit so we can walk. We sit so we can stand.

Walking the Walk – Making an Impression

  • Life looks different because we’re followers of Jesus Christ
  • Our character is transformed, taking on the character of Christ, bearing the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
    • Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self- control
  • Our actions are transformed
    • generous in time talents treasure in serving others, forgiving folks and loving your enemies
  • We start taking our Baptismal Vows seriously
    • We renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of the world, repent of your sin
    • We accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, oppression in whatever forms they present themselves
    • We accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, put our whole trust in His grace, and promise to serve him as our Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to all people.
  • When you start walking the walk the Evil One is going to notice. Walking with Jesus, life becomes better and harder. We’re living a life of integrity plus all the normal trouble of life.
  • Life can feel like a battle.
    • Love is a Battlefield, song by Pat Benatar
    • God is Love. Walking in the love of Christ can feel like a battlefield.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.

  • We take on guilt and shame because we aren’t strong enough, we can’t handle it. It’s false guilt and shame. God knows we can’t handle it. Be strong in the Lord!

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

  • The Evil One wants us to trick us into thinking our battle is against blood and flesh, people vs. people. See people as people, not enemies.
  • The curtain is pulled back. We can see things now we couldn’t see before.

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

  • 3 types of standing- stand, withstand (take the hit), stand firm (push back)

Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.

We sit with Christ so we can walk with Christ.
We sit with Christ so we can stand with Christ. 

God wants to strengthen you and protect you. 

Ephesians 6:10-11 Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. (strength) Put on the whole armor of God (protection)

How we blow it-

  1. We put on our own armor instead of God’s.
    • financial security, connections, achievement, expertise, stiff upper lip, my big girl pants
  2. We put on some of God’s armor, but not all of it
  3. We put on someone else’s armor
    • Someone else’s prayers, faith, encounter with God’s word, salvation. You need your own.
    • It’s like David going out to fight Goliath, the giant. King Saul wants David to wear his royal armor, his human armor. It doesn’t fit, doesn’t work, weighs him down. David refuses and faces Goliath in God’s armor.
  4. We put on the Evil One’s armor. We choose the ways of the Evil One for my protection and weapons.
    1. The Evil One focuses on attacking because Jesus already brought victory. The armor of God is defensive, not offensive.

Ephesians 6:10-11 Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God

Paul writes to the believers in Ephesus in Turkey from his prison in Rome. He uses the image of a Roman centurion because that’s what he can see.

armor of God centurion

Belt of Truth

  • Like Batman’s utility belt. Holds everything in place
  • The battle for what is real
  • Evil One’s Weapons- lies, falsehood, misinformation, miscommunication
  • God’s Weapons- integrity, honesty, we humbly take the high ground because Jesus is already victorious

Breastplate of Righteousness

  • Righteousness = Right Relationship with God and Others
  • The battle for your heart.
    • Who is on the throne of your heart
    • What are your primary motivations in all you do
  • The Evil One wants broken relationships. Anyone or anything on the throne of your heart other than Jesus. For your primary motivation to be a heart of war, looking at people and treating people as if they are not people. Go to war with flesh and blood.
  • God’s Weapons- Jesus on the throne of our heart. Our primary motivation is a heart of peace- looking at people and treating people as people.

2019 05 17 love neighbor Barbara Brown Taylor

Shoes for the Gospel of Peace

  • How and why we move
  • Battle for our Mission and Priorities
  • Weapons of the Evil One- Busy, Distracted, using our time talent and treasure for missions not of God
  • God’s weapons- bringing glory to God, building up others, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We do this by making peace and offering the Good News of Christ’s peace

Shield of Faith

  • We hold on to faith like we hold on to a shield
  • The Evil One will throw everything at us in order to get us to give up- give up the mission, give up our heart, believe a lie instead of trusting God.
  • We claim who we are in Christ. We claim the promises of God. We hold on to faith and hope. We persevere. We endure.

Helmet of Salvation

  • Battle for your thoughts, your mind.
  • We ruminate- we replay situations over and over. This is not of God. Jesus take the wheel of my monkey brain!
  • Let the same mind be in me that was in Christ Jesus- Phillippians 2:5
  • The Evil One wants us distracted, discouraged, and despairing.
  • I know who I am in Christ- I am a child of God. I am beloved and blessed of God. I am made in the image of God and nothing can separate me from the love of God and my salvation in Jesus Christ.
  • I know it in my head and my heart. Salvation means wholeness and I am whole in Christ.

Sword of the Spirit

  • The Evil One wants us to use the weapons of the world
  • The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12
  • We claim the Word of God and pray in the Spirit for ourselves and others.
  • It is always scripture and prayer. Always and forever.

This is why we always sit first. 

  • I need to sit in the presence of God. I need to sit with the word of God so I can walk, live this life so that it’s worthy of Jesus. So it overflows in love and good deeds.
  • I need to sit with the word and in prayer so I can stand when the Evil One takes notice because the Evil One will.
  • This is why we sit first. We receive when we rest- we receive our identity in Christ,  we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we receive God’s strength and power, we receive the Armor of God.

What would it be like if God’s people sit to receive, and then when we’re finished we live in such a way the Devil says, “Oh no, they’re up!” 

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Standing in the Armor of God © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayers Remembering Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the list

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

Pause as persons respond

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

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

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

Moment of Silence

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

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

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

Conclude singing Let There Be Peace on Earth

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

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