Take Up The Cross, a prayer based on Matthew 16.24-28

take-up-your-cross-0022Based on Matthew 16:24-28

Merciful Jesus, give me the courage to deny privilege
To lay down favor and safety
in order to take up the cross of opportunity and justice

Merciful Jesus, give me the courage to deny consumerism
To lay down convenience and gratification
in order to take up the cross of sustainability and generosity

Merciful Jesus, give me the courage to deny prejudice
To lay down apathy and segregation
in order to take up the cross of diversity and true love

Merciful Jesus, have mercy on me
Show me what to pick up and what to lay down
that I may lose and loose
in order to find and bind
all that is of you
that I may bear all that leads to life
and give me the courage to help others do the same
Amen

*****
Take Up the Cross © 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.

A Prayer of Confession based on the call of Matthew (Matthew 9.9-13)

Matthew 9_13 mercy sacrificeBased on Matthew 9:9-13, the call of Matthew the tax collector

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
the outcasts
the public sinners
the self-serving
those who collaborate with evil and oppression…

Why are we surprised?
You desire mercy not sacrifice
You are the Great Physician
coming to those most in need of healing

Forgive us
Forgive us for forgetting who you are
Forgive us for forgetting our own sin
and isolation
and collaboration
Forgive us for judging
Forgive our self-righteousness
Forgive us for limiting you
when we are so desperately in need of you
We are “those most in need” as well

Create in us clean hearts and renew your Holy Spirit within us

Lord have mercy
Lord have mercy on us all

*************
A prayer of confession based on the call of Matthew © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment below for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Scriptures for Life on the War of Words Battlefield

power-of-wordsWe live on the battlefield of the war of words. Let us recognize their power to create and to destroy, choosing, by the grace of God, to use their power for healing, peacemaking, truth telling, and inspiring the common good. – Lisa Degrenia

From the Book of Proverbs
Lying lips conceal hatred, and whoever utters slander is a fool.
When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
But the prudent are restrained in speech.
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the mind of the wicked is of little worth.
The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. (Proverbs 10:18-21)

Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.
Deceit is in the mind of those who plan evil,
But those who counsel peace have joy. (Proverbs 12:18-20)

From the fruit of their words good persons eat good things,
But the desire of the treacherous is for wrongdoing.
Those who guard their mouths preserve their lives;
Those who open wide their lips come to ruin. (Proverbs 13:2-3)

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (Proverbs 15:1-2, 4)

From the fruit of the mouth one’s stomach is satisfied;
The yield of the lips brings satisfaction.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruits. (Proverbs 18:20-21)

It can sway men to violence, or it can move them to the noblest actions. It can instruct the ignorant, encourage the dejected, comfort the sorrowing, and soothe the dying. Or it can crush the human spirit, destroy reputations, spread distrust and hate, and bring nations to the brink of war.
– Curtis Vaughan in James, a study guide 

From the Book of Psalms
Help, O Lord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly;
The faithful have disappeared from humankind.
They utter lies to each other; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts,
Those who say, “With our tongues we will prevail;
Our lips are our own — who is our master?” (Psalm 12:1-4)

Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. (Psalm 34:11-14)

Why do you boast, O mighty one, of mischief done against the godly?
All day long you are plotting destruction.
Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you worker of treachery.
You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth.
You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. (Psalm 52:1-4)

My companion laid hands on a friend and violated a covenant with me
With speech smoother than butter, but with a heart set on war;
With words that were softer than oil, but in fact were drawn swords.
(Psalm 55:20-21)

Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
From the scheming of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords,
Who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless;
They shoot suddenly and without fear.
They hold fast to their evil purpose;
They talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, “Who can see us?
Who can search out our crimes? We have thought out a cunningly conceived plot.”
For the human heart and mind are deep.
But God will shoot his arrow at them; they will be wounded suddenly.
Because of their tongue he will bring them to ruin;
All who see them will shake with horror. (Psalm 64:2-8)

Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers;
Protect me from those who are violent,
Who plan evil things in their minds and stir up wars continually.
They make their tongue sharp as a snake’s,
And under their lips is the venom of vipers. (Psalm 140:1-3)

Every idle word we utter betrays our lack of respect for our neighbor, and shows that we place ourselves on a pinnacle above him and value our own lives higher than his. The angry word is a blow struck at our brother, a stab at his heart; it seeks to hit, to hurt and to destroy. A deliberate insult is even worse, for we are then openly disgracing our brother in the eyes of the world, and causing others to despise him. With our hearts burning with hatred, we seek to annihilate his moral and material existence. We are passing judgment on him, and that is murder. And the murderer himself will be judged. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship

All five chapters in the book of James refer to the power of words.
Chapter 1
You must understand this, my beloved:let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger (1:19)
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. (1:26)

Chapter 2
So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. (2:12)

Chapter 3
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.

For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue— a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. (3:1-12)

Chapter 4
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?(4:11-12)

Chapter 5
Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (5:12)

Prayer for Holy Resistance

true-love-requires-actionBreak 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 Word

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
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 for Holy Resistance © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording- Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, a Sermon on Courage (Romans 8)

finding-god-in-oz

Sermon Series – Finding God in Oz
The Wizard of Oz is a powerful allegory for so many of our foundational Christian beliefs. Walk with us as we Find God in Oz.

Message: Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, a Sermon on Courage
Scriptures: Romans 8:35-39
Offered 11/13/16, the Sunday after the National Election and Veterans Day at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

It takes courage to open up Facebook. It’s still ugly following the election. I hoped it would go back to puppy videos, inspiring quotes, and pictures of my friends.

It takes courage to watch the news. Protesters remind us of our deeply divided country. We hear hate crimes are on the rise.

I just want to go to my favorite chair with my Bible and journal and pray till it goes away. I just want to stay within the walls of this beautiful, safe place- this sanctuary. That’s what God’s house should be. I just want to sit on my couch and grow my veggies and have a chai tea latte and pet my dog. I want to plug my ears and my heart because it hurts too much to see folks scared and mean. Yet, this is what happens when you become a follower of Jesus; when you ask God, “Give me a heart like yours.” It hurts because God’s heart hurts.

It takes a supernatural courage to face the hurt.

Wednesday afternoon, the day after the election, I’m walking to church and I see my friend Miguel. He’s in the 5th grade. I ask him how he is, remembering him being afraid because month’s before during the election he’d heard talk of walls and deportation. He’d thought he and his family belonged, but then he wasn’t so sure. He’s still not sure. I said, “I will fight for you. Not in a violent way. I’ll stand with you should you and your family need it.” (I really wanted what I said to be real. I wanted to be ready to be courageous.)

With complete faith and serenity on his face, Miguel said, “No matter where we are, God is with us.”

Romans 8:35-39
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 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.

Miguel knew that in Jesus’ death and resurrection evil is defeated, sin is defeated, death is defeated.

For I am convinced that neither winning nor losing elections, nor pollsters, nor pundits, nor spin, nor lies, nor discrimination, nor prejudice, nor bullying, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Last week we talked about living in the age of loneliness and the essential of friendship, especially spiritual friends. What if, as followers of Jesus, we claimed this as the age of courage? Courage in the face of evil and courage to face evil.

In the Wizard of OZ, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion have courage in the face of evil; courage when the fight comes to them. Courage when the angry orchard attacks them. Courage when the flying monkeys start carrying off their friends. They also have the courage to face evil, to go to the fight, to go to the wicked witch’s fortress to rescue their friends.

I want to be like Miguel- courageous and confident in Jesus’ victory. Courage in the face of evil and courage to face evil alongside him. I want to be with Miguel because he’s my friend and brother in Jesus Christ.

God to give me a courageous heart to stand with Miguel and with
– peaceful Muslim-Americans fearing for their well being
– persons of color fearing the rise of white supremacy
– gay and lesbian persons fearing loss of their rights
– veterans needing easier access to benefits
– women and sexual assault victims fearing they won’t be heard or believed
– lots of people fearing loss of insurance and basic needs

brene-brown-courage-comfort

We’re going to hurt. Will we be hurting for something worthwhile?

islamophobia-bully-advocate-cartoon

Renewal of Baptismal Vows
On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you:
1. Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
2. Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
3. Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace,
and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

Psalm 31:23-24
Love the LORD, all you his saints.
The LORD preserves the faithful,
but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the LORD.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon 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 drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer- All Lives Matter

2016 summer violence collageThis prayer was offered 7/10/16 during worship at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida in response to a month of overwhelming injustice and violence. 

The vows we make at our baptism, and the vows we renew when we make public commitments to Christ, seem especially poignant given the events of this past week. I remind you of them.

I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil power of this world, and repent of my sin.

I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

I confess Jesus Christ as my Savior, put my whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as my Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.

According to the grace given to me, I will remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world.

This week will mark the 1 month anniversary of the Pulse Orlando Massacre. 49 killed, 53 injured. Most young, Latino/Latina, and most from the gay community.

Two weeks after the massacre, Tuesday June 28, a terrorist attack consisting of shootings and suicide bombings occurred at the international terminal of the Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey. More than 230 people were injured. 45 people were killed in addition to the 3 attackers. The victims were from 11 different countries.

A few days later, last Sunday July 3, at least 298 people were killed and over 246 were injured after a large car bomb explosion in the middle of a busy market in Baghdad. The blast occurred in the Karrada area, the home to many Shia Muslims and a large Christian minority. The attack was part of series of Isis attacks during the holy month of Ramadan.

Two days later, Tuesday July 5, Alton Sterling was fatally shot by police outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was a 37 year old black man. The officers were each 28 year old white men.

A day later, Wednesday July 6, Philando Castile was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop. He was a 32 year old black man. The officer is white.

A day later, Thursday July 7, two black snipers ambushed and opened fire at the end of a peaceful protest in Dallas. 7 officers and two civilians are injured. 5 white officers are dead- Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Brent Thompson.

Genesis 1:27
God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Lord Jesus, help us accept your gift of life
All lives matter
All lives matter because all are made in your image
All lives matter and should be protected and respected
for their worth and dignity are from you
All lives matter and should come home safely to their loved ones
It’s not us and them, it’s just us

Lord Jesus, help us live your gift of love
All lives matter
Yet some are targeted with prejudice and violence
because of the color of their skin
the zip code of their home
their sexuality
what they do for a living

So we speak and pray specifics
Black lives matter
Muslim lives matter
Foreign lives matter
Christian lives matter
Law enforcement lives matter
Latino/Latina lives matter
LGBTQIA lives matter
The Poor, their lives matter
The Young, their lives matter
All lives matter

Break our hearts Jesus that we may weep as you weep
Break our hearts Jesus that we may 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
Grant us your strength
Grant us your perseverance
That we may be your sanctuary, your safe place
That we may live your justice
That we may 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
Fill us with your hope
Fill us with your salt
Fill us with your light

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace
Teach us to pray and teach us to live your prayer
Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

*********
Prayer- All Lives Matter © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

It would be easy to modify this prayer so different parts could be led by different worship leaders.

Sermon Recording- Speak, Responding to the Pulse Orlando Massacre

orlando shakes angels

Persons from the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre protecting those mourning the Pulse victims.

Message: Speak, Responding to the Pulse Orlando Massacre
Scripture: Ezekiel 33:1-9
Offered 6/26/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers

When we don’t speak, people die.

If we are silent people die
Speak! Keep speaking- Speak up, Speak out
Keep speaking until
Hate is overcome by affection
Bullying is overcome by blessing
Discrimination is overcome by opportunity
Violence is no more
This place looks like heaven
Lisa Degrenia 

In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.
– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe. – Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Speech

A Statement from the Bishop and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church in Response to the June 12, 2016, Violent Crime of Hate against the LGBTQ Community in Orlando, Florida

2016 Florida Annual Conference Resolution– Help End Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning Individuals

Worship Resources for this Message 
Prayer for Violent Times by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Prayer: All Will Be Revealed by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
The Sentinel’s Prayer by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Blessing in a Time of Violence by Jan Richardson

Prayer offered by the Rev. Dr. Steve Harper at the Florida Annual Conference prayer vigil for all involved with the Pulse Orlando Shooting
Almighty God,
We come before you in this moment as one human family, all of us created in your image and intended to glorify you with our lives–particularly in the ways we treat each other.

We also stand in your presence as heirs of the first sin after the Fall–the sin of murder, continuing to behave like Cain in our refusals to care for the lives of others, harming and murdering them with our words, our actions, our silence, and our judgment.

We come before you confessing our sins of commission and omission–the sins of saying and doing too much or too little–the sins of silence and shunning–the sin of self -righteousness which is no righteousness at all.

Forgive us for all the ways we have failed to love one another, to care for one another, and as the shooting in our city reveals, the particular ways we have failed to love our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, LatinX family, and their allies– turning a deaf ear to their pain and acting against them in ways which create a spirit of fear and a culture of discrimination that spawns acts of violence.

We especially lament the ways we have failed to love as Christians and as United Methodists, ways we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves–creating the false impression that our silence, our skewed perspectives and our retributive actions reflect the will of God. We humbly repent and are sorry for these our misdoings. The remembrance of them is grievous unto us.

Move among us by your Holy Spirit and remove our hearts of stone, replacing them with hearts of flesh that love you and everyone with a love as inclusive as your love for the world. Remove all walls that divide and drive far from us the desire to ever build a wall again.

We pray for the souls of the departed–those killed in the Pulse nightclub, and for their families and friends who grieve their deaths. We pray for the others who have been wounded, those whose lives will from now on be marked by this tragedy. And we pray for the soul of the one who committed this crime, and for his family and friends who are shamed and saddened by what he did.

We thank you for all those in the law enforcement and medical communities who risked their lives and offered their care to save others, and for our civic and religious leaders who must now guide us to beat our swords into plough shares and study war no more.

God, dwell among us to give us comfort, but not simply a comfort which enables us to move beyond our grief, but a comfort which causes us to move beyond our sin, so that we may be instruments of your peace–daily sowing love where there has been hatred, replacing injury with pardon, instilling faith where there has been doubt–until that day when justice rolls down and mercy like an ever flowing stream. Amen

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon 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 drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

© 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.