Sermon- The Sunday After the Shooting (Proverbs 3.19-24)

sunday after shooting

Sermon: The Sunday after the Shooting
Scriptures: Proverbs 3:19-24, The Voice Translation
Offered 11/12/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

While we gathered last week for worship, a gunman was opening fire on the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. It’s believed to be the largest church shooting in history: 27 killed, 20 injured.

It’s devastating news. Even more devastating is the growing frequency of mass shootings in our country. A mass shooting is defined as gun violence with 4 or more persons injured or killed. According to the Mass Shooting Tracker, between October 1 (the day of the Las Vegas Concert Massacre) and last Friday (November 10, 2017- my dad’s birthday) there were 44 mass shootings across 22 different states.
604 persons injured (441 from Las Vegas, 20 Sutherland Springs TX)
131 persons died (59 from Las Vegas, 27 Sutherland Springs TX)

What can we say in the midst of all this pain, horror, death? The truth.

Many of us constant state of grieving and stress
Many of us are afraid, or at least feeling insecure

It’s one thing to experience such violence in the midst of war. (This is why we must honor and thank our veterans). It’s another when violence invades our safe places: home, school, places where we have fun, church. There’s a reason why we call where we worship a sanctuary. It’s to be a place safety, belonging, healing, hope. Now it’s been violated. Again.

When we’re afraid/insecure it’s a short step to losing perspective and another short step to despair. “I guess this is just the way things are now. Nothing I can do about it.”

The shootings just keep coming. We’re hit and hit and hit again with the pain, loss, fear. We want to protect ourselves – build up the security, only let certain people in and certain information in. It’s like building up a callus (Consider persons who work with their hands or the feet of dancers.)

I’m afraid of building up a callus on my heart. (hard-hearted, callous) I need to stay soft in God’s hands.

When we’re afraid/insecure it’s a short step to blaming and demonizing. It’s the fault of-

  • Gun manufacturers
  • Those who sell the guns/ammo
  • Those who own the guns
  • Those who enforce the laws
  • Those who make the laws
  • Lobbyists paying off the politicians
  • “Crazy people”
  • Those who are supposed to follow up on the “crazy people”

This only breeds false stereotypes and prejudice. It polarizes us into camps, “You’re either with us or you’re against us”

The Pro Guns Stereotype
Allow anyone to buy any type of gun and any type of ammunition, when and wherever they want, or they will break down your door, take away your guns, crush your freedom,
kill everyone you love, and put an end to the American way

The No Guns Stereotype
If you own a gun—any gun—you might as well be the one pulling the trigger in all of these terrible mass shootings.

God provides another way- Creation
The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation
The opposite of chaos isn’t order, safety, it’s creation
The Wisdom of God creates

Proverbs 3:19-20, The Voice 
19 It was by wisdom that the Eternal fashioned the earth
and by understanding that He designed the heavens.
20 Through His knowledge, the deep was divided into seas and sky,
and the clouds understood when to let down the morning dew.

The Wisdom of God Creates
The gift of God is God’s perspective and understanding of the situation. The gift of God is the ability to discern what is true, right, and lasting and good. The gift of God is to create something in the midst of pain and loss.

What do we do? Seek God’s wisdom to think past either/or solutions. The situation is often far more complex than that. It’s easier/safer to pick a side and demonize. It takes courage to stay at the table, be curious, ask questions, talk, pray, build consensus, work through the prejudice and complications to real, effective problem solving and action.

There’s a reason why Jesus calls us the Light of the World. There’s a reason we are described as living stones built into a spiritual house. By the grace of God we are Sanctuary- safety, belonging, healing, hope. We are the place where diverse people come together to seek God’s wisdom and out of that wisdom something creative and good is born.

By the grace of God, seeking the creative wisdom of God, it is possible to break through the polarization to something new, good. It’s possible to hold together common sense gun laws and limits while at the same time not demonizing respectful, responsible hunters, marksmen, gun owners and persons who never want to touch a gun. It possible to discuss and address the need for greater mental health access, healthy families, and the power of lobbyists.

Wisdom of God Creates. By the grace of God we will be courageous and we will be wise and we will be used of God for the light will overcome the darkness.

Proverbs 3:21-24
21 My [child], never lose sight of God’s wisdom and knowledge:
make decisions out of true wisdom, guard your good sense,
22 And they will be life to your soul
and fine jewelry around your neck.
23 Then each one of your steps will land securely on your life’s journey,
and you will not trip or fall.
24 Your mind will be clear, free from fear;
when you lie down to rest, you will be refreshed by sweet sleep.

Prayer
Merciful and Mighty God, how wondrous is your wisdom!
Your wisdom is eternal, beautiful, creative, powerful, good.
The strong foundation of life itself, all of life.
Grant us your wisdom that we may discern faithfully and be bearers of your life, goodness, and truth
Grant us your wisdom that we may walk with you all my days, clear-eyed and sure-footed and courageous
Grant us your wisdom that we may be your peace and rest in your peace, each night and forever.

We ask this for the honor and glory of your name, for the building of your kingdom, for the good of our neighbors and ourselves. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to the tech team and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. Videos of these messages are available on the church Facebook Page.

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 © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa by leaving a comment for posting and publication considerations.

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

*************
Click here for Comfort Ye based on Isaiah 40 by Steve Garnaas Holmes, a word of encouragement to those experiencing horror and abuse, and those striving to bring justice and healing.

Prayer for Holy Resistance © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information/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.

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