Church as Family

belonging ducklings1 Peter 2:16-17a (NRSV)
As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers…

A while back a former gang member came to our church. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved with the church. After a few months, I found out the guy was no longer coming to the church. When asked why he didn’t come anymore, he gave the following explanation: “I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week— we were family.” That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body.
– Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

At our Spanish-speaking immigrant church, people don’t have the luxury to think too hard about what it costs to raise their kids. Most have children (it probably never occurred to them not to) and keep busy making ends meet. The kids in my church don’t have Baby Mozart albums, parents who attend every school function, or a neighborhood in a top school district. Yet, they seem to be doing just as well as kids who have it all. Why? Because their moms and dads love them exorbitantly, and everyone in the church parents them as well. My church, though not perfect, does better job than most of living up to the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” An older empty-nest couple, for example, used to take care of a younger couple’s two daughters. The pastor’s wife goes out of her way to pick up children for Sunday school when their parents can’t come. We treat each other like family, and we treat all the children in the church as our own. – Liuan Huska, It Takes a Church to Raise a Child

Like the strongest biological families, God’s family at its best shelters, teaches, and supports its members — because loving other people is often tough whether we’re talking about biological or spiritual kin. Communities of faith have the opportunity to offer each other and to model for those beyond their walls a place where people can learn to love and fail to love — and yet be accepted either way.
Mary Lou Redding, The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide

An essential part of wholeness is the sense of belonging. Belonging within nature. Belonging to one another. Belonging in your own skin. At first, Jesus rejects the Syrophoenician woman’s entreaty to cure her daughter, because she does not belong to his people. The woman cleverly dismantles his sense of limitation however, and now the Gospel belongs to all of us. (Mark 7:24-30)
– Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure

An extended quote from Prodigal Brothers by Steve Garnaas-Holmes (Luke 15:11-32)
The failure of our love—distancing ourselves from God and one another— is at the heart of our sin. In our self-centeredness, we break our family bond with God and with others, as if we’re not related. It is not just of our disobedience that we repent, but of our distance, our refusing to get close to God and to others, including those whom we judge.

The good news is that in the end, we are unable to break that bond. Despite our attempt to disown God and each other, God stays related to us and keeps us related to each other. The father puts a ring on the younger brother’s finger—a symbol of family. And he corrects the older brother and calls the younger one “this brother of yours.” Despite their failures, he invites them both into the party. The righteousness that we need is not obedience. It’s a loving relationship—and this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God. In repentance, we pray toward both God and neighbor, “I am not on my own. I am yours.”

Acts 2:41-47 (NRSV)
So those who welcomed [Peter’s message concerning Jesus Christ] were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

We must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body … For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.
– John Winthrop, A Model of Christian Charity

Prayer: Make us your children
Heavenly One,
Your reach extends to every person, every nation
Offering grace, forgiveness, wholeness, and hope
A saving embrace
Drawing us to you and each other

Make us your children
Grateful for a place in your family
Humble before your love and generosity
Faithful in honoring and welcoming all
Joyful in sharing what we have found in you
Amen.

************
Click Here for Steve Harper’s discussion as to “why ‘churchless Christianity’ will never work, even though some of the concerns it carries are valid.”

For a post entitled Trinity, Community and Love, click here
For a post entitled One with God, One With Each Other, click here
For a post entitled Quotes: Community, click here

Prayer: Make us your children © 2012 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.

God Calls, Jonah Refuses (Jonah 1)

jonah

Sermon Series: Jonah, a Hard-Hearted Prophet Meets the God of Grace
Message 1 of 5: 
God Calls, Jonah Refuses
Scriptures: Jonah 1:1-3
Offered 7/9/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

The message opens with the story of Mandy Harvey, a deaf singing contestant on America’s Got Talent. (Click here for a video.) Mandy tells her story then sings a song she wrote entitled, “Try.” Mandy had every reason to stop trying- to give up on her talents and dreams in music, but she didn’t.

What talent has God given you? What dream has God given you to bless the world?

What’s stopping you from trying? We have a boat load of excuses- I can’t afford it. I don’t have enough education. I don’t have the time. I’m too old/young. I have too much responsibility. It’s too risky.

Beware my friends. There’s tremendous risk in hiding a talent and running from a dream, especially when they’re from God. That’s exactly what Jonah did. God calls Jonah. Jonah refuses and that refusal turn into rebellion.

There are 2 types of calls 
1. “Who I am” call – God blesses and empowers us with gifts, talents, life, purpose, etc. Jonah understood his “who I am” call. Jonah son of Amittai literally means “Dove, son of Truth.” Think of the dove associated with the story of Noah’s Ark. The dove brings grace and good news. Think of the dove associated with the Baptism of Jesus. The Holy Spirit brings the powerful, anointing of God.

Jonah is a faithful, effective prophet of God. Jonah is a gifted, skilled, and anointed seer. Jonah reveals the word and purposes of God to Israel’s king. It was grace and good news that Israel would expand its boarder under King Jeroboam.

2. “What to do” call– a specific mission assignment. Jonah is to “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” (vs. 2) It’s a clear message from God of where to go and what to do. God said get up and go! Instead Jonah shut up and fled.

Problem was not misunderstanding. The problem was willingness. Jonah didn’t want to try. Jonah had every reason not to try
1. Nineveh wasn’t a Jewish city with a Jewish King. Nineveh was the magnificent capital city Assyria, a threatening, enemy superpower.

2. Nineveh was 550 miles away. Imagine that trip on donkey or on foot.

3. Jonah had no desire to preach to “those people.” They were enemies and Gentiles and pagans. He didn’t want to be labeled a “traitor” prophet by his own people.

4. God is a God of grace and mercy. God might extend forgiveness to his enemy and Jonah didn’t want that.

5. Jonah didn’t want to ruin his reputation. If he called out against the city and God spared it, his prophecy didn’t come true.

No God. It’s too risky. Too hard. You’re asking too much.

Does Jonah pray? Nope. Does he ask for help? Nope. Does he go? Nope. Jonah buries his talent, abandons his call, and runs away from the presence of the Lord. (mentioned twice in verse 3)

Jonah refuses and Jonah rebels and it breaks his relationship with God.

The Bible is full of examples which inspire us to greater faith and great acts of service. There are also examples for us to look to and avoid. Jonah is one of them.

How often are we more like Jonah than we want to admit? It doesn’t have to be this way. Step out in faith – try. God has tremendous faith in you. More than you have in yourself. God knit you together in your mother’s womb for a purpose. God empowers you with talents, gifts, graces, and experience for a purpose. Jesus died for you for a purpose- that you might be saved AND that you might join him in saving the world. Step out in faith – try

What is in your power to do for others? Do you have skills to teach and mentor others? Are you in a position to help alleviate suffering financially? Are you a great listener? Prayer Warrior? Organizer? Storyteller? Gardener? Share your testimony? Make an invitation? Do you have creative gifts in writing, music, dance, or art? Are you good with your hands in a way that you can offer practical assistance to people?

Step out in faith – try
You are the hope of the world- try

*****************
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 for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording- Here is Your Son, Here is Your Mother

jesus crucifixion mother son

Sermon Series: Final Words from the Cross
The Scriptures record Jesus speaking 7 phrases as he hung upon the cross- important and powerful final reminders of who he was and what it means to follow him.

Message: Here is Your Son… Here is Your Mother
Scripture: John 19:23-27
Offered 3/06/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

SCRIPTURE AND SONG: John 19:23-27
ALL SINGING- Where You There?
United Methodist Hymnal #288, verse 1
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

ONE: John 19:23-25 NRSV
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is what the soldiers did.

ALL SINGING
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

ONE: John 19:25-27 NRSV
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

ALL SINGING
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Exodus 20:12 NRSV
Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Galatians 3:28 NIV
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Mark 3:35 NRSV
Jesus’ words, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother”

Peter Storey, Listening at Golgotha
This poignant interchange on Good Friday is a marker for a revolution in our understanding of community. Jesus entrusts the life and welfare of another to one of his followers, and he places upon that new relationship the value we reserve for our closest family unit. No longer will the obligation of mutual care depend upon blood relationship, but all will be welcomed as the one family of Christ. No more will our first loyalty be to tribe or nation or clan. For Christians, “whoever does the will of God” will be our mothers, our sisters, our brothers, our fathers. From now on the followers of Jesus will receive one another as gift, to be welcomed, honored, and cherished simply because Jesus has given them to us.

Peter Storey, Listening at Golgotha
From the cross where he is nailed, Jesus nails us to each other.
In doing so, he is giving birth to a new community.

mother son collage

Resources for this sermon
Final Words From the Cross by Adam Hamilton
Listening at Golgotha by Peter Storey

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

Simple Ceremony for the Renewal of Marriage Vows

we still do
It would be easy to modify this simple ceremony for several couples renewing their vows at the same time. For example, it’s the tradition of my congregation, Trinity United Methodist Church in Sarasota FL, to offer a renewal of marriage vows every year the Sunday before Saint Valentine’s Day as part of morning worship. This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday. The couples celebrating an anniversary in multiples of 5 (5, 10, 15, 20, etc.) this year are invited to stand before the congregation while the other couples participate from the pews.

Greetingoffered by the Pastor or other officiant
God is love, those who abide in love abide in God,
and God abides in them. (1 John 4:16b)

Friends, we are gathered together in the sight of God
to bear witness to Name the Couple
as they renew their wedding vows.
We come to share in their joy and to ask God to bless them.

Declaration of Intention
In his sacrificial love on Calvary,
Jesus gave us the example of the love
between a husband and wife.

Fully acknowledging the great sacrifices and joys that have been
and those that lie ahead,
I ask you now in the presence of God
to declare your intention to remain in sacred, lifelong union with each other
to reaffirm your commitment to the covenant of marriage,
God being your helper and foundation.

Exchange of Vows
The couple may repeat the vows as they are read by the pastor/officiant or the vows may be read by the couple from a program or card.
I, _________________, give myself to you again as your husband.
to have and to hold from this day forward,
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish
forsaking all others
until we are parted by death
recognizing the promise of life everlasting
and love everlasting.
This is my solemn vow.

I, _________________, give myself to you again as your wife.
to have and to hold from this day forward,
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish
forsaking all others
until we are parted by death
recognizing the promise of life everlasting
and love everlasting.
This is my solemn vow.

Blessing of the Marriageby the Pastor/Officiant
Most gracious God, we give you thanks for your tender love
and for reconsecrating the marriage covenant of these couples

Grant that their love for each other may reflect the love of Christ for us
and grow from strength to strength.

Defend them from every enemy.

Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts,
a mantle about their shoulders, and a crown upon their heads.

Bless them in their work and in their companionship;
in their sleeping and in their waking;
in their joys and in their sorrows;
in their lives and in their deaths.

Finally, by your grace,
bring them and all of us into your heavenly home forever;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who with you and the Holy Spirit
lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The couples are invited to kiss.

**********
Renewal of Marriage Vows, compilation and adaptation
© 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

2016 TED Talk Experiment- Week 5

TED talk blog graphic 2
Here’s what I chose for week 5. I found them under the heading Hidden Gems on the TED website.

The Shared Wonder of Film
Beeban Kidron
TED Salon London, Spring 2012
What a fantastic idea- using great films like great literature to broaden experience, encourage understanding, and spark thoughtful discussion on a variety of important topics.  Where do I sign up?

How I Became 100 Artists
Shea Hembrey
TED2011, March 2011
Hembrey is the poster child for cleverness, imagination, and creativity. I didn’t know whether to giggle as he spoke of his fictional artist personas like they were real people or wonder at the breadth of voices,  subject matter, and mediums. I think both.

Love- you’re doing it wrong
Yann Dall’Aglio
TEDxParis, February 2014
In earlier ages, persons secured their love/value by fulfilling their role in traditional, communal structures. The freedoms of modernity changed this in radical ways. “On the free market of individual desires, I negotiate my value every day.” Thus the drive of consumerism isn’t materialism, it is actually the acquisition of “seduction capital” to prove and enhance our desirability. This creates incredible anxiety. The speaker encourages us to embrace humility and tenderness as another path to love of self and others.

Fashion and Creativity
Isaac Mizrahi
TED 2008, February 2008
Here’s the nugget of wisdom I found in this very random talk: Give yourself permission to try many different things and to chase random moment of inspiration.

The Surprising Thing I Learned Sailing Solo Around the World
Dame Ellen MacArthur
TED 2015 Vancouver BC, March 2015
1. This is one of the most exciting, adventurous, and focused persons I’ve ever encountered 2. Thank God she’s now working for all of us- to help establish a sustainable, circular global economy which will make the best possible use of our very finite resources

******************
I’m trying an experiment in 2016. Maybe you’d like to try it with me.

Here’s where I am
I’m tired of the spin. I’m tired of ideas, news, and entertainment really being one long sales pitch for profit or power.

I’m longing for creativity, curiosity, and inspiration. I’m in search of passionate people willing to speak to the truth and complexity of living with a heart of hope. I want to hear from authentic humans who are in the trenches working for the greater good.

I think I’ve found them in the TED community.

“TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. On TED.com, we’re building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.”

TED’s been around for 30 years. I’ve heard about them and even watched a couple of talks, but I’ve never spent any concentrated time mining the good stuff. So….

Here’s the plan
Watch 5 enthusiastic, inspiring TED Talk presenters a week for a year.
Apply and share the goodness.

2015 Book Shelf

2015 bookshelf collageIn November of last year, I read a blog post encouraging persons to set aside a bookshelf for all the books read in a calendar year. As the year goes by, you see the shelf filling and are reminded of time well spent. (I wish I could remember who to thank.)

Since I read most books electronically, I set up a virtual bookshelf on Pinterest. I found the process of adding books enjoyable and helpful. Sometimes you forget a really good book.

So my friends, here’s my 2015 bookshelf. I hope it encourages you and that you find a treasure or two. Should it be helpful to you, I’m glad to provide more feedback on specific selections. Just leave a comment below.  

Happy reading. Happy exploring. Happy growing. – Lisa <><

Relationships and Peacemaking

Novels

Devotional Memoir

Bible Study and Theology

Poetry

Sermon Series Recordings: Pursue Wisdom, based on the Book of Proverbs

Proverbs-SeriesSermon Series: Pursue Wisdom
Inspired by the book Making Life Work: Putting God’s Wisdom into Action and the Bible Study Wisdom: Making Life Work, both by Bill Hybels.

Message 1 of 6: Pursue Wisdom- Intentional Living
Scriptures: Proverbs 2:1-15; Luke 15
Offered 5/3/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 2 of 6: Consider the Ant – Take the Initiative
Scriptures: Proverbs 6:6-11, 20-24
Offered 5/10/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 3 of 6: Integrity – Speaking and Living the Truth
Scriptures: Proverbs 11:3; Proverbs 21:6; Exodus 20:16; Matthew 5:37; Proverbs 11:1; Proverbs 14:25; Ephesians 4:15
Offered 5/17/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 4 of 6: Relationships: Mutuality and Honoring One Another
Scriptures: Proverbs 21:21; 17:6; Ephesians 5:21-6:9
Offered 5/24/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 5 of 6: Anger and Self Control: Reacting vs Responding
Scriptures: Ephesians 4:26-27; Proverbs 21:7; Proverbs 25:28; Proverbs 29:11; Proverbs 30:33; James 1:19-20; Proverbs 19:11; Proverbs 16:32
Offered 5/31/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 6 of 6: Trust God
Scriptures: Proverbs 3:1-12
Offered 6/7/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

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

© 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.