Be the Beatitude, Be the Blessing (Matthew 5)

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Sermon Series: The Beatitudes, God’s Surprising Blessing
Message 4 of 4: Be the Blessing
Scripture:  Matthew 5:1-12
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 9/15/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

The Ladder of the Beatitudes by Jim Forest was inspired by a beautiful, sacred painting from the late 1100s entitled The Ladder of Divine Ascent. It’s a painting of monks climbing a ladder towards Jesus in Heaven illustrating the journey of faith.

The angels, saints, siblings in Christ are praying for us and cheering us on in the faith as we make our way to be more and more like Jesus, as we make our way to heaven. The devil and demons are working hard to distract us and tempt us so we fall off the path.

Jim Forest sees this painting and thinks- that ladder is like the Beatitudes. We climb the Beatitudes, step by step, one after another. The Beatitudes are the natural progression of a faithful life.

(I got a stunt double to climb the ladder for me this week! One step for each Beatitude.)

5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

This is the first half of the Beatitudes. It seems the first two Beatitudes and the third and 4th Beatitudes are paired. The fifth and sixth are also paired, as are the seventh and eighth. (Like taking two steps at a time.)

First two are paired in recognizing our need of God. I recognize I am poor in spirit. I recognize I am a spiritual beggar. I cannot save myself. I am in need of salvation and God provides it. Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Blessed are those who mourn. As I begin to look at myself I get honest with my sin, my shame, my guilt, my mistakes. I get honest with the mess I’m in and recognize I need forgiveness. I need new life. The first two Beatitudes are about recognizing our need.

The second two Beatitudes are about recognizing our strengths. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. I recognize I am strong and I have gifts. I place it under the authority and discipline of God.

I recognize I have the Holy Spirit living in me, I have hungers, thirsts, passion, fire, appetites. I ask God to focus all of that good energy into righteousness- right relationship with God, with others, between others, with myself, and with creation. God focus that good energy so I don’t use it in ways that are weapons, in ways that don’t last, in ways that are false.

The first two steps are about bowing in humility to God. The next two steps are about standing in the truth of who God made me.

In the first two steps, I recognize I am dust and ashes. In the next two steps, I claim I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

The first four Beatitudes prepare us for the last four Beatitudes. There’s a great deal of internal work going on in the first four Beatitudes. The higher we climb, the more external this blessing becomes, the more action-oriented.

The first 4 prepare us so we’re in the right soul place to join Jesus in the adventure of saving the world. I am named blessed so that I can be a blessing. 

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
I remember back all the way to the first step when I needed mercy. In fact, there isn’t a time when I don’t need mercy. The Beatitude checks all the passion, fire, hungering and thirst strength to make sure I am not using it as a weapon. I am using it in a merciful way.

God is all-powerful. God is strong to save. Does God wield that as a weapon? No. God wields God’s power mercy-fully.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Checks our motivation. Is my motivation to have Jesus sitting on the throne of my heart, to see the world as Jesus sees it? (How’s the view from up there?

God, I want to want what you want. I want your motivation to be my motivation. “Pure in heart” is about having an undivided heart. A divided heart has one foot with Jesus and one for our selves. It’s like having two people trying to sit on the throne at the same time. It’s not going to happen.

If we’re really honest we can’t multitask. We can’t do two things at the same time with any kind of skill or accomplishment. We can’t serve 2 masters.

Do I want to build myself up or am I building up others, building the Kingdom? Jesus, I want to see you and join you and glorify you.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. As we step out in faith to be a blessing to others, we begin to see Jesus in the folks we are with. We see God right here, right now.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
How often do we pray for peace? We want peace of mind and heart, in our family, safety, security, calm, comfort.

Jesus is Jewish. When he’s thinking about peace he’s thinking about Shalom. Shalom is about the well-being of all creation. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, the right relationship of everything.

When I do this, folks will see Jesus in me and say, “that must be a child of God.”

The well-being of persons, the earth, systems so they are just and fair, governments so they have the best interest of all people. It’s big picture. The higher we go, the more we can see.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
The followers of Christ have been called to peace. … And they must not only have peace but also make it. And to that end, they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ, nothing is to be gained by such methods. … His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce hatred and wrong. In so doing they overcome evil with good and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus is raising us up to be prophets. Jesus is raising us up to be like him in his power to heal and to be ready for the persecution when it comes.

There’s a long history of persecution and harassment for God’s children. Placing our trust in Christ and living a life that looks more and more like his stirs things up.

When you start practicing mercy, peacemaking, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, your life is going to look different and people are going to notice. Not all of that notice is going to be positive. This Beatitude is honest enough to admit it.

We climb the ladder of the Beatitudes. It’s all leading up to so loving Jesus and desiring to follow him, that I will risk persecution. The higher you go on the ladder, the more risk there is.

Closer and closer to Jesus. I want to see thinks as you see them. I want to do things as you do them. Closer and closer to heaven- your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In order to get to heaven, you have to die. In order to be fully a part of heaven on earth, you have to die to self and be raised to new life in Jesus Christ. 

The higher we climb, the more we die to self.

  • Blessed are the Poor in Spirit- God, help me to die to trying to save myself and doing things in my own strength.
  • Blessed are those who Mourn- God, help me to die to sin and self-centeredness.
  • Blessed are the Meek- God, help me die to unbridled strength. I never want my power, talents, and strength to be used as a weapon.
  • Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness- God help me die to division, to prejudice, anything which keeps apart from one another.
  • Blessed are the Merciful- God, help me to die to revenge, resentment, and payback.
  • Blessed are the Pure in Heart- God, help me to die to trying to serve two masters. Be the leader of my life. Sit on the throne of my heart. Give me an undivided heart, a heart after your own heart.
  • Blessed are the Peacemakers- God, help me to die to evil, injustice, oppression. Help me to die to violence and hate. Help me to die to me and mine, us and them, because in your kingdom it is only us.
  • Blessed are the Persecuted- God, help me to die to approval, popularity, and safety. Help me to die to hiding my faith and risk aversion. God make me courageous in wherever you would lead me.

The main symbol of Christianity isn’t the star of Bethlehem or the empty tomb. It’s the cross- an instrument of injustice and mocking and torture and death.

If you’re going to be a Christian, be a Christian, fully alive in Christ. Christian literally means “a little Christ.” Everything that goes along with following Jesus. If you’re going to be a Christian, then be a Christ. Be the blessing.

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Be the Beatitude, Be the Blessing © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Ladder of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

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

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

The Ladder of the Beatitudes by Jim Forest was inspired by a beautiful, sacred painting from the late 1100s entitled The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

It’s a painting of monks climbing a ladder towards Jesus in Heaven, illustrating the journey of faith.

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

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

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

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

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

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

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

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

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

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

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

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

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

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

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

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

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

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

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

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

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

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

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

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

What do you hunger and thirst for?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man from snowy river jim horse

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

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

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

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

The Natural Progression of the Beatitudes at work in a life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are now ready to be meek

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

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

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

The message ends with the prayer before Holy Communion.

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

Poor in Spirit, a Sermon from The Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

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Sermon Series: The Beatitudes, God’s Surprising Blessing
Message 1 of 4: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit and Those Who Mourn 
Scripture:  Matthew 5:1-12; Luke 18:9-14
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 8/25/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Set the scene

  • Jesus is at the beginning of his ministry
  • He calls his first disciples – the educated and advantaged? No. Some fishermen
  • He travels around his home region of Galilee proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease
  • His fame begins to spread. Large crowds started coming- Galilee, Syria, Jerusalem, 10 Roman cities of the Decapolis, Judea, and beyond the Jordan

People started bringing him all the sick

  • folks in crippling pain
  • folks possessed by demons
  • folks with seizures
  • paralyzed folks
  • poor folks
  • suffering folks
  • desperate folks
  • the outcasts and the unwanted

Every day the crowd grows bigger and bigger and bigger.

One day Jesus heads up one of the mountainsides and sits down. This would have caught everyone’s attention. When a rabbi sits, he’s indicating a time of formal teaching. It’s unusual, he’s outside, not in the synagogue.

Everyone gathers around and settles down, expectant, waiting. What are the first words out of his mouth?

Matthew 5:3-4
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

What??? Who in their right mind would look out over this massive crowd of broken, desperate, mourning, pain-ridden people and call them blessed?

The kingdom of God couldn’t possibly be for the likes of these. Many rabbis were teaching all over the region that the reason you were hurting, broken, sick, or poor is because you weren’t right with God and God was punishing you.

Jesus says, “Nope. That isn’t right.” Jesus says God loves them and welcomes them into the kingdom and they are blessed

I imagine Jesus looking out on that crowd on the side of the mountain and seeing all of humanity. Every person who ever lives.

I imagine Jesus looking down the mountainside and down through the ages and seeing me and seeing you.

We may have access to better medical care and clean water and be more educated. But deep down Jesus sees us and sees our brokenness and our pain.

I am those people on the mountain.
We are those people on the mountain.

We are the broken, the ill, the demon-possessed.
We are in pain, desperate, outcast.
We are loved and we are blessed and we are welcomed.
We need Jesus just like they need Jesus because we are all spiritual beggars.

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

Dallas Willard’s translation of Matthew 5:3 from his book The Divine Conspiracy
Blessed are the spiritual zeros- the spiritually bankrupt, deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of religion when the kingdom of the heavens comes upon them. 

I work so hard to not be a spiritual beggar. What child says, “When I grow up I want to be a beggar?” We don’t aspire to that.

I don’t want to be a beggar. I don’t want to be a beggar spiritually, financially, emotionally.

I don’t want to be a beggar, so I work hard. I want to have something to offer God when God comes to me.

  • God will love me if I do good things
  • God will love me more than others if I do more good things
  • So doing good things and being a good person will earn me brownie points with God
  • So when the Kingdom comes and Jesus comes I have something to offer.

I’m a good person and I do good things and that will save me. Nope.

The nope is good. Aren’t you thankful we don’t have to get good to get God!

Being a good person and doing good things will not earn me brownie points with God. It will not save me. My hard-working hard turns salvation into a transaction. If I do this then God will do that. Salvation isn’t a transaction – its grace, its mercy, it’s a gift.

Yes, Jesus is correcting the twisted theology of those who would judge and exclude people from God’s love and grace. But he is also reminding them and reminding us that we all spiritual beggars and we all need a Savior.

Isaiah 64:6, NIV
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind, our sins sweep us away.

Romans 3:23 puts it even more simply- all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Now hear the Good News, Matthew 5:3-4
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

What does spiritual poverty mean? (Adapted from a definition by Jim Forest in his book The Ladder of the Beatitudes)

  • It starts with self-awareness. I cannot save myself.
  • I am basically defenseless. Neither money nor power will spare me from suffering and death.
  • No matter what I achieve, no matter what I acquire, it will fall short.
  • Poverty of spirit is my awareness that I need God’s help and mercy more than I need anything else. 

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Luke 18:9-14.
Look at the reason why Jesus tells this parable.
9 Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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

We recognize we are spiritual beggars. We recognize our poverty of spirit. We recognize we cannot save ourselves and this naturally leads to us mourning our sin. 

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

We mourn the foolishness of our boasting.
We mourn how we’ve wasted our time, our talent, and our resources.
We mourn our self-centeredness
We mourn our self-righteousness
We mourn our apathy to God and the ways of God

We mourn how our words, our action, our inaction separate us from God, others, our true selves.

We mourn and we do what the tax collector did.

  1. We recognize our reality- we are all spiritual beggars, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
  2. We stop trying to save ourselves
  3. We place our trust in the mercy and grace of Jesus

The ground is even at the foot of the cross. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are all there together.

Receive the promise: blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.        

How many of us carry around the burden and guilt of sin? We mourn it, we confess it, and we are comforted. We receive the grace and forgiveness and healing we need.

How many of us carry around the burden of resentment? The burden of bitterness? The burden of judging others? The burden of getting busy enough to earn our salvation? The burden of self-medicating the feelings we hide?

Mourn them. Be honest with them. Hand them to Jesus. Receive the grace, mercy, and comfort Jesus is ready to provide. That’s the Good News. That’s our hope.

It feels upside down and backward. We’re “supposed to” pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and put on our big girl pants. It is actually surrender and truth and blessing.

Will you recognize who you are and receive the blessing, the comfort, the Kingdom?

Prayer based on James 4:8-10: Jesus we claim the promise that if we draw near to you, you will draw near to us. Cleanse us. Purify us. We are double-minded. We deny. We hide. Help us release and lament and mourn and weep the things we have done, the things we have said, the things we have left undone. Help us to humble ourselves before you, Lord, so you will lift us up.

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Beatitudes Sermon 1 of 3 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Sermon- Poor Man’s Lamb (2 Samuel 12)

Sermon Series Parables 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Parables
Message 4 of 4: Poor Man’s Lamb
Scripture: 2 Samuel 12:1-15
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 8/18/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

colorblind example
Colorblindness affects 1 in 12 men (8%) and 1 in 200 women in the world. Most people see 10 million shades of color. A colorblind person only sees around 100,000 shades.

A company named EnChroma invented glasses to help colorblind people see color. There are hundreds of videos on YouTube recording the emotions of people seeing color for the first time. Here’s one of them.

Like these glasses, stories have the power to help us see, open our eyes, wake us up.

Sermon recording starts here

This morning, we’ll read a story from the prophet Nathan, praying God will use it to open our eyes and souls. As I read it, close your eyes and imagine the story.

After I read it, I’ll give you some questions to think about. This is not a quiz. Just jot down some impressions.

If you know the story or the reason the prophet Nathan told this story and who he told it to, set that aside for a moment. Look at it with fresh eyes. No spoilers for the rest of us

The Story of the Poor Man’s Lamb. 2 Samuel 12:1-4, The Voice Translation
1…Two men lived in the same city. One was quite rich and the other quite poor; 2 the rich man’s wealth included livestock with many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man owned only one little ewe lamb. He bought it and raised it in his family, with his children, like a pet. It used to eat what little food he had, drink from his meager cup, and snuggle against him. It was like a daughter to him.

4 Now a traveler came to the city to visit the rich man. To offer a proper welcome, the rich man knew he needed to fix a meal, but he did not want to take one of the animals from his flocks and herds. So instead he stole the poor man’s ewe lamb and had it killed and cooked for his guest.

What do you love as deeply as the poor man loved his lamb?
When you think about the rich man’s actions, what feelings are stirred up inside you?

Read the story again
How is the story speaking to situations in our country?
How is the story speaking to you?

Stories are powerful. They have the ability to help us see, to open our eyes, to wake us up.  A story can help us better understand a situation, see something from another person’s perspective, or see our own prejudice and sin.

What stories have changed your perspective?

What stories have opened you up, opened your eyes, awakened you to something going on in the world or going on within yourself?

The Scriptures are very powerful for doing this. The Bible is unlike any other book you will ever read. God’s Word is living, active. God communicates with us through the Scriptures.

If you go to the Bible looking for history or science, you will be disappointed. But if you go to the Scriptures looking for God, you will find God. By reading the Scriptures we learn what God’s voice sounds like. We learn the character of God.

God speaks to our souls and our character. It’s why we need to be reading the Scriptures regularly and reading the Scriptures with others. We read so it becomes more than head knowledge, it goes deep to become heart knowledge and soul knowledge. It brings a change in our life.

2 Samuel 12:1-15
The prophet Nathan tells this story to King David. David has an emotional reaction to this story, just as you did. He is awakened inside.

5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 6 he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

David is read to ask, “Who is this?” David’s going to hold him accountable.

7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”

It’s a hit in the chest at this point. Truth bomb.

Nathan reminds David who he really is. What David has done is out of character. David’s become something twisted, having done great evil and sin.

Nathan is a close, good, faithful friend to speak the truth to David so he can be awakened to his true self, so he can see what he has done.

Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; 8 I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. ….

Nathan lays it all out. I know exactly what you have done.

David, the one who is called the man after God’s own heart.

  • The faithful shepherd boy who defeats the giant Goliath with a sling and a stone
  • Who then becomes the leader of the armies of Israel, a brave warrior who leads them to great victories in the Name of God.
  • Who is chased by a jealous and violent King Saul. Does David fight him or take revenge on him? No, David forgives him and proclaims again he is Saul’s servant. David is a humble, disciplined man.
  • When Saul is dead, God raises up David to be King. David unites all the tribes of God’s people, bringing them into one nation. David sets up the capitol in Jerusalem and in the center of the capital, David places the ark of the covenant where the presence and worship of God will take place.
  • David, the one who writes many of the Psalms we still read today.
  • David, who dances with abandon in the worship of Almighty God.
  • David who has many wives and could snap his fingers and have even more.

David, who is now king, abuses his power. He looks down from his palace and sees Bathsheba bathing. (How crazy is it that Nathan doesn’t use her name!)

David sees her and wants her and summons her. What can she do? Nothing because he is the king. He rapes her. He commits adultery. Then she gets pregnant.

From there it gets worse and worse. There’s deceit. There are lies. Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, is brought home. David tries to cover it up by manipulating Uriah, but it doesn’t happen. He’s a man of integrity.

So David basically puts out a mob hit on him, sending him back to battle in the very front of the line, knowing he’ll be killed, so he can marry Bathsheba.

It is awful. He has stolen the poor man’s lamb. A man who was faithful to fight for his country.

Nathan is calling him out on it. Because that’s what friends do and that’s what prophets do and that’s what a story does. A story opens us up to where we have blindspots. David is totally blind to how twisted he has become.

Nathan reminds David who is truly is. This is who you are and this is what God has done for you. What you have done is evil.

What does David do? David repents. 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Our sin does not just affect ourselves, it ripples. Look at all the lives- Bathsheba’s life, Uriah’s life, the lives of all the insiders who knew what was really going on in a breach of trust. It ripples all the way up to God. It breaks relationship.

God through Nathan calls David back to himself.

This is not a fairy tale. David repents and everything’s all right. It isn’t all right. The consequences of his actions ripple and tear his family apart. It’s a mess. God redeems it.

This is the power of a story. This is why we stay in God’s Word. This is why we have close friends who are going to speak the truth in love to us and call us back to ourselves. And this is why we worship the One, True, Living God who speaks us and forgives us and gives us eyes to see.

Do you want eyes to see? We live in a time where we need to be awake and alive and true and trustworthy. We need to be the people of hope. We need to be the people of integrity. We need to stay awake to all that’s going on because we have the Word of Life.

How did the story speak to you? Did it speak to you personally? A family, business, community, or national level? What is God calling you to do?

Prayer: God we thank you for speaking to us. It is amazing that you would want to have anything to do with us. Your love is that great and your patience is that great and your mercy is that great. We thank you that we can come to you just as we are. That we don’t have to hide. We don’t have to pretend. We pray for eyes to see. Awaken us and keep us woke. Give us a story to share, a story of mercy and grace and forgiveness. A story of new life and hope and truth and justice. A story of belonging. Thank you, Lord. Make us new. Give us eyes to see. Amen.

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Poor Man’s Lamb Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Holy Spirit, Stopping the Flow (Acts 8)

Sermon Series spirit filled 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Spirit Filled
Message 2 of 5: Stopping the Flow
Scripture: Acts 8:9-24
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 6/16/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Romans 5:5
Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Last week we read the story of Pentecost. (Acts 2) Over and over again it talked about pouring and filling and pouring and filling. Romans 5:5 is another scripture which talks about the Holy Spirit being poured into our lives.

These scriptures draw us to a very important question: Why do you want a relationship with God? Has your why changed over the years?

Some would say, “It’s the right thing to do.” Others would say, “I was raised this way. I was carried into the church in the arms of my family. I’ve always had a relationship with God.”

When I first started pursuing a relationship with God, I was 15 years old and I didn’t want to burn in hell. I was scared to death and scared of death. I’d seen a TV show about the end of the world. There wasn’t an adult around to tell me this was opinion, not necessarily fact. The idea of “turn or burn” was reinforced at the neighborhood church I began attending.

Over time my why has changed. Instead of being a fearful slave of God, it changed into a relationship of grace, love, and hope. I’m eternally grateful for that.

The “why” of us wanting to have a relationship with God is really important because it colors everything.

  • How we see God and understand God
  • How we read scripture
  • How we look at serving, grace, hope, and eternal life

It’s important to check our motivations from time to time. Our motivation can be like a faucet. It can direct the flow of the Holy Spirit in our life. If our motivation is twisted in the wrong way, it can turn off the flow of the Holy Spirit.

Today, we’re reading a cautionary tale. The scriptures are full of examples to follow and examples to avoid. This is one to avoid.

Side Note: There is nothing wrong with magic. The problem is Simon’s heart, not that he’s a magician.

Read Acts 8:9-24the story of Simon the Sorcerer

Simon the Magician desired a relationship with God so God could be a means to an end. Jesus was a Divine Santa Claus to give him everything on his wish list. The Holy Spirit, a Cosmic Insider to hook him up with power, fame, and social status.

Jesus santa claus

Am I like Simon? Simon’s story is a cautionary tale – full of wrong motivations. When we come across a story like this it’s important for us to pause, hold up a mirror, and ask, “Am I like Simon?” What’s my motivation for desiring a relationship with God? Why do I want the Holy Spirit?

It matters. It matters a great deal.  It can be the difference between the Holy Spirit flowing in our lives and the turning off of the Spirit of God.

  • Wrong Motivation: Draw Attention to Yourself
  • Right Motivation: Draw Attention to God

Acts 8:9b-10, Simon likes showing-off. He is hungry for attention and fame.   
[Simon boasted] saying that he was someone great. 10 All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.”

Acts 8:12-13, Philip draws attention to God
12 But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.

Phillip is filled with the Holy Spirit to proclaim the good news and perform real signs and wonders, not magical illusions. Lives are being transformed and he keeps pointing them to Jesus. He does nothing for personal gain or status. He’s like Vanna on Wheel of Fortune, he points to the Word, constantly pointing people to Jesus.

Matthew 5:16
Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

We let our light shine so others say, “Look what God is doing! Yay God!”

Example: Trinity Director of Traditional Music, LaTerry Butler, always replying to a compliment with, “Thanks be to God… Glory to God… Blessed be the Name…”

  • Wrong Motivation: Be THE Leader (Not be a leader. Phillip, Peter, and John are all leaders.) Who is sitting on the throne of your heart?
  • Right Motivation: Follow Jesus

Acts 8:10, 11 both report the crowds listened eagerly to Simon. The people followed him and treated him like a god. Simon did not correct them. He liked it.

God is my co-pilot. No, God is the pilot.

  • Wrong Motivation: Build up Myself
  • Right Motivation: Build Up Others

Acts 8:18-20, Simon wants to buy God’s power for his own benefit
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!”

Mercedes Benz by Janis Joplin, Bob Neuwirth, Michael Mcclure
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends. Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends. So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV? Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me. I wait for delivery each day until three. So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town? I’m counting on you, Lord, please don’t let me down. Prove that you love me and buy the next round. Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town?

James 4:3  
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

1 Corinthians 12:7  
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

What are we to do? Phillip, Peter, and John model it for us. They are always following Jesus and always pointing to Jesus. Jesus is the leader and forgiver of their lives, their Lord and Savior.

Peters speaks the truth in love to Simon. Your heart is wrong! You need to repent. You need to turn away from this and turn towards God.

Simon says, “Pray for me.” (Acts 8:24) Simon is open to change and that’s the good news for all of us.

God keeps reaching out to us again and again and again. To create in us a clean heart, to renew in us a right spirit, to restore to us the joy of our salvation, and place in us a willing spirit.

It is a journey. We can turn and learn and become the people we were meant to be.

There’s good news in the awakening. There’s good news in realizing I haven’t given that over to God yet. There’s time to do it.

Why do you want a relationship with God? Who’s sitting on the throne of your heart? How can you more and more point to Jesus?

Psalm 51:10-12
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

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Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Power © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Full Full Nets, a prayer based Jesus Calling the Disciples (Mark 1)

80_1cast_your_netMark 1:14-20, NRSV
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Jesus,
You call me from what I know to something new
From a life on this sea with this family
From the nets of generations before me

You call me to a new beginning
A new being and doing
You call me to follow
To move and become

Help me turn towards you
Help me follow
Help me believe and trust you fully
Immediately
Help me live into my chosenness
To lay down what I know and pick up anew

Empower me to go out with you
Across, beyond, into the deep
Bringing in your wild, shining kingdom
Full, full nets
Full, full nets
Full, full nets

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Full, full nets © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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