Growing in Resilience: Release, based on Isaiah 43.18-19

healing hand lightGrowing in Resilience
Day 4, Read Isaiah 43
Reflection: Lead On, based on Isaiah 43:18-19

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Jesus,
You open the door to all that is hidden and hurtful
That we might let go of
All that is false and destructive
All that we think will save us but will not
All the guilt and shame we needlessly carry
All the regret that suffocates our future

silent prayers of confession

Jesus,
We release it all to you
Trusting your power and promise
You are doing a new thing
You are making a way
It’s bursting forth in us and our world
Hallelujah!

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Release © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording – The Sunday After the School Shooting (Repent and Believe the Gospel)

Message: The Sunday After the School Shooting, Repent and Believe the Gospel
Scriptures: Genesis 3:19; Mark 1:15
Offered 2/18/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida, the Sunday after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL.

douglas high school shooting victims

Victims of the School Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL. 17 murdered, 15 more injured
Chris Hixon, 49
Nicholas Dworet, 17
Aaron Feis, 37
Gina Montalto, 14
Scott Beigel, 35
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
Joaquin Oliver, 17
Jaime Guttenberg, 14
Martin Duque, 14
Meadow Pollack, 18
Alex Schachter, 14
Peter Wong, 15
Helena Ramsay, 17
Alaina Petty, 14
Carmen Schentrup, 16
Cara Loughran, 14
Luke Hoyer, 15

douglas high school shooting loved ones

I’ve been haunted by the picture of a woman holding another woman with a cross of ashes on her forehead. The school shooting occurred Valentine’s Day, which was also Ash Wednesday. This woman had been to worship earlier in the day with no idea how her day would end.

As the ashes were applied to her forehead, this is what she heard, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the Gospel.”

Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return (Genesis 3:19)
Remember you are earthy, humus. Remember God gave you the gift of life, that you are made in the image of God, that you are strong, gifted, and beloved of God.

Remember it with humility, for you are humus, human. You are just like everyone else. You are frail, mortal. You are capable of great love and great sin.

The online mass shooting tracker defines mass murder as 3 or more people murdered in one event. They define a mass shooting as 4 or more people shot in a single shooting spree.

From January 1- February 17, 2018, the first 48 days of the year, there have been 43 mass shootings. 83 persons were killed and 151 persons wounded.

Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent…
We wear ashes to remind us of our mortality, our frailty, our humanness, and our need for humility. The ashes also remind us of sackcloth and ashes. In the scriptures, persons would wear sackcloth and ashes when they were grieving the loss of a loved one or the loss of freedom. They would also wear sackcloth and ashes when they were grieving their sin.

My intentional inventory related to all these shootings. I repent and seek God’s forgiveness.

  • I repent of sympathizing with the bereaved families and then too quickly moving on
  • I repent of offering “thoughts and prayers” which cost me nothing instead of risking and caring and working for peace
    • Faith without works is dead
    • Sermons without action is hypocrisy
  • I repent of my participation in our culture of death
    • The violence I tolerate in the name of entertainment
    • The weapons I tolerate in the name of safety and freedom
    • The hard conversations about guns and children I am afraid to have, afraid to lead in our church family because there’s already enough pain in my life,  and I don’t want to add more
  • I repent of the harm I do to others
    • With my words and with my silence
    • With my actions and with my inaction

Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent and believe…
I believe

  • I don’t have to become numb or overwhelmed in the face of wave after wave of violence
  • That we can all have safe schools
  • That we can all have access to great mental health care provided by gifted professionals
  • That it is my responsibility to hold our leaders accountable and to help them be courageous
  • That we can have honest, faithful conversations on difficult topics and still remain brothers and sisters in Christ
  • That we can/must lay aside our divisions to end the plague of gun violence

Why?
Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return: time is short and valuable, life is valuable. Repent: there is time to turn in a new direction, that new direction is toward God.

I don’t just believe, I believe in the Gospel

  • God is good. God is strong. God is love.
  • Our Jesus, the One who healed, taught, prayed for us, understands our pain because he was tortured and murdered, senselessly, unjustly.
  • And our Jesus rose victorious, our Savior and Lord, our Peace, our Hope

I claim the Gospel, the power of the cross and resurrection

  • That breaks the power of grief, despair, and death itself
  • That breaks the cycle of violence, retaliation, fear, apathy

I claim the Gospel, the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me

  • To speak the truth in love, to work for the common good, to pray and to act
  • To seek the wisdom of Almighty God to end the bloodshed because Jesus shed enough for all of us

Ann Voskamp testimony from her blog post
When I stand in the kitchen, stacking dishes on the third day of Lent, our littlest girl flies by me on her wooden push bike, “Looooveeeee you.”

And a heart hurting for a hurting world, I mutter it more to her than to me,
“What in this world does love even mean?”

And our little girl comes to a full stop. Slides off her little Red Rider. And comes back to me.

“You wanna know what Love means?”
She cocks her head, parrots back my words in her high-pitched 3-year-old lisp.

And I look over to her standing there in her mismatched socks and a lopsided ponytail.

“I know what love means, Mama!” She gently laughs like a laying on of hands that heals the rawest wounds.

“Love means this —— “ And she flings her arms open as wide as they can reach.

That wisp of a 3-year-old girl, she’s standing there with her arms stretched wide open — cruciform. Not wearing a cross on her forehead — yet making all of her — arms, hands, body — into a cross. “Yeah, you’re right baby girl — Love means exactly this.”

Remember You are Dust and to Dust, You Shall Return (Genesis 3:19)
Repent and Believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15)

An Invitation to Observe a Holy Lent
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
the early Christians observed with great devotion
the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection,
and it became the custom of the Church that before the Easter celebration
there should be a forty–day season of spiritual preparation.

In this way, the whole congregation was reminded
of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ
and the need we all have to renew our faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Jesus Christ and His Church,
to observe a holy Lent:
by self–examination, and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self–denial;
by acts of generosity, compassion, peacemaking, and service;
and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.

To make a right beginning of repentance,
and as a mark of our mortal nature,
let us now come and bow before our Creator and Redeemer.

Thanksgiving Over the Ashes
Almighty God, you created humanity from the dust of the earth. Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality, our humility, and sorrow for our sin. We admit our eternal need of you and claim the greatness of your eternal grace and forgiveness, in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Imposition of Ashes
Persons are invited forward to receive ashes on their forehead and kneel in confession. The following words are traditionally spoken by those applying the ashes as the ashes are received
Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return. (Gen. 3:19)
Repent, and believe the gospel.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean 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 join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording – Remember You Are Dust (Joel 2, Psalm 51)

ash wedensday with palms

Message: Remember You Are Dust
Scriptures: Joel 2:12-17; Psalm 51:1-12
I’m catching up on some 2017 sermons which haven’t been posted. This sermon was offered 2/26/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Breath in, Breath Out
Which is more important? Inhaling or exhaling?
Which is more important? What we believe or how we behave?

Belief and behavior both matter, just like inhaling and exhaling.
What we believe shapes how we behave.
How we behave demonstrates what we believe.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been walking through the book of James.
It’s a book which focuses on how the followers of Jesus are to behave.
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.
Faith without works is dead.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.

Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) also focuses on behavior.
Turn the other cheek
Go the extra mile
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Do not judge
Do to others as you would have them do to you

Likewise, Jesus’ parable of the final judgment (Matthew 25), as illustrated by the separating of sheep and goats, focuses on behavior. Those welcomed into the kingdom are those who
Feed the hungry
Give the thirsty something to drink
Welcome the stranger
Give clothing to the naked
Care for the sick
Visit those in prison

John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” This isn’t a sentimental, candy-coated feeling. This is love made real in our words and actions. In our sacrifices and steadfastness.

And yet, belief is critically important.
Without it, we are merely humanists
Without it, we are unplugged from the eternal
Unplugged from the “why” of our actions
Unplugged from the “how” of our strength to act

Placing our trust in Jesus Christ opens the way for the Holy Spirit to lead us and transform us: our behavior, our motivation, our perspective on what’s important, our love.

Our belief allows the Holy Spirit to shape us into the very likeness of Jesus.

Following Jesus is about the integration of belief and behavior. By cooperating with God’s grace, we become people of integrity. Integrated. We who are broken become whole. We are “re-membered.”

The integration of belief and behavior is so important we set aside time every year to reflect and focus on it.

  • We face our true selves in the light and love of Jesus.
  • We face our failures, our shortcomings in the grace of Jesus
  • We commit to continued growth in the likeness of our Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit

To help us do this, we use a symbol: ashes
The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder that we are all dust. We are all mortal. We are all imperfect people. Our time here is short. Make it count.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder of our humility. Humility, human and hummus are all from the same root word meaning “of the earth.” We have a common bond with all people and all living things. We are no better or worse.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder of our sorrow, a modern expression of the days’ people displayed their grief by wearing sackcloth and ashes. We grieve the spoiling and wasting of God’s good gift of life. We lament how we’ve hurt God, others, the earth, and ourselves. We mourn our sin.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is in the shape of a cross. A tangible sign of the infinite grace of Jesus Christ that meets us wherever we are and loves us too much to leave us there.

Psalm 103:13b-14, The Voice
The Eternal shows His love for those who revere Him.
For He knows what we are made of
He knows our frame is frail, and He remembers we came from dust.

Jesus accepts us with all our contradictions between what we believe and the way we behave. Jesus draws us, invites us, and empowers us toward new life: A transformed life, a whole and holy life, where belief and behavior are fully integrated with his good and divine will.

Come, see how the ashes and the grace are good.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean 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 join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, 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 – Generous Living (Luke 19.1-10)

zacchaeus

Soichi Watanabe’s Jesus And Zacchaeus

Message: Generous Living
Scriptures: Luke 19:1-10
Message 4 of 4 to accompany the study Earn, Save, Give by Rev. James A. Harnish. Offered 2/4/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Jericho

  • The turning point between Galilee and Jerusalem. Located in the Jordan River Valley near the Dead Sea
  • A fragrant and fertile place. Dates, palm-honey, myrrh, and balsam. Used to make fragrances, medicine, makeup.
  • Major trade center. Valued by Rome as a center of taxation. Rich, powerful tax collectors make sure the taxes are rendered unto Caesar, plus some extra for themselves.

Zacchaeus

  • Chief tax collector. Rich. Short.
  • What happens to short people, especially short men? They are teased. Many feel they must prove themselves.

Quote from Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire
Somewhere along the way to adulthood, Zacchaeus learned to compensate—first, to laugh at the jokes, and later, to fight back. And so, as he climbed the professional ladder, he stepped on anyone who stood in his way, anyone on the next rung up. He would show them, show them all. Someday they’d look up to him.

At last, he made it to the top—  a chief tax collector. King of the hill, controlling commerce. King of the hill, greasing his greedy little palms with the sweat of his neighbor’s brow. King of the hill, looking down over Jericho.

But the hill Zacchaeus rules is a dunghill, at least in the eyes of the people. For tax gatherers are despised as little more than ruthless bill collectors for a corrupt government. Even the Talmud looks down on them, allowing a Jew permission to lie to a murderer, to a thief, and . . . to a tax collector.

True, Zacchaeus has power. And he has wealth. But the stature he sought among others has eluded him.

What else eludes Zacchaeus? Friendship, belonging, salvation, meaning, love, healing, peace

Have you ever started down a path, only to find what you were looking for eludes you, too?

Now there’s hope
Zacchaeus has heard stories about this Jesus who was a friend of tax collectors and sinners.

  • Who ate and drank with them and stayed in their homes
  • Who changed the life of Levi/Matthew, the tax collector at Capernaum. Levi left a lucrative career, left everything to follow Jesus. This Jesus must be some man.
  • There’s even talk of him being the Messiah. Not just a rabbi, a healer, but a Messiah who’s a friend of tax collectors.
  • Zacchaeus is willing to look the fool for even a glimpse of Jesus. He runs. He climbs a tree. Zacchaeus literally goes out on a limb to get to Jesus.

Imagine all that Zacchaeus is feeling. His chest is pounding from the run and the climb. Jesus and his disciples are coming. Closer. Closer. Then Jesus stops right in front of him.
Their eyes meet. Jesus calls Zacchaeus by name. In front of all those people, Jesus asks if he can come to Zacchaeus’ home. Later, Zacchaeus makes Jesus his home.

Zacchaeus

  • Experiences a complete transformation. Not just part of his life, but the whole.
  • Zacchaeus chooses both repentance and reparation. He turns from walking in his own strength and plan to follow Jesus. (Repentance, Justification) He doesn’t stop there. He wants to make things right, live a new way. (Reparation, Sanctification)
  • Zacchaeus goes out on a limb to see Jesus and out on a limb to follow Jesus fully. He liquidates his war chest to care for the poor and compensate those he defrauded.

This is what our salvation should look like as well: complete transformation, not just part of our lives, not just enough to get into heaven. We turn. We follow. We live a new life. 

earn save give cover

John Wesley, in his sermon entitled The Use of Money, wrote, “Having, first, gained all you can, and, secondly saved all you can, then give all you can.”

  • Gain = Earn. As followers of Jesus, we embrace hard, honest work. Zacchaeus will be looking for a new job or doing his current job in a very different way.
  • Save = Stewardship.  Zacchaeus realizes we are and have belongs to God. We are caretakers. My money, my possessions, my talents, my body, are not my own. As followers of Jesus, we embrace careful, farsighted, faithful management of everything God’s entrusted to us. Zacchaeus’s management will include caring for the poor and making right his old, evil ways.
  • Give = Generous Living

Earn all you can + Save all you can = the ultimate goal of generous living. We can trust and follow and give because Christ has already given everything for us.

Generosity by Steve Garnaas Holmes
True poverty and riches are in our hearts,
not our pockets.

Fear is the only prison that prevents us
from loving deeply,
from giving freely,
from living richly.

Generosity is the power that sets us free.
It melts the prison bars.
It fills the coffers of our hearts.

In generosity, regardless of circumstances,
even the penniless are not poor,
even the destitute are not alone,
even the flat broke are not afraid.

Give everything you have,
and you will be free
and unafraid

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean 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 join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Save us from our selfish selves, a prayer of confession (Matthew 11)

save me from myself

Based on Matthew 11:20-24

Mighty One,
We call to you for deeds of power
You answer
We see them moment by moment, day by day
The steadfast outpouring of your grace and saving love

But do we thank you, Jesus?
Do we bow before you in awe?
Do we lift our songs in adoration?
Do we turn from our selfishness and sin to testify?

No.
We see but we do not repent
We see but we do not praise
We see but we do not follow

Lord have mercy
We are hard-hearted
Entitled
Apathetic

Lord have mercy
Work your most gracious miracle in us
Save us from our selfish selves
Lord have mercy

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Save us from our selfish selves, a prayer of confession © 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.

Help me Walk Your Path Instead of Mine (Genesis 17)

life-choices path journeyBased on Genesis 17:1, 9-10, 15-22

Lord God, bless my plan
my Ishmael
the fruit of my answer to a desperate need
the child of my own strengths and the pressure of others

“I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless.”

What have I done?
Forgive me
Help me
I am foolish and shortsighted

Your ways are higher and harder than mine
Your ways take patience and steadfast trust
Your ways are beyond my strength,
there is no doubt the answer is yours

Forgive me
Deliver me from me
Help me walk your path instead of mine

Make me a covenant keeper
Make me an instrument of your saving love
that generations would come to your blessing
that generations would come to be a part of your forever family

Increase my faith
Increase my trust
so my choices always point to your power and grace
Amen

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Help me walk your path instead of mine © 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.

Prayer: God, my strength (Psalm 59:17)

Psalm 59_17Psalm 59:17
O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
For you, O God, are my Fortress,
The God who shows me steadfast love.

Holy One, you are my strength.

Your love for me and your grace toward me never wavers,
even when my faith and my obedience do
Forgive me my many failures to trust you

Teach me to rely on you
to seek you
to listen for you and follow through

Grow in me great truth
great grace
great hope
that I may share what has found me

In the sharing bring a great harvest of repentance and deliverance
In the sharing bring salvation and your kingdom come
In the sharing bring honor and praise to your name alone
Father… Son… Spirit…
Amen

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God, my Strength by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia © 2016
You are welcome to use this in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa directly for publishing and posting consideration.