Christ Have Mercy, a prayer of confession based on Matthew 9.9-13

christe eleison

Mercy is not merely feeling sympathy. Mercy is extended by one who has the power to condemn or punish but chooses not to. We choose not to criticize, not to say, “I told you so,” not to exact our “pound of flesh” — not to avenge. As Jesus shows us in his interaction with the woman caught in adultery, mercy does not look back at what the person has done but forward to what the person can do in the future. – Mary Lou Redding. The Power of a Focused Heart: 8 Life Lessons from the Beatitudes

Christ have mercy on me,
a sinner.

I have failed to love as You Love
I have treated others as objects and obstacles
– less than human
– less than made in the image of God

I have elevated goals, persons, and things to the throne of my heart
I have procrastinated
I have wasted your precious gifts of time and talent and money

I am proud in unhealthy ways
I am apathetic
I have raised myself too high
Hid myself too low

Trusting in you and your promises
I call on your Mighty Name for mercy
I ask your forgiveness, Gracious Savior
I surrender to your healing, Great Physician
I claim your resurrection power, Risen One

You are already here
Calling me from the old to the new
Speaking my name
Welcoming me to table
Hallelujah! I will follow…

Based on Matthew 9:9-13, The Call of Matthew
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

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Christ Have Mercy, 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.

Sermon- The Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37)

Sermon Series Parables 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Parables
Message 2 of 4: The Valley of Dry Bones
Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 8/4/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. There is no recording of this message.

Ezekiel is a wild book of the Bible, full of powerful visions and dramatic choices. It’s also a book of hope. Today, we need a word of hope for so many reasons, including the mass shootings which took place in El Paso and Dayton.

Imagine yourself around age 25, living in the big city, the capital of your country. All your life you’ve known what you’re going to do- go into the family business. This blessing would bring you purpose and position, financial security and a bright future.

One day all of it crashes. A mighty foreign power invades, but they don’t destroy the city. Instead, they gut the hope out of the people by kidnaping the best and brightest of the young people. You are taken far from home, those you love, and your future.

This is what’s happened to Ezekiel. He thought he would become a priest at the temple in Jerusalem. Instead, he’s taken into exile in Babylon.

The Book of Ezekiel starts 5 years later. Ezekiel is at a refugee camp by a river in Babylon. It’s his 30th birthday, the time when he was supposed to start serving as a priest. The time his life was supposed to begin.

Ezekiel has a vision – 4 powerful creatures, each with 4 faces, traveling in formation. Underneath them are wheels. They form a divine chariot for God’s royal throne. The very presence of God rests there.

In this overwhelming moment, God calls Ezekiel to be a prophet instead of a priest. God tells Ezekiel to speak truth, to speak out against violence, injustice, and the worship of false gods, to call people back to remembrance and repentance and relationship with God.

Ezekiel begins to speak the truth to everyone- no one listens, their hearts are hard. This goes on for years. Ezekiel stays true.

Ezekiel is also called by God to proclaim another attack is coming to Jerusalem and this time everything will be destroyed. Ezekiel’s prophesy comes true- Babylon attacks again. People of God are murdered and scattered. Jerusalem is destroyed, including the temple-

  • the center of government,
  • the needed place for forgiveness and cleansing and thanksgiving and praise
  • the home of the presence of the One True Living God

Ezekiel wonders – Is God done with us? Have we blown it for good? Too much sin, apathy, worshipping false gods…

The question is fresh for us.

Is God done with my nation?

  • Growing secularization and apathy towards God.
  • The polarization based on economics, race, age, political party
  • Wars and rumors of wars
  • 44 mass shootings in the last month

Is God done with the church?

Is God done with me?

  • Often heard people say, “If I walked into a church, the roof would cave in.”
  • I don’t think I want a conversation with God because I don’t want to hear what God would say to me.

Is God done? The resounding answer of God is NO! I’m going to do something new.

It’s not because we are deserving or worthy. It’s not because we’ve said the magic words or earned it with a magic sacrifice.

It’s because this is God’s character. God’s being. God says this is who I am. I am the One who makes all things new. I am the One who creates. I am the One who saves and I do not change.

valley dry bones

The Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14) Notice how often the spirit appears in this passage!

1 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.

Dry Bones

  • Very Many Bones- it takes time to tour the valley. Reinforces the loss.
  • Very Dry Bones- the people have been dead a long time, the bones are picked clean, bleached white

Rebellion against God brings death

  • Death of Ezekiel’s dream to be a priest
  • Death of home, of life the Promised Land
  • Death of Jerusalem and Death of the Temple
  • Death of many people
  • Death of the covenant? God says, “No!” and God creates.

3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them:

  • This is how God creates, God speaks. Consider the creation story in Genesis and Jesus the Word made flesh.

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

  • God speaks and there is breath and life and holiness and goodness. God does this for us. In our dryness, our desert, our death, God speaks.

7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them, but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

  • They lived and they stood. They stand, withstand, and stand firm. They were not just flesh and bone, not the walking dead. Now they were bone and breath and life.

11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’         

  • Have you ever had that voice running through your head? I’m just dried up, no good, all is hopeless, a lost cause, no one to help me, no one who loves me, this bad choice will haunt me forever. That isn’t the voice of God.

Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber Quote: God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions, and God keeps loving us back to life over and over again.

12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”

We will know that we know that we know.

It’s not enough for us to try harder and do better. We surrender into life by the breath of God.

Our God is a God of creation, a God of life – just like Genesis 2, just like the raising of Lazarus, just like Pentecost, just like the resurrection of Jesus, God brings life to our bones. Not just bones but breath.

God cleansing. God breathing. God creating. God resurrecting.

Let us breathe and be full of hope. God is not done with us. We’ve got work to do. To help other folks find what’s found us. We are the people of hope.

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The Valley of Dry Bones © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Glorious Inheritance (Ephesians 1)

holy-spirit-outpouring-deborah-brown

Holy Spirit Outpouring by Deborah Brown

Generous One,
You lavish upon us a glorious inheritance
It flows from your abundant love

We are made rich in your great mercy and grace

Pour it out again and again and again
for the healing of the nations
Your spirit of unity
Your spirit of wisdom
Your spirit of revelation

Enlighten the eyes of every heart
with your hope and your power
The same power that raised Jesus from the dead

Pour it out again and again and again for the healing of the nations

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This prayer was born from the Ephesians Reading Challenge. Click Here for more information on the challenge to read and reflect on the entire book of Ephesians 3 times in 3 weeks. 

The Ephesians Reading Challenge accompanied a sermon series entitled Sit Walk Stand which was inspired by Watchman Nee‘s book Sit Walk Stand, a study of Ephesians. You will find recordings and notes from this series on the blog as well.

Glorious Inheritance © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Sit- We Receive When We Rest (Ephesians 2)

sit-walk-stand

Sermon Series: Sit Walk Stand
Inspired by Watchman Nee‘s book Sit Walk Stand, a study of Ephesians

Message 1 of 3: Sit
Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-9
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 5/19/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Click Here for more information on the Ephesians Reading Challenge
Read the entire book of Ephesians 3 times in 3 weeks

The main theme of Ephesians: What it means to move with Christ from death to life

Read Ephesians 2:1-3  
Paul describes what life is like before we place our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It can look like life- doing, accomplishing, living. In reality, life before Christ is basically the walking dead.

Read Ephesians 2:4-9
The passage now shifts from death to life. Notice the descriptions of God’s motivation, God’s character, God’s heart. God is rich in mercy. Rich in grace. God has great love and uses that great love to love us. God loves us even when we are dead. When we have nothing but death to offer.

Death to Life. Jesus raising us up. We are Easter People.

For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. – Ephesians 2:8

Gift Box Illustration
Jesus offers us the gift of mercy, grace, and salvation. We pass it by again and again. How can we receive the gift of God if we are constantly in motion, constantly striving?

  • We are busy doing life: do the laundry, do my job, go to the grocery store, go to the doctor, cook the meal. We make to-do lists.
  • Busy doing for God: do my devotions, do my volunteer work, do the Bible study, do my duty and invite my new neighbor to worship

You can only receive when you rest– when you sit; when you stop. This is why it is first. Sit Walk Stand. Sitting is our position in Jesus Christ. It is being before doing.

Faith is depending on what Christ has done and is doing before you do anything. Jesus raises us up from death and seats us. Sit- We receive when we rest.

What would it be like for you to do the Ephesians Reading Challenge? For you to read the chapter from Ephesians and just sit with God’s Word. It’s not about acquiring knowledge, not about getting answers, not about checking off something from your to-do list. Read. Sit with Jesus, the Word. That’s the challenge.

What would it be like to sit with Jesus in prayer? The only thing you say is, “I just want to be with you.”

Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

How many of us sit down, even lay down, and we have a monkey mind. Our souls are full of anxiousness. Jesus will give us rest for our body, mind, emotions, and soul. This is why sit is first. We receive when we rest.

Instead of being yoked with the world and the ways of the world, we are yoked with Jesus and His ways. The best way to learn from Jesus is to be with him all the time. Not doing with Jesus or doing for Jesus, but being with Jesus.

Pilgrims progress lay down sin burdenWhat burdens is Jesus inviting us to lie down?
We often think of the burdens of life: sorrow, anxiousness, trouble, stress, pain, overwhelm, grief, worry…

The first burden Jesus invites us to lay down is the burden of our sin. That sin is tied to busyness and distraction.

  • The sin of trying to save ourselves is Pride. I don’t need what you did in your death and resurrection. I can do it myself.
  • The sin of trying to be worthy to be saved is also Pride. What you did in your death and resurrection isn’t powerful enough so I’ve got to help.
  • Can a dead person do anything? No! Jesus makes the first move because we can’t. By grace, we are saved through faith, and this is not your own doing it is the gift of God.

God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:4-6

In Genesis, humans are created and what is the first thing they do? Rest. Created on day 6 and the next day is day 7, the Sabbath, the day of rest. Being before doing. We can only receive when we rest.

Death to Life. See yourself resurrected from the dead and seated with Christ. Receive salvation as the grace gift that it is. You are alive in Christ.

Already Raisen by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Live as if you are risen

The fear-tombed, nay-saying, people-pleasing
prisoner of scarcity, shame, and threat— that one has died.

The stone of Outcomes has been rolled away.
The linen grave-clothes of Consequences are lying abandoned.

You are free.
Forgiven, accompanied, love-enabled, miracle-powered,
you are a member of the risen body of Christ.

You are those hands with holes in them Jesus shows, and says, “Peace.”
You are the flesh the Spirit moves to do her next wonders.

You’ve already died and gone to heaven,
no mere flesh now, but pure love,
unafraid of death and its useless threats,
with unshakable courage,
nothing to lose, everything in your hands.

Don’t live as if you’re afraid to be crucified.
Live as if you’re already risen

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Sit Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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What I Need (John 20)

Jesus appears to disciples

by Ed de Guzman

In John 20:19-29, Jesus appears to the disciples twice following his resurrection from the dead. The first time, Thomas isn’t there. Maybe he’s out getting supplies. Maybe he’s seeing other disciples who are hiding in another location. Maybe he’s gathering information or caring for someone or the only one brave enough to head out into the streets knowing the danger. We simply don’t know Thomas’ reasons or motivation.

When he returns, there’s great excitement about Jesus’ appearance. That’s understandable. Thomas’ response is also understandable. He wants what the other disciples now have. He wants to see Jesus, too.

Imagine what Thomas is thinking that long week between appearances. I imagine Thomas doubting himself far more than Jesus.

  • Why didn’t Jesus wait till we were all here?
  • Is Jesus mad at me or disappointed in me?
  • Did he abandon me as I abandoned him?
  • Was I not worthy of seeing him?
  • Will he come again?

Jesus does come again and gives Thomas what he needs. Jesus does the same for us as well. – Lisa <><

Jesus, you give me what I need
What I need to believe
What I need to live

Like my brother Thomas,
I lay the doubting down
You come for me
You want me as well
You want us all

The gift of your presence is for me
The gift of your peace is for me
So too the power of your Spirit
The very Breath of Life
Abundant Life in your name

Jesus, you give me what I need
Seeing
Signs
Spirit
Wounds
Words
Wonder
Peace
Power
Sending
Oh My Jesus
My Lord and My God

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What I need © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Easter Message- Collective Trauma, Collective Hope (Matthew 28.1-10)

Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 5 of 5: Collective Trauma, Collective Hope

Scripture: Matthew 28:1-10
Notes from a message offered Easter Sunday, 4/21/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Read Matthew 28:1-10

notre dame burning

Last Monday, the Paris Cathedral of Notre Dame burned. 

  • Where were you when you heard the news?
  • What did you think?
  • How did you feel?

As I watched, heartbroken and sick to my stomach I thought of the three historic African American churches which burned in Louisiana in the last few weeks. I prayed it wasn’t intentional, arson or terrorism.

I heard this term for the first time: Collective Trauma

  • trauma that happens to a large number of people
  • the size of a community or so large it can cross national boundaries
  • it can affect generations to come
  • The older you are, the more you’ve experienced collective trauma
    • war, genocide, slavery, terrorism, natural disasters, accidents

We mark days, time, and life by collective trauma- before and after the trauma

  • Pearl Harbor
  • Deaths of Famous people- President Kennedy, Dr. King, Princess Diana
  • Chernobyl
  • The Challenger Explosion
  • The 9/11 attacks

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Columbine school shooting. Fifteen persons lost their lives that day.

Rick Townsend, whose daughter, Lauren, was 18 when she was gunned down, said
“It seems like every month there’s a new tragedy of some kind somewhere around.
It just makes you feel sometimes hopeless.”

Now we add the Burning of Notre Dame to this list.

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site, over 850 years old
  • Survived: crusades, reformation, revolution, 2 world wars
  • 13 million visitors a year. That means millions and millions of memories- that once in a lifetime vacation, an encounter with Gothic architecture or art, a profound moment of prayer. Maybe they were baptized there. Now millions share the pain over the burning of Notre Dame- collective trauma.

Why does this affect us so deeply?

  • We care about beautiful and sacred places and the people tied to those places
  • What would it be like if my church burned?
  • Something we presume will always be there is gone or forever changed
  • Increased sense of impermanence, mortality, vulnerability, helplessness

notre dame post fire

Yet in the midst of the darkness, pain, tears something new rises

  • In one of the most secular cities in the world, bystanders did not watch indifferently
    • They held each other, raised candles and sang hymns in the streets. Ann Voskamp said, “Songs rose like incensed prayers, mingling with plumes of smoke.”
  • People worked together, risked together, to make a human chain to pass sacred objects from flames to safety- what some believe to be a nail that held Christ to the cross, the crown of thorns which pierced his brow, and a piece of the cross itself
  • At that moment, the world was drawn together in a common goal in the midst of their common pain and it broke down all the dividing walls that so often separate us from each other.
  • Now there is a commitment Notre Dame will be rebuilt on those ancient foundations. Something new will rise.

This is the Good News of Easter
What starts in darkness, pain, and tears will rise, it ends with new life.
Earth to Earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust ends in Resurrection!

As much as there can be a sharing in communal trauma, this rising can be shared. All of us begin our lives in the darkness of our mother’s wombs. And there is pain and there are tears and there is new life and there is rising.

That first Easter morning, the women started for the tomb in darkness.
Mourn-full, tear-full
Mind-full of the trauma and pain
Expecting to encounter death
Instead, they found a rising. They found new life.

Matthew 28:5b-6
Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.

He is not here! He is risen!
What? How?

Why do you seek the living among the dead?
He told you… remember, he told you
He is not here! He is risen!

Blinding light begins to rise within them
Awe-full, Hope-full
Mind-full of words and wonder, this story and this truth
He is risen! Hallelujah! He is risen, indeed!

Where are you experiencing darkness pain tears?
They do not have the last word
There is new life coming, available
There is a rising

What needs to die, that you might know resurrection?
They need to die because they bring on the pain, darkness, and trauma.
Let them die so Christ may be alive in you.

Pastor Lisa’s Testimony

It is Easter! Christ has risen! He has risen, indeed!
It is not about collective trauma, it is about collective hope!
Collective grace
Collective blessing
Collective new life available to each of us

Communion Prayer

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Collective trauma, collective hope © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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There’s More to Life Martha, Mary, Lazarus (John 11)

Jesus Palm Sunday Benedictine Sisters Turvey Abbey

Jesus Enters Jerusalem by The Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 4 of 5: Martha, Mary, Lazarus

Scripture: John 11:17-44
Notes from a message offered Palm Sunday, 4/14/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Palm Sunday

  • The crowd comes up from Bethany to the top of the Mount of Olives. Jesus can see the whole city: Gethsemane, the Temple, Caiaphas’ house where he will be imprisoned and beaten, Golgotha where he will die
  • Jesus’ entering Jerusalem- crowd crying out Hosanna, waving palm branches, laying cloaks in the street, Jesus riding a donkey like King Solomon when he entered Jerusalem, great excitement. No one will mistake the message Jesus is riding into town like a king.
  • What does Jesus do? Jesus weeps.

Matthew 23:37
Jesus said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Jesus wept is the shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus weeps many times.

  • Wept over Jerusalem on Palm Sunday
  • Wept in the olive grove of Gethsemane as he was being crushed and pressed in prayer the night of his arrest
  • Wept with his dear friends Martha and Mary over the death of their brother Lazarus
    • Lazarus- the one Jesus loved, possibly the beloved disciple Jesus entrusted his mother to at his death
    • Their home was Jesus’ safe place, a home away from home

Washington Irving said, “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness but of power. They are messengers of overwhelming grief and of unspeakable love.”

What if we looked at our tears as our love overflowing. My cup overflows…

Henri Nouwen said in Behold the Beauty of the Lord
The One who sees unceasingly the limitless goodness of God came to the world, saw it broken to pieces by human sin and was moved to compassion. The same eyes which see into the heart of God saw the suffering hearts of God’s people and wept.

  • Our situations trouble Jesus’ spirit down to the deepest parts of his soul
  • Our pain summons his tears
  • Jesus understands our pain- responds with empathy and compassion and understanding
  • Jesus weeps for us and with us
    • There is no shame in our tears. No weakness. It reveals the depth of our love.
    • No need to apologize. No need to hide. In Jesus, there is dignity and validity to our grieving and tears.
    • I’m honored you would count me safe enough to cry before me. And I’m honored you would receive my tears in return.
Jesus wept James Tissot

Jesus Wept by James Tissot

Reading of John 11:17-27

Jesus has profound conversations with people in the Gospel of John. With Nicodemus in the middle of the night, with the woman at the well, with the man by the pool, and now with Martha. Matha starts preaching- You are the Messiah!

Martha is busy, busy, busy. But she’s not too busy right now. She gets it.

Martha reveals a faithful path of grief

  • Go to Jesus- don’t avoid God
  • Be honest- honest with feelings, questions, accusations
  • Listen
    • Jesus will remind you of God’s promises
    • Jesus will reveal who he is

Read John 11:28-44

Lazarus is swaddled like a babe. They would wrap the babies and they would wrap the dead. He is in that womb of a tomb and Jesus calls him out and says, “unbind him.” Set him free.

Hosanna! Save now!
Hosanna! Set us free!
This is the glory of our God.
Why we worship and why we place our trust in Jesus.
Why we give our lives to Jesus.
He is fully divine- I am the Resurrection and I am the Life
He is fully human- weeping and mourning with us and for us

Jesus is the One who saves
Unbind her!
Unbind him!
This is our God!
Do you believe?

This is the week where we put a mile marker in the road and say, “I believe!” I’m going to come and hear the story again. I’m going to come and worship. I’m going to be with my Jesus who knows me and loves me and saves me.

This is what we do. This is who we are. Anyone can say, “I believe.” They are part of the kingdom, and the power, and glory. Forever. Amen.

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Martha, Mary, Lazarus © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.