Reign and Rain Down, a prayer based on Isaiah 45.8

Rain-Room-REUTERS-Lucy-Nicholson-courtesy-of-n1-865x577

Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up, and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also; I the LORD have created it. – Isaiah 45:8

Reign and Rain down, Glorious One
You alone are God
There is no other

Reign and Rain down, Glorious One
Let all the earth open to your gifts
New life and right relationship springing up
Budding and blooming in our wasteland

Life comes to our mortality
to our frail clay
to our dust
You hold us and wash us and form us
You flood us and fill us
That we may carry this great grace as it carries us

O, the glory of your grace
Grace extending more and more
More and more to us and more and more through us to others

O, bring the reign of redemption and reconciling
Salvation and solidarity
The fullness of your unfailing love

Reign and Rain down, Glorious One
Creating power flows from you
For you alone are God
There is no other

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Reign and Rain Down © 2018 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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Palm Sunday Prayer

kate branch

Palm Branches by Kate Branch via Wikimedia Commons

What did they cry out that first Palm Sunday?
Hosanna!
Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord!
Hosanna to the Son of David!
Hosanna in the Highest!
Hosanna! Save Now!

Jesus, save us
Save us from the oppression of the Romans
Save us from the corruption of the Temple
Save us from slavery to sin and death
Save us from hunger and thirst
Save us

What are you crying out for God to save?

add our own petitions

Jesus you are our Living Hope
You are one One who Saves

Salvation means wholeness
Lord we need it
We need it for ourselves
We need it for our families
We need it for our places of work
For our schools
For our community
For your church
For those who are suffering in body, in mind, in spirit
For our world

For an end to the evil, injustice, and oppression
For an end to the hate, the division, the despairing

Lord, we need your salvation
We need your wholeness and we need it now
In our mourning, our grieving,
In our lamenting, and in our loss

We need it our rejoicing and our celebration
We need your salvation
We need your wholeness

You are the Lamb of God
You are the King of Kings
You are the Christ, the Anointed One, the Savior of us all

We cling to you and we cling to your cross
We cry Hosanna! Save Now!

Make this real in us
Real in your church
Real in your world

conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

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Palm Sunday Prayer © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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There’s More to Life Man at the Pool (John 5.1-9)

Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 3 of 5: Man at the Pool

Scripture: John 5:1-9
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 4/7/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Prayer from Ephesians 3
Insert someone’s name to offer a prayer of blessing for him/her.

Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen ___________. Fill ___________’s soul with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in his/her heart. May love be the rich soil where ________’s life takes root. May it be the bedrock where ___________’s life is founded, so that together with all of Your people, he/she will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God may Your fullness flood through __________’s entire being. Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.

Israel map temple bethesda

Israel Trip- The Church of Saint Anne

  • a Roman Catholic Church, located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem
    • A 45-minute walk from this location to the temple mount

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  • Saint Anne’s marks the traditional childhood home of Mary the mother of Jesus. It is dedicated to her parents, Anna and Joachim.
  • Crusader era church, built around 1140
    • you notice the coolness, plain stone, elegant simplicity, timelessness
    • Church has extraordinary acoustics. The notes hang in the air for at least 5 seconds. It flows. It ripples. It feels like you are being washed in the sound. We sang O Come, O Come Emmanuel; Holy Holy Holy; and Amazing Grace.

st anne jerusalem interior

Next to the church is the ruin of the pool of Bethesda, also know as Bethzatha and Bethsaida.

  • Literally means “House of Mercy”
  • This is the location mentioned in John 5, Jesus healing a man who’d been waiting there for 38 years.
  • On our trip, we read this story along with James 5 and offered each other prayers for healing. A profound worship experience, praying for healing in a place of healing.

st anne jerusalem exterior with ruin

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Prayers for Healing

  • I long for healing. Of all the prayers I pray, I pray for healing the most.
  • Watching over persons in need. This list is long, constantly changing and flowing.
  • Times I am overwhelmed by the need. Needs within the congregation, community, nation, and world.
  • When Jesus walks into the area around the pools of Bethesda, it is overflowing with people in great need. They have come in hope of healing.
  • We come into the presence of God, trusting God in Jesus is our Savior forever.

Where we are in the story

  • In John 2 and 3, Jesus is in Jerusalem. He preaches on the teaching steps and turns over the tables of the money changers in the temple, getting the attention of the Jewish leadership (Pharisees, Sadducees, Sanhedrin). He speaks with Nicodemus at night.
  • He heads back home to Galilee through Samaria, where he has the conversation with the woman at the well.
  • He makes it to Galilee to the city of Capernaum, his home base, where he heals some people.
  • Then it’s time for another Jewish festival so he’s back in Jerusalem.

Read John 5:1-9

He’s been waiting for 38 years

  • Two generations, a lifetime in the ancient world
  • Did family bring him and leave him? Did he come himself?
  • He’s lost everything. He has nothing.  “Sir, I have no one…”
  • He has an unknown condition – it’s the Greek word for weakness (body, soul, mind, etc.). Don’t we all have weakness?
Healing at the pool of bethesda by Carl Bloch

Healing at the Pool of Bethesda by Carl Bloch

Jesus asks, “Do you want to be well?”

He answers, “As soon as the water bubbles then I will get up off my mat. As soon as I get some help into the water my problems will be fixed.”

The pool was thought to be magical, miraculous. The water would bubble and someone would be healed.

How many of us are stuck in as soon as … As soon as ______________ happens life will be better. I’ll be happy. My problems will go away. I’ll be satisfied. All will be well.

This pool is a symbol of the strong attraction of As Soon As. We can drown in it. We can sit a lifetime beside it.

  • Children often say, “As soon as I’m big enough”
  • Teens- “As soon as I graduate from high school”
  • As soon as I get a job… I make enough money
  • As soon as I get married or get divorced
  • As soon as I have children or the children are grown
  • Retire
  • Lose 10 pounds
  • Get sober
  • Get over my grief
  • As soon as he/she apologizes or gets their act together and does right by me

As soon as is an illusion, a false promise, even a false God. We think it that this circumstantial change will be the magic bullet, the quick fix that we are longing for. It causes us to live stagnant lives.

Jesus offers us living water, a spring of life gushing up and overflowing to eternal life.

Stagnant water is not alive. Nothing can live in it. It smells. It’s where things go to die.

We stay stuck. We push the pause button on life. We put life on hold. It is self-imprisonment.

The imprisonment is so great that when Jesus asks, “Do you want to be made well?” We can’t even think about saying say, “Yes.” We just start in with the as soon as…

Bethesda/Bethzatha/Bethsaida means House of Mercy, but it is actually a house of despair, a house of lies and falsehood

  • the pool was an Asclepieion
  • a place where healing was supposed to take place by the power of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing.
  • The medical symbol with the snakes is connected to Asclepius.
  • Asclepius was called “savior” by his followers just like some call as soon as “savior”

The scene in a new context:
It is the time of a Jewish festival, so Jesus who is very Jewish, goes to Jerusalem. On the Jewish Sabbath, this Jewish Rabbi (and Messiah) goes to a local landmark dedicated to the Greek god of healing. He walks up to the person with the least chance of getting better (38 years!) and proceeds to heal the man, right there in the middle of the building

Jesus is the Savior. The Healer. Jesus brings salvation.

Salvation does not mean healed it means whole. There’s a big difference. 

You can have brokenness is your body, your family, your job, your mind, your heart, and still be whole. Paul had a thorn in the flesh that he went to heaven with and he was whole.

Jesus was broken and tortured, a victim of oppression injustice and corruption and Jesus was whole. In fact, in heaven, Jesus still has his scars as a testimony to the power of God in the midst of his brokenness. He wasn’t Savior as soon as he was resurrected. He was Savior in the midst of it.

We aren’t whole just when we go home to heaven. We are whole now because of Jesus. Salvation means wholeness.

I’m not suggesting that the circumstances of our lives are irrelevant or aren’t real or aren’t important. They are. We may be limited in some ways, but we are not limited in every way. We are more than our circumstances. Salvation means wholeness- not perfection or even healing.

Jesus is the true Savior- Not a change of circumstance, not your ability, not who you know. 

Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic (VU-Yee-Chek) an Australian man who was born with no arms and no legs, who after a deep bout with depression, decided that he didn’t want his life to be defined by his weakness or limitation, but instead he wanted his life to be defined by his worth as a child of God gifted and called to bring light and hope to others.

Nick has traveled around the world, sharing his story with millions, sometimes in stadiums filled to capacity, speaking to a range of diverse groups such as students, teachers, young people, business professionals and church congregations of all sizes. Today this dynamic young evangelist has accomplished more than most people achieve in a lifetime. He’s an author, musician, actor, husband, and father of 4. He has gone skydiving, surfing, and his hobbies include fishing, painting, and swimming.

Nick is whole and you can be, too.

When Jesus asks, “Do you want to be well?” What will you say? Will you say, “yes?”

Jesus’ invitation to us is to live into the fullness of God. Power made perfect in weakness. Infinite power. Infinite grace. Infinite mercy. Infinite love. There’s always more- more to ask for, more to discover, more to receive, more to grow into, more to become, because that more is beyond our circumstance. It is in the midst of the circumstance.

I pray you are filled with the fullness of God. I pray that you will leave behind the chains of as soon as. Freed from the shackles. That you will not be stuck waiting and trusting a false understanding, false fix, a false god to save you- the false never will. Say yes to the One True Living God.

I pray you will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. May the fullness of God flood through your entire being.

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Man at the Pool Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

There’s More to Life Woman of Samaria (John 4.3-26)

woman at well olive wood statue carving

Olive Wood carving of the Woman at the Well from Jerusalem. We brought this treasure back with us from our recent trip.

Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 2 of 5: Woman of Samaria (Woman at the Well)

Scripture: John 4:3-26
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/31/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Rebekah Lyons testimony of God’s unconditional love. Rebekah is the mother of a child with Down syndrome.

Reading of John 4:3-26

The Woman at the Well
In the ancient world, your place as a woman was defined by your connection to a man:
Father, Brother, Husband, Son. We’re not just talking about social status- we’re talking access to what’s needed to survive.

  • Shelter from the extreme heat and cold of the desert
  • Food in your belly and clothes on your back
  • Loving relationships to weather you through the cruelties of life
  • Access to water on a regular basis

Where is her father? Most likely deceased.

Where is her brother, her sons, her children? Maybe she had none.

Where is the husband? Scripture tells us she’s had five husbands. Could it be in this harsh and cruel environment she’s lost five husbands to death? Maybe.

Could it be that because men in this time and culture controlled marriage and controlled divorce, could it be that she’s been thrown away five times? Told to go, you are not wanted.

The man she’s with now will not claim her legally. She has been shared and shamed, a survivor of cruelty and abuse.

She is an outcast in her community. We know this because in the ancient world went to the well based on their status. The most respected admired women would visit the well first, and she’s drawing her morning water at noon.

She is alone. Not in the company of the other women. Not enjoying their camaraderie and community.

This unnamed woman is barren of security. She’s been thrown away, driven away, shared and shamed, outcast, isolated.

She finds herself at Jacob’s well and today there’s a man there. He is Jewish. She is Samaritan. I imagine what is going through her mind and heart: How much more shame and disgrace am I going to get today? Jews and Samaritans don’t hang out. Am I going to hear from this man’s lips, “Half-breed! Heretic!”?

No. She hears from the lips of our Jesus respect. Good News.

They’re at a well, so Jesus uses the metaphor of water to share the Good News of Living Water, cleansing, refreshing, restoring, new birth. It is available to her.

He gives her a chance to reveal herself and she does. She’s honest and truthful. He recognizes it. The conversation could have gone any direction,  at that point and she dives in deep theologically.

Jesus sees her, not what people label her. He sees how she’s been abused, her great need, her wounds, and yet he sees her giftedness. He sees her keen mind.

They begin a discussion like rabbi and to rabbi. Where do we worship and how do we worship and is there a place for me in worshiping God?

This is the longest theological discussion in the four Gospels. This unnamed woman of Samaria.

Deep down, deep down, deep down the question she is asking and the question each and every one of asks is: Does God want me and does God love me?

That is the core question. My community threw me out. They’ve shamed me and abused me. The Jews say I’m not worshiping in the right place in the right way. The Messiah is coming …

The core question: Does God want me and does God love me. The answer is always Yes! Always! 

It is yes to the woman of Samaria and it is yes to us.

No matter what the world names us. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. No matter what we’ve done to survive. The answer is always Yes!

The love of God is unconditional love. The love of God comes without judgment. “God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17)

This emptiness, this dryness, this wilderness, can only be quench by Jesus’s living water, Jesus’s saving love.

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

– Chorus of Reckless Love by Cory Asbury

This week the Towery boys found it and claimed it for themselves. Rebekah Lyons saw it in the unconditional love of her son with Down syndrome. A great gift that he’s sharing. The woman at the well finds it in Jesus and shares it as well. She becomes one of the first evangelists. She runs back to the people who’ve been awful to her and says, “I think the Messiah is at the well.” They come, Jesus stays with them for days and many are saved.

Closing Prayer from Ephesians 3
Repetition of the word love

17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Insert your name or someone else’s name as a prayer of blessing that you/they would know the unconditional love of God and place their trust in Jesus as their Leader and Forgiver (Lord and Savior).

Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen ___________. Fill ___________’s soul with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in his/her heart. May love be the rich soil where ________’s life takes root. May it be the bedrock where ___________’s life is founded, so that together with all of Your people, he/she will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God may Your fullness flood through __________’s entire being. Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.

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Woman of Samaria (Woman at the Well) Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.