What Kind of King? a reflection and prayer based on Psalm 96.10-13

crownPsalm 95:10-13
Proclaim to the nations: ‘God is king.’
The world He made firm in its place;
He will judge the peoples in fairness.

Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad,
Let the sea and all within it thunder praise,
Let the land and all it bears rejoice,
All the trees of the wood shout for joy at the presence of the Lord for He comes,
He comes to rule the earth.

With justice, He will rule the world,
He will judge the peoples with His truth.

What kind of King is God?

  • Creator/creative
  • A fair and truth-full Judge
  • Present and Coming
  • A just Ruler of all the earth

Prayer
Lord God, King of all Creation
Ruler of planets and peoples

Receive our rejoicing
For your abiding presence and redemptive return

Receive our shouts of gladness
For your justice, your fairness, your truth victorious

Strengthen and inspire
So we may persevere in proclaiming and praise

We labor and yearn for your glorious day
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
Amen

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What Kind of King? © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer- Sew Your Good Seed (Matthew 13.36-43)

harvesting-grains wheat

Based on Matthew 13:36-43

Jesus, life this side of heaven is so hard, so troubled, so broken. Evil is twisted into everything. All is corrupted, entangled. Will there ever be peace, truth, justice? How do we hold on to hope?

Remember the seed
You sew the good seed, Jesus
It will grow

At the End of the Age, you will bring a harvest of grace and salvation. You will send your angels to collect all the sin. The separation. The corruption. The brokenness. The self-serving. The abusing. The violent. The envy. The resentment and the wrath. The greed, the fear, the diseased, the shame.

This is not your seed.
You sew the good seed, Jesus
It will grow

At the End of the Age, you will open wide your saving embrace to receive us and all that enslaves us. You will collect us and burn away all that is broken and soiled and wrong, that we may shine like the sun with you forever and for always.

Help us Jesus. Help us listen and help us follow and help us trust. Sew your good seed deep in us, in your church, and in the world, that we may grow and look to you and hope. Amen

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Sew Your Good Seed © 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.

Keep Awake!

alive awake awareMark 13:31-37 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake— for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

It is usually over time and with patience that we come to see the wonderful patterns of grace, which is why it takes most of us a long time to be converted. Our focus slowly moves from an initial preoccupation with perfect actions (“first half of life” issues), to naked presence itself. The code word for that is simply “prayer,” but it became cheapened by misuse. Jesus will often call prayer “vigilance,” “seeing,” or “being awake.” When you are aware and awakened, you will know for yourself all that you need to know. In fact, “stay awake” is the last thing Jesus says to the apostles—three or perhaps four times—before he is taken away to be killed (Matthew 26:38-45). Finally, continuing to find them asleep, he kindly but sadly says, “Sleep now and take your rest,” which might have been his resigned, forgiving statement to the church itself. It is not that we do not want to be awake, but very few teachers have actually told us how to do that in a very practical way. We call it the teaching of contemplation.
– Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

All forms of meditation and contemplation teach some form of compartmentalizing or limiting the control of the mental ego— or what some call the “monkey mind,” which just keeps jumping from observation to observation, distraction to distraction, feeling to feeling, commentary to commentary. Most of this mental action means very little and is actually the opposite of consciousness. In fact, it is unconsciousness. – Richard Rohr

They watch for Christ who are sensitive, eager, apprehensive in mind, who are awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in honoring him, who look for him in all that happens, and who would not be surprised, who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if they found that he was coming at once…. This then is to watch: to be detached from what is present, and to live in what is unseen; to live in the thought of Christ as he came once, and as he will come again; to desire his second coming, from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of his first. -John Henry Newman

Extended quote by E. Glenn Hinson from his post Fasting from the Internet
found in Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life

I don’t think I exaggerate when I say that it is not easy to learn how to pray or to keep at it when we have learned how. Teresa of Ávila, the first woman named a “Doctor of the Church,” in the main because of her contribution to a Christian understanding of prayer, confessed that she spent twenty years learning how. Admittedly, she didn’t get serious in her effort to learn until a three-year illness and a near-death experience put some pressure on. What she discovered is what everyone who takes prayer seriously will discover, that prayer is, above all, response to the prior love of God.

As Bernard of Clairvaux reminded his fellow monks, “…every soul among you that is seeking God should know that it has been anticipated by [God], and has been sought by [God] before it began to seek [God]. It couldn’t happen any other way, could it?”

How could we mortals get God’s attention, the attention of the God of a universe of 150-plus billion galaxies? We can’t yell loud enough, build a Babel tower high enough, or send a spaceship far enough to get God’s attention unless God has chosen to enter into our consciousness. If we pray, then, we have to learn how to pay attention. We have to cultivate wakefulness.

Ephesians 5:11-16 NRSV
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.

The sin of inadvertence, not being alert, not quite awake, is the sin of missing the moment of life. Live with unremitting awareness; whereas the whole of the art of the non-action that is action (wu-wei) is unremitting alertness.
– Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth

We’re like kids whining in the back seat, “Are we there yet?” Well, we are there yet. We are here now. But we’re so busy being busy, and whining about it, that we don’t notice. Our busyness is not fruitfulness; it’s fear. We’re afraid of the stillness, afraid of the dark, afraid of what might come up in the silence. We’re afraid of not being in control and of being dependent, afraid of not knowing. We keep busy to stay unconscious. Advent invites us into the dark, into the silence, into wakefulness.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Pregnant Pause

Unexpected God, your advent alarms us.
Wake us from drowsy worship
From the sleep that neglects love
From the sedative of misdirected frenzy
Awaken us now to your coming,
and bend our angers into your peace. Amen.
Steven W. Manskar, A Disciple’s Journal 2014

Here, then, stands the newly awakened self: aware, for the first time, of reality, responding to that reality by deep movements of love and of awe. She sees herself, however, not merely to be thrust into a new world, but set at the beginning of a new road. Activity is now to be her watchword, pilgrimage the business of her life.
-Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism

Psalm 57:7-8 NIV
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

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Click Here for a powerful poem entitled Sleeper, Awake by Steve Garnaas Holmes

Click Here for a beautiful prayer entitled Keep Awake by Steve Garnaas Holmes

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page

I Will Never Leave You

I Will Never Leave You by Greg Hart

Hebrews 13:5b NRSV
… for Jesus has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

I felt overwhelmed by Love, surrounded and enveloped. I didn’t have any desire to pray for anything. I didn’t want anything. I didn’t need anything. I felt sufficient and whole, mended and healed, caught. I just wanted to rest there, in that Presence for a while longer. A line of Scripture that I’d been memorizing rose up in my heart: He will quiet you with His love. And it made sense to me. I felt…quieted. I felt that love, that peace and suddenly everything else seemed to fade in importance. It seemed funny to me that everything seemed quieter – my failures, my fears, my still-angry questions, my worries, even my victories, all quiet now. There was just Love there. I felt like a child in that space between awake-and-asleep, wrapped in the arms of their mother.
– Sarah Bessey, In defense of the cafeteria

Romans 8:38-39 NRSV
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Whenever we find ourselves experiencing difficulties, we need to hold on to one bit of good news. Put very simply, it is this: God is deeply present in all the facets of our lives, even when they are painful. The Bible teaches that there is “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph.4:6). There is no fear, no loss, no grief, no loneliness, no despair, no addiction, no desolation, no suffering that God does not share in. God is continually present and reaching out to us in whatever we may be going through at this moment. When we know that God is with us, even when our world is falling apart, we are more able to face the pain of situations with hope and courage.
Trevor Hudson, The Serenity Prayer

Matthew 28:20 NRSV
Jesus said, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Extended quote by Thomas Merton from The Sign of Jonas
Sooner or later the world must burn, and all things in it – all the books, the cloister together with the brothel, Fra Angelico together with the Lucky Strike ads which I haven’t seen for seven years because I don’t remember seeing one in Louisville. Sooner or later it will all be consumed by fire and nobody will be left – for by that time the last man in the universe will have discovered the bomb capable of destroying the universe and will have been unable to resist the temptation to throw the thing and get it over with.

And here I sit writing a diary.

But love laughs at the end of the world because love is the door to eternity and he who loves God is playing on the doorstep of eternity, and before anything can happen love will have drawn him over the sill and closed the door and he won’t bother about the world burning because he will know nothing but love.

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Click here for more tremendous work by today’s featured artist, Greg Hart

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Advent Door 3: Strength to Stand

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Arlington, VA) by Russ Sprague

The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 3 Reading: Luke 21:25-36

Scripture Summary:
Jesus’ discussion of his second coming as related by Luke holds much in common with Matthew and Mark’s versions
1. The sun, moon, stars, and seas will display signs of his return
2. The signs will be as clear as the seasons of a fig tree

Advent reminds us, year in and year out, that although we are to keep a weather eye out for cosmic signs, we must, like the fig tree that Jesus evokes in this passage, be rooted in the life of the earth. And in the rhythm of our daily lives here on earth, Christ bids us to practice the apocalypse. He calls us in each day and moment to do the things that will stir up our courage and keep us grounded in God, not only that we may perceive Christ when he comes, but also that we may recognize him even now.
– Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door

The Advent of Jesus Christ is a present and future reality. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, and Jesus is King of Glory, who will come again at the end of the age to put a final end to all brokenness. Jesus invites us to live the reality of his current saving presence while at the same time looking forward to the culmination of that salvation for those who believe and the rest of creation.

Jesus proclaims that those who embrace the present and future reality of the Kingdom live very different lives than those who do not. Those who are unprepared find themselves weak with fear and foreboding at the in-breaking of Jesus. Those who are prepared are compared to a well-trained sentinel- at the ready, an eye-of-the-tiger focus and discipline, nourished and grounded like a tree with deep roots. The prepared have left behind “dissipation and drunkenness” to honor and fortify their bodies for the challenges of living a Christ-like life. They spend their mental and spiritual energy in prayer rather than on anxiety or worry. Through their deep connection to Christ, they have the strength to stand up for their Lord and with their Lord no matter the circumstance, head raised in hope, knowing God is near.

Jesus’ description of the prepared reminds me of those most honorable soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery- day in and day out, no matter the weather, ready to defend, protect and keep watch. It also reminds me of the description of the righteous in Psalm 1– like strong trees, standing firm because they are rooted in the life-giving ways of God.

tree of life by Mark Kuhn

Tree of Life by Mark Kuhne “In the painting, the mighty tree represents strength and wisdom, a good and righteous man or leader and the great blessings that spring forth to the places where they stand. It also represents God’s glory! The tree has a strong foundation with roots that are deep and wide. Spiritually the roots draw blue water or nourishment from the Holy Spirit, and naturally, a leader draws from other leaders as well as from the Lord’s Word” -Mark Kuhne

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew came through south Florida. When the storm had passed, it looked like someone had dropped a bomb. The street signs and other landmarks were gone. It’s as if most of the houses had been made of matchsticks. They shattered, sending wood into rock hard tree trunks like a carving fork into a Thanksgiving turkey. Only a few houses survived. What’s so interesting is that most of these homes were built by Habitat for Humanity. Hand nailed by volunteers rather than thrown together as cheaply and quickly as possible. At the end of the storm, they stood like sentinels- testimonies to honor, focus, and being well prepared.

What changes do we need to make in our lives so that we too have the strength to stand in Christ Jesus, now and always.

Lyrics to He is Like a Tree, based on Psalm 1:3, by freechurchmusic.com
He is like a tree, planted by the river;
Its leaf never withers, for it grows in the richest sod.
He is like a tree, planted by the river,
That flows from the throne-room of God.
Sturdy and strong, for secure is its root;
And in due season, it sends forth its fruit.
Be like a tree planted by the river;
Its leaf never withers, for it grows in the richest sod.
Be like a tree, planted by the river
That flows from the throne-room of God.

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This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty-five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><

For more information on the Christian season of Advent, click here

For more information/permission on the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer leave a comment.

Advent Door 2: New Creation

The Stars Began to Fall by Connie Hozvicka of Dirty Footprints Studio

The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 2 Reading: Mark 13:24-37

Mark 13:24-26 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.

Revelation 6:12-14 (NRSV)
When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and there came a great earthquake; the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree drops its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

Scripture Summary:
The signs of Christ’s second coming at the end of the age are mirrored in the passages from Mark and Revelation. They include a departure of light – from the sun, moon, stars. Falling and shaking accompany their exits. The faithful note these signs, remaining alert and awake for Christ’s return in glory.

Here at the outset of Advent, I have been wishing for an easier start to the season, for words that would welcome us into these weeks with a more graceful sense of hospitality. This passage doesn’t so much beckon us across the threshold as it throws open a door, tosses a cup of cold water in our face to wake us, and shoves us through.
– Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door

This passage reads like the script of the next blockbuster-end-of-the-world thriller. Eclipse! Earthquake! Apocalypse! You can hear the people screaming as they run from the CGI buildings crashing around them; the Dolby/THX so loud it rattles your bones.

It sounds like fun for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon, but this isn’t a coming attraction. Christ is really coming, so I need to take myself out of my comfy movie seat and place myself right in the middle of the action. Now it feels like a whole different story.

What kind of a story? Horror? Tragedy?

It’s actually a love story.

Jesus’ vision is not about destruction but re-creation. It’s an invitation to let go of what has been and accept what is, to receive what is coming. Whenever our world shakes or changes, or needs to, we allow ourselves to be reborn. We let go of outward things and go deeper to the core of our being, where God gives us new life moment by moment. God enters our world and our lives and our hearts through the cracks and broken places, and changes everything.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Your Redemption is Drawing Near

We live in the in-between time; the time between Eden and the end of the age discussed in this passage. Eden was beautiful, perfect. Humans, animals, nature and God living together in harmonious community. Then, through human disobedience and short sighted decisions, it all came a tumblin’ down. The Fall impacted everything- our relationship with God, with each other, with creatures and creation, and with our very self.

The goodness of God’s making was now broken, bent, and disordered. No amount of human wisdom, money, or altruism could set it right. Only God can. The compassion and mercy of God will not to leave us and the rest of creation this way forever. Our God is making all things new, and like an expectant mother, God will one day bring that work to completion. That one day is the end of the age, at the second coming- the second advent – of Christ.

In this passage, Jesus isn’t relating something frightening or catastrophic, but rather a miraculous blessing. New life requires birth and birth is a painful, forceful process. The stars falling and the heavens shaking are actually birth pangs- the contractions, pushing, and bearing down of creation. It is the labor of the Maker bringing forth a New Heaven and Earth from our broken world. God shares this love story with us so we will be alert and ready for its arrival.

How is God inviting me to help midwife this great gift of new creation?

My Lord, what a morning;
My Lord, what a morning;
Oh, my Lord, what a morning,
when the stars begin to fall.
– African American Spiritual

For another devotion based on Mark 13, click here
For yet another devotion based on Mark 13, click here

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This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><

For more information on the Christian season of Advent, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Advent Door 1: Christ Will Come Again

Apocalypse 4 by Laurence Acland

The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 1 Reading:
Matthew 24:36-44

Scripture Summary:
Jesus will return at an unexpected time. Be ready and awake for Jesus’ return, because only those who are prepared will be taken.

The gospel lection for the first Sunday of Advent is always a passage that, whether taken from Matthew, Mark, or Luke, is known as “the little apocalypse.” Each year the first gospel lection of Advent challenges us to remember that this season is a time not only of remembering the Christ who has already come to us but who, the gospels tell us, will come again, with attendant signs and wonders.
– Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door

I didn’t grow up going to church. When I was 15 my boyfriend and I watched a TV show one Saturday afternoon which “proved” the world would end in the year 2000. It scared us right into church the next day. Time was short and we needed to get ready to meet our Maker.

I attended worship services, Bible studies, and choir practice for over a year before I received Christ as my Lord and Savior. The funny thing is, the guy eventually left but God stayed. As the years with God passed, including the year 2000, God’s grace and welcome mended my misconceptions. When I began I found myself standing at my Father’s house begging to be a slave, and was instead named and celebrated as a beloved child and heir. Like so many others, I grew to follow and serve God out of love rather than fear.

I wish the Scriptures said that everyone will be taken by Christ at his return, but they do not. Because they do not, many shrink back from the second coming passages as too frightening or discount them as too harsh. Like the rest of Scripture, these passages are provided by God for our good. They speak the truth to us in love, that our eyes might be opened, that we would be drawn to our Savior while there is still time.

Word of God, speak.
Would you pour down like rain,
washing my eyes to see your majesty,
to be still and know that you’re in this place?
Please let me stay and rest in your holiness.
Word of God, speak.
– The chorus of Word of God, Speak by Pete Kipley and Bart Millard

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This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><

For more information on the Christian season of Advent, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.