A Prayer for True Strength (Ephesians 6)

armor of God graphicEphesians 6:10-11
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Lord, you call us to mighty works
To leading
Speaking truth to power
Ending oppression and corruption
Sharing your Word
Helping others find you
Healing the sick
Caring for the poor, the orphan, the stranger
Praying without ceasing
Building your kingdom on earth

Lord, you said that in this world we will have trouble,
but take courage, I have overcome the world

Fill us with courage
Fill us with wisdom
Fill us with humility for this great work
Your work

We try to do things in our own strength
Our financial security
Our connections
Our achievements
Our expertise
Our stiff upper lip and bootstraps and big girl pants

We head into battle wearing our own armor
Or trying to borrow someone else’s

We fall victim to human ways
And the ways of our Enemy

Forgive us
Forgive us and renew a right spirit within us

Clothe us in your armor
Your armor alone
Clothe us in your truth
Clothe us in your righteousness
Clothe us in your Gospel of Peace
Your faith
Your salvation
Your Word
Your powerful Presence

That we may stand
That we may stand and withstand
That we may stand and withstand and stand firm
Strong in you and the strength of your power
For your power is made perfect in our weakness
In our vulnerability
In us claiming our need of you

For the victory and glory are yours,
Now
Forever
Hallelujah!

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This prayer was inspired by by 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.

A Prayer for True Strength © 2018, updated 2019 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 Recording: Helping Things Go Right (1 Samuel 24.8-22)

Sermon Series pursuing peace 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Pursuing Peace
Message 4 of 4: Helping Things Go Right
Scripture: 1 Samuel 24:8-22
These are the notes from a message offered 10/7/18, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. This is the last post in the series. I pray they’ve empowered and inspired you to be a peacemaker.

Psalm 34:14  Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

Can you have a heart of peace in the midst of violence?

  • Can a soldier have a heart of peace? War is part of the job
  • Can a survivor of violence have a heart of peace toward their attacker? It’s complicated. There are issues of safety and justice.
  • The short answer is “yes.” David shows us it’s possible. Here’s the way he did it.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN DAVID AND KING SAUL

  • After David killed Goliath, King Saul puts him in charge of his army.
  • David wins many battles, and he becomes well known and popular
  • Whenever David comes home from war, the women would come out dancing and singing: “Saul has struck down thousands, and David has struck down tens of thousands!”

If King Saul had a heart of peace how would he respond when he heard this?

  • Celebrate along with the others
  • Praise God for sending a person with such bravery, faith, and skill

But, King Saul has a heart of war

  • Furious, suspicious, jealous of David. So jealous he wants David dead.

A Heart of War puts us in the box. We are imprisoned by our wounds and sinful desires.              

  • I’m better than David, I’m the anointed king
  • Maybe I’m actually worse than David. Is he a better leader? A better warrior? More beloved of God?
  • But, I deserve to be honored more than David. I’m the king.
  • And it’s important that I’m seen as the one in charge. I must be seen as the king.

As a result of his heart of war, 

  • King Saul is more and more troubled in his mind and spirit so David would be summoned to play his harp to soothe the king. One day while David was playing the harp for King Saul, the king hurls his spear at him. David dodges it just in time, and the spear shot into the wall. Saul throws another spear; David dodges that one, too
  • King Saul sends David again and again into incredibly dangerous battle situations. David is victorious.
  • King Saul then starts sending people to kill David
  • In 2 chapters, 1 Samuel 18 and 19, Saul tries to kill David 12 times. David runs away and hides in the desert
  • Finally, King Saul decides to go after David himself, taking 3000 men with him.

They come across a cave, so King Saul dismounts and heads into the cave to relieve himself (verse 3, yes it means what you think it means). What the king doesn’t know is that David and his men are sitting deeper in the cave

David’s men start encouraging David to kill the king. Then they volunteer to kill the king for David.

Here’s what David does

  • He sneaks up behind the king and cuts off a corner of his cloak lets him leave unharmed.
  • Then David scolds his men for wanting to attack the king. David has a heart of peace.

I Samuel 24:8 Afterwards, David also rose up and went out of the cave and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.

  • David initiates a conversation rather than letting Saul just leave
  • David approaches with no weapon and bows exposing his neck to the king
  • David shows respect for Saul’s position as King and respect for him as a human being.

1 Samuel 24:9 David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of those who say, ‘David seeks to do you harm’? 10 This very day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you into my hand in the cave, and some urged me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not raise my hand against my lord; for he is the Lord’s anointed.’

  • We have the power to choose how we respond. We call on the Holy Spirit to help us choose well. David was a man after God’s heart, consistently seeking God’s strength and guidance.
  • David chooses to break the cycle of conflict. The war stops with me.

1 Samuel 24:11 See, my father, see the corner of your cloak in my hand; for by the fact that I cut off the corner of your cloak, and did not kill you, you may know for certain that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you are hunting me to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between me and you! May the Lord avenge me on you, but my hand shall not be against you. 13 As the ancient proverb says, ‘Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness’; but my hand shall not be against you. 14 Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead dog? A single flea? 15 May the Lord, therefore, be judge and give sentence between me and you. May he see to it, and plead my cause, and vindicate me against you.”

  • David reminds Saul of their relationship- Saul had been like a Father to David. Saul’s son Jonathan was David’s best friend. David was married to Saul’s daughter Michal.
  • Another reminder of relationship- Saul is a powerful king and David is his loyal servant (a dead dog, a flea).

The Peacemaking Pyramid from The Anatomy of Peace

The Peacemaking Pyramid from The Anatomy of Peace

David reminds us how to help things go right. He starts by cultivating his own heart of peace. He builds a relationship and reminds Saul of their relationship professionally and personally. It’s not hard to imagine David listening to Saul poor out his anguish as he played the harp for him. This built empathy within David for Saul. David communicates with Saul when he didn’t have to. David speaks the truth about how his actions show he is not at war with Saul.

Jesus does the same. Come to us with a heart of peace. Reaching out to us to establish and build a relationship. Jesus understands our deepest dreams, needs, pains, and hope. Jesus listens and empathizes. Jesus is compassionate toward us. Jesus communicates with us, revealing the truth of who he is and who we are and who we can be when we are reconciled to one another.

1 Samuel 24:16-22
16 When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” Saul lifted up his voice and wept. 17 He said to David, “You are more righteous than I; for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. 18 Today you have explained how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. 19 For who has ever found an enemy, and sent the enemy safely away? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. 20 Now I know that you shall surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. 21 Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not wipe out my name from my father’s house.” 22 So David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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: Someone Who Understands (Mark 6.30-34)

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This service took place in our fellowship hall due to an air conditioning problem in the sanctuary. For a recording of the entire service, including the sermon, go to our Facebook page.

Sermon Series: Pursuing Peace
Message 3 of 4: Someone Who Understands
Scripture: Mark 6:30-34
These are the notes from a message offered 9/30/18, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting this series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they empower and inspire you to be a peacemaker.

A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell.  He painted a sign advertising the 4 pups and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt a tug on his overalls. He looked down into the eyes of a little boy.

“Mister,” he said, “I want to buy one of your puppies.” “Well,” said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat off the back of his neck, “These puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money.” The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer. “I’ve got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?”  “Sure,” said the farmer. And with that, he let out a whistle. “Here, Dolly!” he called.

Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur.  The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight. As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse.  Slowly another little ball appeared, this one noticeably smaller. Down the ramp, it slid. Then in a somewhat awkward manner, the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up…

“I want that one,” the little boy said, pointing to the runt. The farmer knelt down at the boy’s side and said, “Son, you don’t want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you as these other dogs would.”

With that, the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers.  In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe.  Looking back up at the farmer, he said, “You see sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.” With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and picked up the little pup for the child.

We long for someone who understands. How many of us here

  • Have lost a job/been out of work
  • Have started over in a new town
  • Experienced the death of a parent
  • are cancer survivors or are going through treatment
  • have experienced a miscarriage
  • have been so excited about something you wanted to shout

It’s easier for us to understand when we’ve been through a similar experience. The beautiful thing is, even if we haven’t been in someone’s situation, we can try to understand. We can look below the surface of words and actions to what’s really driving those words and actions. We can empathize. Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

Moving from a heart of war to a heart of peace first requires humility- admitting our brokenness, our wounds, the shards of sin in our heart. In humility, we admit our need for God’s help, healing, and forgiveness.

The next step is empathy. God’s healing and forgiveness give us eyes to see and hearts to understand.

  1. Eyes to see ourselves and others as bearers of common wounds that need healing, rather than as adversaries to be defeated or competitors to be outdone
  2. Eyes to see the hurt beneath others’ anger, rather than as aggressors meriting our retaliation
  3. The ability to approach those with whom we disagree as mutual explorers of the mystery of GOD
  4. The ability to consider every person as a beloved child of God with infinite worth and dignity, rather than as an object of our desire or correction or charity or a means to our ends
  5. Eyes to see “the other” through the eyes of Christ, rather than through the lenses of partisan politics, racial prejudices, socioeconomic class, gender, and national borders (Excerpted and adapted from How We See Others Matters by Bishop Kenneth L. Carder, retired.)

Mark 6:30-34 (NRSV)     
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had … how would you respond?

How Jesus responds – As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Jesus could have been upset. These people were obstacles to their much-deserved rest. Instead, he looked below the surface to see their deep need. The why behind their actions. Jesus had compassion, empathy. He saw them and engaged them from a heart of peace.

After all, isn’t Jesus the ultimate expression of God’s empathy? God, the Creator of the Universe, Almighty, high and exalted. How can we related to this? So God comes in Jesus- the One who shows us God understands our pain, temptation, and needs. The One who shows us God understands loneliness, poverty, hunger, friends, betrayal, injustice, even death itself. This is why we place our trust in Jesus.

As followers of Jesus, as Christians, literally “little Christs,” we can empathize because God empathizes.

John 8:2-11 (NRSV)
2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?” 6 They said this to test him so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

The leaders approach Jesus and the woman with a heart of war. They want to trap Jesus and she is a means to an end. Some think Jesus knelt to the ground to write the sins of the crowd so they too would see themselves as sinners and empathize with the woman. What if Jesus was writing things they had in common as a means of helping the crowd empathize?

However they arrived at empathy, look at the results. No condemnation. Peace. The chance of a new life.

My friend Pru reminded me last week that being made in the image of God is what gives us our value, but it’s also what gives us our power. The power to empathize. The power to choose the ways of Jesus- Life, Hope, Peace

Romans 12:14-16a (NRSV)           
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.16 Live in harmony with one another; …

As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re called to foster peace in the midst of evil, controversy, and conflict.

  • We are honest about our feelings and our failings
  • We break the cycle of conflict, often with an act of generosity or kindness
    • the war stops with me
  • We have the power to choose how we respond and we call on the Holy Spirit to help us choose well
  • We look below the surface behaviors to imagine what might really be going on
    • What is driving and informing these words or actions?
  • We empathize
    • “Those people who are hardest to love, need love the most”
  • We see people as people
    • not obstacles, objects, not a means to an end, or projects
    • I see you, I value you because you are made in the image of God
  • We believe changing our words and actions can change the world
    • By the grace of God, we can have a heart of peace and live out of a heart of peace

Psalm 34:14, Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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: Recognizing a Heart of War (James 3.13-18)

Sermon Series pursuing peace 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Pursuing Peace
Message 2 of 4: Recognizing a Heart of War
Scripture: James 3:13-18
These are the notes from a message offered 9/23/18, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting this series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they empower and inspire you to be a peacemaker.

Psalm 34:14        Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

Way of Being Diagram from The Anatomy of Peace

We can see behaviors- our words and actions. But these are the tip of the iceberg. Behaviors are born deep within us coming from a heart of peace or a heart of war.

As we read the scripture, look for the heart of peace and the heart of war.

James 3:13-18 The Voice
13 Who in your community is understanding and wise? Let his example, which is marked by wisdom and gentleness, blaze a trail for others. 14 If your heart is one that bleeds dark streams of jealousy and selfishness, do not be so proud that you ignore your depraved state. 15 The wisdom of this world should never be mistaken for heavenly wisdom; it originates below in the earthly realms, with the demons. 16 Any place where you find jealousy and selfish ambition, you will discover chaos and evil thriving under its rule. 17 Heavenly wisdom centers on purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, and other good fruits untainted by hypocrisy. 18 The seed that flowers into righteousness will always be planted in peace by those who embrace peace.

Pastor Lisa picks up a hand mirror and tells the story of growing up watching a children’s program called Romper Room. The teacher often used a mirror to say goodbye to the children and to encourage them to be “do bee’s,” those who do good.

Every time you see your reflection remember you are made in the image of God.

  1. God’s intention for you is wholeness. Salvation means wholeness. Wholeness looks like
    • Vs 13. wisdom and gentleness
    • Vs 17. wisdom, purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, good fruits
  1. God’s intention for you is clarity- for you to clearly see your talents, your beauty, your value, your purpose, how beloved you are to God

Max Lucado quote                                                                         
If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning… Face it, friend. He is crazy about you!

God came in Jesus to reveal all these things about you and to prove God’s love. Jesus lived, healed, taught, imprisoned, tortured, crucified, died rose again so we could know that we know that we know this. So we could become this. When we know this and live out of this we have a heart of peace.

But the mirror is broken. Shattered by sin- our own choices, choices of others, circumstances of life, the brokenness of our world.

All we have is a shard. It’s hard to see with just this little bit of mirror. We forget who we look like, that we look like God. This is why we need Jesus.

Forgetting colors how we see situations and how we see others. It’s like looking through at the world through tinted lenses, or with blinders on like a horse. Or like we have an eye disease- only seeing the periphery or only seeing the middle.

anatomy of peace boxesThis limited view boxes us into how we respond to situations and people.

  1. Better-than box
    • I see the world as competitive, troubled
    • I’m better than most folks because I know what’s right and I do what’s right. The world needs me to be the example and to fix it.
    • I get impatient with all these incompetent fools who screw everything up
  1. Worse-than box
    • I see the world as hard, against me, ignoring me
    • I’m not as good as others. I’m broken, helpless.
    • If I’m truthful, I’m jealous and bitter towards those people with all the advantages
  1. I Deserve box
    • I see the world as unfair, unjust. It owes me.
    • People constantly take advantage of me and don’t appreciate me
    • I resent those ungrateful people depriving me and mistreating me. I deserve better.
  1. Must be seen box
    • I see the world watching me, judging me. I always wonder what people are thinking.
    • I feel anxious, stressed because I need to get it right. I need to be well thought of.

Do you recognize yourself in any of these boxes? Does it color how you view situations and people?

My friend, there is no shame. You have just forgotten who you are. Instead of holding on to the truth of who you really are you’re holding on to the mirror shard. You’re holding on to the wounds and brokenness and separation and sin

What happens if you hold on to the shard. You continue to wound yourself. And you wound others.

You’re living out of a heart of war. Here’s the good news. You can change. You can live out of a heart of peace.

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

Jesus tells this parable to people who have a heart of war so they can receive a heart of peace. The first step is honesty, transparency, confessing our need and desire for a heart of peace to replace our heart of war.

If you desire a heart of peace, please join in this prayer.

Jesus, you are the Prince of Peace. You can give us a heart of peace. Jesus, we bow in wonder at the expanse of your embrace, the breadth of your inclusion,     the surprise of your grace. You seek and seek and seek, including those we write off as beyond hope, including me.

Jesus, You are the Great Physician coming to those in need of healing. You are the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world. You are the Prince of Peace granting me a heart of peace.

Forgive me, Jesus. Forgive me for forgetting who you are. For forgetting who I am in you.

Forgive and heal my wounds. Forgive and heal my brokenness, my sin.

Forgive me for judging. Forgive my hurtful words and actions. Forgive my self-righteousness.

Forgive me Jesus for limiting you. I am so desperately in need of you.

Create in me a clean heart and renew your Holy Spirit within me.

Create in me a heart of peace. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The new is coming. The new has come. Amen.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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 based on Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss (Matthew 23)

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Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 4 of 6: Yertle the Turtle

Scripture: Matthew 23:1-12
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/10/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

How do you define power?

  • I can do anything I want whenever I want with whoever I want with no consequences. No, this isn’t even possible.
  • Our actions and words are always tied to others. They ripple.
  • Power is Influence

Everyone has some power and influence. We’re all interconnected and it all ripples. It might be massive or small or somewhere in-between

  • Imagine the power and influence of a world leader next to a teacher
  • an inventor
  • a farmer
  • a parent/grandparent
  • an author
  • a police officer
  • a child

Who influenced you?

  • A family member, a teacher, a coach
  • Maybe someone you never met. Someone you read about in a book or they wrote a book or created a piece of art which influenced you.

Power is influence. Others are using their power which is flowing towards us and we are using our power which is flowing towards others.

How will you use your power and influence?

Reading of Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Suess  

yertle the turtle collage

How will you use your power?

  • Think about how one person has the power to bring goodness, healing, and change
    • Like little Mack’s burp
    • Sometimes we think “I don’t have the power of the leader of a company or city or nation.” You have power. Often it’s the little things done with great love which change the world.
    • Example: Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus because it was an injustice and how it rippled through an entire system of injustice
    • Examples: Mr. Rogers, Gandi, Dr. Seuss
  • Think about how one person has the power to bring pain, injustice, oppression, and harm. How one person’s actions can ripple through a family, a school, a community, or even the world.
    • Yertle is modeled after Hitler

Yertle the Turtle is such a simple story and yet it beautifully contrasts the power of one. The power of one to do good in Mack using his voice, in doing a small thing which ends an injustice. Yertle using his power and twisting it something it was never meant to be.

Power is a good gift of God. It is neither good nor bad. It is a gift. How will you use the gift? Will you use it for good, healing, grace, and hope or will you twist it into something it was never meant to be.

Jesus had a great deal to say about this. We’ll read one the times he spoke about it.

Matthew 23:1-7 
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.

  • Jesus had many encounters with the scribes (lawyers), Pharisees and rabbis (teachers), and priests (clergy)
  • One way to twist the gift of power is to twist it with hypocrisy. You lay down the rules but you are above them and don’t have to practice them yourself. How frustrating and unjust.

4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.

  • Power misused brings burdens on others.

5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.

  • Practicing faith in order to be seen, to show off
  • Self-centered, prideful, arrogant
  • Demanding respect, demanding the place of honor

C.S. Lewis Quote from Mere Christianity
As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.

Proverbs 16:18
Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Jesus is saying there is another way to wield the good gift of power. Look at the way Jesus wielded power himself. Look at the humility of Jesus, the grace, the welcome.

Jesus wielding his power to heal. Jesus wielding his power to give voice to those who have no voice. Wielding his power to be in solidarity with people others had labeled outcast, insignificant, and other.

Jesus wielding his power as a servant, never demanding title or position. Jesus wielding his power to the point of death, the point of blood and torture and sacrifice and generosity and wielding his power to take up his life again in resurrection.

This is the other way to use the good gift of power and influence.

Matthew 23:8-12 
Jesus said: 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Jesus said, “I have not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

How will you use your gift of power and influence? 
Will you let go of your ego? Will you let go of your willfulness and surrender wholly to God’s self-giving passion for the love and salvation of the world?

Will you take up your cross for the oppressed, the outcast, those yet to follow Christ?

Will you carry in your heart and prayers the sorrow of another?

Will you speak truth? Will you stand alongside those the world labels do not count and have no voice?

Will you mentor?

Will you welcome?

Will you use your power and influence for good and for the glory of God?

Little things can make a huge difference if they are done with love and grace. If they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Worship Resources
An Invitation to Christ by Dimitri of Rostov
Come, my Light, and illumine my darkness.
Come, my Life, and revive me from death.
Come, my Physician, and heal my wounds.
Come, Flame of divine love, and burn up the thorns of my sins
kindling my heart with the flame of thy love.
Come, my King, sit upon the throne of my heart and reign there.
For you alone are my King and my Lord.

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

Sermon Recording: Cultivating a Heart of Peace (Matthew 5.43-48)

Sermon Series pursuing peace 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Pursuing Peace
Message 1 of 4: Cultivating a Heart of Peace
Scripture: Matthew 5:43-48
These are the notes from a message offered 9/16/18, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting this series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they empower and inspire you to be a peacemaker.

Read Matthew 5:43-48, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. God desires to perfect us in love.

Video: Tiffany Jenkins, A lady got mad at me at the drive through, my response

What stands out to you in this video?

  • She’s honest about her feelings (punch her in the throat)
  • She broke the cycle of conflict with an act of generosity and kindness. She used made a choice about how to respond.
  • She looked below the surface to imagine what might really be going on empathy
    • “Those people who are hardest to love need love the most”
  • She saw the person as a person
  • She believes changing our words and actions can change the world

Tiffany Jenkins has a heart of peace.

Bishop Ken Carter Quote: A heart at peace is not about just being nice to another person. It is the refusal to exaggerate our differences, and the refusal to go to war with another person. A heart of peace seeks to break the cycle that escalates our conflicts through working at the relational level and sees the other as a person created in the image of God.

Way of Being Diagram from The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict

way of being diagram the anatomy of peace

What we see is the behavior. What a person is doing and saying. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Below the surface is where that behavior is born- our thoughts, feelings, wounds, beliefs, and sin color how we see the situation and how we see others.

The angry woman in the drive-through had a heart of war. We see her behavior- the frustration, anger, impatience, overreacting. We don’t know why she has a heart of war- what’s going on below the surface, but we can see the result.

  • She didn’t see Tiffany or her child as people. They’ve become an obstacle to be overcome, a problem to be fixed.
  • The angry woman felt her needs mattered more than the needs of those around her, including Tiffany

A Heart of War can lead to all kinds of destruction and injustice. If you are no longer a human being to me, I can take advantage of you, hurt you, oppress you, enslave you.

There’s another option- a heart of peace. 

  • Seeing people as people, not as objects or obstacles or problem to be fixed
  • You are real to me, as real as I am to myself. I see you.
  • Your cares and concerns matter just as much as my own. I value you.

This idea, seeing and valuing people, is rooted in Genesis 1:26-27. 

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

You are made in the image of God. You and every person you meet. God’s intention for you is goodness and wholeness, freedom and blessing. God has the same intention for every person you meet.

Thank You for extending me your heart of peace, your generosity of spirit towards me and my family following the death of my grandmother. We were wrapped in a warm blanket of cards, prayers, words of consolation and help.

Ten family members gathered around the table following my grandmother’s graveside service. Yes, we remembered her, but there was also laughter and a spirit of hope, of looking to the future.

We hadn’t all been together for 7 years. I was hoping and praying for peace. It isn’t always that way when a family gets together, when we go to work, go to school, go to the condo board meeting, or even in a drive-through. Now the political season is in high gear with its ugliness and accusations.

Yet, as followers of Jesus Christ, we’re called to foster peace in the midst of evil, controversy, and conflict.

How do we do it? Psalm 34:14 says, “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”

  1. Pray for the power of the Holy Spirit. We can’t do it in our own strength. This is about hearts of stone becoming hearts of flesh and that is a work of God.
    • Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you, and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
  2. Depart from evil. Ask God to reveal the ways you contribute to conflict and leave them behind.  Pray for healing, forgiveness, and strength to live a new life in Christ.
  3. Do good. Seek Peace. Pursue it. Intentionally learn new ways of being and behaving.

Cultivating Peace

  1. See people as people made in the image of God
  2. Look below the surface for what’s really going on
  3. Break the cycle of escalation. The war stops with me. Choose carefully how to respond.
  4. Help the situation, do good

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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: The Pruning Season (John 15.1-8)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624

Message 5 of 5
Scripture: John 15:1-8
These are the notes from a message offered 11/18/18, the Sunday before Thanksgiving at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. This is the last post in the series. I pray they have been an encouragement to you.

John 15:1-58
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing…. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

This feels like bearing fruit:  

  • Dedicating the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes
  • The marriage of our eldest daughter Elyse to a very faithful, honorable man named Sam. We see the fruit of faith in their lives. We see all the folks along the way who planted seeds of faith which are now blossoming.
  • Tamara’s Baptism- This was the first adult baptism in 4 years.

We’ve been having conversations amongst the missions team and later the leadership council about fruitfulness. Fruit-full. It’s what drove me to this scripture.

Jesus gives us many illustrations of who we are as his followers. We are the Bride of Christ. We are a building made with living stones. We are the Body of Christ. We are the Family of God. We are the Branches of a Vine. Jesus is referring to a grapevine in this instance.

Over and over and over again it says you will bear fruit, you will bear fruit, you will bear fruit.

That is the longing of my heart. It is also the thing that haunts me because having only one adult baptism in 4 years feels like we could bear much more fruit than that. We’re called to bear more fruit than that.

So we started having conversations in the mission team. We have incredibly faithful leaders in that area. We talked about the tens of thousands of dollars being raised for mission efforts- The United Methodist Women’s efforts, the Rummage Sale, our regular Sunday offerings for connectional giving which supports missionaries and projects around the world. We also do local programs like the Day 4 Hope back to school event.

We started having honest conversations about what is bearing fruit. It drew us to a question. As the Body of Christ are we suffering from multi-system organ failure? Are we dying? Or is it as we see in this passage, is it time for some pruning?

I am a novice when it comes to plants. I’ve planted some veggies but I’ve never had to prune. My mother had rose bushes and she would cut them back to nubbins. It looked like she was hurting the plant, but actually, she was helping the plant.

Pruning can feel like loss. Like harm. Like damage. It’s hard to do.

So we started talking about pruning. What in the life of the congregation was bearing fruit? What could we prune and make it more fruitful? What were some things that it was time for us to not do them anymore?

We’d been invited by the conference to be apart of an effort called Dinner Church. We prayed about it and went to meetings. It was about starting a new worship service based on meals. It was very clear. There was not one person in the congregation who felt like we were called to it. Ok, that’s not what we’re supposed to do.

Then we started to have conversations around some of our big efforts, including the Day 4 Hope back to school event. It takes thousands of dollars, 10 months to plan, over 200 volunteers.

We’ve been doing Day 4 Hope for 4 years and we came to the realization there was no fruit. It was absolutely good. It was good to give kids school supplies and the eye exams and the dental check and medical check, haircut, gift certificates, and photos.

We had not built any relationships with the families. We tried. The relationship with the school was at a standstill. Was it time to prune?

The missions team took some proposals to the leadership council and we had some hard conversations. We said, “Yes.” Yes, we are not called to do Dinner Church. Yes, it is time for the season of Day 4 Hope to come to an end.

It was at that moment I’m thinking, ok Lord, multi-system organ failure or pruning? What is it, Lord? In the midst of the leadership, I heard it’s time for pruning.

Please refer to the reaching ministries handout for the next portion of the message.

In our history, we are a generous people. We are generous with time, money, resources, love, grace, hope. It’s time to prune that generosity into something face to face. If we’re really honest, it’s so much easier to give money and stuff to someone else to do the ministry for us than to be face to face ourselves.

Bearing fruit, being fruit-full, means being face to face. Relationship building, skin in the game, a ministry of presence, faith in action, servant-hearted, choosing to be a hometown missionary.

We are the ones sent to this community. We are the branches. We have the fruit and so many others are in need of it.

Reaching Ministries

  • Trinity Preschool
  • Trinity Family Ministries
  • Partnership with Phillippi Shores Elementary School Teachers
  • GlorYoga
  • Brookdale Assisted Living on Swift
  • Fish of Sarasota- rides to doctor’s appointments

We are at a new season in our life here at Trinity.

John 15:4-5
4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing

In order to be fruit-full, we need this abiding. In this abiding, God removes every branch that bears no fruit. (Verse 2) We give thanks to God for removing our

  • Sin, Shame, Guilt
  • Prejudice, Evil, Injustice
  • Hate, Apathy, Isolation

It is removed so that the Holy Spirit can abide in us. So that something new can happen, we can bear more fruit.

More fruit in our character, the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control

Our lives are changed as we share the fruit we are bearing. We become fruit-full. It’s wonderful to help someone else do ministry but it does not excuse us from the calling God places on our lives to bear fruit ourselves. Our own calling.

What bears fruit is pruned to make it bear more fruit. (Verse 2) Our character is changed bearing the Fruit of the Spirit. Our community is changed as we bear the fruit of faith.

  • Things start going down- the crime rate, acts of violence, the unemployment rate
  • Things start coming up- the number of kids graduating, the number of kids who can read well, the number of people who have hope, the number of folks who place their trust in Jesus, the number of folks whose lives are changed.

The seeds bear fruit and there is a harvest. This is who we are. This who you are. This is who we can be. 

We’ve been talking about what it means to be resilient for weeks now. Now we’re at the point where the resilience begins to bear fruit.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am 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.