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.

Cast Your Net Again (John 21)

Cast Your Net Again by Daniel Bonnell

Scripture
Jesus said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

Sermon/Poem
This poem was inspired by Matthew 13:47-50, John 21:1-14, John 12:31-32, Psalms 40:1-3, and the painting Cast Your Net Again by Daniel Bonnell. It could be voiced with one or two speakers.

Cast Your Net Again
It’s been a long night of fishing
We smell of bait and salt-
salt from the sea
salt from the sweat
salt from the tears
It’s a strange combination of perspiration and desperation

The sun is about to come up, and we haven’t caught a thing
We downhearted
Not so much because we haven’t caught anything,
But because everything’s changed
He’s gone
our leader
our teacher
our friend
our future
We missing Jesus

He called us from our nets years before,
Come, follow me…
And that’s what we did
We gave up everything we knew
our nets
our lives
“Fishers of men,” he said…

Now he was gone and all that ‘s left is the nets… empty nets…

Children, you have no fish, have you?
                                                                     No, no fish
Cast your net again and you will find some

Cast your net again,
We know this familiar foolishness
So we cast it… we cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Suddenly! So many fish!

The cry goes up with our hope
It is the Lord! It is Jesus!

He sank down to the bottom
Down to the mud and the darkness
Down to the pain and the brokenness
Down to our level

Until he was lifted up- lifted up on a cross
Up went the fists
Up went the curses
Up went the sign
Up went the stares

Down came the hammer
Down came the tears
Down came the blood
Down came the love
Down to our level- buried beneath waves of fear and injustice and sin
Buried beneath earth

He did as he promised
Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself

It is the Lord! It is Jesus!
He is lifted up from the earth!
Up from the grave
Up goes the shout
Up goes the sun with the Son

Cast your net again, my Jesus
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Draw us up from the bottom with you
Draw us up from the mud and the darkness
Up from the pain and the brokenness and the selfishness and the loneliness
Draw us up from the fear and the hate and the sin and the death
Draw us up from the bottom with you

Draw us up,
Draw us all, my Jesus
Fisher of men and women, sober and addicted, poor and prosperous, infant and aged
Draw us up, Draw us all, my Jesus
Healthy and ill, free and imprisoned, questioning and confident
Draw us up, Draw us all
Fisher of nations and galaxies

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

Cast your net again into the sea of humanity
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Draw us up
Draw us in
We are caught in your saving embrace

“Now follow me,” says Jesus.
“Come, cast the net
Cast the net again and again and again and we will find some more
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
So many, so different, so beautiful
Use all your strength to bring them in
Have no fear, the net will not break.”

***********
© 2009, revised 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please, leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer of Blessing for a Military Deployment

woman holding man hand

Photo by Wyatt on Pexels.com

The deploying service member and his/her family is invited forward.

Today we recognize JOB TITLE, RANK, NAME as he /she answers the call to serve in THEATER OF OPERATION.

We also recognize NAME’S family members who are answering the call to support NAME from home. NAME THE FAMILY MEMBERS

The service member and his/her family are invited to kneel or stand for the blessing.
Those gathered are invited forward to lay hands of blessing and support on them.

Jesus, we hear your words, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13 NRSV)

Almighty God, we are grateful for those who are willing to sacrifice and to serve.

Strengthen all who risk their lives to protect others, including NAME as he/she serves in THEATER OF OPERATION.

Help NAME to serve with honor, wisdom, and compassion.

Guard NAME against hardheartedness, despair, and evil.

Strengthen and bless NAME + NAMES OF THE FAMILY MEMBERS while they are separated one from another.

Surround them all with your protection, your grace, and your resilience.

Bring NAME safely home and bring an end to our warring ways.

We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.

**********
Prayer of Blessing for a Military Deployment © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

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.

Growing in Resilience: We Will Rise, based on Isaiah 58.11-12

sunrise hold sunGrowing in Resilience
Based on Isaiah 58
Bonus Reflection: We Will Rise
based on Isaiah 58:11-12, NRSV

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

We will rise
From the destruction
From the ruins
From the sin and isolation

We will rise
Building strong foundations
Bridging the breach
Making a way, a highway to our God

We will rise in our ceasing
A holy fast of God’s desiring and design

Fasting from injustice
Letting loose the bonds
Breaking every yoke of oppression and affliction

Fasting from food and space and clothing
Simplicity and sacrifice so others may have enough

Fasting from busyness
Reclaim the good gifts of relationship and sabbath

Fasting from evil speech
Blaming, gossiping, demonizing, lying
Truth will be on our tongue
Life will be on our lips

We will rise for this is the way of the Risen One
The bones of the Body will be strong
The branches of the Vine will be well watered
The ruins will be rebuilt with living stones
We will rise!

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

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

Growing in Resilience: False Following, based on Isaiah 58.1-2

feet bare bw railGrowing in Resilience
Day 19, Read Isaiah 58
Reflection: False Following,
based on Isaiah 58:1-2, The Voice

Tell My people about their wrongdoing; shout with a voice like a trumpet; Hold nothing back: say this people of Jacob’s line and heritage have failed to do what is right. And yet they look for Me every day. They pretend to want to learn what I teach, as if they are indeed a nation good and true, as if they hadn’t really turned their backs on My directives. They even ask Me, as though they care, about what I want them to be and do, as if they really want Me in their lives.

Eternal One,
You shout truth
Loud and clear like a trumpet blast
Holding nothing back so we might be saved
Give us ears to hear
Souls to receive
Lives to live your holy love

Save us from false following
Pretending to want what you want
Hiding behind pious practices
Rituals for show

Save us from false following
Weaponizing your means of grace
Religion without relationship
Belief without transformation

Save us from false following
Faith without works
Without compassion
Without fruit

Have mercy on us
Forgive us
Save us
Make our faith real

We turn and return to you
And your desiring
Give us ears to hear
Souls to receive
Lives to live your holy love

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

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

Growing in Resilience: Your Spirit and Your Heart, based on Isaiah 57.15

Sacred Heart 3Growing in Resilience
Day 18, Read Isaiah 57
Reflection: Your Spirit and Your Heart, based on Isaiah 57:15, NRSV

For thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

High and Lofty One
Be with me
Forgive me and Heal me
From naming myself better or worse than others
From projecting and protecting a self-image
From claiming I deserve at another’s expense

Renew and Revive my spirit and my heart

Grant me compassion
Teach me judgment without being judgmental
Boundaries without guarding too much
Love without agendas

Grant me courage
Teach me truth without using it as a weapon
Engagement without abuse
Confronting without a win/lose mindset

Grant me hope
Teach me peace without apathy
Rest without laziness
Patience without despair

High and Lofty One
Grant me your spirit and your heart

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

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