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.
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.
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.
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 15:1-5, 8 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.
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.
Trinity Family Ministries
Partnership with Phillippi Shores Elementary School Teachers
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!
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.
Message: It Begins in Baptism
Scripture: Matthew 3:11-17
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 1/13/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. On the first Sunday after Epiphany (January 6), many Christians remember the Baptism of Jesus Christ. As part of the celebration, the faithful renew their baptismal vows.
Rev. Janet Wolf telling the story of Fayette In new members’ class we talked about baptism: this holy moment when we are named by God’s grace with such power it won’t come undone.
Fayette was there—a woman living on the streets, struggling with mental illness and lupus. She loved the part about baptism and would ask over and over, “And when I’m baptized, I am . . . ?” We soon learned to respond, “Beloved, precious child of God, and beautiful to behold.” “Oh, yes!” she’d say, and then we could go back to our discussion.
The big day came. Fayette went under, came up sputtering, and cried, “And now I am . . . ?” And we all said, “Beloved, precious child of God, and beautiful to behold.” “Oh, yes!” she shouted as she danced all around the fellowship hall.
Two months later I got a call. Fayette had been beaten and raped and was at the county hospital. So I went. I could see her from a distance, pacing back and forth. When I got to the door, I heard, “I am beloved . . . ” She turned, saw me, and said, “I am beloved, precious child of God, and. . . . ” Catching sight of herself in the mirror— hair sticking up, blood and tears streaking her face, dress torn, dirty, and rebuttoned askew, she started again, “I am beloved, precious child of God, and . . . ” She looked in the mirror again and declared, “ . . . and God is still working on me. If you come back tomorrow, I’ll be so beautiful I’ll take your breath away!”
In a world that pronounces so many of us “not good enough,” what might it mean to believe that our true identity is chosen, precious, and beloved?
It begins with baptism
Reading: Matthew 3:13-17 NRSV
Chosen, Beloved, Blessed. It all begins with Baptism.
Where do we find our Identity?
What family, country, neighborhood we were born into
Our job, school, the team we follow
We can find our identity in so many different places. But those measures of identity will fade away. They are not lasting. This is lasting. “This is my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased. This is my daughter, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
This is who you are in Christ. It so strong, so rooted, it goes beyond circumstance. It goes beyond disease. It goes beyond death.
Identity begins with baptism. But there’s more!
Verse 16, The heavens were opened to him
Verse 16, The Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him
Verse 11, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire
It all begins with baptism. This naming, claiming, and identity begins with baptism and empowering begins with baptism.
It doesn’t stop or end with baptism. It begins with baptism. This is where Jesus begins his public ministry, the three years leading up to his death and resurrection. The healing, the preaching, the welcoming, the teaching, the work of justice and saving.
It’s not just the beginning for Jesus, it’s also the beginning for us. Baptism is the ordination of every follower of Jesus Christ into the priesthood of all believers.
Jesus didn’t come and die and rise again so you could be a member of a church. Jesus came and died and rose again so you could be a missionary. A missionary in whatever way that looks like for you. A missionary to your family, co-workers, neighborhood, the folks you hang out with… whatever that looks like.
It’s so important and it will take so much of us we too must remember who we are and we too must be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Baptism of the Christ with Dove by Daniel Bonnell. What do you notice? What does it remind us of?
movement of the painting
power of the colors, fire colors
submission and humility of Christ
you see the crucifixion
the dove representing the Holy Spirit
Jesus’ arms match the dove wings
One Christ’s hands are down and one is up, death and victory/resurrection, fully human and fully divine
of ripples of water radiating out into the world
What if every time we washed our faces, or stood beneath the shower, or were caught in a rainstorm, we remembered and reaffirmed our baptism- our identity and our empowerment.
There’s so much being said in this powerful painting because there is so much going on in the waters of baptism. When we come forward to the waters, there’s so much we are reaffirming, recommitting to, and being thankful for.
On the recording, the message transitions into the Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows
Holy Spirit, Holy One
Holy Spirit, Descending Dove
Alight on me that I may know your presence
Anoint me that I may know your call
Fill me that I may know your power
Guide me that I may know your path
Name me that I may know, that I know, that I know who I am
Be Still, Remember
a hymn for reaffirming the baptismal covenant
Suggested Tune- ONE BREAD, ONE BODY (United Methodist Hymnal #620)
Be still, remember, who you are.
Come touch the water
of your birth.
Be dead to sin, alive to God.
Remember who you are in Jesus.
You are beloved.
You are an heir.
You are a child of God.
You are claimed.
You are marked.
You are named by God.
Chosen and blessed
Gifted by God
Witness through word and deed
Check out a poem/devotional entitled The Beloved by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
January 1: What Child is This?
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12
These are the notes from a message offered Epiphany Sunday, 1/6/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.
History of What Child is This?
William Chatterton Dix was born in Bristol, England in 1837. In 1865, Dix was working as the manager of a maritime insurance company in Glasgow, Scotland. He was suddenly struck by a severe illness that confined him to bed and brought on severe depression. He began to read the Bible with great fervor and to write spiritual poetry. His near-death experience raised him to new life physically and spiritually.
What Child is This? By William C. Dix (UMH #219)
What child is this who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?
Refrain: This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing; Haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary.
Why lies he in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christians, fear, for sinners here the silent Word is pleading. (Refrain)
Additional Verse: Nails, spear shall pierce him through; the cross he bore for me, for you; Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the babe, the Son of Mary!
So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh, come, peasant, king, to own him; The King of kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone him. (Refrain)
What makes a great gift?
Story of Laura and Kevin’s engagement
A great gift is thoughtful, surprising, takes time and effort, is given from a place of love. A great gift has a deeper meaning.
The gifts of the wise men/Magi are precious, expensive, have a deeper meaning.
They expect to find a king.
They were searching for a leader who is worthy to be followed, worthy to give our allegiance.
Frankincense (dried tree sap)
Used as medicine or to offer prayers.
They were searching for something greater than themselves, the Holy, the Divine, one who is worthy to be worshiped.
Myrrh (dried tree sap)
Used for cleaning wounds and embalming.
They were looking for one who would bring them healing and wholeness.
The gifts point to who Jesus is and what he will do
Last Verse of We Three Kings by John Henry Hopkins: Glorious now behold Him arise, King and God and Sacrifice. Alleluia, Alleluia, Earth to heaven replies
Last Verse of In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti: What can I give Him, poor as I am. If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
So much more than just bringing our heart or even your money Bring You, the entirety of you, You are the treasure. Bring it all, give it all.
Jesus, you are King and God and Sacrifice
We bring you our gold: our prosperity, our possessions, our productivity
We bring you our frankincense: our worship, our reverence, our prayers
We bring you our myrrh: our brokenness, our grave clothes, our dust
Invitation to join one of the Reaching Ministries of the church.
*********** CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.
The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.
This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.
Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:
Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
What is the big idea?
Why is it important?
How does this truth connect with my life?
Have a conversation with God about this truth.
Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.
Journal your reflections
Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
Sing or listen to the song
Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face
Growing 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!
Growing 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.
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
Have mercy on 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