One Body, Many Members (1 Corinthians 12)

Sermon Series Spiritual Gifts 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Many Gifts, One Spirit. Discerning Our Calling From God. 
Message 3 of 5: One Body, Many Members
Scripture:  1 Corinthians 12:12-26
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 10/13/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a calling from God,

  • Come follow Me = call to relationship with Christ, call to salvation
  • Come follow Me = call to relationship with others, call to serve

You have a mission from God. You have a purpose.

God gives you spiritual gifts to help you figure out your calling to serve and fulfill your calling to serve. Spiritual gifts are divine enablement, like a superpower. God through the Holy Spirit arranges and empowers the superpowers for us to work together for the glory of God and the common good.

To help us understand this Paul gives us a metaphor- One Body with Many Members. We can understand a human body with many parts fulfilling their purpose, working together well.

This reminds me of Mr. Potato Head. 

  • Feet = spiritual gift of Apostleship, the divine enablement to start new things
  • Ear = spiritual gift Faith, faith comes through hearing (Romans 10:17), the spiritual gift of confidence in God
  • Ear = spiritual gift of Mercy, the divine enablement of being with people in pain
  • Eyes = spiritual gift of Wisdom, the divine enablement of seeing a consequence of choices and applying the scriptures in practical ways
  • Nose = spiritual gift of Discernment, the divine enablement of discerning truth from falsehood, good from evil, right from wrong. “Something smells fishy.”
  • Mouth = spiritual gift of Prophecy, the ability to speak truth to power
  • Hand = spiritual gift of Helps, little things done with great love
  • Hand = spiritual gift of Teaching

There are many more body parts for many more people and spiritual gifts. They work together for the glory of God and the common good.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.

  • Unity in Christ is incredibly important. In three verses, the word “one” is used 6 times. The word “all” is used 3 times. We’re better together.
  • All spiritual gifts are valuable and needed, thus all people are valuable and needed
  • So powerful and important, breaks down how the world divides us – Jews/Greeks, slaves/free (v. 13)
  • 1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

We take the good gift of God and twist it into something it was never meant to be.

People not valuing their own gifts = self-exclusion
15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body.

Story of me freaked out I didn’t have certain spiritual gifts “all pastors have”. I had the false idea that there was a certain gift mix for pastors. 
I didn’t have- leadership, evangelism, shepherding, apostleship
I did have- administration, teaching, wisdom, mercy

The grace and truth- “Everyone in this room is called to be a pastor. Everyone in this room has a different gift mix. You will lead, you will answer your call in the way you are wired. You will bring your gifts to being a pastor.”

We are one body with many members. It’s not about solo-heroic leadership. It’s about us doing it together.

We value each other’s gifts and we do it together. That’s how we make disciples. That’s how we transform the world. That’s how we grow in grace. That’s how we do it- together.

Invitation to discover your spiritual gifts

God’s wired you and given you a mission. It’s good, so don’t self eliminate. God made you you. You’re important and needed.

People not valuing another person and their gifts = exclusion of others
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

We suffer together and we celebrate together. That’s what it means to be the Body of Christ, the Family of God.

Extended Quote by Nadia Bolz-Webber
Sermon on Spiritual Gifts (which, unfairly, doesn’t include snarkiness)
“This ended up being one of my more difficult weeks in recent memory and I found myself having no choice but to rely on the prayers and faith and wisdom and compassion of those brothers and sisters in Christ whom God has put in my life – because frankly I was tapped out. Which is hard because I’d so rather have all the gifts myself and not have to rely on others. But when it feels like a failure on my part that I don’t have the faith or compassion or prayer life or wisdom that I need, I just have to remember that the only real failure is when I fail to recognize that I do actually have all the faith and compassion and prayer and wisdom I need – it’s just that someone else in my life is holding it for me.

See, I believe that it is God’s intention that we need each other. Not in a creepy co-dependent having no boundaries type of way. But in a bearing the face of Christ kind of way because when I cannot see goodness, when I cannot see hope or beauty or the face of Christ in my own heart, in my own life, and through my own eyes I need you to do it for me.”

This is why we’re part of the Body. We need each other. We value each other. We can’t do it alone. We weren’t designed to do it alone.

Accept the invitation to discover your spiritual gifts, to know how valuable you are, how needed you are. God has a purpose for you- to bring glory to God and build up others.

Theme Verse for this series, 1 Peter 4:10-11
10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer- Jesus it is such a great grace that you offer us salvation. Even more so, you offer us the chance to join you in your saving work. You trust us that much. You empower us that much. Reveal to us our spiritual gifts. Reveal to us the calling that you’ve placed upon our lives so we may fulfill it together, so we may fulfill it for your glory, so we may fulfill it for the common good, so we may fulfill it for the building of your Kingdom. Help us to know that we know that we know how valuable we are to you and how valuable we are to each other. God, we ask by the power of your Holy Spirit, that all people would know their value, their purpose, their place in your Body. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

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One Body, Many Members © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon on Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12)

Sermon Series Spiritual Gifts 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Many Gifts, One Spirit. Discerning Our Calling From God. 
Message 2of 5: Spiritual Gifts
Scripture:  1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 10/6/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Each and every one of us as followers of Jesus has a calling from God. We have a mission. We have a purpose for our lives.

The first calling from God is “Come, follow me.”

  • Call to a relationship with God
  • Call to salvation

The second calling from God is also “Come, follow me.”

  • Call to relationship, to follow Jesus out into the world  in relationship and service to others

Upward to God and outward to others- it’s cross-shaped. We have both callings.

The series theme verse is 1 Peter 4:10-11   
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

I have a call to be and a call to do. The big question is, “God, what do you want me to do?” We spend a great deal of time thinking about this and if we’re honest, we’re anxious about this. We’re trying to figure it out and we’re not sure and what if I make a mistake. I want to do the right thing, but it’s a hard thing…

Hear the Good News!
If you are a follower of Jesus, you not only have a calling from God
God gives you spiritual gifts to help you figure out that calling
God gives you spiritual gifts to help you fulfill that calling
God never asks you to do something without equipping you to do it

An easy way to think about spiritual gifts is to think of them like superpowers. Have you ever wanted a superpower? Which one did you want? (When I was little and going through my superhero stage, I wanted to be Lisa Super Steel Nurse.)

We have superpowers, spiritual gifts from God, and we get to join God in saving the world. It’s exciting and God wants us to know about this.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.

God wants us to be informed about spiritual gifts.

Paul then goes into a section about how persons were unbelievers but now they are believers and their lives are to be transformed. You have salvation, you have the Holy Spirit, and you have spiritual gifts.

DESCRIPTION OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

A Spiritual Gift is a Divine Enablement (v. 4-6)

  • A God-given superpower
  • Spirit, Lord, God activates spiritual gifts. This must be important because it’s repeated three times. You don’t have to fall into a vat of radioactive goop. You don’t have to be bitten by a spider. You’re given them for being a follower of Jesus Christ.
  • Variety of gifts, Variety of services, Variety of activities. There’s a great variety of gifts which must be important because it’s repeated three times.
  • Every believer has a least one spiritual gift, many believers have a few- a gift mix that makes you you (v. 7) No human possesses all the gifts. Each person possesses some. The gifts complement one another. We are better together.

Freely given by God

  • Just like salvation is a free gift of God. Just like God’s presence with us in the Holy Spirit is a free gift of God. Spiritual gifts are a free gift of God.
  • Spiritual Gifts cannot be earned or merited or chosen. They are distributed and empowered by the Holy Spirit as the Spirit chooses (v. 11) God is God. We are not.

Given for the benefit of others, the common good (v. 7)

  • Specifically to build up others and to glorify of God. Again, cross-shaped.
  • If you use your spiritual gifts for yourself, it’s like becoming a supervillain.

EXAMPLES OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS
This is the largest list of all the gift lists. There are two other lists plus other miscellaneous scriptures. How many can you find?

8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Wisdom– the divine enablement to apply spiritual truth effectively and practically to meet a need. Folks with the gift of wisdom hear the Spirit providing direction. They see consequences others have trouble seeing. Biblical Example: Abigail in 1 Samuel 25.

The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. – James 3:17

Prophecy– to speak truth to power in order folks can see the truth, in order folks can turn towards God and away from wickedness, in order for folks to be encouraged to do what is right, true, and good. Biblical Examples: Old Testament Prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus in Matthew 23.

Faith- We become followers of Jesus by faith, by placing our trust in Jesus to save us. The spiritual gift of faith is not only faith in God it is confidence in God. Unwavering belief, especially in the face of trouble. Biblical Example: David the shepherd boy facing Goliath.

Isn’t it exciting to think you have some of these superpowers! God has entrusted you with God’s presence. God has entrusted you with the filling of the Holy Spirit. God has entrusted you with a call on your life. God has entrusted you with spiritual gifts in order to know your call and fulfill your call.

Invitation to discover your spiritual gifts

The message concludes with the prayer before Holy Communion. 

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Sermon on Spiritual Gifts © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Come Down The Mountain (Matthew 17)

Sermon Series Spiritual Gifts 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Many Gifts, One Spirit. Discerning Our Calling From God. 
Message 1 of 5: Come Down the Mountain
Scripture:  Matthew 17:1-15
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 9/29/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a calling from God. They go hand in hand. Each and every one of us. It’s not just for the pastor or the missionary.

It’s just like the Blues Brothers when they say, “I’m on a mission from God.” That could be our catchphrase as well.

The series theme verse is 1 Peter 4:10-11   
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

The first calling from God is “Come, follow me.”

  • Call to a relationship with Christ
  • Call to salvation

The second calling from God is “Come down the mountain”

  • Call to relationship with others
  • Call to serve

Matthew 17:1-15, The Transfiguration of Jesus
1Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.

What happened six days before? Jesus gathers the disciples and foretells his death and resurrection. Jesus’ foretells his call to serve

  • Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
  • Jesus reveals his call to serve and says you also have a call. You also have a cross.

Almost a week had passed since this conversation. Do the disciples have any clue that this will be a crazy, powerful, holy experience?

2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

Time shatters and Jesus is revealed glorified. Two of the heroes of the faith are there talking to Jesus like they’re old friends. There’s Moses, the one who was with God on the mountain, who brought down the ten commandments and led the people from slavery into freedom. There’s Elijah the prophet, who had many powerful encounters with God on mountains.

Peter, James, and John are in the middle of all this. They receive a glimpse of glory on the top of the mountain.

It isn’t just Jesus’ glory; it’s Moses’ glory and Elijah’s glory. In glory, we won’t be alone. Jesus shows us we will have companions and that it’s always about relationship.

4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

It’s good to get a glimpse of glory. It’s good to be on top of the mountain.

Why would Peter offer to build Jesus, Moses, and Elijah’s dwellings? That seems weird. It was actually a usual practice of those who worshipped false gods in this time period. You’d see the sides of notable mountains dotted with altars and tents, even buildings.

Peter is so excited. He’s like a puppy. We can do this and we can do that. Let’s stay on the mountain. It’s good for us to be here.

This is the temptation, to stay on the mountain. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. We have this new relationship with God and our hearts are starting to be opened, and our eyes are starting to be opened, and our minds are starting to be opened.

We just want to hang out with Jesus on the mountain. There’s a reason why they call it a “mountaintop experience.” We want to stay with Jesus away from the messiness and pain of life.

The second temptation is to want to capture and control the Glory of God. Jesus, let’s build a box for you and a box for Moses and a box for Elijah and we’ll keep all this glory in the box and hang out together on the mountain.

5 While Peter was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud, a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him, I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.

They are hearing the very voice of God. Yes, it is wonder-full, power-full, marvelous, and glorious. But on the mountaintop in the full presence of God, it is also awe-full, mysterious, holy, and overwhelming. All we can do is fall on our faces before the glory of God.

It’s excitement and joy and it’s on my face, “You are God and I am not.”

Steve Garnaas Holmes said, “Let’s be honest: it’s terrifying to stand too close to a speeding train, to get near to the power of God, the light that can change you into your own unknown, the mystery that will surely consume you, the love that will crack your life open till the light all spills out

Jim Harnish said, “They never expected to see Jesus “transfigured in front of them…his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white.”  They never expected to see Elijah and Moses talking with him like old friends. They never anticipated the voice in the cloud that declared, “This is my Son…Listen to him.”  No wonder they were terrified! They were scared stiff by a startling experience of the sacred.”

What would you do?

Jesus leads as he always does. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”

Jesus comes in the midst of being overwhelmed by the power and goodness. Jesus comes and Jesus touches us. God touches us and speaks. What does God always say, “Do not be afraid.”

Yes, it is holy, powerful, mysterious, but God draws near. God desires the relationship and initiates the relationship. God always draws near.

8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

The glimpse of glory was just that … a glimpse … and it was gone.

The first calling from God is “Come, Follow Me.”

  • Call to a relationship with Christ
  • Call to salvation
  • Call to come to the mountaintop
  • Call to experiences the presence and glory of God

The second calling from God is “Come Down the Mountain”

  • Call to relationship with others
  • Call to engagement
  • Call to serve

14 When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, 15 and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water.

The four come down the mountain, down into the valley. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me. (Psalm 23)

We come up the mountain and experience the light, the glory, the goodness of God and we bring that light down the mountain with us so we can come into the shadows, the darkness, the pain, the mess and we can push it all back with the light.

Jim Harnish asks, “Which is more frightening for us? The possibility of some unexpected, overwhelming experience of the sacred? Or the challenge of following Jesus into the shadows and needs of our ordinary lives?”

Hear the Good News Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”

Prayer:
Jesus, give us your glory and give us grace
Grace to follow you up the mountain and down into the valley
Thank you for every loving invitation
You shine. You are glorious. You are Light, O Christ.
Fill us with light.
Grant us a glimpse of your glory.

Save us, O God,
From every temptation
From every false understanding and motivation

Save us from the temptation to just stay on the mountain
Save us from the temptation to never engage
Save us from the temptation
of trying to capture and control your power and glory

You are Mystery, You are Holy, You are God
We bow in wonder and worship

Help us listen
Help us follow
Help us listen
Help us follow
Help us know your touch, your voice
Help us follow you in grace, goodness, light, and service
Amen.

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Come Down the Mountain © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Be the Beatitude, Be the Blessing (Matthew 5)

Sermon Series beatitudes 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: The Beatitudes, God’s Surprising Blessing
Message 4 of 4: Be the Blessing
Scripture:  Matthew 5:1-12
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 9/15/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

The Ladder of the Beatitudes by Jim Forest was inspired by a beautiful, sacred painting from the late 1100s entitled The Ladder of Divine Ascent. It’s a painting of monks climbing a ladder towards Jesus in Heaven illustrating the journey of faith.

The angels, saints, siblings in Christ are praying for us and cheering us on in the faith as we make our way to be more and more like Jesus, as we make our way to heaven. The devil and demons are working hard to distract us and tempt us so we fall off the path.

Jim Forest sees this painting and thinks- that ladder is like the Beatitudes. We climb the Beatitudes, step by step, one after another. The Beatitudes are the natural progression of a faithful life.

(I got a stunt double to climb the ladder for me this week! One step for each Beatitude.)

5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

This is the first half of the Beatitudes. It seems the first two Beatitudes and the third and 4th Beatitudes are paired. The fifth and sixth are also paired, as are the seventh and eighth. (Like taking two steps at a time.)

First two are paired in recognizing our need of God. I recognize I am poor in spirit. I recognize I am a spiritual beggar. I cannot save myself. I am in need of salvation and God provides it. Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Blessed are those who mourn. As I begin to look at myself I get honest with my sin, my shame, my guilt, my mistakes. I get honest with the mess I’m in and recognize I need forgiveness. I need new life. The first two Beatitudes are about recognizing our need.

The second two Beatitudes are about recognizing our strengths. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. I recognize I am strong and I have gifts. I place it under the authority and discipline of God.

I recognize I have the Holy Spirit living in me, I have hungers, thirsts, passion, fire, appetites. I ask God to focus all of that good energy into righteousness- right relationship with God, with others, between others, with myself, and with creation. God focus that good energy so I don’t use it in ways that are weapons, in ways that don’t last, in ways that are false.

The first two steps are about bowing in humility to God. The next two steps are about standing in the truth of who God made me.

In the first two steps, I recognize I am dust and ashes. In the next two steps, I claim I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

The first four Beatitudes prepare us for the last four Beatitudes. There’s a great deal of internal work going on in the first four Beatitudes. The higher we climb, the more external this blessing becomes, the more action-oriented.

The first 4 prepare us so we’re in the right soul place to join Jesus in the adventure of saving the world. I am named blessed so that I can be a blessing. 

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
I remember back all the way to the first step when I needed mercy. In fact, there isn’t a time when I don’t need mercy. The Beatitude checks all the passion, fire, hungering and thirst strength to make sure I am not using it as a weapon. I am using it in a merciful way.

God is all-powerful. God is strong to save. Does God wield that as a weapon? No. God wields God’s power mercy-fully.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Checks our motivation. Is my motivation to have Jesus sitting on the throne of my heart, to see the world as Jesus sees it? (How’s the view from up there?

God, I want to want what you want. I want your motivation to be my motivation. “Pure in heart” is about having an undivided heart. A divided heart has one foot with Jesus and one for our selves. It’s like having two people trying to sit on the throne at the same time. It’s not going to happen.

If we’re really honest we can’t multitask. We can’t do two things at the same time with any kind of skill or accomplishment. We can’t serve 2 masters.

Do I want to build myself up or am I building up others, building the Kingdom? Jesus, I want to see you and join you and glorify you.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. As we step out in faith to be a blessing to others, we begin to see Jesus in the folks we are with. We see God right here, right now.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
How often do we pray for peace? We want peace of mind and heart, in our family, safety, security, calm, comfort.

Jesus is Jewish. When he’s thinking about peace he’s thinking about Shalom. Shalom is about the well-being of all creation. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, the right relationship of everything.

When I do this, folks will see Jesus in me and say, “that must be a child of God.”

The well-being of persons, the earth, systems so they are just and fair, governments so they have the best interest of all people. It’s big picture. The higher we go, the more we can see.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
The followers of Christ have been called to peace. … And they must not only have peace but also make it. And to that end, they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ, nothing is to be gained by such methods. … His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce hatred and wrong. In so doing they overcome evil with good and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus is raising us up to be prophets. Jesus is raising us up to be like him in his power to heal and to be ready for the persecution when it comes.

There’s a long history of persecution and harassment for God’s children. Placing our trust in Christ and living a life that looks more and more like his stirs things up.

When you start practicing mercy, peacemaking, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, your life is going to look different and people are going to notice. Not all of that notice is going to be positive. This Beatitude is honest enough to admit it.

We climb the ladder of the Beatitudes. It’s all leading up to so loving Jesus and desiring to follow him, that I will risk persecution. The higher you go on the ladder, the more risk there is.

Closer and closer to Jesus. I want to see thinks as you see them. I want to do things as you do them. Closer and closer to heaven- your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In order to get to heaven, you have to die. In order to be fully a part of heaven on earth, you have to die to self and be raised to new life in Jesus Christ. 

The higher we climb, the more we die to self.

  • Blessed are the Poor in Spirit- God, help me to die to trying to save myself and doing things in my own strength.
  • Blessed are those who Mourn- God, help me to die to sin and self-centeredness.
  • Blessed are the Meek- God, help me die to unbridled strength. I never want my power, talents, and strength to be used as a weapon.
  • Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness- God help me die to division, to prejudice, anything which keeps apart from one another.
  • Blessed are the Merciful- God, help me to die to revenge, resentment, and payback.
  • Blessed are the Pure in Heart- God, help me to die to trying to serve two masters. Be the leader of my life. Sit on the throne of my heart. Give me an undivided heart, a heart after your own heart.
  • Blessed are the Peacemakers- God, help me to die to evil, injustice, oppression. Help me to die to violence and hate. Help me to die to me and mine, us and them, because in your kingdom it is only us.
  • Blessed are the Persecuted- God, help me to die to approval, popularity, and safety. Help me to die to hiding my faith and risk aversion. God make me courageous in wherever you would lead me.

The main symbol of Christianity isn’t the star of Bethlehem or the empty tomb. It’s the cross- an instrument of injustice and mocking and torture and death.

If you’re going to be a Christian, be a Christian, fully alive in Christ. Christian literally means “a little Christ.” Everything that goes along with following Jesus. If you’re going to be a Christian, then be a Christ. Be the blessing.

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Be the Beatitude, Be the Blessing © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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The Ladder of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

Sermon Series beatitudes 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: The Beatitudes, God’s Surprising Blessing
Message 3 of 4: The Ladder of the Beatitudes
Scripture:  Matthew 5:1-7
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 9/8/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Yes, this message was preached while climbing a ladder. 🙂

The Ladder of the Beatitudes by Jim Forest was inspired by a beautiful, sacred painting from the late 1100s entitled The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

It’s a painting of monks climbing a ladder towards Jesus in Heaven, illustrating the journey of faith.

The angels are cheering and praying for them in the top left corner. The faithful are cheering and praying for them in the bottom right corner.

You’ll also see shadowy demons trying to pull them and tempt them so they will off the ladder. At the bottom is the face of the devil- big, blue, cold, eating one of the monks who’s fallen.

Jim Forest sees this painting and thinks- that ladder is like the Beatitudes. We climb the beatitudes, one after another, and it brings us closer and closer to being like Jesus, seeing things like Jesus, and following him in his saving work. The Beatitudes are the natural progression of a faithful life.

Step 1: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

  • There’s nothing I can say or do or give to earn my salvation
  • I come to God as a spiritual beggar, I have nothing to offer God
  • I recognize my need and turn to Jesus. “Jesus, I am in need of forgiveness and salvation. I place my trust in you as my Lord and Savior.”
  • When I do, I receive the gift of salvation and the Kingdom. I’m now an heir, a child of the King.

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • You’ve got to earn your salvation. Get good to get God.
  • If I believe this, I misstep. I’m not even on the ladder.
  • Truth- Jesus save me. I cannot save myself.

Step 2: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted

  • I stop trying to save myself and take a good look at myself
  • I get honest about what a mess I am
  • I mourn my mess- my sin, my poor choices, things said and done, things left unsaid and undone. How I’ve hurt myself, others, God.
  • I mourn and I surrender the burden of my guilt to God.
  • I confess and I receive forgiveness.
  • “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9
  • The burden of my guilt is lifted and I’m comforted

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • Mourning means to keep beating myself up over my sins and mistakes. I must continue to carry that guilt and shame like a cross.
  • Truth- Jesus took the beatings and carried the cross so I wouldn’t have to.

Step 3: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth

  • Meekness is strength under authority
  • I recognize I am powerful. I am strong, talented, resourced. I am filled with the Holy Spirit. I have a calling upon my life. God empowers me and gifts me in order to live out this call.
  • I recognize this and own it and place all my strength under Christ’s authority. “All that I am and all that I have I give to you and to your service. You are God and I am not.”
  • Jesus says, “You are ready to join me in the great adventure of going out and saving the world because you are now meek.”
  • That’s what it means to inherit the earth. We join Jesus in saving and blessing, in being generous and kind and light.

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • Meekness is about being in control, never take a risk, institutionalized, quiet, timid, shy, passive, a wimp, a doormat
  • Truth- Jesus says, “Let’s go! It’s an adventure out there!”

The higher I get, the stronger I hold on to the ladder! We start climbing the ladder and things start looking different. We’re getting closer to Jesus and closer to heaven. We’re getting a new perspective and we realize we can’t do this without Jesus and so we hold on really tight. 

Step 4: Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

  • Hunger and Thirst = Appetite, Longing, Craving
  • This is the beatitude of passion. The beatitude of fire. The overwhelming longing that life should be on earth as it is in heaven.
  • Jesus Christ doesn’t say
    • Blessed are those who think it would be a good idea if we all got along
    • Blessed are those who have a heart for peace in our world
    • Blessed are those who think righteousness is a good idea
  • Hungering and thirsting for righteousness– a right relationship with God, with others, between others, with ourselves, with creation
  • Jesus says blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
    • people who want what is right as urgently as a person in the desert wants a glass of water, as a child in a refugee camp cries desperately for a crust of bread.
    • When we hunger and thirst for the things of God, we are filled

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • Something else will fill us. We are fooled and cheated by Unworthy Appetites. We pour all our passion into something that doesn’t last, doesn’t satisfy, and doesn’t fill us

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • Our passion and fire for righteousness gets twisted, becomes destructive. We fight fire with fire.
  • We start trying to fix people and force people to do what we believe is right.
  • That’s how you get the Crusades, Jihad, Spanish Inquisition, people burning each other at the stake. None of this is of God.

That’s why we have step 5: Blessed are merciful, for they will receive mercy

  • When I was hurting people what did I need most in the world in order to change? I needed mercy.
  • We remember where we’ve been. We remember our spiritual poverty and our need for forgiveness and grace. We remember we needed mercy and that’s exactly what God gave us.
  • I received mercy. I know what it can do. I am now mercy-full and can pass it along to others.

What do you hunger and thirst for?  

Where is God calling you to not only spread righteousness with your passion and your joy but also spread mercy with your openness and your grace and your peace?

We remember we’re spiritual beggars. We’ve found some bread. Won’t you come for the bread, too? It’s all about invitation. Won’t you come and sit with me? Won’t you come and walk with me? Won’t you come to see what I have seen?

Prayer– God we thank you for the fire of the Holy Spirit which gives us passion, grace, and a calling upon our life. God, we thank you for mercy which keeps things in perspective so we don’t hurt people while we’re trying to help them. God, fill us with hungering and thirsting and God fill us with mercy, that we may be fully yours and join you in this great adventure of saving the world. We need you Jesus and we love you. We pray that everything we do gives you honor and glory and draws people close to you. Amen.

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The Ladder of the Beatitudes © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Blessed are the Meek, a Sermon from The Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

Sermon Series beatitudes 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: The Beatitudes, God’s Surprising Blessing
Message 2 of 4: Blessed are the Meek
Scripture:  Matthew 5:1-5
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 9/1/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Read Matthew 5:1-5
The beginning of the Beatitudes at the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Jim’s Ride from The Man from Snowy River
One of my favorite movies growing up was The Man from Snowy River. In this movie, a rich Australian rancher buys a prize Arabian stallion. One day the stallion escapes and joins a mob of wild horses. The rancher rounds up as many hands as possible and the chase begins- thundering hooves shake the majestic Australian hills. Faster and faster they race until the mob bolts down a steep embankment. Let’s see what happens next…

The trained horses and riders will not follow the mob down the steep embankment. They stop. They know better. They call it a day.

Suddenly, one horse and rider blazes past the group and down the hill after the mob. (It’s one of the most exciting horse sequences ever filmed.) It’s our hero- Jim Craig.

He and his horse are not afraid. They move as one, a powerful team. They are strong. All watch amazed at what they can do together. The chase continues and in the end, Jim brings in all the wild horses.

How would you describe Jim and his horse?
They are one, synced, inseparable
Fearless, beautiful, strong

Man from snowy river jim horse

Together, Jim and his horse are a perfect example of meekness.

When you hear the word meek what comes to mind:
Quiet, shy, timid
Passive, Wimp, Doormat

We’ve lost the actual definition of the word “meek” and we must reclaim it. In Greek word for “meek,” praus, is used to describe a wild animal whose power was now disciplined for work, strength under authority.

We know we are at our best when we are disciplined and accountable:
You work with a coach and your game improves
There’s a reason why Weight Watchers and AA and Disciple Bible Study works
The structure makes us stronger- it’s a gift
We’re stronger together

The Natural Progression of the Beatitudes at work in a life

Blessed are the poor in spirit  
There’s nothing I can say or do or give to earn my salvation
I come as a spiritual beggar, I have nothing to offer God
I am in need of forgiveness and salvation. I know what I need.
I place my trust in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I receive the Kingdom
I’m now an heir, a child of the King

Matthew 5:3
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn  
I stop trying to save myself
I take a good look at myself
I get honest about what a mess I am
I mourn my mess- my sin, my poor choices
Things said and done, and left unsaid and undone
How I’ve hurt myself, others, God.
I mourn. I surrender my burden to God.
I confess. I receive forgiveness.
The burden of my guilt is lifted and I’m comforted

Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek  
Yes I am a spiritual beggar
Yes I am honest about my sin and need of forgiveness

If we stopped at this point, it would make sense to claim we are wimps and doormats. But if we stop here, we wouldn’t have the whole truth.

We must also recognize we are powerful
I am strong, gifted, talented, resourced

I place everything I have and everything I receive from the Holy Spirit, all my strength, under God’s authority. All that I am and all that I have I give to you and to your service. You are God and I am not. You be Jim, I’ll be the horse.

Matthew 5:5
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Snowy River Metaphors
Before we place our trust in Jesus we’re like the mob of horses- wild, rebellious, destructive, undisciplined. For some of us, we look wild and do wild things. For others, we may not look that way on the outside, but that’s what’s going on on the inside. We are unsettled, anxious, struggling.

After we place our trust in Jesus we grow to be like Jim and his horse. Strength under authority. One with God. Moving in concert with God. All of a sudden there’s direction to this power, direction to this talent.

We are more than we are by ourselves because we are one with God. We begin to understand we can be courageous, we can risk for the glory of God and the common good.

The last thing Jesus wants is for you to start following him and you become like the ranch horses- too safe, too careful, too tame, whipped, broken, timid, institutionalized.

That’s not meekness. That’s not who we really are.

All this talk of poverty of spirit and mourning our sin might make us think being a Christian is about being a wimp- passive, timid, doormat.

No! God is calling us to a life of adventure. We recognize we cannot save ourselves. We recognize we can hurt others and hurt ourselves. We place our strength under the authority of Jesus and now we are ready to join Jesus in the adventure of saving the world.

We’re in the right heart space to do it.

We’re ready to go where Jesus leads, in the way Jesus leads
Loving our enemies
Welcoming the outsider
Ending prejudice and oppression
Speaking the truth in love            ‘
Generous, sacrificial, joyful,
Compassionate, empathetic,
Powerful, and humble

We are now ready to be meek

2 Timothy 1:7
for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said:
The meek love their God so much that they desire to obey even the least command that he gives, simply out of love to him. The meek in spirit are like a photographer’s sensitive plates, and as the Word of God passes before them, they desire to have its image imprinted upon their hearts.

Where are you strong and powerful? How are you bringing that strength under God’s authority and leading? So you may be one and join Jesus in the great adventure of the saving of the world.

The message ends with the prayer before Holy Communion.

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Beatitudes Sermon, Blessed are the Meek © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

A Prayer for Storm Survivors

Jesus Calms the Storm by the Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

Jesus Calms the Storm by the Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

The knowledge that we are never alone calms the troubled sea of our lives and speaks peace to our souls. – A. W. Tozer

I am grateful Taylor Burton-Edwards for making excellent suggestions to improve this prayer.

A Prayer for Storm Survivors
Jesus, we see you calming storms-
storm-tossed seas and stormy lives.
Extend your power and grace again,
especially upon these most recent storm victims.

Speak peace and healing over bodies and spirits broken by the chaos.
Jesus, speak peace. Silence

Speak peace and hope over families and communities devastated by sudden loss.
Jesus, speak peace. Silence

Speak peace and unity over diverse groups of people
bring them together for greater provision,
just distribution, and effective rebuilding.
Jesus, speak peace. Silence

Speak peace and protection over rescue workers
as they reach out to those who are suffering.
Jesus, speak peace. Silence

Speak to us, moving our prayer to action⠀
Jesus, speak, we are listening. Silence

You are the Prince of Peace.
You are the Resurrection and the Life.
You are strong to save.
Our hope and trust are in you. Amen.

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A Prayer for Storm Survivors © updated 2019, Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment below for information and permission to publish this work in any form.