When the Spirit Chases You With the Message You Need to Hear

Freedom - A sculpture by Zenos Frudakis

Freedom by Zenos Frudakis

Themes of slavery and freedom keep chasing me this Lenten season.

The message seems to come from random places, but I’m confident this isn’t random. I trust the Holy Spirit is working all of this together for my good. There’s something I need to know and I need to know it now.

First, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 came up in my Scripture Reading Plan
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

This got me thinking about shrouds and shackles and slavery. How am I bound? It also got me thinking about the Spirit’s promise of seeing clearly and freedom.

In my morning sacred reading, I’m making my way through Jesus, a Pilgrimage by James Martin, SJ. It’s glorious and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

A couple of days after the Corinthians passage, my book reading discusses the raising of Lazarus from John 11. More shrouds and shackles! Lazarus is wrapped up like a mummy. The first scripture talked about slavery to condemnation and the law. Now it’s expanded to include slavery to sin and death.

And again the Good News- New Life, Resurrection, and Freedom in Christ! Unbind him!

Selections from John 11:34-44
34 Jesus said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” … 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. … 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

soar by scott erickson

Soar by Scott Erickson

Then came the scriptures associated with Sunday’s sermon on God freeing the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. We serve a God who saves, a God who delivers us from shackles and shame and sin and death. That is our God!

Check out this promise from Exodus 16:6-7. In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord. 

Then this picture came my way. Soar by Scott Erickson. Isn’t it fantastic! All of his work is fresh and powerful.

This piece says to me, “Freedom in the Spirit.” I love the color, the movement, the joy, the flow, the overshadowing companionship.

This reminds me of what my friend Jenny Gehman said the Spirit told her about her word for the year, SOAR. The Spirit said to her, “SOAR- Sweetheart, Open And Rise.”

grit and virtue kimberly mead freedomThen this quote from Kimberly Mead via the great folks at Grit and Virtue. In freedom there is rest. Slaves don’t rest. Sabbath rest, Soul rest, is the fruit of freedom.

So here I am, praying for eyes to see and ears to hear as the Spirit continues to reveal what this means for me. What might all this mean for you, dear one? – Lisa <><

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When the Spirit Chases You With a Message You Need to Hear
© 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
(by Lisa Degrenia, revlisad.com)
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

What I Learned Making Matzo

Sermon Series Bread 1110 x 624Lenten Sermon Series: Bread
This sermon series was inspired by the book Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers by Margaret Feinberg.

Message 1 of 5: Matzo and Manna
Scriptures: Deuteronomy 16:1-3; Exodus 16:13-15
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/1/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire contemporary worship service, including the message which starts at the 33-minute mark.

Andrew McGowanThis is Andrew McGowan. He’s Australian. He’s an Episcopal priest and seminary professor. He’s the Dean of the Divinity School at Yale and an expert in ancient bread making.

Last week we passed out copies of one of his recipes. Andrew’s 18-Minute Kosher Matzo

If we’re thinking about bread in the Scriptures, we have to start at the beginning with the unleavened bread of those running for their freedom from slavery under Pharoah. The Bread of Affliction.

Deuteronomy 16:1-3, The Passover Remembrance Instructions
1 Observe the month of Abib by keeping the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 You shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock and the herd, at the place that the Lord will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3 You must not eat with it anything leavened. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it—the bread of affliction—because you came out of the land of Egypt in great haste, so that all the days of your life you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt.

matzo ingredientsWhat I Learned Making Matzo-
The Bread of Affliction

Last night at about 10:00 pm, I decided to make matzo. I had to come over to the church to get a rolling pin. We didn’t have one. I don’t bake.

Prepare- I had to gather the ingredients. How different was my experience than that of folks in the ancient world, especially slaves? They had to grind the grain into flour by hand. They had to gather the water by hand in the heat of the desert. Was it bitter? Was it nearby? They had to gather whatever they used to make fire by hand.

All I had to do was turn on the oven. But I had to wait for the oven to heat to 490°. A blazing, oppressive 490°. As I waited, I began to imagine the slaves waiting for freedom. The longing. The praying for deliverance for hundreds of years, for generations.

What deliverance have I been praying for for a long long time? My weight. My perfectionism. Who else this very night is longing and praying for deliverance? What’s on their heart?

As I’m waiting, I’m looking at the ingredients. There’s only two- water and flour. No oil. No spices. Not even salt. It is the bread of affliction. I’m baking old fashioned paste.

For the slaves, there was never enough. They were always scraping, always hungry. They made do with so little.

The oven is ready and its time to begin. Real matzo is finished in 18 minutes or less, start to finish. I wound my old school tick, tick, tick timer. On your mark, get set, go.

I began working the water and flour together with my hands like they would have. I used spelt flour, a flour of the ancient world. It has a darker color and rougher texture than refined, white flour. It’s brown. The color of mud.

My mind went to the slaves working the mud into bricks. With tools. With their hands. It the heat of the desert. Soul-breaking as well as back-breaking work.

18 minutes- tick tick tick tick. It’s just sitting there on the counter laughing at me. Will there be enough time? For the slaves, there was never enough time. Never enough time to do all the work for Pharaoh. Tick Tick Tick Tick. Lash of the whip. Shouts of the overseers.

Never enough time. Never enough time. Tick tick tick tick. Never enough time to rest. Rest? There was no rest, you’re a slave.

Exodus 1:13-14
The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

We can’t begin to imagine how bad it was – ruthless is in there twice. Bitter water. Bitter bread. Bitter lives. I can’t think too much. Tick tick tick tick

matzo doughTime to divide the dough into 4 pieces. Division. The divide between the rulers and the slaves. Power and oppression. Division due to fear, injustice, prejudice. God calls us to be peacemakers, to end division. I can’t think about that too much. Time is moving, tick tick tick tick

Time to roll out the dough. Push and pull and push and pull. This is work. I don’t bake. Push and pull and push and pull tick, tick, tick tick.

Work harder. Work faster. Make bread. Make bread without salt. Make bricks. Make bricks without straw. Tick tick tick tick

Then I realized, I am making slave food! I am literally making slave food. Thousands of years later and slavery hasn’t ended. Thousands of years later. Cant’ think about that too much. Tick tick tick tick

The dough became so thin, so fragile. How fragile life is. How fragile life was. Would it tear as I lifted it from the counter to the parchment paper?

Once it’s on the parchment paper you have to take a fork and pierce it. Stab, stab, stab, stab. It’s brutal. The brutality of the slave drivers, of their lives, even their food. Where in my life am I using my words and power in a brutal way?

Mocking, whipping, injustice, stab stab stab stab- a crown of thorns, stab – a spear in the side. My Jesus! The brutality Jesus experienced that we might be free from slavery to sin and death and shame.

matzo finishedI get it into the oven and wonder- what will happen?

Exodus 2:23-25
The Israelites groaned under their slavery and cried out. Out of the slavery, their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.

What’s going to happen with all the slavery, shackles, division, and brutality? God takes notice. God hears our cries.

At first, there was not enough time to work, not enough time to rest. Then there was not enough time to prepare to leave. The Israelites are going. God is saving them. They’re heading out through the sea and through the wilderness and into the promised land.

It is time to leave. Leave, leave now. Tick tick tick tick. In the middle of the night, leave this slavery for freedom. Leave this slavery for home.

That’s what happened to them and that’s what can happen for us. It’s time to leave the slavery for freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom…

Exodus 16:13-15
13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”

What is it? It is manna which literally means, “what is it?.” God frees us and provides for us.

This is manna, not matzo.

Matzo is the bread of Pharaoh. The bread of affliction, slavery, brutality, prejudice, division, exploitation, fear…

God gives manna, the bread of heaven. So different I can’t even wrap my head around it.

What is it?
It’s manna, the bread of heaven.
It’s sweet. It’s flaky. It’s freely given.
I don’t have to push and pull and strive.

It’s rest, freely given.
I’m no longer a slave.
I can sabbath.

Freedom, freely given.

Grace, freely given.

New life, freely given.

New every morning,
day after day after day after day…
for them and for us

Exodus 16:6-7
“…In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning, you will see the glory of the LORD…”

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Sermon- Matzo and Manna © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Ash Wednesday: A Wilderness Prayer (Deuteronomy 8)

man desert path

God of the Ages
Our Deliverer and Provider
We bow in humility before your grace

You feed us with the divine
Your word
Your body

You quench our thirst with living water
A stream in the desert

You guide our feet through snares and snakes

You free us from slavery to sin and self and shame and death

You lead us the long way to holiness and home

Test our hearts
Have we exalted ourselves?
Have we forgotten you?

time of silent reflection and confession

Reveal the truth to us, O God
Exposed by your unrelenting light
Wiped clean with your Wilderness Wind

Grow in us wholehearted allegiance
that our blessing and devotion may never waver
that we may always recognize and trust your desire to do us good
Amen

For more on the themes of wilderness and confession, pray and reflect on Desert by Steve Garnaas Holmes.

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A Wilderness Prayer © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Based on Deuteronomy 8:2-3; 14-16

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.

A Wilderness Prayer (Deuteronomy 8)

man desert path

God of the Ages
Our Deliverer and Provider
We bow in humility before your grace

You feed us with the divine
Your word
Your body

You quench our thirst with living water
A stream in the desert

You guide our feet through snares and snakes

You free us from slavery to sin and self and death

You lead us the long way to holiness and home

Test our hearts
Have we exalted ourselves?
Have we forgotten you?

time of silent reflection and confession

Reveal the truth to us, O God
Exposed by your unrelenting light
Wiped clean with your wilderness wind

Grow in us wholehearted allegiance
that our blessing and devotion may never waver
that we may always recognize and trust your desire to do us good
Amen

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A Wilderness Prayer © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Based on Deuteronomy 8:2-3; 14-16

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.

The Songs of Christmas: O Holy Night (Luke 1)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 2: O Holy Night by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877)
Scripture References: Luke 1:49-54 (Mary’s Song); Luke 1:68-75 (Zechariah’s Song) 
These are the notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/2/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Have you ever played the Telephone Game? A person whispers a sentence into a person’s ear, who then whispers it into another person’s ear, and so on and so on until the last person whispers it into the first person’s ear. What usually happens? It’s nothing like what the first said. As things get passed along, they get lost in translation

In our Preschool Chapel, I asked the children what Christmas is about. They responded presents, Santa, lights, reindeer, cookies… It makes sense.  This is the dominant story in our society. Radio is full of Santa Baby and Holly Jolly Christmas. TV is full of Frosty and Rudolf. This same story of sentimentality, gift giving, and you better be good, goes on for months. We start hearing it around Halloween.

zombies in manger cartoon

Our understanding of Christmas gets lost in translation. In the midst of so many other Christmas stories, how do we continue to know and share the Christian point of view of Christmas?

We read the scriptures and sing the story, but it can even happen to beloved Christmas Carols.

O Holy Night
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

How O Holy Night Came to Be

  • In Roquemaure France at the end of 1843, the organ in the church of St. John the Baptist the Evangelist was renovated
  • To celebrate the event, the parish priest asked Placide Cappeau, to write a Christmas poem which would be set to music by the renowned composer, Adolphe Adam
    • Placide Cappeau was a local poet, lawyer, and wine merchant. He was a free thinker with no interest in Christianity or any other religion

Cappeau accepted the commission anyway. To prepare he read the gospels, especially the Christmas story (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, John 1).

Did Cappeau find something secular and commercial, no
Did Cappeau find something saccharine sweet, no
Did Cappeau find something soft and sentimental, no

  • Verse 1 O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
  • Verse 2 Led by the light of faith serenely beaming, with glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
  • Verse 3 Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, let all within us praise His holy name.

The sweet, soft and sentimental came with John Sullivan Dwight’s translation of Cappeau’s poem into English.

Cappeau read the Gospels, and this is what he found:

  • Mary the mother of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, magnifying and rejoicing in God her Savior
    • for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, (Luke 1:49-54)
  • Zechariah the father of John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaiming
    • Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:68-75)

Cappeau found the Christmas story powerful and prophetic and that’s what he wrote.

o holy night verse 1o holy night verse 2o holy night verse 3

Though he never placed his trust in Jesus, Cappeau had a chance to because he heard the real story. He saw the truth of Christmas-

  • God coming in the flesh to deliver us, rescue us, and redeem us
  • God dying and rising again to break the chains of sin, shame, prejudice, and isolation
    • Especially powerful given O Holy Night was written in the age where many were fighting to end slavery
    • Especially powerful since the song was banned for a time because Cappeau was a nonbeliever and the composer, Adolph Adam was Jewish

Don’t let Christmas get lost in translation.
Take time to read the scriptures, sing songs of faith, set up a nativity. Claim and share this story – the story of God’s truth, grace, and hope. This is why we sing and celebrate the coming of Christ. This is why we bow before him in reverence and faith

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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.
  • Ask yourself:
    • 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.

Additional Ideas:

  • 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

I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <

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O Holy Night reflections © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.