Independence Day Prayer for Unity (Psalm 133)

Psalm 133 Ben Shahn

Psalm 133 by Ben Shahn

Psalm 133
How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life forevermore.

On this Independence Day, I long for our neighborhoods and nation to experience the freedom of this psalm- the freedom of true unity. I long for the dividing walls to come crashing down. I long for an end to destructive division.

In this Psalm, the goodness of God-breathed unity is compared to the anointing of Aaron as high priest and dew on the mountains of Hermon and Zion in Israel.

True unity is precious, like sacred, costly oil or a trusted source of water in the wilderness.

True unity brings abundant blessing to an entire community. It is generous and lavish. There is so much oil it runs down Aaron’s beard and on to his robe. There is so much dew it can sustain plants, animals, and people on a mountainside.

True unity means goodness for all. It is pervasive, crossing unjust boundaries. The anointing oil is mixed with spices so the aroma pervades the gathering. The dew makes way for fragrant flowers, fruits, and crops which are enjoyed by the whole community.

True unity is holy and unique. The oil is set apart for the ritual anointing of a priest or king. It is used for no other purpose. Mount Hermon is set apart for its height and snow, the highest point in the region at over 9,000 feet. Mount Zion near Jerusalem is set apart for the worship of God. True unity sets a group of people apart, a rare and beautiful light in our world.

Holy God
One yet Three
Reach into the abundance of your companionship
Bring forth unity and healing in our land
Pour out peace on violent homes and hearts
Shower compassion on selfish and short-sighted motives
Rain down generosity and understanding
so all are covered in blessing and harmony and life
Forevermore
Forevermore
Amen

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Independence Day Prayer for Unity © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern, incorporating verses of America the Beautiful

mlk prayer pilgrimage

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the 1957 ‘Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom’.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern
ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, first verse

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

ONE:
Lord of All,
As we draw near another Independence Day,
we confess our dependence on you.
Thank you for extending abundance, mercy, and protection
to our nation through the years.
Every resource, freedom, and opportunity we have is a good gift from you.
Without you, we are lost.

ALL:
In humility, we seek your face.
In repentance, we turn from our ungrateful, destructive and selfish ways.
In faith, we call on your power to forgive our sin and heal our land.

ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, second verse

O beautiful for heroes prov’d in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country lov’d, and mercy more than life.
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness and ev’ry gain divine.

ONE:
Pour out your Holy Spirit on those who govern our land,
Leaders of our nation, our state, and our community
and all who are running for office.

Grant them a love of justice.
Open their minds with wisdom and compassion,
so all people may be treated fairly and with dignity.

Open their ears to the cries of the desperate and powerless
so cycles of poverty, disease, and abuse may be broken.

Open their eyes to see how best to respond
and open their hearts with courage to do the right thing,
even when pressured to do otherwise.

Dawn a new day of integrity and servant leadership upon our land.
Shower down your Spirit of collaboration for the common good
that there may be lasting peace and plenty for all.

The congregation is invited to lift up their own prayers for our nation

ONE:
We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Leader and Savior forever, Amen.

Option: We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Leader and Savior forever, who taught us to pray, Our Father, who art in heaven….

ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, fourth verse

O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.

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For other prayers suitable for Independence Day try A Prayer for our Country or Independence Day Prayer or A prayer of examen for our national holiday, all by Steve Garnaas-Holmes.

America the Beautiful by Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel A. Ward.
Public Domain.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Leave a comment for posting and publication considerations.

Live in Light (Ephesians 5)

woman sunlight windowEphesians 5:8-11
For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord, you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Shine on Jesus
Shine on me and in me and through me
Make me a Child of Light
To be light
To live in light
To bear the fruit of light

Shine on me and in me and through me
exposing the works of my darkness to the light
Your Light

Shine on me and in me and through me
Exposing the works of darkness around me
The oppression, corruption, destruction
Exposing them to the light
Your light
Your truth, your justice
Your mercy, your healing, your love
Your ways
Your Light

Shine on Jesus
Lord of Light
Light of the World
Shine on me and in me and through me
Shine on

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This prayer was inspired by the Ephesians Reading Challenge. Click Here for more information on the challenge to read and reflect on the entire book of Ephesians 3 times in 3 weeks. 

The Ephesians Reading Challenge accompanied a sermon series entitled Sit Walk Stand which was inspired by Watchman Nee‘s book Sit Walk Stand, a study of Ephesians. You will find recordings and notes from this series on the blog as well.

Live in Light © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Saint Patrick and Psalms of Protection (Psalm 59)

celtic-cross-cropPsalms 59, 62, 124 are all psalms of protection. This devotion is based on Psalm 59.

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
I will sing of your might; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been a fortress for me and a refuge in the day of my distress. – Psalm 59:16

Observation
In Psalm 59, the Psalmist describes living in a dangerous place. Each evening violent gangs roam the streets like wild dogs, bloodthirsty and hungry for trouble. (vs. 6, 14, 15) These enemies are pride-filled, mocking the authority’s inability to stop them. (vs. 7) The Psalmist is confident that God will stop them. God will deliver and protect. God is a shield, a fortress, and a refuge in the day of distress.

Application
Sometimes our choices place us in dangerous situations. Our action, inaction, or words play a role in the creation of enemies. Sometimes danger finds us and we are left to wonder at the cause. We experience random hate, thieving, or violence.

God’s protection is for the entirety of our lives- not just our bodies or our property. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we seek to live a Godly and reconciling life. The Holy Spirit’s counsel saves us from the ravages of revenge, bitterness, and unforgiveness. We are empowered to take Godly action in the face of injustice and violence, to speak the truth, to heal, and to transform lives and situations. The death and resurrection of Jesus provide the ultimate shield. They may hurt us, they may even kill us, but we are safe now and always in God’s eternal refuge and home. – Lisa <><

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere when human lives are in danger, when human dignity is in danger. – Elie Weisel

It is very easy to be servants of the word without disturbing the world: a very spiritualized word, a word without any commitment to history, a word that can sound in any part of the world because it belongs to no part of the world. A word like that creates no problems, starts no conflicts. What starts conflicts and persecutions, what marks the genuine Church, is the word that, burning like the word of the prophets, proclaims and accuses: proclaims to the people God’s wonders to be believed and venerated, and accuses of sin those who oppose God’s reign, so that they may tear that sin out of their hearts, out of their societies, out of their laws – out of the structures that oppress, that imprison, that violate the rights of God and of humanity. -Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love

The Breastplate of St. Patrick
Mark Herringshaw writes: “The prayer is often called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” because it seeks God’s protection in a world of both tangible and invisible dangers. Though Patrick of Ireland lived more than 1500 years ago his prayer asking that God would cover him is just as relevant today. Who of us haven’t wrestled with the haunting fear of living in this unpredictable world? Patrick’s solution: Run to God!”

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgment Day.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous people

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

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This post was originally part of a Summer in the Psalms Bible reading plan. In this plan, psalms are grouped based on common themes. Click the link – Psalms Reading Plan

Please leave a comment for more information the use of this devotional in other settings.

Growing in Resilience: Breathe in Breathe out, based on Isaiah 56.1-2

work restGrowing in Resilience
Day 17, Read Isaiah 56
Reflection: Breathe In Breathe Out, based on Isaiah 56:1-2, NRSV

Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed. Happy is the mortal who does this, the one who holds it fast, who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it, and refrains from doing any evil.

Lord of Hosts
Your deliverance is near
Keep our hand to plow, steadfast in your saving work
Strengthen us to do what is right even in the face of great opposition
Empower us to stand and speak and strive for goodness and justice
Build in us faith that works and perseveres
Renew a right spirit within

Breathe in… Breathe out…
Lord of the Sabbath
Prince of Peace
Lead us away to rest from your labor

Breathe in… Breathe out…
Our world is so fast
So noisy
So needy
So full
Help us to wait and rest even when every bit of us screams to act

Breathe in… Breathe out…
Increase our faith in the blessing of Sabbath
Reveal the fears that drive us
The pride and shame disguised as sacrifice
Free us to trust and follow in the doing and in the ceasing

Breathe in… Breathe out…
We surrender to complete rest in you
Renew a right spirit within

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

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

Blessing for a Ministry Event or Initiative

Sermon Series Love Your Neighbor 1110 x 624This blessing includes prayers for the initiative/event itself, the volunteers for the event, the leaders organizing the event, the resources to be distributed at the event, and any community partners helping with the event. Feel free to adapt it for your needs.

Consider offering this blessing the Sunday before the event during worship and/or at the volunteer orientation for the event.

If you are distributing a resource at the event (backpacks of school supplies, Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes, shoes and socks for the homeless, relief supplies for storm survivors, etc.) distribute them around the meeting place before the service/orientation so those present can reach them easily during the blessing.

Reader 1
Micah 6:8
What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Reader 2
Lord, our needs and the needs of our community are deep and complicated. We confess they are beyond our strength, wisdom, and skill.

Yet, we accept your calling to meet these needs, to work for the common good, and to faithfully join you in your love and saving work.

Reader 1
Zechariah 4:6
Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

Reader 2
Lord, we claim your promise and provision, believing our community will change for the better because of you working through our resolve and efforts. We accept this God-sized calling, understanding it requires sacrifice, generosity, humility, action, and fervent prayer.

Reader 3
Will all the NAME OF EVENT/INITIATIVE volunteers please stand. Please place a hand of blessing and support on those standing.

Holy Spirit, fill us and strengthen us so we may be faithful – faithful in listening for your direction, faithful in following you in your saving work, faithful to one another as we serve together, faithful in welcoming and loving those we are serving. We call on your power to bring our entire neighborhood to saving faith, caring relationship, and joyful service to one another in Jesus’ Name.

Reader 4
Grant wisdom and strength to the NAME OF EVENT/INITIATIVE coordinators, NAME THE COORDINATORS. They have planned well so we may serve well.

Second Option for Reader 4: Grant wisdom and strength to our regional/national event coordinators NAME THE ORGANIZATION and our local coordinations NAME THE COORDINATORS. They have planned well so we may serve well.

Reader 5
Please be seated

We call for your blessing and provision for the many partners who make NAME OF EVENT/INITIATIVE possible- NAME THE PARTNERS. Continue to draw us together across our community and inspire us in this holy and noble effort.

Pastor
Please pick up a NAME THE RESOURCE FOR DISTRIBUTION near you. Imagine the child/person/family who will receive it. Offer your own blessing silently or aloud.

Pause for responses

Encourage and bless the children/persons/families as they receive. Dispel anxiousness and help us to build up one another in hope and love. We ask this, trusting in the coming of your kingdom. We ask this for the honor of your name. Amen.

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Blessing for a Ministry Event or Initiative © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording- Freedom in Christ (John 8.31-36)

Sermon Series jump freedom joy sunrise 1110 x 624

Message: Freedom in Christ
Scriptures: John 8:31-36
This message was offered Sunday, 7/1/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Opening Activity: Turn to your neighbors and show them what excited is by just using your face. Show them peace. Show them freedom. To show freedom we have to use our whole body and our voice. Is anyone free enough and brave enough to show us freedom?

Click Here for the sign for freedom in American Sign Language

Three Types of Freedom

1. Freedom = Freedom From

When we think about the founding of our country, we think about freedom from constraint. Freedom from: Oppression, Coercion, Tyranny, Harassment, Bullying, Prejudice, Abuse

2. Freedom = Freedom To

If we have Freedom From, that leads us to Freedom To. Freedom To: Worship, Vote, Speak, Work, Travel, Learn, Own things (including property/business), Raise a family according to my values, Rest and Relax. Freedom To is about access to opportunity- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

3. Freedom = Freedom For

Freedom for

  • living the kind of life I was made to live
  • being
  • becoming the person I was meant to be
  • my true self to come out
  • living for something bigger than just myself and what I want
  • the common good
  • living into the Kingdom of Heaven

This kind of freedom, Freedom For, is the freedom found in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only One who can provide this freedom. The Good News is that this freedom is available to all people, no matter if you have the first two freedoms or not.

The story of Pastora Yolanda in Cuba. She does not experience much of the first two freedoms, but she does experience Freedom For. The truth of Jesus has set her free.

The three United Methodist Missionaries being detained in the Phillippines have Freedom For, freedom in Christ. Nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?” – John 8:31-33, NRSV

Most of the early followers of Jesus Jewish. Jesus himself was Jewish. Jesus is the Savior of the World and the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews. Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament promises, prophesies, and covenants which were mostly about what it means to be truly free and what it means to truly live.

The Jewish believers respond, “What do you mean freedom? We’ve never been slaves to anyone.” I’m thinking, What?? Where were you in history class?

  • Slaves in Egypt under the rule of Pharaoh
    • God led them to freedom and established them in a promised land. It’s remembered every year at the Passover celebration.
  • Later invaded and conquered, Babylonian Captivity
    • Jerusalem destroyed, the best and brightest taken into exile as slaves and allowed to return to rebuild Jerusalem after 70 years
  • As their saying this to Jesus, they’re under Roman occupation and oppression
  • Maybe they meant they weren’t literally slaves bound to a master. Slavery was an everyday reality of the ancient world.

We can think the same thing, “I’m an American. I live in America. I’ve never been a slave to anyone.”

  • We are still suffering from the legacy of slavery in our country and the reality that there are modern-day slaves. Slavery has not been abolished.
  • Slavery is alive and well in Florida. We have many ports. There are kidnapping and human trafficking groups supplying slaves for labor (agricultural especially), personal and domestic care, and sexual exploitation.

Slavery still exists. It exists in the literal sense and in the sense that we experience it in things like fear.

  • Have you ever been held captive to your fear? Held captive to falsehood?
  • Have you ever been in the chains of peer pressure or prejudice or addition?
  • In the bondage of poverty, or disease including mental illness, lack of education, lack of opportunity?
  • Have you ever been treated like property rather than a human being?

Jesus is talking about slavery and Jesus is talking about freedom. It is Big Picture. Jesus speaks in layers. It is literal and it is deep and it is wide. We must be careful in saying, “I’ve never been a slave.”

Jesus said you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. If the truth will make us free, then what will enslave us?

  • Falsehood is slavery
  • Lies, Sin, Spin, Misinformation is slavery

If you have a false understanding of God, have you found freedom in God? If you have a false understanding of freedom have you found freedom?

False idea: Freedom from external constraints and freedom to do whatever I want will give me true freedom.

How many times have we been sold that? Real freedom is nobody being able to tell me what to do. “You’re not the boss of me. You’re not my mom.” (Freedom From)

How many times have we been sold the lie that true freedom is the ability to have anything I want and to do anything I want, with whoever I want, whenever I want, and there will be no consequences? Some have even labeled that success.

Is this freedom? Is this real? Is this true?

No, it’s false. It’s incomplete. It’s twisting freedom into something freedom was never meant to be. It is actually backward. Freedom in Christ (Freedom For) empowers us to help with all the other freeing that needs to happen in our world and in our lives (Freedom From and Freedom To). Freedom in Christ first.

If we think freedom is about self-interest and self-determination above all else it’s not freedom. How many times have we seen this lie blow up a life, or blow up a family, or blow up a business? We’re seeing it blow up our nation.

A false understanding of freedom isn’t freedom, it’s slavery.  Let’s see what Jesus says.

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:31-36, NRSV

 True Freedom = Freedom For, Freedom in Christ

How are we freed?

  1. Acknowledging we are slaves to sin and death and a whole bunch of other things and that we cannot save ourselves
  2. There is a Savior! We are freed by saying, “I am saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus offers salvation to me. Jesus is my liberator. Jesus is my Deliverer. Jesus is my Lord. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Even though I may not know what I’m doing, even though I’m not perfect at it, Jesus help me. Save me.” I’m in need of saving. There is a Savior. I place my trust in the Savior.
  3. Then we are more and more free as we continue in the words and ways of Jesus
    • We learn and live the truth
    • We follow Jesus in sharing this Good News so others may be freed. Freed from sin and oppression and injustice. We join Jesus in working for the common good.

This is freedom. It is offered to each and every one of us. It is offered to you. You will know the Truth and the Truth will make you free and the One to know is Jesus.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.