Sermon Recording – Remember You Are Dust (Joel 2, Psalm 51)

ash wedensday with palms

Message: Remember You Are Dust
Scriptures: Joel 2:12-17; Psalm 51:1-12
I’m catching up on some 2017 sermons which haven’t been posted. This sermon was offered 2/26/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Breath in, Breath Out
Which is more important? Inhaling or exhaling?
Which is more important? What we believe or how we behave?

Belief and behavior both matter, just like inhaling and exhaling.
What we believe shapes how we behave.
How we behave demonstrates what we believe.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been walking through the book of James.
It’s a book which focuses on how the followers of Jesus are to behave.
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.
Faith without works is dead.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.

Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) also focuses on behavior.
Turn the other cheek
Go the extra mile
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Do not judge
Do to others as you would have them do to you

Likewise, Jesus’ parable of the final judgment (Matthew 25), as illustrated by the separating of sheep and goats, focuses on behavior. Those welcomed into the kingdom are those who
Feed the hungry
Give the thirsty something to drink
Welcome the stranger
Give clothing to the naked
Care for the sick
Visit those in prison

John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” This isn’t a sentimental, candy-coated feeling. This is love made real in our words and actions. In our sacrifices and steadfastness.

And yet, belief is critically important.
Without it, we are merely humanists
Without it, we are unplugged from the eternal
Unplugged from the “why” of our actions
Unplugged from the “how” of our strength to act

Placing our trust in Jesus Christ opens the way for the Holy Spirit to lead us and transform us: our behavior, our motivation, our perspective on what’s important, our love.

Our belief allows the Holy Spirit to shape us into the very likeness of Jesus.

Following Jesus is about the integration of belief and behavior. By cooperating with God’s grace, we become people of integrity. Integrated. We who are broken become whole. We are “re-membered.”

The integration of belief and behavior is so important we set aside time every year to reflect and focus on it.

  • We face our true selves in the light and love of Jesus.
  • We face our failures, our shortcomings in the grace of Jesus
  • We commit to continued growth in the likeness of our Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit

To help us do this, we use a symbol: ashes
The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder that we are all dust. We are all mortal. We are all imperfect people. Our time here is short. Make it count.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder of our humility. Humility, human and hummus are all from the same root word meaning “of the earth.” We have a common bond with all people and all living things. We are no better or worse.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder of our sorrow, a modern expression of the days’ people displayed their grief by wearing sackcloth and ashes. We grieve the spoiling and wasting of God’s good gift of life. We lament how we’ve hurt God, others, the earth, and ourselves. We mourn our sin.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is in the shape of a cross. A tangible sign of the infinite grace of Jesus Christ that meets us wherever we are and loves us too much to leave us there.

Psalm 103:13b-14, The Voice
The Eternal shows His love for those who revere Him.
For He knows what we are made of
He knows our frame is frail, and He remembers we came from dust.

Jesus accepts us with all our contradictions between what we believe and the way we behave. Jesus draws us, invites us, and empowers us toward new life: A transformed life, a whole and holy life, where belief and behavior are fully integrated with his good and divine will.

Come, see how the ashes and the grace are good.

*****************
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 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording – Generous Living (Luke 19.1-10)

zacchaeus

Soichi Watanabe’s Jesus And Zacchaeus

Message: Generous Living
Scriptures: Luke 19:1-10
Message 4 of 4 to accompany the study Earn, Save, Give by Rev. James A. Harnish. Offered 2/4/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Jericho

  • The turning point between Galilee and Jerusalem. Located in the Jordan River Valley near the Dead Sea
  • A fragrant and fertile place. Dates, palm-honey, myrrh, and balsam. Used to make fragrances, medicine, makeup.
  • Major trade center. Valued by Rome as a center of taxation. Rich, powerful tax collectors make sure the taxes are rendered unto Caesar, plus some extra for themselves.

Zacchaeus

  • Chief tax collector. Rich. Short.
  • What happens to short people, especially short men? They are teased. Many feel they must prove themselves.

Quote from Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire
Somewhere along the way to adulthood, Zacchaeus learned to compensate—first, to laugh at the jokes, and later, to fight back. And so, as he climbed the professional ladder, he stepped on anyone who stood in his way, anyone on the next rung up. He would show them, show them all. Someday they’d look up to him.

At last, he made it to the top—  a chief tax collector. King of the hill, controlling commerce. King of the hill, greasing his greedy little palms with the sweat of his neighbor’s brow. King of the hill, looking down over Jericho.

But the hill Zacchaeus rules is a dunghill, at least in the eyes of the people. For tax gatherers are despised as little more than ruthless bill collectors for a corrupt government. Even the Talmud looks down on them, allowing a Jew permission to lie to a murderer, to a thief, and . . . to a tax collector.

True, Zacchaeus has power. And he has wealth. But the stature he sought among others has eluded him.

What else eludes Zacchaeus? Friendship, belonging, salvation, meaning, love, healing, peace

Have you ever started down a path, only to find what you were looking for eludes you, too?

Now there’s hope
Zacchaeus has heard stories about this Jesus who was a friend of tax collectors and sinners.

  • Who ate and drank with them and stayed in their homes
  • Who changed the life of Levi/Matthew, the tax collector at Capernaum. Levi left a lucrative career, left everything to follow Jesus. This Jesus must be some man.
  • There’s even talk of him being the Messiah. Not just a rabbi, a healer, but a Messiah who’s a friend of tax collectors.
  • Zacchaeus is willing to look the fool for even a glimpse of Jesus. He runs. He climbs a tree. Zacchaeus literally goes out on a limb to get to Jesus.

Imagine all that Zacchaeus is feeling. His chest is pounding from the run and the climb. Jesus and his disciples are coming. Closer. Closer. Then Jesus stops right in front of him.
Their eyes meet. Jesus calls Zacchaeus by name. In front of all those people, Jesus asks if he can come to Zacchaeus’ home. Later, Zacchaeus makes Jesus his home.

Zacchaeus

  • Experiences a complete transformation. Not just part of his life, but the whole.
  • Zacchaeus chooses both repentance and reparation. He turns from walking in his own strength and plan to follow Jesus. (Repentance, Justification) He doesn’t stop there. He wants to make things right, live a new way. (Reparation, Sanctification)
  • Zacchaeus goes out on a limb to see Jesus and out on a limb to follow Jesus fully. He liquidates his war chest to care for the poor and compensate those he defrauded.

This is what our salvation should look like as well: complete transformation, not just part of our lives, not just enough to get into heaven. We turn. We follow. We live a new life. 

earn save give cover

John Wesley, in his sermon entitled The Use of Money, wrote, “Having, first, gained all you can, and, secondly saved all you can, then give all you can.”

  • Gain = Earn. As followers of Jesus, we embrace hard, honest work. Zacchaeus will be looking for a new job or doing his current job in a very different way.
  • Save = Stewardship.  Zacchaeus realizes we are and have belongs to God. We are caretakers. My money, my possessions, my talents, my body, are not my own. As followers of Jesus, we embrace careful, farsighted, faithful management of everything God’s entrusted to us. Zacchaeus’s management will include caring for the poor and making right his old, evil ways.
  • Give = Generous Living

Earn all you can + Save all you can = the ultimate goal of generous living. We can trust and follow and give because Christ has already given everything for us.

Generosity by Steve Garnaas Holmes
True poverty and riches are in our hearts,
not our pockets.

Fear is the only prison that prevents us
from loving deeply,
from giving freely,
from living richly.

Generosity is the power that sets us free.
It melts the prison bars.
It fills the coffers of our hearts.

In generosity, regardless of circumstances,
even the penniless are not poor,
even the destitute are not alone,
even the flat broke are not afraid.

Give everything you have,
and you will be free
and unafraid

*****************
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 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am 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.

Sermon Recording – Money Management (Luke 12.13-21)

Message: Money Management
Scriptures: Luke 12:13-21
Message 3 of 4 to accompany the study Earn, Save, Give by Rev. James A. Harnish. Offered 1/28/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

oseola mccartyOseola McCarty was born in Hattiesburg Mississippi in 1908, the child of rape. She was raised by her grandmother and aunt who were washerwomen. She joined them in the family business at age 8, learning to wash clothes by hand over an open fire. Oseola left school in the 6th grade to care for her beloved aunt and work full time. She never went back to school and served her neighbors as a washerwoman for 74 years. She never married, never had a child, and never owned a car. When it became possible for her to use a washing machine, she tried it and went back to handwashing clothes. The machine didn’t do as good of a job as she could.

As a child, she began putting some of her small earnings into savings. First, in her doll carriage and later in a savings account she opened herself. In time, she decided to establish a scholarship at the University of Southern Mississippi with $150,000 she’d saved.  She did this at a school that would not have admitted her in the days of segregation.

When asked why, Oseola said, “I’m too old to get an education but they can. I can’t do everything but I can do something to help somebody. And what I can do I will do. I wish I could do more.”

When asked how she accumulated that much money, she said, “It wasn’t hard. I didn’t buy things I didn’t need. The Lord helped me, and he’ll help you, too.”

“I start each day on my knees, saying the Lord’s Prayer. Then I get busy about my work,” McCarty told one interviewer. “You have to accept God the best way you know how and then He’ll show Himself to you. And the more you serve Him, the more able you are to serve Him.”

Look how powerful it can be for a follower of Jesus to be in right relationship with money. Think of the legacy she’s leaving, for future students and as a witness to faithful living. Oseola valued:
1. Hard, honest work
2. The meaningful connection between work, money, and faith
3. That work and managing money wisely are both a blessing, are good for us, are good for the community we live in, and good for the Kingdom of God

Now, look at our scripture for today, Luke 12:13-21. It is a cautionary tale, an example not to follow. The Rich Farmer/Fool’s relationship with money is a twisted trap, the opposite of Oseola’s relationship.

What do you see? Someone who is self-centered

  • Notice the repetition of the words I/my: 10 times in 3 verses
  • Doesn’t think about the common good
  • Literally has a conversation with himself with no regard for discussing plans with his family, business partners, a wise friend, or God
  • Doesn’t attribute his success to anyone else, including his employees or God

There are times when what our society values blends easily with the ways of Jesus. There are times when they bump against one another.

instant gratification cartoonOur society values instant gratification

  • I can have everything I want and I can have it now
  • More, More, More      Mine, Mine Mine
  • $$, Stuff, Consuming = happiness
  • This leads to spending as: a means of entertainment, a pick me up for a bad day, a way of self-medicating and denying hard realities, a way to look successful or “normal”
  • This leads to overspending, living beyond our means
  • Instead of using healthy debt as a tool, we feel crushed by debt, enslaved to debt
  • We experience the burden of too much stuff: how do I store it, care for it, protect it
  • Many live in constant stress because they are one paycheck away, one unexpected expense away from financial disaster.  Many are setting aside little to nothing for emergencies, their future, or the work of God. God gets tips, rather than a tithe.

earn save give cover

Oseola models a different way of living, a better way. John Wesley and the Bible’s thoughts on Money
John Wesley, in his sermon entitled The Use of Money, wrote, “Having, first, gained all you can, and, secondly saved all you can, then give all you can.”

To put it another way, Hard Honest Work partners with Stewardship, the careful, farsighted management of money. The word for that is prudent, like Prudential Insurance.

1. Stewardship
As followers of Jesus, we believe none of it belongs to us. We are caretakers for God’s belongings to use as God would choose.

Jim Harnish puts it this way, “… everything we are and have is a gift from God. That is, the stuff I have—my money, my possessions, my talents, my body—are not my own. They belong to God, the giver of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17 KJV). They are given to me by the God who trusts me to use everything I am and have in ways that are consistent with the will and way of God.”

2. Careful, Farsighted Money Management (Prudent)
Prudent is not prudish, cheap, stingy, or miserly. It wasn’t wise money management for rich Ebenezer Scrooge to only live in one room of his large house eating gruel every night just as much as it isn’t wise money management to be careless and wasteful like the Prodigal Son.

spending budget percentage dave ramseyPractical Application

  • Be wise and face the facts of your financial situation. Take an honest inventory of what you earn and what you spend.
  • Chose to be a steward. Manage what God’s entrusted to you. Paying attention to it and direct it’s use making wise choices.
  • Embrace the good gifts of simplicity and thrift.
  • Eliminate unhealthy debt
  • Use the guide to establish a healthy, faithful budget

For followers of Christ, the tithe is an essential practice of faithful stewardship. We acknowledge it all already belongs to God. The tithe is to money what Sabbath is to work. In their practice, our words and actions and beliefs align. God, I trust you to provide. I trust you know what is best for me.

We remember Oseola’s testimony like we remember the widow at the treasure, the little boy giving Jesus his lunch, the woman with the costly jar of perfume anointing Jesus. They saved and used those savings as a lasting legacy. Think how we could be telling your story of faithfulness years from now.

monopolyJim Harnish relates the following: I remember the first time I heard John Ortberg tell a story that later became the title of one of his best-selling books. It’s the story of the day he beat his grandmother in Monopoly. He said it happened at Marvin Gardens, where he wiped her off the board. His grandmother had taught him to play the game, and now he had outplayed her. As he relished his victory, she taught him a far more important lesson with these words: When the game is over, it all goes back in the box.18 All the money, properties, houses, and hotels he had acquired weren’t really his. They had been in the box before he played, and they would be there after he stopped. At the end of the day, it all goes back in the box.

Be a wise, faithful steward. Leave a testimony and a legacy.

*****************
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 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am 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.

Sermon Recording – Hard Honest Work (Proverbs 31)

Message: Hard Honest Work
Scriptures: Proverbs 31:10-31
Message 2 of 4 to accompany the study Earn, Save, Give by Rev. James A. Harnish. Offered 1/21/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

earn save give cover
Mason Wartman
quit his job on Wall Street to open Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia. The menu includes a $1 slice of cheese pizza, which makes for a nice meal for the neighborhood’s low income and homeless folks.

A customer had the idea to “pay it forward” by purchasing an extra slice of pizza for the next person who couldn’t pay for theirs. Mason grabbed a post-it note,  marked the gift, and put it up on the wall for someone to use. The idea exploded and now Rosa’s walls are covered with post-it notes of smiley faces, prayers, encouragement along with a slice of pizza.

Rosa’s serves 50-100 persons daily who pay by post-it note. The practice transformed the neighborhood, building goodwill and community, breaking down barriers of loneliness and classism. One person wrote a thank you note on a paper plate, which also went up on the wall,

“God bless you. Because of you, I ate off this plate. It is the only thing I ate all day. I am a homeless veteran and get treated rudely. When I ask for help, Rosa’s treats me with respect. Truly a blessing. Thank you. Rob H. Do unto others as others do unto you.”

John Wesley, in his sermon entitled The Use of Money, wrote

Having, first, gained all you can, and, secondly saved all you can, then give all you can.

For Wesley, gain means to earn, to work. I suspect Mason’s shop brings a smile to Wesley’s face, and Jesus’.

Mason is modeling what we believe as followers of Jesus Christ about work:

  1. Money itself is neither good nor evil and is used for both good and evil. Money is  a powerful tool and gift of God
  2. Wisdom is more valuable than money
  3. A wise person is in right relationship with money
  4. There is a meaningful connection between work, money, and faith
  5. Work is good for us and the community we live in

If you’re retired, this applies to you as well. You’re just in a new season of work. Followers of Jesus never retire from Kingdom work.

Hard Honest Work
What makes a great employee or employer, the type of person you want to do business with? That person is diligent, attentive, responsible, put’s forth their best effort, strives for excellence and consistent improvement, is servant-hearted, passionate, self-motivated, a team player, teachable…

Wesley puts it this way

Never leave anything till tomorrow, which you can do today. And do it as well as possible. Do not sleep or yawn over it: Put your whole strength to the work. Spare no pains. Let nothing be done by halves, or in a slight and careless manner.  

Where do we find this kind of integrity and work ethic today? It should be with the people of God. True followers of Jesus should be the folk’s people want to hire and the folk’s people want to work for and the folks people want to do business with. When we fail to live and value hard work, we fail in our Christian witness.

The Shadow-side of Hard Work: Underwork and Overwork (Lazy and Work-a-holic)
Proverbs 14:23
There is profit in hard work, but mere talk leads to poverty.

Proverbs 13:4
The lazy have strong desires but receive nothing; the appetite of the diligent is satisfied.

Proverbs 23:4
Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich; be smart enough to stop.

Imagine a continuum with healthy, hard work in the middle. On one end, laziness, and the other, work-a-holic. Strength and focus from the Holy Spirit save us from laziness. Sabbath saves us from destroying our bodies, minds, and relationships with overwork. In practicing Sabbath, we show we trust God’s strength and provision more than our own.

Hard Honest Work
Proverbs 1:19
These are the ways of all who seek unjust gain; it costs them their lives.

Proverbs 10:16
The wages of the righteous lead to life; the earnings of the wicked lead to sin.

It doesn’t matter how hard you work if you don’t also practice Sabbath. It doesn’t matter how hard you work if it isn’t honest work. Some jobs are out of bounds for us as followers of Christ.

The litmus test for honest work: Does it bring glory to God and does it bless and build up the community? Honest work is rooted in loving our neighbor. This value prevents us from work which does injury to our neighbor. Wesley reminds us that as followers of Christ we refrain from work that unfairly affects another’s economic stability, that injures our neighbor’s health, or that contributes to another person’s sin.

Hard Honest Work is your calling from God
If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a calling from God. Your calling is just as sacred and important as that of a pastor or missionary. Reframe your idea of work as fulfilling your part in God’s greater purpose, God’s best purpose for your life. Focus your talents, skills, opportunities, and experience for God’s greater good. This is our “why” of work. This is worth getting out of bed in the morning and worthy of our best efforts. This is why we don’t bury our talents, nor hide them under a bushel. This is why we don’t sell out to something unworthy of our calling and God.

Jim Harnish puts it this way

Seeing our work as a calling from God puts the challenge to “earn all you can” in the context of the larger purpose for our work. Wesley’s instruction is not merely to earn money for its own sake but to earn it for the higher purpose of fulfilling God’s intention for our lives. 

Contemplate the example of hard, honest work in Proverbs 31:10-31.

*****************
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 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am 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.

Sermon Recording – We Need Wisdom (Psalm 19)


Message: We Need Wisdom
Scriptures: Psalm 19
Message 1 of 4 to accompany the study Earn, Save, Give by Rev. James A. Harnish. Offered 1/14/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

earn save give cover
1. How we relate to our money goes to the heart of our relationship with God

There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, the conversion of the mind, and the conversion of the purse. – Martin Luther

2. If you look for money to do what only God can do, money will fail you
Money cannot forgive your sins, bring you wholeness, nor save you
Money is not a Rock and a Refuge from the pain and trouble of this world
Money does not define you, nor make you valuable

3. Is money is good or evil?
Neither! Both!
Money is a powerful tool and gift of God. Like any gift, it can be twisted into something it was never meant to be: greed, envy, exploitation, materialism, hoarding… Like any gift, it can be received, nurtured, blessed, and multiplied for the greater good.

In the hands of [God’s] children, [money] is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. . . . By it we may supply the place of a husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless; we may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain. It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death! – John Wesley, The Use of Money

So it’s not about money. It’s about being in right relationship with money.
It is about using God-given spiritual practices to manage God’s powerful gift of money faithfully. There is no reason to fear or avoid speaking about money.

4. Where do we start? Wisdom is more valuable than money
Think of the consequence of money without wisdom

What is Wisdom? Accumulating knowledge is being smart, educated, informed. It is good to seek the help of experts and best practices, but it is not enough. Wisdom goes beyond accumulating knowledge to the use of knowledge. Wisdom takes into account experience, best practices, but goes beyond to seek and apply timeless Biblical truth and Divine Insight. Wisdom reveals what to do with what you have and why you do it.

Psalm 19:1-6, gaining God’s wisdom via nature
God reaches out to everyone, speaking to us. God wants to be in relationship with us through Jesus Christ, to lead us and guide us and give us wisdom. Yes, we consult experts. Yes, we use our God-given brains. Yes, we seek God’s will and wisdom.

Psalm 19:7-11, gaining God’s wisdom through God’s Word

God’s wisdom is

  • perfect
  • sure and reliable
  • right and correct
  • clear and clarifying
  • pure
  • true and sound
  • more to be desired than gold
  • sweeter than honey

The wisdom that God’s Word provides

  • revives the soul
  • makes us wise if we have an open mind and a teachable spirit
  • causes our hearts to rejoice and be satisfied
  • enlightens, opens our understanding and perspective
  • brings answers, perspective, clarity
  • results in a healthy fear, awe, and holy reverence for God
  • results in appropriate humility before God
  • sustains and endures
  • warns, correcting us that we may live a rewarding life

In short, God’s wisdom puts us in right relationship with God, with others, with ourselves, with the earth, and with money. It’s why we can trust it, seek it, and surrender to it.

5. Ask God for Wisdom, that you may be in right relationship with money.
Do you pray and thank God for “daily bread,” trusting God as the source of your provision and asking God to provide? Do you seek God’s will when making a purchase or an investment or making an offering or for the courage to tithe?

Consider Solomon, a young man about to follow his father David in becoming king. God comes to him in a dream. “Ask what I should give you.” What would you ask for? Long life, love, wealth, power, peace, revenge, victory over your enemies…

Solomon asks for this
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people? (1 Kings 3:9)

Notice Solomon’s love and respect for God. He was a king yet humble. He refers to himself as God’s servant. Notice Solomon’s love of others. He understands his call as a leader is beyond his strength, skill, intelligence, and resources. He understands his responsibilities to the greater good.

God answers his prayer and God will answer you. Ask God for Wisdom, that you may be in right relationship with money.

Prayer
Mighty God, grant me wisdom
Let the words of my mouth be acceptable to you
Let my every desire be acceptable to you
Let the resting place of my heart be acceptable to you
Open me to growth and guidance
Purify my reverence and awe for you
Sustain me and satisfy me
May the revival and sanctifying of my soul bring you delight and glory
I trust your Holy Word and Holy Wisdom to put me in right relationship with all things
With money, myself, my motivations, with others, with you
You alone are my Rock and my Redeemer

*****************
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 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am 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.

Sermon Recording – Looking Forward (Luke 2.22-38)

looking forward

Message: Looking Forward
Scriptures: Luke 2:22-38
Offered 1/7/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

How do we stay looking forward, especially when the pull to the past is so strong? How do we look forward when we’re feeling stuck in our present reality? How do we run the race of faith with perseverance and finish well? How do we stay open, expectant and eager for God’s next step for us?

We duly celebrated at his birth… with the star we ran, with the magi we worshiped, with the shepherds we were enlightened, with the angels we glorified him, with Simeon we took him up in our arms, and with the chaste and aged Anna we made our responsive confession. – Gregory of Nazianzus

Who are Simeon and Anna? We meet them between Jesus’ birth and the arrival of the Wise Ones. Jesus is about 6 weeks old. Mary and Joseph bring him to Jerusalem for the traditional sacrifices/rituals associated with the birth of a firstborn son and the purification of a new mother. While there, the family encounters two senior citizens, let’s call them seasoned saints. They’re Biblical models of persevering faith and looking forward. Their trust in God and attention to spiritual practices kept them open, expectant, and longing for the promised Messiah.

Anna and Simeon
1. Are Righteous and Devout
Righteous = Right relationship with God, others, themselves, earth. They live a cross-shaped life long before the cross. Righteous describes their being.

Devout = Devoted. This describes their doing. They are intentional about staying open to the presence of God. You prioritize what you’re devoted to. What are you devoted to? If you want to know just check your calendar and your checkbook.

Martin Luther put it this way, “Show me where a man spends his time & money, and I’ll show you his god.”

Persevering/Long-Haul faith doesn’t just happen. It takes intentionality and consistency, like preparing for the Olympics. Consistent spiritual practices keep us open to God’s presence, strengthen our resolve, keep us looking forward.
Anna and Simeon are looking for God and looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises.

2. The Holy Spirit rests on them
This is a result of their faith and practices. It’s so clear it’s repeated three times in the passage. (verses 25-27)

What spiritual practices are you using to stay open to God’s presence, so the Holy Spirit will rest on you? (prayer, scripture reading, fasting, Sabbath, tithing, serving, etc.) These practices are timeless. They’re the same practices used by Anna and Simeon.

3. Looking forward
As a result of their faith and practices, Anna and Simeon anticipate and expect God to move and act. They have tremendous faith and trust in God. They have perspective, keeping a right proportion between looking forward and looking back like a car’s windshield and rearview mirror.

4. Looking forward to the consolation of Israel
Anna and Simeon move beyond “what’s in it for me” faith to a bigger picture. Me to We. (Again consider a car’s windshield) They’ve embraced the very heart of God, that the Messiah would bring salvation for all people. This helps them to finish well.

Simeons’s Song, Luke 2:29-32
Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.

All of this is available for us as well.

Prayer
Holy Spirit, as you rested on Simeon and Anna, so rest on me
Keep me expectant and open to your appearing
Make me a model of your compassion and wisdom
Make me a sign of your persevering grace and transforming power

Holy Spirit, rest on me
Keep my eyes clear, open, looking forward
Fill me with anticipation of you fulfilling your promises
Keep me trusting in your goodness and victory for the world

Save me from despair and falsehood
Grant me true perspective and faith
Keep me looking forward
Not just for myself, but for the greater good, for all
Take me beyond me to the fullness of your heart and plan
For you prepare salvation for all people,
The Jews and the Gentiles
The insiders and the outsiders
We all need you and we can all be saved. Hallelujah!

Holy Spirit touch me
Cleanse me
Enlighten me
Fill me
Strengthen me
Reveal to me
Rest on me
Amen

*****************
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 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am 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.

Prayer of a Minor Prophet by AW Tozer

will of god aw tozerFrom A Passion For God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer by Lyle Dorsett (Chicago, IL; Moody, 2008), pp. 65-68.

This is the prayer of a man called to be a witness to the nations. This is what he said to his Lord on the day of his ordination. After the elders and ministers had prayed and laid their hands on him he withdrew to meet his Savior in the secret place and in the silence, farther in than his well-meaning brethren could take him. And he said:

O Lord, I have heard Thy voice and was afraid. Thou hast called me to an awesome task in a grave and perilous hour. Thou are about to shake all nations and the earth and also heaven, that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. O Lord, our Lord, Thou has stopped to honor me to be Thy servant. No man takes this honor upon himself save he that is called of God as was Aaron. Thou has ordained me Thy messenger to them that are stubborn of heart and hard of hearing. They have rejected Thee, the Master, and it is not to be expected that they will receive me, the servant.

My God, I shall not waste time deploring my weakness nor my unfittedness for the work. The responsibility is not mine but Thine. Thou hast said, “I knew thee—I ordained thee—I sanctified thee,” and Thou has also said, “Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.” Who am I to argue with Thee or to call into question Thy sovereign choice? The decision is not mine but Thine. So be it, Lord. Thy will, not mine, be done.

Well do I know, Thou God of the prophets and the apostles, that as long as I honor Thee Thou wilt honor me. Help me therefore to take this solemn vow to honor Thee in all my future life and labors, whether by gain or by loss, by life or by death, and then to keep that vow unbroken while I live.

It is time, O God, for Thee to work, for the enemy has entered into Thy pastures and the sheep are torn and scattered. And false shepherds abound who deny the danger and laugh at the perils which surround Thy flock. The sheep are deceived by these hirelings and follow them with touching loyalty while the wolf closes in to kill and destroy. I beseech Thee, give me sharp eyes to detect the presence of the enemy; give me understanding to distinguish the false friend from the true. Give me vision to see and courage to report what I see faithfully. Make my voice so like Thine own that even the sick sheep will recognize it and follow Thee.

Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the face of the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet; not a promoter, not a religious manager—but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from the bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that I could make my life easier. If others seek the smoother path I shall try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I shall expect opposition and try to take it quietly when it comes. Or if, as sometimes it falleth out to Thy servants, I shall have grateful gifts pressed upon me by Thy kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that it will not injure my soul nor diminish my spiritual power. And if in Thy permissive providence honor should come to me from Thy church, let me not forget in that hour that I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies, and that if men knew me as intimately as I know myself they would withhold their honors or bestow them upon others more worthy to receive them.

And now, O Lord of heaven and earth, I consecrate my remaining days to Thee; let them be many or few, as Thou wilt. Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine, and I would not influence it if I could. I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven. Though I am chosen of Thee and honored by a high and holy calling, let me never forget that I am but a man of dust and ashes, a man with all the natural faults and passions that plague the race of men. I pray Thee therefore, my Lord and Redeemer, save me from myself and from all the injuries I may do myself while trying to be a blessing to others. Fill me with thy power by the Holy Spirit, and I will go in Thy strength and tell of Thy righteousness, even Thine only. I will spread abroad the message of redeeming love while my normal powers endure.

Then, dear Lord, when I am old and weary and too tired to go on, have a place ready for me above, and make me to be numbered with Thy saints in glory everlasting. Amen.