Growing in Resilience: We Will Rise, based on Isaiah 58.11-12

sunrise hold sunGrowing in Resilience
Based on Isaiah 58
Bonus Reflection: We Will Rise
based on Isaiah 58:11-12, NRSV

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

We will rise
From the destruction
From the ruins
From the sin and isolation

We will rise
Building strong foundations
Bridging the breach
Making a way, a highway to our God

We will rise in our ceasing
A holy fast of God’s desiring and design

Fasting from injustice
Letting loose the bonds
Breaking every yoke of oppression and affliction

Fasting from food and space and clothing
Simplicity and sacrifice so others may have enough

Fasting from busyness
Reclaim the good gifts of relationship and sabbath

Fasting from evil speech
Blaming, gossiping, demonizing, lying
Truth will be on our tongue
Life will be on our lips

We will rise for this is the way of the Risen One
The bones of the Body will be strong
The branches of the Vine will be well watered
The ruins will be rebuilt with living stones
We will rise!

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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. 

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

Growing in Resilience: False Following, based on Isaiah 58.1-2

feet bare bw railGrowing in Resilience
Day 19, Read Isaiah 58
Reflection: False Following,
based on Isaiah 58:1-2, The Voice

Tell My people about their wrongdoing; shout with a voice like a trumpet; Hold nothing back: say this people of Jacob’s line and heritage have failed to do what is right. And yet they look for Me every day. They pretend to want to learn what I teach, as if they are indeed a nation good and true, as if they hadn’t really turned their backs on My directives. They even ask Me, as though they care, about what I want them to be and do, as if they really want Me in their lives.

Eternal One,
You shout truth
Loud and clear like a trumpet blast
Holding nothing back so we might be saved
Give us ears to hear
Souls to receive
Lives to live your holy love

Save us from false following
Pretending to want what you want
Hiding behind pious practices
Rituals for show

Save us from false following
Weaponizing your means of grace
Religion without relationship
Belief without transformation

Save us from false following
Faith without works
Without compassion
Without fruit

Have mercy on us
Forgive us
Save us
Make our faith real

We turn and return to you
And your desiring
Give us ears to hear
Souls to receive
Lives to live your holy love

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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. 

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

You Can Read the Bible: Three Approaches

South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons

South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons

I. You Can Read the Bible by Steve Harper
One of the biggest mistakes we have made with the Bible is leaving the impression that only scholars can correctly interpret it. Everything is made so layered, nuanced, and complex that many folks instantly feel they lack the “training” and “horsepower” to make it through all the mazes.

So, they either stop trying or they become passive and wait for the “experts” to tell them what’s “right.” But the fact is, the Bible is intended to be understandable! The original languages do contain levels of insight, but their essential meanings are accessible to us all.

Here is a way to make it so in your personal reading and in your conversations with others. Take a passage, read it, and ask:
(1) What is the big idea?
(2) Why is it important?
(3) Where does it presently connect with my life–or–why is it not a part of me?
(4) Should it be part of me? If so, how can I continue (or begin) to put it into practice?

Most Bible passages will “bear fruit” when these questions are applied to them, either in private or in a group. And when you add to your own inductive study the additional resources of concordances, dictionaries, maps, and commentaries, you will find the messages of scripture influencing your life day after day.

II. SOAP
The SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal is practiced by thousands of Christians. I first learned of it from Wayne Cordeiro, pastor New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, click here for the video on their website.

Here’s a brief summary of the process.
S = Scripture
Read the Bible passage for the day. Copy the verse which catches your attention word for word in your journal.

O = Observation
Write a brief description of what is going on in the passage you read.

A = Application
Write about how your life will be different today because of what you have read.
• Lessons to be learned
• Examples to be followed or avoided
• Promises to be claimed and enjoyed
• A character trait of God revealed

P = Prayer
Write out a prayer for yourself and others based on what you read today.

III. Lectio Divina explained by Whitney R. Simpson in his book Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit
The words Lectio Divina are Latin for “holy reading.”

This ancient prayer practice includes the following steps:
lectio (“to read”)
meditatio (“to reflect”)
oratio (“to respond”)
and contemplatio (“to rest”).

Lectio Divina allows you to listen for God’s activity using scripture and to connect to God through the ancient Word while delving into a particular passage.

The practice of Lectio Divina focuses on formational reading of scripture, as opposed to informational reading. Formational reading invites the text to shape you, while informational reading invites you to understand the text. Though both types of reading can be useful on a spiritual journey, the art of Lectio Divina allows you to interact with God’s Word through meditating on a passage and listening for God’s leading.

My personal journey has been shaped by spending time in the Word using Lectio Divina. Through this practice, I have realized how scripture can speak to my life regardless of what I am facing. Lectio Divina has allowed me to see and hear God in new ways.

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So, let’s get reading. Here are three simple reading plans to get you started. Each will take you through the New Testament in one year. It’s especially helpful to start with the New Testament if you are new to Bible reading.

1. New Testament Reading Plan- Bible order
This plan will take you through the New Testament in the order in which it is printed in the Bible. Easy. Just read straight through.

2. New Testament Reading Plan- event order
This plan will take you through the New Testament in the order in which the events most likely happened. You’ll jump from chapter to chapter in different books in this plan. Is it scholarly perfect, no, but it is helpful for those of us who want a chronological approach to Jesus’ life and the lives of the first believers. (We aren’t getting caught in the perfectionism trap. If this sounds interesting, go for it.)

3. New Testament Reading Plan- mixed
This plan spreads the Gospel readings throughout the year with the other books mixed in between. Even though you skip around the New Testament in this plan, you will read a book at a time.

Click Here for more information on today’s featured image, South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans

Poem: We Need to Linger

holy week primitive cartoon adapted
Before we get to Easter, we need to linger:
in the vulnerability of the basin and the towel
at the remembrance and promise of the table
in the struggle and betrayal of the garden
in the shadows and shouts of injustice
at the bloody brutal beautiful cross
in the silence of linen and spices and death

For without these, the empty tomb is empty

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Poem: We Need to Linger © 2000 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

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.

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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 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

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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 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.

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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 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.