A Prayer Inspired by the Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

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Matthew 5:1-12 NRSV
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus,
We receive your blessings and pray for the Holy Spirit to make them real in our lives.

Renew a right spirit within us, a poor spirit, a spirit which knows our deep need of your grace and deliverance. Free us from trying to save ourselves. Free us for the fullness of your kingdom.

Soften our hard hearts with the gift of tears. Help us mourn our brokenness and the brokenness of our world. Help us feel it fully. Help us welcome the refreshment of your comfort and share it well with others.

Generous Savior, you fill each person with gifts, talents, and strength. Open us to meekness, that we may gladly surrender them to your authority and discipline. In our hands, they are often weapons. With you, they are refined for your glory and the common good.

Bread of Life, sour every false and destructive appetite, that we may hunger and thirst for righteousness alone- a right relationship with you, a right relationship with others and between others, a right relationship with ourselves, a right relationship with your creation.

We bless you and honor you for your unending mercy, a flood of grace, pouring out and spilling over. Make us mercy-full. May all people know you like this.

Suffering One, break our hearts as yours is broken. In the breaking, create in us clean hearts, pure hearts, undivided hearts. Our deepest desire is to see you at work in us and all around us and to one day see you face to face.

In your grace, please don’t stop with our hearts. Re-Birth us fully in the breaking and creating. Named your beloved, your children, forever.

Make us
One with you and each other
One in your great work of peace
One in your words and ways
One in commitment to reconciliation and righteousness
One in facing of falsehood
One in the bloody bonds of persecution
One in your joy
One in your promises
One on earth and one in heaven
Amen

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A Prayer Inspired by the Beatitudes © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording- Face to Face, Peter and Jesus (Luke 22, Job 1, James 1)

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Message: Face to Face, Peter and Jesus
Scriptures: Luke 22:31-34
This message was offered Sunday, 3/11/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. It was inspired by the book Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire

Simon Peter was The Rock long before Dwayne Johnson

  • Peter started the last supper strong and sturdy. Jesus starts talking about his death and to love as I love. Peter replies, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
  • After the supper, when Judas and the mob of soldiers arrive in Gethsemane, Peter pulls his sword to defend Jesus. Did he make the first strike? Peter cuts off a slave’s ear. Jesus stops the fight, heals the slave, leaves with the soldiers under arrest.
  • When all the other disciples scatter, Peter and beloved disciple trail Jesus. Still solid as a rock.
  • But before dawn, Peter will crumble. Denial-Denial-Denial. Peter isn’t even able to stand up to the stares of a young servant girl.

What happened? Why do deeply faithful people blow it? Can you recover from it?

  • Sometimes we blow it because we make a self-centered choice, like Judas
  • Sometimes we aren’t prepared. We don’t have enough information. We don’t have the skills or connections we thought we did.
  • Sometimes we might be well prepared on a human level, but we aren’t spiritually prepared
    • In Mark 9:29, Jesus healed a child his disciples couldn’t. Jesus said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”
    • Ephesians 6:12 say, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Sometimes we blow it because it’s the evil one at work

Luke 22:31-34. At the Last Supper, Jesus says to Simon Peter
31 “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33 And Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”

Why did Peter blow it? One reason, Satan demanded to sift Peter like wheat. Satan demanded an extraordinary time of testing.

Look closely verse 31, Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat.

You ever felt this way? Life is crushing- health issues, strained relationships, financial stress, what’s safe now feels unsafe.

Satan made the same demand of Job in Job 1:9-12
9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.”

God doesn’t bring the trial. God allows it. Satan demanded a crack at Job and now wants a crack at Peter. If he could break Peter, Peter the Rock, Peter the Gibraltar among the disciples, it would break the spirit of the movement.

Satan’s not going to repeat Job’s hell of losing everything- family, health, wealth, home, reputation. Satan chooses a different tactic for Peter- sift him like wheat.

3 Parts of Wheat
Straw = stock on which the heads of grain grow
Chaff = husk that holds the kernels
Wheat = Nutritious kernels themselves, the part you can eat

Get to that kernel, you have to sift it. That means 1. Threshing it and 2. Winnowing it

You can beat the heads of wheat with a stick. But for larger production you need

  • Threshing floor- a large, circular, flat, hard area to scatter the wheat.
  • Then an ox to pull a sledge- a large piece of wood (3×5 feet) with stones or iron spikes inserted into the bottom. This cuts and crushes and breaks the wheat all at the same time.
  • After that, the winnowing = using a large pitchfork or basket to throw the threshed grain into the air. The chaff will blow away and the good kernels fall to the floor.

Peter’s on the threshing floor

  • Do I grab a sword and fight? No, Jesus rebuked me for that in the garden.
  • Do I testify on his behalf? A lot of good that would do. I’m a fisherman and they’re influential, educated leaders.
  • Do I just watch and listen so I can rally the disciples in the morning?

Peter’s spotted and questioned again and again and again. The grinding of the sledge. Denial- Denial- Denial.

Peter hears the rooster crow. Peter turns his head and sees Jesus looking at him. Now it’s the winnowing. It’s all up in the air. Peter wants to catch everything that’s been flying out of his mouth and try again take a stand. It’s too late. He’s already falling.

The cutting, crushing, breaking, everything up in the air, the falling

It’s a time of extraordinary testing. We will face it, too. The good news is we can make our way through it and come out the other side stronger and better for it, just like Peter. How?

31 “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Seeing Peter fail and fall, the Savior utters no words.

  • No “I told you so.”
  • No shaking of the head in disappointment
  • No lowering of the head in disgust

Jesus’ look is sympathetic, compassionate. It is a look of one who knows what it’s like to fall under the threshing of Satan. Jesus has been there, too. For forty days in a barren wilderness. He knows how crushing it is, how hard, how painful, how ruthless the adversary.

Jesus also knows God works it for good, for victory. Jesus shares that victory with us.

Why do deeply faithful people blow it? Sometimes it’s the evil one at work. Can you recover from it? Yes, yes and yes. God doesn’t bring the trial. God allows it. God works it for good.

31 “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

James 1:2-4
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

Quote by John R. Wimmer in his book Blessed Endurance
The rejoicing we find here is not a shallow, syrupy, or optimistic refusal to admit that problems exist; instead, it is the realistic recognition of struggle bolstered by the decision to rejoice in knowing that God is working to bring us through strife to greater spiritual depth. James proclaims that suffering may be considered as joy when the encounter produces the spiritual virtue of steadfastness. And steadfastness, when allowed to flower into fullness, produces the most attractive bloom of all qualities: Christian maturity.

Peter is a smaller man now, without the thick husk that once surrounded his life. He is broken and he is bare. The chaff and the straw have been blown away. The good, heavy wheat remains and is collected for use.

In the time of testing, Jesus will see us through. We will be stronger and better for it.  Hold on to hope.

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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.

Soft and Steadfast, a prayer based on Hebrews 3:7-14

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Hebrews 3:7-14, The Voice

Merciful One, soften my heart

Save me from hardheartedness
From evil and deceit
From mutiny and unbelief

Turn and return me
From wandering away
From petrifying slowly

Make my heart pure
Open to you
Wanting what you want

Make my heart true
Confident in you
Holding fast

Make my heart noble
Quick to listen
Rejoicing in your direction

Jesus
Heart of my heart
Keep me soft and steadfast in your nail scarred hands

Extended quote by John R. Wimmer, Blessed Endurance
The words joy rejoice as they appear in James and First Peter do not mean what they seem at first glance. The rejoicing we find here is not a shallow, syrupy, or optimistic refusal to admit that problems exist; instead, it is the realistic recognition of struggle bolstered by the decision to rejoice in knowing that God is working to bring us through strife to greater spiritual depth. Yes, it may be tough if not impossible to rejoice when suffering, but such joy will not take the form of emotional jubilance or elation.

James proclaims that suffering may be considered as joy when the encounter produces the spiritual virtue of steadfastness. And steadfastness, when allowed to flower into fullness, produces the most attractive bloom of all qualities: Christian maturity.

Authentic Christian maturity, then, is a steadfastness that we attain not by denial. It is a quality that, like any other kind of maturity, accrues with age, hard work, and a lot of bruising experience. It is the ability to redirect our thoughts beyond immediate woes in order to realize the spiritual growth that results from tests of faith.

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Prayer: Soft and Steadfast © 2017 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.

Soft and Steadfast, a prayer based on Hebrews 3:7-14

soft-heart-cruel-world-2

Hebrews 3:7-14, The Voice

Merciful One, soften my heart

Save me from hardheartedness
From evil and deceit
From mutiny and unbelief

Turn and return me
From wandering away
From petrifying slowly

Make my heart pure
Open to you
Wanting what you want

Make my heart true
Confident in you
Holding fast

Make my heart noble
Quick to listen
Rejoicing in your direction

Jesus
Heart of my heart
Keep me soft and steadfast in your nail scarred hands

Extended quote by John R. Wimmer, Blessed Endurance
The words joy rejoice as they appear in James and First Peter do not mean what they seem at first glance. The rejoicing we find here is not a shallow, syrupy, or optimistic refusal to admit that problems exist; instead, it is the realistic recognition of struggle bolstered by the decision to rejoice in knowing that God is working to bring us through strife to greater spiritual depth. Yes, it may be tough if not impossible to rejoice when suffering, but such joy will not take the form of emotional jubilance or elation.

James proclaims that suffering may be considered as joy when the encounter produces the spiritual virtue of steadfastness. And steadfastness, when allowed to flower into fullness, produces the most attractive bloom of all qualities: Christian maturity.

Authentic Christian maturity, then, is a steadfastness that we attain not by denial. It is a quality that, like any other kind of maturity, accrues with age, hard work, and a lot of bruising experience. It is the ability to redirect our thoughts beyond immediate woes in order to realize the spiritual growth that results from tests of faith.

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Prayer: Soft and Steadfast © 2017 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.