Lament, an essential spiritual practice for our violent times

mourn sorrowHow do I stay resilient in the midst of so much violence, evil, corruption, need, and pain? Is there a way to stay awake to the needs around me without becoming overwhelmed and despairing?

I wish I could’ve asked these questions in such a thoughtful way, but I couldn’t. I was crying and had lost count of the number of tissues I’d used.

My spiritual director listened with great compassion and then asked a simple question. “Do you practice lament?”

I didn’t. I didn’t know much about it. I learned and started that same day. It’s become an essential spiritual practice for me as I stay on the front lines with so many in need.

What is Lament?
“Lament is not despair. It is not whining. It is not a cry into a void. Lament is a cry directed to God. It is the cry of those who see the truth of the world’s deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace. It is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are.” – Emmanuel M. Katongole and Chris Rice, Reconciling All Things

Common Fears of Expressing our Anguish to God (Fear of Practicing Lament)  

  • I don’t want to appear weak. I have to be strong for myself and others.
  • I don’t want to burden my loved ones and friends.
  • Fully expressing my pain will only increase my pain leading me down the path of despair rather than the path of hope. What if I can’t stop the floodgates once I get started?
  • It feels unfaithful to question, complain, doubt. (Here’s the good news, it isn’t!)

Lament is not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God is real. God cares. God understands our pain. God can and wants to help. 

Psalm 130: 1-2, The Message
Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.

Lament in the Scriptures
We find laments from the beginning to the end of the Bible. From the ground crying out over the murder of Abel in Genesis to the martyrs crying out for justice in Revelation.

  • 1/3 of the Psalms are laments
  • Much of Job is lamenting
    • Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?”- Job 3:11
  • The Old Testament Prophets often lament. The prophet Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet.
    • For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no healer there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? –  Jeremiah 8.21-22
    • If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.”- Jeremiah 9:1
  • An entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations- written concerning the fall of Jerusalem

Jesus Lamented
Jesus weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. This reminds us we can lament our personal pain.

Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. This reminds us we can lament people not recognizing the gifts of God’s grace and salvation. We can also lament the brokenness of society. If they only knew the things that make for peace (Luke 19:42)

Jesus weeping all night in the Garden of Gethsemane. This reminds us we can be totally honest and totally vulnerable. No feeling or thought is taboo.

Jesus crying out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.

How to Practice Lament

1. Rest

  • To lament, we must stop. Feel it fully. Recognize what we’re up against.
  • We medicate with activity. Busyness keeps us distant and the pain at bay.
  • Rest is “not an invitation to become unconcerned about the conflict and chaos in the world but to imagine that the salvation of the world does not ultimately depend upon us.” – Katongole and Rice
  • Rest enables us to cease from grasping, grabbing, striving, trying to be God

2. Direct our cries to God

  • “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1)

3. Make your Complaint

  • express your anger, pain, heartache, sadness- Uncensored feelings
  • ask heartfelt questions
    • “How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:2-3)
    • I do not understand what is going on. This makes no sense. How long? Why?
    • Questions can be more than requests for information, they can also be cries of pain.

4. Make Your Request

  • Describe the affliction. It might include rage against your enemies
  • Look toward me, and have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.  Put an end to my affliction and my suffering, and take away all my sins. Behold, my enemies are many, and they hate me violently. Preserve my life, and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. (Psalm 25:16-20)

5. Affirm your trust in God

  • God’s presence
  • God’s power in the past
  • The attribute/character of God
  • The promises of God that you’re thankful for and that you are claiming

Psalm 130:5-7           
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord!  For with the Lord, there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.  

What spiritual practices help you stay resilient? 

*****************
Lament Article © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer Guide: Hourly Scriptures and Prayers for Good Friday

words_from_the_cross_nivIt’s a long-standing practice for many Christians to pray from 9am-3pm on Good Friday as they remember the six hours Jesus spent on the cross. Some pray the entire six hours, some pray on each hour, and some pray sometime during the six hours.

Another option would be to pray for 30 minutes, starting when the minute hand reaches 9 and continuing in five-minute intervals till the minute hand reaches 3.

The amount of time isn’t as important as the remembering- setting aside time to watch and wait with those few faithful followers who did not abandon Jesus.

Below you will find a guide for praying on Good Friday. It includes the scriptures relating Jesus’ words from the cross plus some sentences to focus your prayer time. The more formal prayers come from the book Listening At Golgotha by Peter Storey. (Click here for a review of the book and purchasing information. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!)

May this guide be a blessing to you as you seek the deeper graces of God this holy season. Your comments for its continued improvement are appreciated. – Lisa <><

Good Friday is not about us trying to “get right with God.” It is about us entering the difference between God and humanity and just touching it for a moment. Touching the shimmering sadness of humanity’s insistence that we can be our own gods, that we can be pure and all-powerful. – Nadia Bolz-Weber

PRAYER GUIDE: HOURLY SCRIPTURES AND PRAYERS FOR GOOD FRIDAY
The 9am Reading and Prayers
Luke 23:32-38 NRSV

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

Holy Jesus,
Your forgiving love saves and disturbs me.
Without it, I am lost,
yet, if I receive it, I must practice it.
By your mercy, make me merciful;
by your forgiveness, help me to forgive as I have been forgiven. Amen.

Continue by praying for all who are trapped in bitterness, revenge, and resentment so that all may know the freedom of forgiving as Christ did. Include yourself, as needed.

The 10am Reading and Prayers
Luke 23:39-43 NRSV

One of the criminals who was hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Holy Jesus,
Love held you to the cross for my sake, but not mine alone.
Your love is frightening in its breadth and depth;
When I embrace it, it stretches my poor spirit.
Enlarge my heart to make space for your friends;
Let me love as one forgiven. Today. Amen.

Continue by praying for the salvation of family and friends who do not know Christ,
For those living in our community, in our nation, and across the world

If you would like to extend your prayer time this hour, click here for an incredibly beautiful prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Jesus, Remember Me.

The 11am Reading and Prayers
John 19:25-27 NRSV

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Holy Jesus,
I give thanks for your mother
and all like her who have borne the pain of loving too deeply.
Thank you for your gift the church.
Help me receive as your gift all whom I encounter, whoever they are,
And to become family to them in Your name. Amen.

Continue by praying for Christian unity,
For the dividing walls between denominations to come down
For congregations in the midst of misunderstanding, pain, and conflict
For protection from the evil one and all that distances God’s people
That your congregation, and every congregation, would love as Christ loves
Embodying the hospitality and welcome only Christ can provide
Sharing His Word and ways with grace, compassion, and boldness

The Noon Reading and Prayers
Matthew 27:45-46 NRSV

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Begin by praying for all who are suffering,
For our brothers and sisters across the globe who are persecuted for their faith
For those who are suffering because they do not have access to daily needs-
clean water, housing, education, medical care
For those who are suffering due to war, injustice and tyrannical leaders
For those who are suffering due to mental or physical illness, addiction, or grief

If you would like to extend your prayer time this hour, click here for an incredibly beautiful prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani 

Holy Jesus,
There was no suffering like yours.
I am silent in the darkness, Your darkness.
There can be no words, only worship. Amen.

The 1pm Reading and Prayers
John 19:28-29 NRSV

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.

Holy Jesus,
All the longing of God,
Through all the ages, for all humanity,
Cries out to me from your cross.
Give me a heart to hear that cry
And a longing to be found by your love. Amen.

Pray today for all who are longing,
Longing for love
Longing for answers
Longing for healing
Longing for daily bread
Longing for justice
Longing for hope

The 2pm Reading and Prayers
John 19:30 NRSV

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.”

Silent adoration and wonder

The 3pm Reading and Prayers
Luke 23:44-43 NRSV

Darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

Rest now, Holy Jesus
Hero of the Cross
Your work is done.
The world has done its sinning,
And you have done your loving
Each beyond limit
And, in the end, limitless love prevails.
Your dying becomes my hope and the hope of the world. Amen.

Offer prayers of surrender, commitment, and thanksgiving

****************
Click here for an excellent article by Rev. James Martin, S.J. entitled The Five Lessons of Good Friday

Prayer Guide: Hourly Scriptures and Prayers for Good Friday compilation
© 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting or church setting with proper attribution. Proper attribution would include references to Peter Storey’s book, Listening at Golgotha, the source of the formal prayers. (Published by The Upper Room – October 1, 2004)

Sermon Recording: Shall, Making the Path (Isaiah 40)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624
Message 4 of 5
Scripture: Isaiah 40:3-5
These are the notes from a message offered 11/4/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

Romans 5:1-5, The Path to Hope
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Isaiah 40:3-5, The Way to Make the Path
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Shall, by Lisa Degrenia
The time is now, for you have called, O God
The place is now, for you have spoken

Yes, it is a wilderness, a desert even
So dry, so rough, so uneven
Yes, the gap is so very wide between the high and the low

But, you have called
You have spoken
Not an if or when or maybe
Not even a try

You have spoken shall

Every valley shall be lifted
Every mountain shall be made low
The uneven shall be made level
The rough shall be made smooth

So we will persevere in this wilderness of preparing
We will not forge a path or blaze a trail but make a highway
A highway for your coming
For your glory, O God shall be revealed in this place
And all shall see it
All shall see it together

Book Recommendation: Canoeing The Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger

LEWIS AND CLARK AND THE MEN OF THE CORPS OF DISCOVERY

  • Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson in 1804 to find the Northwest Passage
  • Purpose: Commerce
    • Finding the route believed to connect the Missouri River with the Pacific would make commerce possible across the continent and the riches of Asia that lay beyond.
  • Purpose: Control
    • Whichever nation found the Norwest Passage first, and then controlled it, would control the destiny of the continent.

What they thought would happen:

  • Travel the Missouri River to its source
  • Over the next hill, they would find another river. They could then calmly coast to the Pacific Ocean because that’s the way the river would be flowing
  • What they found was the Rocky Mountains, mountains like they’d never seen. So high, so long, so steep. They were unprepared. Everything they had been told was absolutely wrong.

Lewis and Clark List of Hardships 

  • ANIMALS: Plagued by Mosquitoes and Small Pesky Flies. Encounters with Grizzly Bears
  • MISSOURI RIVER: Fighting against strong currents and shifting sandbars. Dangerous hazards caused by navigating rapids and obstacles in the water
    • Exhaustion from the daily grind of moving the heavy keelboat up the Missouri River that involved arduous rowing, pulling the keelboat through shallows using a rope from onshore (called cordelling) or pushing the heavy boat with long poles (poling)
      • The boats were not canoes but a keelboat (55 feet long, 22 oars at its sides, and a cannon mounted in the bow)
    • The Great Falls proved to be a difficult challenge. The men had to bypass the falls which involved carrying their canoes, supplies, and equipment all by hand for over 1 month
  • THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS: Later in the journey it was necessary to abandon travel by water and physically carry the boats. This process called portaging, proved to be very draining and extremely time
    • Traveling over harsh, tough terrain
    • The harrowing journey on the rough Lolo trail through the Bitterroot Mountains
  • WEATHER: Enduring extreme weather conditions such as intense, blistering heat, the bitter cold, blizzards, hailstorms, snow, and continuous rain
    • In the winter months, it was often difficult to find food
  • NATIVES: Confrontations with hostile Natives and Natives who were invaluable to their survival and success. (Sacagawea)
  • LENGTH OF THE TRIP: The outward journey and the return journey home covered over 7000 miles. May 14, 1804, to September 23, 1806 – two years, four months and ten days
    • As the journey progressed illnesses became an increasing problem
    • Hard to find supplies along the way

Their journey was nothing like what they expected. Everything they had been told was wrong. They were unprepared.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Somewhere you never expected? How does it feel to be that out of your element? That unprepared?

At that point, you have a decision to make. Lewis and Clark had a decision to make. You can turn around and go back. (Sometimes you can’t go back.) Or you can just stay where you are. Pitch a tent. Build a city. Or we can try to move forward. Off the map. Into the unknown.

Lewis and Clark decided to move forward. They adapted. They abandoned the boats, their safety net because they were no longer helpful. They were known for their skill on the water and now they would need to become hikers.

They moved forward. This is resilience, perseverance, endurance. Moving forward in the face of adversity. Moving forward in the face of the unknown. Moving forward in the face of suffering. Moving forward.

So many of us find ourselves in these positions. I did not expect to be here- divorced, fired, widowed, my family in multiple states, financial crisis…

So many of us did not expect to find ourselves in the face of the unknown but because of the grace of God, the power of God, the presence of God, we can move forward.

Lewis and Clark were able to move forward because

  • they made the decision to move forward
  • people came alongside them to move forward

We too can move forward. We can make the decision, we have people who will come alongside us, and we have God in Jesus Christ, the pioneer, and perfecter of our faith who is already out there ahead of us. For us, with us, behind us, before us, above us moving us forward.

I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Christianity is a movement. A movement forward. We are a pilgrim people.

Isaiah 40:3-5, The Way to Make the Path
A voice cries out: The voice is God shouting “Come on!”

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

This is what our God does. Our God moves that mountain so we can keep moving forward. Our God raises us up out of that valley so we can keep moving forward. Our God fills in the potholes so the rough places are made smooth. Our God takes those winding, curvy, rollercoaster-y ways and makes them smooth so we can move forward

It may not feel that way when we’re walking it. It may feel like a mountain high or a valley low or rough and twisty. But God is making a way where there seems to be no way.

This is resilience. Do you trust God to make a way where there seems to be no way? Trust God.

God is not only going to make a way for you, but God is also going to help you make a way for others. All of a sudden you’re going to find yourself a Sacagawea helping someone make their way.

It’s all grace. It’s all goodness. That’s the God we serve, we know, we love. That’s the God who saves us.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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.

Sermon Recording: Faith Doubt and Lament (Psalm 130)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624

Message 3 of 5
Scripture: Psalm 130
These are the notes from a message offered 10/28/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

This message and recording also include our annual All Saints Remembrance, where we thank God for our departed loved ones and friends, especially those who have helped us to find faith or grow in our faith. 

Resilience Series Review: Resilience isn’t so much bouncing back from adversity but moving forward in the midst of it. Romans 5 reminds us of the path to hope. Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

Psalm 130: 1-2, The Message. The author of this translation of the Bible died this week, Pastor Eugene Peterson.

Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.

When an old wound is triggering unhealthy responses, I seek the help of a counselor to address it. When life is overwhelming, it’s also helpful to speak with a spiritual director. A spiritual director asks, “How’s your soul? How’s your relationship with God during this situation?” After some prayerful listening, a spiritual director often suggests a spiritual practice to help you stay connected to God.

At a session a few months ago, after sharing, the spiritual director asked me if I practiced lament. I didn’t. I hadn’t even thought about the spiritual practice since seminary. I started practicing lament and it helped greatly.

Common Fears of Expressing our Anguish to God (Fear of practicing Lament)  

  • Appear weak. I have to be strong for myself and others.
  • Burden my loved ones and friends
  • Only increase my pain leading me down the path of despair rather than the path of hope. What if I can’t stop the floodgates once I get started?
  • Seems unfaithful to question, complain, doubt. It isn’t!

Lament in the Scriptures

  • We find laments from the beginning to the end of the Bible. From the ground crying out over the murder of Abel in Genesis to the martyrs crying out for justice in the book of Revelation.
  • 1/3 of the Psalms
  • The book of Job
    • Job 3:11 Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?”
  • The Old Testament Prophets often lament. The prophet Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet.
    • For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no healer there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? –  Jeremiah 8.21-22
    • If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.” (Jeremiah 9:1)
  • An entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations- written concerning the fall of Jerusalem

Jesus Lamented

  • Weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. Reminds us we can lament our personal pain.
  • Weeping over Jerusalem. Reminds us we can lament people not recognizing the gift of grace/salvation and the brokenness of society.
    • If they only knew the things that make for peace (Luke 19:42)
  • Weeping all night in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Crying out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.

Lament is not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God is real. God cares. God understands our pain. God can and wants to help. 

What is Lament?
“Lament is not despair.  It is not whining.  It is not a cry into a void. Lament is a cry directed to God. It is the cry of those who see the truth of the world’s deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace. It is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are.” – Emmanuel M. Katongole, Reconciling All Things, p. 78

We teach preschoolers how to pray using simple words. Help. Thanks. Wow! (praise) (A big shout out to Anne Lamott for her book of the same title). We need to also teach them Sorry (confession) to lament- Ouch! Us big kids need the same lessons.

How to Practice Lament

1. Rest

  • To lament, we must stop. Feel it fully. Recognize what we’re up against.
  • We medicate with activity. Busyness keeps us distant and the pain at bay.
  • Rest is “not an invitation to become unconcerned about the conflict and chaos in the world but to imagine that the salvation of the world does not ultimately depend upon us.”
  • Rest enables us to cease from grasping, grabbing, striving, trying to be God

2. Direct our cries to God

  • “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1)

3. Make your Complaint

  • express your anger, pain, heartache, sadness- Uncensored feelings
  • ask heartfelt questions
    • “How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:2-3)
    • I do not understand what is going on. This makes no sense. How long? Why?”
    • Questions can be more than requests for information, they can also be cries of pain.

4. Make Your Request

  • Describe the affliction. It might include rage against your enemies
  • Look toward me, and have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.  Put an end to my affliction and my suffering, and take away all my sins. Behold, my enemies are many, and they hate me violently. Preserve my life, and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. (Psalm 25:16-20)

5. Affirm your trust in God

  • God’s presence
  • God’s power in the past
  • The attribute/character of God
  • The promises of God that you’re thankful for and that you are claiming

Psalm 130:5-8           
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord!  For with the Lord, there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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.

Sermon Recording: The Path to Hope (Romans 5)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624
Growing in Resilience: When Suffering Stays
Message 2 of 5
Scripture: Romans 5:1-5
These are the notes from a message offered 10/21/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

Resilience isn’t so much bouncing back from adversity but moving forward in the midst of it

The Story of Asha Mevlana

Asha Mevlana cancerWhen Asha Mevlana was 24, she had a great job at a start-up, an apartment in New York’s SoHo, lots of friends, a beautiful head of hair, and a pearl-shaped problem in her left breast. She thought it was a cyst. Her mom had a cyst around the same age. It turned out to be breast cancer.

The defining moment of her suffering, however, wasn’t the diagnosis, or the biopsy, or the eight months of chemo, or her baldness. The life-altering moment came when her doctors announced that she was cancer-free.

Something had changed. Everyone around her had gone on blithely living their lives, talking about the crummy weather, the long lines at Starbucks, and American Idol. They seemed to value such inconsequential things, and she found herself yearning for a time when she did as well. Life seemed empty. She wasn’t religious, but she found herself praying: “Just give me a second chance and I’m going to change my life.”

Asha did. She took a new path. Asha risked leaving her safe job to pursue a lifelong dream of being a professional musician.

Asha now plays an electric 7-string viper violin. She’s toured with many well-known artists, played in the American Idol Band, appeared on The Tonight Show, the Ellen Show and the Grammy’s. She currently plays with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Asha Mevlana TSO

We often think suffering will end us. Instead, it can open us to a new path. For followers of Jesus, suffering is part of the path to hope: suffering to endurance to character to hope

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we are justified by faith…

Sin separates us from God. We cannot bridge the gap- no amount of good deeds, generous gifts to charity, kindness, rule following. We can’t get there in our own strength. God knows this and sends Jesus to bridge the gap. When we place our trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our Leader and Forgiver, we cross the bridge of faith. We are saved. Its Just-as-if-I’d never sinned. We are no longer separated from God. It is a gift of grace to be received. And there’s more…

Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

Those who are justified also receive peace, grace, the ability to stand before God and with God, and hope. We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. We have a future full of hope. The word “boast” (kauchometha) also means “rejoice” or “exalt in.”

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know, He holds the future and life is worth the living just because he lives. – Bill Gaither

Hope is not optimism

  • Optimism involves the expectation that things are eventually going to get better – we will bounce back
  • It’s easy to candy coat situations with Optimism
  • Hope is rooted in the real, in the truth
  • Hope asserts that no matter what may come, no matter how bad things may get, God’s word and promises will prevail
  • There is a hope in Christ located beyond our immediate circumstances
    • Example: A terminally ill patient may not be optimistic about the treatment he is undergoing but may remain hopeful that God keeps God’s promise of resurrection.

Romans 5:3
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, (what?!?!)

We do not boast/rejoice because we are suffering. We boast/rejoice in the midst of suffering. Suffering cannot squash our boasting/rejoicing because it is anchored in hope of the future.

  • A future sharing God’s glory
  • A future which transcends suffering
  • Suffering is temporary grace is eternal, salvation is eternal

Romans 8:31-32
31 … If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? … 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:3-5
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

And there’s more! Endurance, character, hope, love. There’s more than one kind of hope. A hope of the future and a hope of the now. Hope in things above and hope for things here below.

THE PATH TO HOPE: SUFFERING, ENDURANCE, CHARACTER, HOPE
God does not delight in suffering and God does not cause suffering. God’s presence and power bring good out of suffering. We can experience that goodness right now.

  • God creates a path from suffering to hope- suffering to endurance to character to hope
  • We can move forward down the path in the midst of the suffering
    • Moving forward with energy and motivation to act, to dare, to keep trusting
    • We can move forward with a sense of growth in resilience and resolve in the midst of the suffering
  • God is creating a greater and greater capacity in us for hope and for the outpouring of God’s love
    • Like a potter gently opening up the clay to make a vessel, God opens up our heart for God’s love to be poured in
    • This love isn’t sentimental and sweet. The love pouring in is Agape. It’s the sacrificial, resurrection, sin eating, death defeating, love of God in Christ which saves us is now.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;  struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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.

Sermon Recording: When Suffering Stays (2 Corinthians 12)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624
Growing in Resilience: When Suffering Stays
Message 1 of 5
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:6-10, The Voice
These are the notes from a message offered 10/14/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

CINDY CAGLIUSO’S TESTIMONY
As most of you know I work at the Central Florida Pregnancy Center. We accept donations of baby items. About 6 weeks ago a man came by with cases of formula. Of course, we accepted them. He went on medical mission trips to Africa, but the formula would expire before his next trip. After he left, we realized the formula was only for use in feeding tubes. We could not use it. We were disappointed. Ugh. Now to find a place for which to give it. I put the cases in the back room and figured I’d have to call around at some point to find a place to donate them….  

On Friday, October 12th, a caseworker called from Jacksonville. One of her clients had quickly moved to escape the hurricane and left with barely enough formula for her child for one day. They were living 2 towns over. She said the family had no money. Did we have any formula to give her – she needed feeding tube formula. WHAT???!!!! We were about to close for the night, but couldn’t imagine making the woman wait until Monday. 5 phone calls later and the very young woman came by and walked out with 8 cases of feeding tube formula for her child. I kept trying to tell both her and the caseworker “You don’t understand! We are not medical! We don’t carry this stuff – we took it in by mistake! This is God! God did this!” I told the executive director and she said: “I thought you got rid of that stuff.” I said “No! Why did we have this? Why did we take it?” – and she said, “Because God knew you would need it.”

Home from work late on a Friday after a long week. All of us had smiles on our faces. God is so good. God has provided for me personally in amazing ways this week. God loves us all. Those who know Him and those who don’t. Praise God!

It’s easy for us to think this is what life should be like all the time for the faithful. Everything working out for the best in powerful and miraculous ways. But life isn’t like that. When it isn’t, it’s easy for us to begin to question –  Is there something wrong with me? Am I doing something wrong? Is God fickle?

VIDEO: When God Doesn’t Make Sense from Explore God

Sometimes it’s easy to identify the why of our suffering. We’re experiencing the consequence of our own choices or we get caught in the backwash of someone else’s choice. Sometimes we don’t know why. It’s just the brokenness of this world.

RESILIENCE
Resilience as bouncing back from adversity, like a rubber ball

  • Easy for us to connect resilience with Restoration of what was lost
    • I lost my home in the hurricane, but I just have to hang in there till it’s rebuilt
    • 3 major Florida storms in 3 years:
      • Matthew (2016 to the Atlantic coast)
      • Irma (2017 to the southern Gulf Coast)
      • Michael (2018 to the panhandle)
  • Easy for us to connect resilience with Recovery like from an ailment
    • I broke my leg and just have to soldier on until it’s better

What if the house doesn’t get rebuilt? What if the leg doesn’t get better? (Like a rubber ball with no air) What if the suffering stays? What does that say about me and my faith, what does it say about God?

What if resilience isn’t so much about bouncing back, it’s about moving forward in the midst of adversity (Like tossing the ball. It works even if there’s no air in it. )

This is the resilience we the Apostle Paul talking about in 2 Corinthians 12:6-10.

  • Paul wrote most of the New Testament
  • Nurtured churches from Turkey in Asia Minor all the way to Italy on the other side of the Mediterranean
  • Had a face to face encounter with the Risen Christ
  • Experienced divine revelations of the mysteries of heaven
  • Paul had reason to boast, but he didn’t. He had every reason to experience the favor and blessing of God in a life without adversity, but he didn’t.

2 Corinthians 12:6, The Voice
6 So if I want to boast, I won’t do so as a fool because I will be speaking the truth. But I will stop there, since I don’t want to be credited with anything except exactly what people see and hear from me.

Paul only wanted people to see what he did in Jesus’ strength and hear his testimony of who Jesus is.

2 Corinthians 12:7-8, The Voice
7 To keep me grounded and stop me from becoming too high and mighty due to the extraordinary character of these revelations, I was given a thorn in the flesh—a nagging nuisance of Satan, a messenger to plague me! 8 I begged the Lord three times to liberate me from its anguish;

Paul was a man of extraordinary faith, courage, and fruitful service to Christ. Yet he had a “Thorn in the flesh.” Some think it may have been an eye problem, limp, bad temper, or even mean-spirited person constantly criticizing him. He describes it as anguish, a nagging nuisance. He also knew his thorn was not from God.

Paul prayed, no begged, three times for God to deliver him. Just like Jesus praying three times in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion. The answer for Paul and Jesus was the same – The suffering is staying. But…

2 Corinthians 12:9-10, The Voice 
9 and finally God said to me, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on—I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me. 10 I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong.

God’s grace is sufficient! God’s power is made perfect in our weakness!            

Paul came to see God doing good in the midst of the thorn

  • It kept Paul humble and close to God
  • It made for an even greater testimony because people could easily see Paul couldn’t do it in his own strength
  • The affliction didn’t leave but Paul became resilient in Christ.

God’s grace is sufficient! God’s power is made perfect in our weakness!

Paul continues to move forward in the midst of adversity (2 Corinthians 11)

  • 5 times flogged, 39 lashes each
  • Beaten with rods
  • tried to stone him to death
  • Shipwrecked- over 24 hours in the water
  • Robbed
  • Hunger and thirst
  • Cold and nakedness
  • Constant persecution and debating from those who oppose Jesus
  • Care of all the church

Does Paul or Jesus wait till everything’s right before continuing their mission? No!

Does anyone doubt Paul’s faith or Jesus’s faith because they experience suffering? No!

Does anyone doubt God is at work in powerful ways in Paul’s life or Jesus’ life because they experienced opposition? No!

No one doubts you either!         

God’s grace is sufficient! God’s power is made perfect in our weakness!

Lay aside the excuse of “I’ve got to get my act together first” and move forward with Christ

  • Say yes to placing your trust in Jesus
  • Say yes to a commitment to Christ
  • Say yes to baptism
  • Say yes to joining that small group
  • Say yes to stepping out with Christ to serve
  • Say yes to sharing your need with others

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NRSV         
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed

In Christ we are resilient!

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark 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.

Growing in Resilience: Hold and Heal, based on Isaiah 53.4-5

crucifixion-statue bwGrowing in Resilience
Day 14, Read Isaiah 53
Reflection: Hold and Heal, based on Isaiah 53:4-5, The Voice Translation

It was our suffering he carried, our pain and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness. We just figured that God had rejected him, that God was the reason he hurt so badly. But he was hurt because of us; he suffered so. Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed him. He endured the breaking that made us whole. The injuries he suffered became our healing.

An extended quote from Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer by Richard Rohr 
The significance of Jesus’ wounded body is his deliberate and conscious holding of the pain of the world and refusing to send it elsewhere. The wounds were not necessary to convince God that we were lovable; the wounds are to convince us of the path and the price of transformation. They are what will happen to you if you face and hold sin in compassion instead of projecting it in hatred.

Jesus’ wounded body is an icon for what we are all doing to one another and to the world. Jesus’ resurrected body is an icon of God’s response to our crucifixions. The two images contain the whole message of the Gospel.

Prayer
Hallelujah to Jesus!
Who gives dignity in response to scorn

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Who offers relationship to the face of rejection

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Who understands our pain
The pain we get
The pain we reap
The pain we sling

silence

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Who accepts wounding and crushing
so we would have forgiveness
so we could offer forgiveness

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Who accepts beating and mocking
so we would have peace
so we could be peace

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Who accepts whipping and torture and death
to hold us and heal us
so we may hold and heal

Silence

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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. 

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