Sermon- Heart of Stone, Heart of Flesh (Ezekiel 36)

Sermon Series Parables 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Parables
Message 3 of 4: Heart of Stone, Heart of Flesh
Scripture: Ezekiel 36:22-27
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 8/11/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Reading Ezekiel 36:22-27

Story of My Uncle David Playing This Game:
Person One hides a small object in the palm of their head. They hold their fist over the head of another person and say, “Heavy, heavy hangs over thy head. Animal, vegetable, or mineral?”

The 2nd person makes a guess, one of the three. If they guess right they then try to guess what’s in the person’s hand. If they guess right, they win what’s in the person’s hand.

Stones are:

  • Cold
  • Heavy
  • Old
  • Hard, impermeable, solid
  • Inanimate, sense-less, dead

Stones can be useful. They are useful for building things- a house, a fortress, a wall.

One of the things stones are not useful for is a home for God, a place for the Spirit of God to dwell.

Acts 17:24
The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands.

Sometimes people think God lives in buildings. The ancient Israelites thought God lived in the Temple in Jerusalem. In Ezekiel’s time, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, so where’s the presence of God now?

God reminds the people through Ezekiel that God doesn’t live in stone or things made of stone. God lives in flesh.

Think of Jesus. The Word of God was made flesh, not stone.

Ezekiel 36:26-27
26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you, and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.

What Hardens our Heart? So many things can harden our hearts. One thing can make is soft again. The Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit is available to every single one of us. Every person you will ever meet, ever see.

The Spirit is available to turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. So we can be like Ebeneezer Scrooge. We can be like the Grinch. And it doesn’t just happen at Christmas.

Our heart is the center of our being, the birthplace of our motivation. Whatever we place our primary trust in, that is sitting on the throne of our heart. If it isn’t God, its an idol.

What hardens our heart?

  • Revenge, Resentment, Rebellion
  • Control, Perfectionism, Selfishness (Consider Pharaoh in Exodus)
  • Guilt, Shame
  • Loneliness, Betrayal, Disappointment
  • Evil, Trauma

Sometimes we make choices which harden our heart. Sometimes we are not healed of the wounds inflicted upon us and our hearts harden. Sometimes our hearts are hardened by the brokenness of our world.

“Lord have mercy if I hear of another hate crime. I’m not going to stay awake, alive, and open to it. I’m going to hunker down, protect myself, harden my heart to protect myself from all that’s going on. It’s too painful and too much.”

The hardening of our heart due to the hamster wheel of trauma in our world is what most concerns me. Anxiety is rising and people are acting out.

How can we remain soft-hearted in the midst of all of this? It’s about the Holy Spirit of God. We can’t do it in our own strength.

Prayer
Soften our hearts when evil abounds
They run to lonesome places, screaming an alarm
Soften our hearts so we can find you above the fear

Soften our hearts when evil abounds
They race to revenge, pounding with anger
Soften our hearts so we can hear you above the hammering

Soften our hearts when evil abounds
They rush to human strength, grasping for control
Soften our hearts so we can hold to your way, your truth, and your life

Soften our hearts so they may beat in unison with yours
So healing may flow into all brokenness
So hope may fill all devastation
So compassion and peace and unity may rise up among all people
We entrust our hearts to you

heart stone flesh full of eyes

By Chris Powers, fullofeyes.com 

Ezekiel 36:25
I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.

  • God offers us cleansing and forgiveness for the sin which hardens our hearts- Revenge, Resentment, Rebellion, Control, Perfectionism, Selfishness, Guilt, Shame
  • How was the Grand Canyon built? By water. The washing is stronger than stone.

Ezekiel 36:24
I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.

  • God offers us a home and gathers us into a trustworthy people to be our family so our hearts are not hardened by Loneliness, Betrayal, Disappointment

For Evil and Trauma, God takes the heart of stone that we want to fight back with and gives us a heart of flesh. We bring healing to the world the way God brings healing to the world, not by throwing stones.

Ezekiel 36:23
… through you, I display my holiness before their eyes

A heart of stone is cold, but flesh is warm
A heart of stone is heavy, but flesh is light
A heart of stone is hard, but flesh is tender
A heart of stone is impermeable, but flesh is vulnerable
A heart of stone is sense-less, but flesh is sensitive
A heart of stone is dead, but flesh is alive

This is about coming alive and staying alive in the power of the Holy Spirit. So we can share the holiness, goodness, and grace of God with the world.

What is trying to harden your heart? Confess it to God.
God, I trust you to give me a heart of flesh.
Fill me with your Spirit. Give me a heart of flesh.

Prayer: Psalm 51:10-12
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

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Heart of Stone, Heart of Flesh © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Fully Me, Fully Us (Ephesians 3)

cup overflowingGod keeps bringing Ephesians 3:14-21 before me- in my devotions, in the writing of others. Repetition means pay attention, so it continues to drive my prayers. – Lisa <><

Steadfast and Faithful One,
Your Holy Spirit is at work in all things, even me
Thank you for your persistent, pursuing grace

This is my desire- to trust you more than I trust myself
what I know and what I know how to do
This is my desire- to be full of you
no longer this shallow shadow of me
but me, really me, fully me, in the light of Christ

The power to be fully me is from you alone
What I am when I am at home with myself in the home of your love

Dwell in my heart of hearts
Dwell in my every desiring
Dwell in the depth of my soul
that I may grasp the depth of your love
Infinite
Extending in every direction
Surrounding every person and need
A flood of grace

Flood our being
That we may know that we know that we know
We are completely known by you and loved by you

Your love surpasses every plan
Every logic
Every statistic
Every theory and theorem
Every fix and solution and discovery
It is above all we can ask or imagine or know

Your love covers all and conquers all
It makes us us
It makes us your people, your body, your church

Fill us with this love
This power
Fill us with you
Amen

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

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

Fully Me, Fully Us © 2014 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 based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss (Psalm 37)

sermon series dr seuss 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 6 of 6: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Scripture: Psalm 37:1, 5
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/3/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Intro

  • 36 folks from several difference congregations leave tomorrow for the Holy Land
  • Won’t be with you as we continue to process the decisions of General Conference
  • Won’t be with you for the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday is this Wednesday.

Ashes seem to be exactly what we need right now. 
Traditional Prayer consecrating the ashes before imposition: Almighty God, you created humanity from the dust of the earth. Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality, our humility, and sorrow for our sin. We admit our eternal need of you and claim the greatness of your eternal grace and forgiveness, in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Ashes of mourning  
Ashes were used in mourning sin and mourning loss.

So many feelings following General Conference. Some are relieved by the decisions at General Conference. Some are rejoicing. Some are mad. Some are wondering or in a place of confusion. Some are full of sorrow- grieving, disillusioned, that harm has been done, hurt, wondering if there is a place for them or their loved ones in the United Methodist Church.

Yes, there is a place for you here at Trinity and the UMC! Please read the information we’re providing. Please stay. Please come and speak to me when I return.

Ashes of humility  
What you hear when you receive ashes on your forehead: Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent and believe the gospel.

Right now my Facebook feed is a mess. There’s a whole bunch of folks telling a whole bunch of other folks I’m right and you’re wrong. It is ugly. It is not of God. We need these ashes to remind us of our need for humility. It’s the only way we’ll move forward.

We’re all hummus (dirt). We’re all human. Hummus, human, humility. All those words are tied together. All of us are in need of Jesus’s grace and forgiveness and love and belonging and hope.

The ashes remind us of sorrow, humility, and mortality. Remember you are dust. This life is short and precious. The ashes also remind us there is life.

Ashes of life   
Remember you are dust also reminds us of God breathing life into dust at creation. It is a good gift of God.

So many of us think of Lent as a season of sorrow, wilderness, repentance, giving up stuff (make fun of all of it). Lent is ultimately a season of transformation, new life.

grinch 1Reading of How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.    

The Grinch isn’t just sour or mean. The Grinch does harm

Why does the Grinch change?
The Grinch literally repents. The Grinch turns and heads down to the Who’s and down to a new life.

How do people change? Change does not come by fear, facts, or force. Change doesn’t come by legislation or law. Change comes by love.

  • The Grinch sees the Who’s love of one another
  • He sees and hears their gratitude and worship
  • Then he experiences their love, Even though he has done great harm, they welcome him into their community and to their table.

At the end of the story, the Grinch has

  • a new family
  • a new way of thinking and being
  • a new identity

This is the Good News of Jesus Christ. We see Jesus loving, healing, welcoming. The love of our Father overflowing in the flesh of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The love of the Father overflowing into the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Through his life, death and resurrection, that we too gain a new family, a new way of thinking and being, a new and transformed identity.

Grinch collageThe evil one loves to keep us distracted and divided. (noise, noise, noise, noise!)

Today again I am choosing the way of Jesus, the way of love. I invite you to do the same.

  • Recommit to loving those who agree with me and those disagree with me. Will you do the same?
  • Recommit to praying for those who choose persecution and harm over love. Will you do the same?

Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of your truth and grace. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may love as radically as you do, especially when all I want to do is grieve, or run, or demonize, or lash out.

Psalm 37:1, 5
Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers. Commit your way to the Holy One; trust in God, and God will act.

Quote: Steve Garnaas Holmes
Beware the temptation to outdo an evil one, to beat the wicked at their own game. The saint does not resist the devil by becoming a more devout devil. Your compass is set to a different star. Don’t let them turn you. Set your heart on compassion, even when facing a wrongdoer: it will make whatever game they are playing a different game. Let the Crucified One play your [role]; it will change the meaning of the [game]. You needn’t pump up the power of God. Trust love to do what you cannot.

The beautiful thing about How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is about how the Who’s welcome him to their table. In the United Methodist Church, we have an open table- You do not need to Methodist, a member of this church, you do not need to be a certain age. Nothing can keep you from this table.

It is Christ our Lord who welcomes us to this table and welcomes all.

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording: Recognizing a Heart of War (James 3.13-18)

Sermon Series pursuing peace 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Pursuing Peace
Message 2 of 4: Recognizing a Heart of War
Scripture: James 3:13-18
These are the notes from a message offered 9/23/18, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting this series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they empower and inspire you to be a peacemaker.

Psalm 34:14        Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

Way of Being Diagram from The Anatomy of Peace

We can see behaviors- our words and actions. But these are the tip of the iceberg. Behaviors are born deep within us coming from a heart of peace or a heart of war.

As we read the scripture, look for the heart of peace and the heart of war.

James 3:13-18 The Voice
13 Who in your community is understanding and wise? Let his example, which is marked by wisdom and gentleness, blaze a trail for others. 14 If your heart is one that bleeds dark streams of jealousy and selfishness, do not be so proud that you ignore your depraved state. 15 The wisdom of this world should never be mistaken for heavenly wisdom; it originates below in the earthly realms, with the demons. 16 Any place where you find jealousy and selfish ambition, you will discover chaos and evil thriving under its rule. 17 Heavenly wisdom centers on purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, and other good fruits untainted by hypocrisy. 18 The seed that flowers into righteousness will always be planted in peace by those who embrace peace.

Pastor Lisa picks up a hand mirror and tells the story of growing up watching a children’s program called Romper Room. The teacher often used a mirror to say goodbye to the children and to encourage them to be “do bee’s,” those who do good.

Every time you see your reflection remember you are made in the image of God.

  1. God’s intention for you is wholeness. Salvation means wholeness. Wholeness looks like
    • Vs 13. wisdom and gentleness
    • Vs 17. wisdom, purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, good fruits
  1. God’s intention for you is clarity- for you to clearly see your talents, your beauty, your value, your purpose, how beloved you are to God

Max Lucado quote                                                                         
If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning… Face it, friend. He is crazy about you!

God came in Jesus to reveal all these things about you and to prove God’s love. Jesus lived, healed, taught, imprisoned, tortured, crucified, died rose again so we could know that we know that we know this. So we could become this. When we know this and live out of this we have a heart of peace.

But the mirror is broken. Shattered by sin- our own choices, choices of others, circumstances of life, the brokenness of our world.

All we have is a shard. It’s hard to see with just this little bit of mirror. We forget who we look like, that we look like God. This is why we need Jesus.

Forgetting colors how we see situations and how we see others. It’s like looking through at the world through tinted lenses, or with blinders on like a horse. Or like we have an eye disease- only seeing the periphery or only seeing the middle.

anatomy of peace boxesThis limited view boxes us into how we respond to situations and people.

  1. Better-than box
    • I see the world as competitive, troubled
    • I’m better than most folks because I know what’s right and I do what’s right. The world needs me to be the example and to fix it.
    • I get impatient with all these incompetent fools who screw everything up
  1. Worse-than box
    • I see the world as hard, against me, ignoring me
    • I’m not as good as others. I’m broken, helpless.
    • If I’m truthful, I’m jealous and bitter towards those people with all the advantages
  1. I Deserve box
    • I see the world as unfair, unjust. It owes me.
    • People constantly take advantage of me and don’t appreciate me
    • I resent those ungrateful people depriving me and mistreating me. I deserve better.
  1. Must be seen box
    • I see the world watching me, judging me. I always wonder what people are thinking.
    • I feel anxious, stressed because I need to get it right. I need to be well thought of.

Do you recognize yourself in any of these boxes? Does it color how you view situations and people?

My friend, there is no shame. You have just forgotten who you are. Instead of holding on to the truth of who you really are you’re holding on to the mirror shard. You’re holding on to the wounds and brokenness and separation and sin

What happens if you hold on to the shard. You continue to wound yourself. And you wound others.

You’re living out of a heart of war. Here’s the good news. You can change. You can live out of a heart of peace.

Luke 18:9-14 (NRSV). The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Jesus tells this parable to people who have a heart of war so they can receive a heart of peace. The first step is honesty, transparency, confessing our need and desire for a heart of peace to replace our heart of war.

If you desire a heart of peace, please join in this prayer.

Jesus, you are the Prince of Peace. You can give us a heart of peace. Jesus, we bow in wonder at the expanse of your embrace, the breadth of your inclusion,     the surprise of your grace. You seek and seek and seek, including those we write off as beyond hope, including me.

Jesus, You are the Great Physician coming to those in need of healing. You are the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world. You are the Prince of Peace granting me a heart of peace.

Forgive me, Jesus. Forgive me for forgetting who you are. For forgetting who I am in you.

Forgive and heal my wounds. Forgive and heal my brokenness, my sin.

Forgive me for judging. Forgive my hurtful words and actions. Forgive my self-righteousness.

Forgive me Jesus for limiting you. I am so desperately in need of you.

Create in me a clean heart and renew your Holy Spirit within me.

Create in me a heart of peace. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The new is coming. The new has come. Amen.

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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: 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.