Sermon- The Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37)

Sermon Series Parables 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Parables
Message 2 of 4: The Valley of Dry Bones
Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 8/4/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. There is no recording of this message.

Ezekiel is a wild book of the Bible, full of powerful visions and dramatic choices. It’s also a book of hope. Today, we need a word of hope for so many reasons, including the mass shootings which took place in El Paso and Dayton.

Imagine yourself around age 25, living in the big city, the capital of your country. All your life you’ve known what you’re going to do- go into the family business. This blessing would bring you purpose and position, financial security and a bright future.

One day all of it crashes. A mighty foreign power invades, but they don’t destroy the city. Instead, they gut the hope out of the people by kidnaping the best and brightest of the young people. You are taken far from home, those you love, and your future.

This is what’s happened to Ezekiel. He thought he would become a priest at the temple in Jerusalem. Instead, he’s taken into exile in Babylon.

The Book of Ezekiel starts 5 years later. Ezekiel is at a refugee camp by a river in Babylon. It’s his 30th birthday, the time when he was supposed to start serving as a priest. The time his life was supposed to begin.

Ezekiel has a vision – 4 powerful creatures, each with 4 faces, traveling in formation. Underneath them are wheels. They form a divine chariot for God’s royal throne. The very presence of God rests there.

In this overwhelming moment, God calls Ezekiel to be a prophet instead of a priest. God tells Ezekiel to speak truth, to speak out against violence, injustice, and the worship of false gods, to call people back to remembrance and repentance and relationship with God.

Ezekiel begins to speak the truth to everyone- no one listens, their hearts are hard. This goes on for years. Ezekiel stays true.

Ezekiel is also called by God to proclaim another attack is coming to Jerusalem and this time everything will be destroyed. Ezekiel’s prophesy comes true- Babylon attacks again. People of God are murdered and scattered. Jerusalem is destroyed, including the temple-

  • the center of government,
  • the needed place for forgiveness and cleansing and thanksgiving and praise
  • the home of the presence of the One True Living God

Ezekiel wonders – Is God done with us? Have we blown it for good? Too much sin, apathy, worshipping false gods…

The question is fresh for us.

Is God done with my nation?

  • Growing secularization and apathy towards God.
  • The polarization based on economics, race, age, political party
  • Wars and rumors of wars
  • 44 mass shootings in the last month

Is God done with the church?

Is God done with me?

  • Often heard people say, “If I walked into a church, the roof would cave in.”
  • I don’t think I want a conversation with God because I don’t want to hear what God would say to me.

Is God done? The resounding answer of God is NO! I’m going to do something new.

It’s not because we are deserving or worthy. It’s not because we’ve said the magic words or earned it with a magic sacrifice.

It’s because this is God’s character. God’s being. God says this is who I am. I am the One who makes all things new. I am the One who creates. I am the One who saves and I do not change.

valley dry bones

The Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14) Notice how often the spirit appears in this passage!

1 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.

Dry Bones

  • Very Many Bones- it takes time to tour the valley. Reinforces the loss.
  • Very Dry Bones- the people have been dead a long time, the bones are picked clean, bleached white

Rebellion against God brings death

  • Death of Ezekiel’s dream to be a priest
  • Death of home, of life the Promised Land
  • Death of Jerusalem and Death of the Temple
  • Death of many people
  • Death of the covenant? God says, “No!” and God creates.

3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them:

  • This is how God creates, God speaks. Consider the creation story in Genesis and Jesus the Word made flesh.

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

  • God speaks and there is breath and life and holiness and goodness. God does this for us. In our dryness, our desert, our death, God speaks.

7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them, but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

  • They lived and they stood. They stand, withstand, and stand firm. They were not just flesh and bone, not the walking dead. Now they were bone and breath and life.

11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’         

  • Have you ever had that voice running through your head? I’m just dried up, no good, all is hopeless, a lost cause, no one to help me, no one who loves me, this bad choice will haunt me forever. That isn’t the voice of God.

Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber Quote: God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions, and God keeps loving us back to life over and over again.

12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”

We will know that we know that we know.

It’s not enough for us to try harder and do better. We surrender into life by the breath of God.

Our God is a God of creation, a God of life – just like Genesis 2, just like the raising of Lazarus, just like Pentecost, just like the resurrection of Jesus, God brings life to our bones. Not just bones but breath.

God cleansing. God breathing. God creating. God resurrecting.

Let us breathe and be full of hope. God is not done with us. We’ve got work to do. To help other folks find what’s found us. We are the people of hope.

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The Valley of Dry Bones © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon- The Plumb Line (Amos 7.8)

Sermon Series Parables 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Parables
Message 1 of 4: The Plumb Line
Scripture: Amos 7:8
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 7/28/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Rev. Jose Nieves

  • Pastor First UMC, Kissimmee
    • Leads school/church partnerships with several local schools
    • A faithful man of God, a powerful man of prayer
  • Two weeks ago, preacher for the High School students, while I was the preacher for the middle school students at camp
    • One morning at camp, I see him, he looks awful. I thought he was sick.
    • He was brokenhearted- Up late following the developments in Puerto Rico
    • He was born there and much of his family still lives there

I suspect you’re brokenhearted over Puerto Rico as well

  • The recent confirmation of extensive corruption among the ruling elite
    • Extortion, Fraud, Favoritism, Mishandling public funds
  • The injustice, abuse, and neglect are hard to take. It rends your heart. But at the root of what makes this possible, is how the ruling elite viewed those they were elected to serve.
    • The revelation of deep-seated disrespect, mocking, contempt of the people, people still trying to recover from hurricanes

People rose up, they joined together and used their voice to speak out against the evil, the injustice, the oppression, and the devaluing of human beings. The people rose up and became prophets. They spoke. truth to power and called for change.

A prophet is empowered by God and called by God to speak truth to power. This is hard, uncomfortable work. It takes tremendous faith and courage and discipline to speak what people don’t want to hear, but need to hear.

How many of us like to read the Old Testament prophets? Not many. It’s hard to read them, the level of truth-telling and pain.

We’ll be spending time with the Old Testament prophets for the next few weeks. The prophets feel very fresh in our day and time. We need to read the prophets regularly.

  1. I need their example of truth-telling and courage. I need the reminder as a child of the One, True, Living God, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I too have a calling to be prophetic. To use my resources, and my influence, and my resources, and my voice to speak out against evil, injustice, and oppression. It’s a part of our calling as the people of God.
  2. I need to hear their message. This is what happens to the people of God when things get twisted and crooked and we lose our way. I need the reminder so I don’t do it. And so that I don’t condone it by my silence and my apathy.

Some of you are asking, but I thought we were going to be studying parables? We are: Old Testament Parables

  • Parables are stories and metaphors with deep spiritual meaning
  • Parables are used by prophets to help people listen; to call people to justice, righteousness, and action.
  • Where do you think Jesus got the idea to use parables? From the prophets!

Amos helps us to have a heart after God’s heart, not a crooked twisted heart. 

  • Amos was a very ordinary person. A shepherd and sycamore-fig farmer.
  • Called by God to be a prophet (not his family business, not a professional corrupted prophet)
  • Lived in the southern kingdom of Judah, traveled to Bethel in the northern Kingdom of Israel to speak truth to power

That power was King Jeroboam II

  • Powerful King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel
  • Successful military leader
    • won battles
    • enlarged their territory
    • generated great wealth for some, a ruling elite
  • Misused his power as king of God’s people
    • Promoted the worship of false gods. As the worship became false, twisted and corrupted, so did their hearts.
    • Promoted corrupt, predatory business practices, an injustice especially harmful to the poor

Amos 8:4-6, The Voice. Like a bowl of ripe fruit, the time was ripe. God would overlook their injustice no longer

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor to ruin, Who asks, “When will the new moon festival be done so we can sell our grain? And when will the Sabbath end so we can sell our wheat? Then we can tamper with our scales and make the bushel measure smaller and the counterweight heavier to cheat our customers. We can buy the needy for silver and the poor and their property for the price of a pair of sandals. We can even sell the chaff we sweep up as grain.”

  • False weights and measures, selling food that was inedible, human trafficking, taking over people’s property and lives

People with voice and influence were either and active part of the corruption or fat, happy and apathetic to it. 

I read that and ask, “Lord is that me?”     

Amos begins speaking out against the injustice. Speaks truth to power so things can change.

  • How could this injustice come from people who were once denied justice and enslaved in Egypt?
  • How could this be if you are children of Abraham, chosen and privileged and covenanted to be a blessing to the nations, to care for the stranger and the poor, to proclaim the salvation of God in word and deed?
  • How could you do this to fellow human beings beloved of God, made in the very image of God?
  • How could this happen if you still worship the One True Living God who rescued you from oppression and established you in the Promised Land?

That was the problem- Their worship was full of hypocrisy, all show. We show something but it’s not the truth of our hearts and souls. It was crooked and their hearts grew crooked  

  • People faithfully attended worship- making offerings and ritual sacrifices
    • Yet became apathetic to injustice or downright embraced injustice
    • Their worship did not change their actions, affect their choices, give them eyes to see every single person as a beloved child of God worthy respect, dignity, and access to resources we all need.
    • Their worship was disconnected from how they treated people
    • Lord is that me?

Amos 5:21-24, NRSV
21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Righteousness = right relationship. Equal, compassionate treatment no matter the social differences

Justice = concrete actions to create righteousness. Right relationship in action. Love in action. God’s beauty, power, and grace in action flowing through us.

Our of our worship flows right relationship with others, ourselves, and the earth.

When we see something that isn’t right we act, we speak, we do something to make it right. The flow of worship in right relationship and justice.

Isaiah 28:17, NIV.
I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line.

plumb line

This is probably the most famous image from the prophet Amos. Someone reminded me you could use a plumb bob as a weapon. It’s heavy and pointed.

Its proper use for thousands of years is to make sure what’s being built stays true. If the ground is uneven, what you’re building can stay true if you use a plumb line. If we just eyeball it, it will be crooked.

No matter how you twist or swing a plumb line it will quickly return to true.

Amos 7:8, The Voice.
Eternal One: What do you see, Amos?
Amos: A plumb line.
Eternal One: Watch what I’m about to do! I am going to put a plumb line up against My people Israel to see what is straight and true, And I will not look the other way any longer.

What would it be like for God to hold a plumb line up next to our lives, up next to our hearts? Would they be shown to be true? Would they be shown living and flowing with grace, hope, justice, and mercy out of the very worship of God?

Or would they be shown to be twisted and crooked?

We do not have to shy away from allowing God to hold up a plumb line to us. With God, there is always the chance for change, for mercy, redemption, forgiveness. The chance to repent and turn. The chance for the healing of our hearts.

May we accept our calling to live true. To be a prophet of God. To walk alongside another. To give voice to one who has no voice.

What keeps you up at night saying, “God something should be done about this?” God is calling you to action.

Lord, help us to hear the call. To lead a life worthy of the call and the grace and hope we’ve found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The closing prayer is based on this devotion by Steve Garnaas Holmes.
A plumb line held straight
by the gravity of love,
without curve or spin of human twist,
plumb line of blessing
unbowed by curse,
unbent by fear or greed,
plumb line seeking, unerring, the center,
all creatures’ belovedness and belonging,
the wellbeing of all Creation.

Measure your acts, O human,
judge your policies, O Nation,
by this and no other.
Does it bless without cursing?
Does it serve without stealing?
Does it join and not divide?

God’s plumb line
will not slide sideways
to favor some over others,
but loves all dearly;
it will not sway to sacrifice one’s thriving
for another’s desires.

The ground is uneven but the line is set.
The corrupt tilt their heads;
the wise discern
and build accordingly.

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The Plumb Line © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Truth (John 14)

Sermon Series spirit filled 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Spirit Filled
Message 4 of 5: Pour Out Your Truth
Scripture: John 14:16-17, 25-26
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 6/30/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Saints QB Drew Brees Shares his testimony

John 14:16-17
Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

  • The Holy Spirit is the Presence of God with us right now.
  • The Spirit is with you and in you. Now and Forever!
  • God’s presence, sustaining, and blessing is all around us. You have the power to ignore and push away the Spirit. You have a choice. The Spirit will not be forced upon you.
  • The Holy Spirit is the Advocate = Helper/Counselor/Parakletos. One set from the Father. Exactly like the Father and Christ.
  • The Presence of God is a Help. The Presence is for you.

John 14:25-26
Jesus said, “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

The Spirit Teaches us and Reminds us
One of Jesus’ main missions was to teach. Jesus would refer back to the Old Testament, reminding his hearers what it really meant and really said. Jesus brought the promises of God into his time period and thus our time period. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will continue to do that.

What the Spirit teaches us and reminds us is seen in how the Spirit is revealed in the Scriptures. Think 4 B’s: Bird, Breath, Blow, Burn.

holy spirit bird breath blow burn

Bird – Click here for the sign language motion

  • We are named and claimed by God in our baptism. Our true identity is found in Christ Jesus, rooted in the eternal, not in how the world wants to label and stereotype us.
  • The Love Dove of Jesus’ Baptism- The heavens were opened to Jesus. He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. This is my Son the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:16-17)

Breath- Click here for the sign language motion for breath

  • We are made alive in Christ, awakened and empowered to love and serve
  • Holy Spirit as the sacred, life-giving breath of God
  • the gift of life in Genesis 2:7
  • God instructs Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones to prophesy to the breath (Ezekiel 37:9-14)
  • After his resurrection, Jesus breathes on the disciples, offering the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 20:19-23)

Blow- Click here for the sign language motion for wind

  • The Holy Spirit is God, and thus beyond our control. Like the coming and going of the wind, the movement of the Holy Spirit is unseen and mysterious.
  • We hesitate to surrender to the Spirit because we want to be in control. We’re afraid of change and loss. We know our normal and we want to keep it.
  • In the Beginning, a wind from God swept over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2)
  • “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
  • Pentecost- The coming of the Spirit was like the sound of the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire house (Acts 2:2)

Burn- Click here for the sign language motion for fire

  • The fire of God reminds us of passion, our mission/calling from God, and the refiner’s fire which burns away what isn’t good for us so the gold is revealed.
  • Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3)
  • The pillar of fire leading God’s people through the darkness and across the wilderness to the promised land (Exodus 13-14)
  • God consuming the offering in the battle between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18)
  • Isaiah’s lips being cleansed by a lump of burning coal from the heavenly altar
  • God companioning and rescuing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)
  • God described as a Refiner’s Fire (Malachi 3)
  • John the Baptist’s prophecy that the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3, Luke 3)
  • The tongues of fire dancing on the disciples’ heads at Pentecost (Acts 2)

When you think of Fire, what comes to mind?

  • Fire takes- burn down the house, forest fire, burn my skin- sunburn, radiation treatment. Devastation. Destruction. Consuming. Devouring. If I surrender to the Spirit, what will he take from me?
  • Fire gives- candles on Christmas Eve, campfire, warmth, light.
  • We get scared of the Spirit. Not sure if we want it.

What the Fire Gives by Jan Richardson, from her book Circle of Grace
You had thought that fire
only consumed,
only devoured,
only took for itself,
leaving merely ash
and memory
of something
you had believed,
if not permanent,
would be long enough,
enduring enough,
to be nearly
eternal.

So when you felt
the scorching on your lips,
the searing in your heart,
you could not
at first believe
that flame could be
so generous,
that when it came to you—
you, in your sackcloth
and sorrow—
it did not come
to consume,
to take still more
than everything.

What surprised you most
were not the syllables
that spilled from
your scalded,
astonished mouth—
though that was miracle
enough,
to have words
burn through
what had been numb,
to find your tongue
aflame with a language
you did not know
you knew—

no, what came
as greatest gift
was to be so heard
in the place
of your deepest
silence,
to be so seen
within the blazing,
to be met
with such completeness
by what the fire gives.

Holy Spirit, Pour out your truth
“That flame could be so generous.” I needed that reminder.

What we believe about God matters. If we believe God is angry, ready to punish, always watching, distant it will color everything. But if we believe God is generous, strong, good, and near, then the gift of the Holy Spirit is generous, good, and near.

We have our normal we know really well. It’s comforting and comfortable in a world that’s always changing. But, what God offers us is a new normal beyond circumstance. It is generous.

The first thing God always offers is to be heard and seen. Being before doing. God knows me just as I am. God sees me just as I am. God loves me just as I am. God invites me into all I can be.

I long to be known and seen and understood like this. That’s what I find in the presence of God. No need to hide. This knowing and seeing are so generous you can surrender to it. It is trustworthy and it is truth.

What do you most need today from the Spirit?
What do you most need to be reminded of?

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Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Truth © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

There’s More to Life Man at the Pool (John 5.1-9)

Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 3 of 5: Man at the Pool

Scripture: John 5:1-9
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 4/7/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Prayer from Ephesians 3
Insert someone’s name to offer a prayer of blessing for him/her.

Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen ___________. Fill ___________’s soul with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in his/her heart. May love be the rich soil where ________’s life takes root. May it be the bedrock where ___________’s life is founded, so that together with all of Your people, he/she will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God may Your fullness flood through __________’s entire being. Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.

Israel map temple bethesda

Israel Trip- The Church of Saint Anne

  • a Roman Catholic Church, located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem
    • A 45-minute walk from this location to the temple mount

DSC_0899

  • Saint Anne’s marks the traditional childhood home of Mary the mother of Jesus. It is dedicated to her parents, Anna and Joachim.
  • Crusader era church, built around 1140
    • you notice the coolness, plain stone, elegant simplicity, timelessness
    • Church has extraordinary acoustics. The notes hang in the air for at least 5 seconds. It flows. It ripples. It feels like you are being washed in the sound. We sang O Come, O Come Emmanuel; Holy Holy Holy; and Amazing Grace.

st anne jerusalem interior

Next to the church is the ruin of the pool of Bethesda, also know as Bethzatha and Bethsaida.

  • Literally means “House of Mercy”
  • This is the location mentioned in John 5, Jesus healing a man who’d been waiting there for 38 years.
  • On our trip, we read this story along with James 5 and offered each other prayers for healing. A profound worship experience, praying for healing in a place of healing.

st anne jerusalem exterior with ruin

DSC_0906

Prayers for Healing

  • I long for healing. Of all the prayers I pray, I pray for healing the most.
  • Watching over persons in need. This list is long, constantly changing and flowing.
  • Times I am overwhelmed by the need. Needs within the congregation, community, nation, and world.
  • When Jesus walks into the area around the pools of Bethesda, it is overflowing with people in great need. They have come in hope of healing.
  • We come into the presence of God, trusting God in Jesus is our Savior forever.

Where we are in the story

  • In John 2 and 3, Jesus is in Jerusalem. He preaches on the teaching steps and turns over the tables of the money changers in the temple, getting the attention of the Jewish leadership (Pharisees, Sadducees, Sanhedrin). He speaks with Nicodemus at night.
  • He heads back home to Galilee through Samaria, where he has the conversation with the woman at the well.
  • He makes it to Galilee to the city of Capernaum, his home base, where he heals some people.
  • Then it’s time for another Jewish festival so he’s back in Jerusalem.

Read John 5:1-9

He’s been waiting for 38 years

  • Two generations, a lifetime in the ancient world
  • Did family bring him and leave him? Did he come himself?
  • He’s lost everything. He has nothing.  “Sir, I have no one…”
  • He has an unknown condition – it’s the Greek word for weakness (body, soul, mind, etc.). Don’t we all have weakness?
Healing at the pool of bethesda by Carl Bloch

Healing at the Pool of Bethesda by Carl Bloch

Jesus asks, “Do you want to be well?”

He answers, “As soon as the water bubbles then I will get up off my mat. As soon as I get some help into the water my problems will be fixed.”

The pool was thought to be magical, miraculous. The water would bubble and someone would be healed.

How many of us are stuck in as soon as … As soon as ______________ happens life will be better. I’ll be happy. My problems will go away. I’ll be satisfied. All will be well.

This pool is a symbol of the strong attraction of As Soon As. We can drown in it. We can sit a lifetime beside it.

  • Children often say, “As soon as I’m big enough”
  • Teens- “As soon as I graduate from high school”
  • As soon as I get a job… I make enough money
  • As soon as I get married or get divorced
  • As soon as I have children or the children are grown
  • Retire
  • Lose 10 pounds
  • Get sober
  • Get over my grief
  • As soon as he/she apologizes or gets their act together and does right by me

As soon as is an illusion, a false promise, even a false God. We think it that this circumstantial change will be the magic bullet, the quick fix that we are longing for. It causes us to live stagnant lives.

Jesus offers us living water, a spring of life gushing up and overflowing to eternal life.

Stagnant water is not alive. Nothing can live in it. It smells. It’s where things go to die.

We stay stuck. We push the pause button on life. We put life on hold. It is self-imprisonment.

The imprisonment is so great that when Jesus asks, “Do you want to be made well?” We can’t even think about saying say, “Yes.” We just start in with the as soon as…

Bethesda/Bethzatha/Bethsaida means House of Mercy, but it is actually a house of despair, a house of lies and falsehood

  • the pool was an Asclepieion
  • a place where healing was supposed to take place by the power of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing.
  • The medical symbol with the snakes is connected to Asclepius.
  • Asclepius was called “savior” by his followers just like some call as soon as “savior”

The scene in a new context:
It is the time of a Jewish festival, so Jesus who is very Jewish, goes to Jerusalem. On the Jewish Sabbath, this Jewish Rabbi (and Messiah) goes to a local landmark dedicated to the Greek god of healing. He walks up to the person with the least chance of getting better (38 years!) and proceeds to heal the man, right there in the middle of the building

Jesus is the Savior. The Healer. Jesus brings salvation.

Salvation does not mean healed it means whole. There’s a big difference. 

You can have brokenness is your body, your family, your job, your mind, your heart, and still be whole. Paul had a thorn in the flesh that he went to heaven with and he was whole.

Jesus was broken and tortured, a victim of oppression injustice and corruption and Jesus was whole. In fact, in heaven, Jesus still has his scars as a testimony to the power of God in the midst of his brokenness. He wasn’t Savior as soon as he was resurrected. He was Savior in the midst of it.

We aren’t whole just when we go home to heaven. We are whole now because of Jesus. Salvation means wholeness.

I’m not suggesting that the circumstances of our lives are irrelevant or aren’t real or aren’t important. They are. We may be limited in some ways, but we are not limited in every way. We are more than our circumstances. Salvation means wholeness- not perfection or even healing.

Jesus is the true Savior- Not a change of circumstance, not your ability, not who you know. 

Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic (VU-Yee-Chek) an Australian man who was born with no arms and no legs, who after a deep bout with depression, decided that he didn’t want his life to be defined by his weakness or limitation, but instead he wanted his life to be defined by his worth as a child of God gifted and called to bring light and hope to others.

Nick has traveled around the world, sharing his story with millions, sometimes in stadiums filled to capacity, speaking to a range of diverse groups such as students, teachers, young people, business professionals and church congregations of all sizes. Today this dynamic young evangelist has accomplished more than most people achieve in a lifetime. He’s an author, musician, actor, husband, and father of 4. He has gone skydiving, surfing, and his hobbies include fishing, painting, and swimming.

Nick is whole and you can be, too.

When Jesus asks, “Do you want to be well?” What will you say? Will you say, “yes?”

Jesus’ invitation to us is to live into the fullness of God. Power made perfect in weakness. Infinite power. Infinite grace. Infinite mercy. Infinite love. There’s always more- more to ask for, more to discover, more to receive, more to grow into, more to become, because that more is beyond our circumstance. It is in the midst of the circumstance.

I pray you are filled with the fullness of God. I pray that you will leave behind the chains of as soon as. Freed from the shackles. That you will not be stuck waiting and trusting a false understanding, false fix, a false god to save you- the false never will. Say yes to the One True Living God.

I pray you will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. May the fullness of God flood through your entire being.

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Man at the Pool Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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What Kind of King? a reflection and prayer based on Psalm 96.10-13

crownPsalm 95:10-13
Proclaim to the nations: ‘God is king.’
The world He made firm in its place;
He will judge the peoples in fairness.

Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad,
Let the sea and all within it thunder praise,
Let the land and all it bears rejoice,
All the trees of the wood shout for joy at the presence of the Lord for He comes,
He comes to rule the earth.

With justice, He will rule the world,
He will judge the peoples with His truth.

What kind of King is God?

  • Creator/creative
  • A fair and truth-full Judge
  • Present and Coming
  • A just Ruler of all the earth

Prayer
Lord God, King of all Creation
Ruler of planets and peoples

Receive our rejoicing
For your abiding presence and redemptive return

Receive our shouts of gladness
For your justice, your fairness, your truth victorious

Strengthen and inspire
So we may persevere in proclaiming and praise

We labor and yearn for your glorious day
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
Amen

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What Kind of King? © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Growing in Resilience: The Too Proud Faces of Death, based on Isaiah 47.10-11

mourn sorrow

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

Growing in Resilience
Day 8, Read Isaiah 47
Reflection: The Too Proud Faces of Death, based on Isaiah 47:10-11

You felt secure in your wickedness; you said, “No one sees me.” Your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, “I am, and there is no one besides me.” But evil shall come upon you, which you cannot charm away; disaster shall fall upon you, which you will not be able to ward off; and ruin shall come on you suddenly, of which you know nothing.

Will wickedness always remain?
Will violence and war continue to claim their prey?
Will daily needs go unmet forever?
daily bread undiscovered
daily water contaminated
daily shelter out of reach
Will oppression and poverty and captivity shriek their horrid victory?
Will isolation entomb us?

It’s all death
The too proud faces of death
death of goodness
death of peace
death of provision
death of dignity
death of relationship

O Lord, will it always be this way?
Your answer?
No!

Oh, how we need this reminder!
This promise!
This truth!
This hope!
Oh, how we need this now!

Hear our cry, One True Living God
Wield your resurrection love
Yours is the power and strength
Yours is the victory
Reveal it now! Grant it now!
Your people coming before you and coming together and overcoming

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:54b-58 (NRSV)

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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. 

The Too Proud Faces of Death© 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Sermon Recording- Freedom in Christ (John 8.31-36)

Sermon Series jump freedom joy sunrise 1110 x 624

Message: Freedom in Christ
Scriptures: John 8:31-36
This message was offered Sunday, 7/1/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Opening Activity: Turn to your neighbors and show them what excited is by just using your face. Show them peace. Show them freedom. To show freedom we have to use our whole body and our voice. Is anyone free enough and brave enough to show us freedom?

Click Here for the sign for freedom in American Sign Language

Three Types of Freedom

1. Freedom = Freedom From

When we think about the founding of our country, we think about freedom from constraint. Freedom from: Oppression, Coercion, Tyranny, Harassment, Bullying, Prejudice, Abuse

2. Freedom = Freedom To

If we have Freedom From, that leads us to Freedom To. Freedom To: Worship, Vote, Speak, Work, Travel, Learn, Own things (including property/business), Raise a family according to my values, Rest and Relax. Freedom To is about access to opportunity- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

3. Freedom = Freedom For

Freedom for

  • living the kind of life I was made to live
  • being
  • becoming the person I was meant to be
  • my true self to come out
  • living for something bigger than just myself and what I want
  • the common good
  • living into the Kingdom of Heaven

This kind of freedom, Freedom For, is the freedom found in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only One who can provide this freedom. The Good News is that this freedom is available to all people, no matter if you have the first two freedoms or not.

The story of Pastora Yolanda in Cuba. She does not experience much of the first two freedoms, but she does experience Freedom For. The truth of Jesus has set her free.

The three United Methodist Missionaries being detained in the Phillippines have Freedom For, freedom in Christ. Nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?” – John 8:31-33, NRSV

Most of the early followers of Jesus Jewish. Jesus himself was Jewish. Jesus is the Savior of the World and the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews. Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament promises, prophesies, and covenants which were mostly about what it means to be truly free and what it means to truly live.

The Jewish believers respond, “What do you mean freedom? We’ve never been slaves to anyone.” I’m thinking, What?? Where were you in history class?

  • Slaves in Egypt under the rule of Pharaoh
    • God led them to freedom and established them in a promised land. It’s remembered every year at the Passover celebration.
  • Later invaded and conquered, Babylonian Captivity
    • Jerusalem destroyed, the best and brightest taken into exile as slaves and allowed to return to rebuild Jerusalem after 70 years
  • As their saying this to Jesus, they’re under Roman occupation and oppression
  • Maybe they meant they weren’t literally slaves bound to a master. Slavery was an everyday reality of the ancient world.

We can think the same thing, “I’m an American. I live in America. I’ve never been a slave to anyone.”

  • We are still suffering from the legacy of slavery in our country and the reality that there are modern-day slaves. Slavery has not been abolished.
  • Slavery is alive and well in Florida. We have many ports. There are kidnapping and human trafficking groups supplying slaves for labor (agricultural especially), personal and domestic care, and sexual exploitation.

Slavery still exists. It exists in the literal sense and in the sense that we experience it in things like fear.

  • Have you ever been held captive to your fear? Held captive to falsehood?
  • Have you ever been in the chains of peer pressure or prejudice or addition?
  • In the bondage of poverty, or disease including mental illness, lack of education, lack of opportunity?
  • Have you ever been treated like property rather than a human being?

Jesus is talking about slavery and Jesus is talking about freedom. It is Big Picture. Jesus speaks in layers. It is literal and it is deep and it is wide. We must be careful in saying, “I’ve never been a slave.”

Jesus said you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. If the truth will make us free, then what will enslave us?

  • Falsehood is slavery
  • Lies, Sin, Spin, Misinformation is slavery

If you have a false understanding of God, have you found freedom in God? If you have a false understanding of freedom have you found freedom?

False idea: Freedom from external constraints and freedom to do whatever I want will give me true freedom.

How many times have we been sold that? Real freedom is nobody being able to tell me what to do. “You’re not the boss of me. You’re not my mom.” (Freedom From)

How many times have we been sold the lie that true freedom is the ability to have anything I want and to do anything I want, with whoever I want, whenever I want, and there will be no consequences? Some have even labeled that success.

Is this freedom? Is this real? Is this true?

No, it’s false. It’s incomplete. It’s twisting freedom into something freedom was never meant to be. It is actually backward. Freedom in Christ (Freedom For) empowers us to help with all the other freeing that needs to happen in our world and in our lives (Freedom From and Freedom To). Freedom in Christ first.

If we think freedom is about self-interest and self-determination above all else it’s not freedom. How many times have we seen this lie blow up a life, or blow up a family, or blow up a business? We’re seeing it blow up our nation.

A false understanding of freedom isn’t freedom, it’s slavery.  Let’s see what Jesus says.

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:31-36, NRSV

 True Freedom = Freedom For, Freedom in Christ

How are we freed?

  1. Acknowledging we are slaves to sin and death and a whole bunch of other things and that we cannot save ourselves
  2. There is a Savior! We are freed by saying, “I am saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus offers salvation to me. Jesus is my liberator. Jesus is my Deliverer. Jesus is my Lord. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Even though I may not know what I’m doing, even though I’m not perfect at it, Jesus help me. Save me.” I’m in need of saving. There is a Savior. I place my trust in the Savior.
  3. Then we are more and more free as we continue in the words and ways of Jesus
    • We learn and live the truth
    • We follow Jesus in sharing this Good News so others may be freed. Freed from sin and oppression and injustice. We join Jesus in working for the common good.

This is freedom. It is offered to each and every one of us. It is offered to you. You will know the Truth and the Truth will make you free and the One to know is Jesus.

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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 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.