Sermon Recording: Someone Who Understands (Mark 6.30-34)

Sermon Series pursuing peace 1110 x 624

This service took place in our fellowship hall due to an air conditioning problem in the sanctuary. For a recording of the entire service, including the sermon, go to our Facebook page.

Sermon Series: Pursuing Peace
Message 3 of 4: Someone Who Understands
Scripture: Mark 6:30-34
These are the notes from a message offered 9/30/18, 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.

A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell.  He painted a sign advertising the 4 pups and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt a tug on his overalls. He looked down into the eyes of a little boy.

“Mister,” he said, “I want to buy one of your puppies.” “Well,” said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat off the back of his neck, “These puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money.” The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer. “I’ve got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?”  “Sure,” said the farmer. And with that, he let out a whistle. “Here, Dolly!” he called.

Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur.  The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight. As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse.  Slowly another little ball appeared, this one noticeably smaller. Down the ramp, it slid. Then in a somewhat awkward manner, the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up…

“I want that one,” the little boy said, pointing to the runt. The farmer knelt down at the boy’s side and said, “Son, you don’t want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you as these other dogs would.”

With that, the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers.  In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe.  Looking back up at the farmer, he said, “You see sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.” With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and picked up the little pup for the child.

We long for someone who understands. How many of us here

  • Have lost a job/been out of work
  • Have started over in a new town
  • Experienced the death of a parent
  • are cancer survivors or are going through treatment
  • have experienced a miscarriage
  • have been so excited about something you wanted to shout

It’s easier for us to understand when we’ve been through a similar experience. The beautiful thing is, even if we haven’t been in someone’s situation, we can try to understand. We can look below the surface of words and actions to what’s really driving those words and actions. We can empathize. Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

Moving from a heart of war to a heart of peace first requires humility- admitting our brokenness, our wounds, the shards of sin in our heart. In humility, we admit our need for God’s help, healing, and forgiveness.

The next step is empathy. God’s healing and forgiveness give us eyes to see and hearts to understand.

  1. Eyes to see ourselves and others as bearers of common wounds that need healing, rather than as adversaries to be defeated or competitors to be outdone
  2. Eyes to see the hurt beneath others’ anger, rather than as aggressors meriting our retaliation
  3. The ability to approach those with whom we disagree as mutual explorers of the mystery of GOD
  4. The ability to consider every person as a beloved child of God with infinite worth and dignity, rather than as an object of our desire or correction or charity or a means to our ends
  5. Eyes to see “the other” through the eyes of Christ, rather than through the lenses of partisan politics, racial prejudices, socioeconomic class, gender, and national borders (Excerpted and adapted from How We See Others Matters by Bishop Kenneth L. Carder, retired.)

Mark 6:30-34 (NRSV)     
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had … how would you respond?

How Jesus responds – As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Jesus could have been upset. These people were obstacles to their much-deserved rest. Instead, he looked below the surface to see their deep need. The why behind their actions. Jesus had compassion, empathy. He saw them and engaged them from a heart of peace.

After all, isn’t Jesus the ultimate expression of God’s empathy? God, the Creator of the Universe, Almighty, high and exalted. How can we related to this? So God comes in Jesus- the One who shows us God understands our pain, temptation, and needs. The One who shows us God understands loneliness, poverty, hunger, friends, betrayal, injustice, even death itself. This is why we place our trust in Jesus.

As followers of Jesus, as Christians, literally “little Christs,” we can empathize because God empathizes.

John 8:2-11 (NRSV)
2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?” 6 They said this to test him so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

The leaders approach Jesus and the woman with a heart of war. They want to trap Jesus and she is a means to an end. Some think Jesus knelt to the ground to write the sins of the crowd so they too would see themselves as sinners and empathize with the woman. What if Jesus was writing things they had in common as a means of helping the crowd empathize?

However they arrived at empathy, look at the results. No condemnation. Peace. The chance of a new life.

My friend Pru reminded me last week that being made in the image of God is what gives us our value, but it’s also what gives us our power. The power to empathize. The power to choose the ways of Jesus- Life, Hope, Peace

Romans 12:14-16a (NRSV)           
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.16 Live in harmony with one another; …

As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re called to foster peace in the midst of evil, controversy, and conflict.

  • We are honest about our feelings and our failings
  • We break the cycle of conflict, often with an act of generosity or kindness
    • the war stops with me
  • We have the power to choose how we respond and we call on the Holy Spirit to help us choose well
  • We look below the surface behaviors to imagine what might really be going on
    • What is driving and informing these words or actions?
  • We empathize
    • “Those people who are hardest to love, need love the most”
  • We see people as people
    • not obstacles, objects, not a means to an end, or projects
    • I see you, I value you because you are made in the image of God
  • We believe changing our words and actions can change the world
    • By the grace of God, we can have a heart of peace and live out of a heart of peace

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

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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 based on What Was I Scared Of by Dr. Seuss (Ephesians 2)

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Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 3 of 6: What Was I Scared Of?

Scripture: Ephesians 2:11-19
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/3/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

what was i scared of collageReading of What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss

What’s a great way to get over something when you’re scared?
The older I get the scarier the world gets. I’m more aware of things. When you’re little you’re sheltered and that’s a good thing.

So how do you get over things? Some folks would say, “Just do it! Put on your big girl pants!” I’m not always that strong.

In order to get over things I’m scared of I need help. I need great friends to stand beside me, speak truth to me, pray for me, help me take the next step. I need to take a step back sometimes and get some perspective.

There is something about taking a step forward and facing our fears. There’s something about the practice of doing that. It’s a practice. It’s like a little kid learning how to walk. First, they’re stumbly bumbly, then they get a little better at it, and a little better at it, and then they’re zooming around the house.

Part of the practice is remembering how alike we are. This is the beautiful message of this book. The realization that these spooky green pants are actually scaredy pants. They are just as scared as the little bear.

Each one finds the other strange. The little bear doesn’t wear clothes, has no experience with pants. The pants have no experience with bears.

They realize they’re both looking for the same thing.

So when I’m scared, especially when it feels like I’m scared of someone, someone because they’re different from me, they’re probably just as scared of me. Deep down inside we have the same longings. We have the same needs.

deesis mosaic christ hagai sophia

Deesis Mosaic of Christ, Hagia Sophia in Turkey

Christ with Hand in Benediction/Blessing
God’s Gang Sign- Three fingers representing the Trinity, two representing the dual nature of Christ (fully human, fully divine), the palm open in blessing, reaching for us.

Association of this hand symbol with the core longings we all have. When we realize we all have them it breaks down the fear and it breaks down the dividing walls between us. People are no longer strange or weird, they have the same needs we do. We begin to see them as human.

  • The Palm is Belonging. How many of you are longing to belong? Do I belong here? Yes! You are wanted. You are welcome.
  • The Thumb is Unconditional Love.  Life is so different because we have thumbs.
  • The Pointer Finger is Security. For some of us its the #1 thing we’re longing for. We tend to point at things and people and say, “You’re not safe.” Instead of saying, “Come closer. Let’s talk.”
  • The Middle Finger is Understanding. Does anybody get me?

You put all these fingers up and the other two down and you get the ancient sign of blessing. This is what we need. This is what Jesus offers. Jesus offers them all to all of us.

Ephesians 2:11-19, NRSV
11 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

  • At one time you had the insiders and the outsiders- the Jews and the Gentiles, the circumcised and the uncircumcised. It was like this but now it’s different. You’re not a stranger, an alien, an outsider. You’re not far from God. Because of Jesus, everyone can be brought near.

13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

  • This was so important and so needed Jesus died for it. He bled for it.

14 For he is our peace; in his flesh, he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

  • Christ is our peace. The peace between us and God and the peace between one another.
  • So important it took body and blood, Jesus’ flesh.

15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.

  • Jesus took on the humiliation, the violence, the hostility so that there would not be hostility between us.

17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.

There are times when our church family are more of a family to us than our biological family. It must be that way in God’s house.

VIDEO: Father Gregory Boyles of Homeboy Industries in California

Worship Resources
For God’s Gifts, United Methodist Hymnal #489
O Holy God, open unto me light for my darkness,
courage for my fear, hope for my despair.

O loving God, open unto me wisdom for my confusion,
forgiveness for my sins, love for my hate.

O God of peace, open unto me peace for my turmoil,
joy for my sorrow, strength for my weakness.

O generous God, open my heart to receive all your gifts.
Amen.

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What Was I Scared Of? Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The 2016 TED Talk Experiment- Week 11

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A week with brave, wise persons who share their stories of prejudice and discrimination. In doing so, they break down the dividing walls and draw us together.

The Beauty of Human Skin in Every Color
Angélica Dass
TED2016 Vancouver BC, February 2016
“In the end, with this color and this hair I can’t belong some places.” Dass’s experiences inspired her international portrait project, Humanæ, which documents humanity’s true colors rather than the untrue white, red, black and yellow associated with race. Simple. Powerful. Game-changing.

What do you think when you look at me?
Dalia Mogahed
TED2016 Vancouver BC, February 2016
After 9/11 “I went from a citizen to a suspect.” A moving story of the power of media in promoting prejudice and the greater powers of empathy and solidarity.

What I’ve Learned from my Autistic Brothers
Faith Jegede
TED@London, April 2012
“Normality overlooks the beauty differences give us. The fact that we are different doesn’t mean one of us is wrong, it just means there’s a different kind of right. … You don’t have to be normal, you can be extraordinary. Because, autistic or not, the differences we have are a gift. Everyone’s got a gift inside of us. And in all honesty, the pursuit of normality is the ultimate sacrifice of potential. The chance for greatness, for progress, for change dies when we try to be like someone else. “

Why I love a country that once betrayed me
George Takei
TEDx Kyoto, June 2014
During his childhood in WWII, Takei and his family were imprisoned by their fellow Americans in America. His wise father and the heroics of an all Japanese-American fighting unit in WWII, gave him a rich understanding of democracy and what it really means to be an American. “They gave me a legacy and with that legacy comes a responsibility. I am dedicated to making my country an even better America.”

A powerful poem about what it feels like to be transgender
Lee Mokobe
TED Women 2015 Monterey California, May 2015
“I was the mystery of an anatomy, a question asked but not answered, tight roping between awkward boy and apologetic girl. And when I turned 12, the boy phase wasn’t deemed cute anymore…. No one ever thinks of us as human because we are more ghost than flesh…. And now oncoming traffic is embracing more transgender children than parents.”  Listen several times, letting the heartbreak and wondering wash over you.    

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I’m trying an experiment in 2016. Maybe you’d like to try it with me.

Here’s where I am
I’m tired of the spin. I’m tired of ideas, news, and entertainment really being one long sales pitch for profit or power.

I’m longing for creativity, curiosity, and inspiration. I’m in search of passionate people willing to speak to the truth and complexity of living with a heart of hope. I want to hear from authentic humans who are in the trenches working for the greater good.

I think I’ve found them in the TED community.

“TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. On TED.com, we’re building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.”

TED’s been around for 30 years. I’ve heard about them and even watched a couple of talks, but I’ve never spent any concentrated time mining the good stuff. So….

Here’s the plan
Watch 5 enthusiastic, inspiring TED Talk presenters a week for a year.
Apply and share the goodness.