Church as Family

belonging ducklings1 Peter 2:16-17a (NRSV)
As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers…

A while back a former gang member came to our church. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved with the church. After a few months, I found out the guy was no longer coming to the church. When asked why he didn’t come anymore, he gave the following explanation: “I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week— we were family.” That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body.
– Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

At our Spanish-speaking immigrant church, people don’t have the luxury to think too hard about what it costs to raise their kids. Most have children (it probably never occurred to them not to) and keep busy making ends meet. The kids in my church don’t have Baby Mozart albums, parents who attend every school function, or a neighborhood in a top school district. Yet, they seem to be doing just as well as kids who have it all. Why? Because their moms and dads love them exorbitantly, and everyone in the church parents them as well. My church, though not perfect, does better job than most of living up to the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” An older empty-nest couple, for example, used to take care of a younger couple’s two daughters. The pastor’s wife goes out of her way to pick up children for Sunday school when their parents can’t come. We treat each other like family, and we treat all the children in the church as our own. – Liuan Huska, It Takes a Church to Raise a Child

Like the strongest biological families, God’s family at its best shelters, teaches, and supports its members — because loving other people is often tough whether we’re talking about biological or spiritual kin. Communities of faith have the opportunity to offer each other and to model for those beyond their walls a place where people can learn to love and fail to love — and yet be accepted either way.
Mary Lou Redding, The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide

An essential part of wholeness is the sense of belonging. Belonging within nature. Belonging to one another. Belonging in your own skin. At first, Jesus rejects the Syrophoenician woman’s entreaty to cure her daughter, because she does not belong to his people. The woman cleverly dismantles his sense of limitation however, and now the Gospel belongs to all of us. (Mark 7:24-30)
– Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure

An extended quote from Prodigal Brothers by Steve Garnaas-Holmes (Luke 15:11-32)
The failure of our love—distancing ourselves from God and one another— is at the heart of our sin. In our self-centeredness, we break our family bond with God and with others, as if we’re not related. It is not just of our disobedience that we repent, but of our distance, our refusing to get close to God and to others, including those whom we judge.

The good news is that in the end, we are unable to break that bond. Despite our attempt to disown God and each other, God stays related to us and keeps us related to each other. The father puts a ring on the younger brother’s finger—a symbol of family. And he corrects the older brother and calls the younger one “this brother of yours.” Despite their failures, he invites them both into the party. The righteousness that we need is not obedience. It’s a loving relationship—and this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God. In repentance, we pray toward both God and neighbor, “I am not on my own. I am yours.”

Acts 2:41-47 (NRSV)
So those who welcomed [Peter’s message concerning Jesus Christ] were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

We must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body … For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.
– John Winthrop, A Model of Christian Charity

Prayer: Make us your children
Heavenly One,
Your reach extends to every person, every nation
Offering grace, forgiveness, wholeness, and hope
A saving embrace
Drawing us to you and each other

Make us your children
Grateful for a place in your family
Humble before your love and generosity
Faithful in honoring and welcoming all
Joyful in sharing what we have found in you
Amen.

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Click Here for Steve Harper’s discussion as to “why ‘churchless Christianity’ will never work, even though some of the concerns it carries are valid.”

For a post entitled Trinity, Community and Love, click here
For a post entitled One with God, One With Each Other, click here
For a post entitled Quotes: Community, click here

Prayer: Make us your children © 2012 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.

Not Us and Them, Only Us- a prayer based on Matthew 15.21-28

us them

Based on Matthew 15:21-28, Jesus and the faithful Canaanite woman

They come from the east and west
From the high places and low
They come begging, “take pity on me son of David.”
They kneel desperate, “Lord help me. Lord have mercy.”

Our first response… Send them away
They are not of us
They are a nuisance, a distraction, an obstacle
Surely his healing and mercy aren’t for them

But look at their faces
Look at their faith
Look at their compassion for their little ones
Their hopes and dreams are the same as ours
Their needs are the same as ours
Their answer is the same as ours
Jesus

Lord give us faith to cling to everything you say
Everything you promise
Everything you are

Give us faith to see how your plan unfolds for all of us
Give us faith to trust there is enough
It’s not Us and Them
It’s only Us
You saving, healing, and loving Us

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Not us and them, only us © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Anointed for Peacemaking, a prayer for unity (Psalm 133)

anointed-oil-pour-on-head

Based on Psalm 133

How good is your unity, O Lord
How rich
How abundant
How merciful

Flowing down over our heads
as blessing and balm
as wholeness and hope

Flowing down over our faces
our eyes, ears, lips
now consecrated for peace

Flowing down over our collars
our shoulders now bearing one another’s burdens
bearing crosses not weapons
Your compassion not strife

Flowing down over our hearts
a holy ordering and ordaining of our desiring

Flowing down over our souls
You alone on the throne, blessed Savior
our Deliverer and Reconciler
the One who makes all one

Flowing down over our hands
instruments of conflict no more
grabbing and hoarding more
now open in welcome
sharing
holding all things sacred.

How very good is your unity, O Lord
How great and glorious your peace
Bring to fulfillment your perfect will
Amen!

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Anointed for Peacemaking, a Prayer for Unity  © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer to the Holy Trinity

holy-trinity-2
Holy Trinity:
Creating Love
Saving Love
Sanctifying Love
You welcome me to your unity
Your community
You do not condemn
but make the way to new life, eternal life,
with you through Christ
Hallelujah!

Grant me grace to receive the fullness of your mercy and healing and transformation.
Free me from all things that block me from living your love fully,
that I may be joyful and faithful in all things,
that I may speak your words with truth and fruitfulness,
that I may live and lead wisely,
that I may be your instrument of peace and hope,
that I may love as you love.

Glory to you, forever
Honor to you, forever
Praise and blessing to you, forever
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen!

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Prayer to the Holy Trinity © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer- Merciful One, We Call

john-bunyon-prayer-quote

Merciful One,
We call on your wisdom,
your power to bring unity and clarity

We call on your light,
to reveal the path and show the way

We call on your courage
to help us do the right thing even if it’s hard

We call on your protection
from all that is evil, false, and self serving

We call on your mighty and beautiful name,
our Rock
our Joy
our Provider
our Savior
our Love
Amen

This prayer was written for a congregation as part of their prayer vigil before a big ministry decision. I pray it will be helpful to you as well. To God be the glory. – Lisa <><

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Merciful One, We Call © 2016 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.

Prayer for the 15th Anniversary of 9/11

9-11 altar table c

Worship display for 9-11 Remembrance by Kim Evans. Includes candles for various portions of the prayer, two larger candles for the twin towers, two smaller candles for the Pentegon and Pennsylvania, red flowers in memory of the blood that was shed, rocks representing the rubble left behind, and yellow ribbons of hope.

Prayer for the 15th Anniversary of 9/11
One (or several) lead the prayer while another person lights the candles.

ONE VOICE
We gather today with persons all over the world to remember and to pray. We light 15 candles, one for each year since our world changed. We gather together in faith, in hope, in God’s infinite love.

Heavenly Father, we commend to your mercy and grace all who died in the September eleventh attacks and all who have died in the past fifteen years while laboring to end terrorism.

Light candles 1-4 as each of the following is read
In New York City: 2,342 persons
In Arlington, Virginia: 184 persons
In Shanksville, Pennsylvania: 40 persons
411 New York City rescue workers

Light candles 5-10 candles as the following is read
Thousands of military personnel

Over 70 countries lost loved ones that day: family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, heroes. In the face of their loss we claim your goodness, your faithfulness, and your power to bring good out of evil.

ALL VOICES
Traditional Setting, all speaking: Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me
Contemporary Setting, all singing: We Will Run, chorus only

ONE VOICE
Compassionate One, it has been 15 years, yet the pain is fresh for so many. Comfort all who continue to mourn the loss of loved ones. Come with assurance and peace for all who remain fearful for the future. Bring wholeness and hope to every broken place-
To broken bodies, broken hearts, and broken spirits
To broken relationships, broken systems, and broken faith

Light candle 11

ALL VOICES
Traditional Setting, all speaking: Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me
Contemporary Setting, all singing: We Will Run, chorus only

ONE VOICE
Our world remains a dangerous place O God, but with you there is safety and shalom.

ALL VOICES
You are our Rock, our Shield, our Defender.

ONE VOICE
Light candle 12 as the following is read

Draw together leaders of every nation. Give them ears to hear your wisdom and the courage to respond. Inspire them to work together for peace, justice and freedom.

Light candle 13 as the following is read

Strengthen all who risk their lives to protect others. Guard and favor all who work to make your world a place of peace.

ALL VOICES
Traditional Setting, all speaking: Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me
Contemporary Setting, all singing: We Will Run, chorus only

ONE VOICE
We light the final two candles, one for our enemies and one for ourselves.

Light candles 14 and 15.

ALL VOICES
God of the Nations, it is so hard to love and pray for those who hate us. Help us to be faithful. Save us all from revenge, false teaching, and blind suspicion. Help us all recognize our contributions to conflict. Help us all understand the hurt that causes the hate. Change the hearts of all who seek their way by evil and violent means. Create in us clean hearts that beat with your unconditional compassion. Leave no one in the dark. Fill us all with your light. Make us all instruments of your peace. Amen.

ALL VOICES
Traditional Setting, all singing: Let There be Peace on Earth
(United Methodist Hymnal #431)

Contemporary Setting, all singing: We Will Run, chorus only

Conclude with passing the peace to one another

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© 2011 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia and Nicole Sallee
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 Recording- The Who, When, Where of Love (Luke 4:14-30)

no-them only us

Sermon Series: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
What’s love got to do with it? Everything! It’s the who, what, when, where, how and why of our words and actions as follower of Jesus Christ.

Cornerstone Scripture for the Series: 1 John 4:15-17
God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world.

Message: The Who, When, Where of Love
Scripture: Luke 4:14-30
Offered 7/24/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

Love = Agape
Sacrificial, Unconditional, Makes the first move
Love is a choice tied to an action
Not so much an emotion but a motivation

The folks in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth reject him because they want the miracles and blessings all to themselves, like the seagulls in Finding Nemo– Mine! Mine! Mine! But the who, when, and where of love is the movement of me to we. It’s been that way from the beginning. – Lisa Degrenia <><

There’s no us and them, there’s only us. – Lisa Degrenia <><

Click Here to view the video- the DNA Journey

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

© 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.