Sermon- The Sunday After the Shooting (Proverbs 3.19-24)

sunday after shooting

Sermon: The Sunday after the Shooting
Scriptures: Proverbs 3:19-24, The Voice Translation
Offered 11/12/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

While we gathered last week for worship, a gunman was opening fire on the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. It’s believed to be the largest church shooting in history: 27 killed, 20 injured.

It’s devastating news. Even more devastating is the growing frequency of mass shootings in our country. A mass shooting is defined as gun violence with 4 or more persons injured or killed. According to the Mass Shooting Tracker, between October 1 (the day of the Las Vegas Concert Massacre) and last Friday (November 10, 2017- my dad’s birthday) there were 44 mass shootings across 22 different states.
604 persons injured (441 from Las Vegas, 20 Sutherland Springs TX)
131 persons died (59 from Las Vegas, 27 Sutherland Springs TX)

What can we say in the midst of all this pain, horror, death? The truth.

Many of us constant state of grieving and stress
Many of us are afraid, or at least feeling insecure

It’s one thing to experience such violence in the midst of war. (This is why we must honor and thank our veterans). It’s another when violence invades our safe places: home, school, places where we have fun, church. There’s a reason why we call where we worship a sanctuary. It’s to be a place safety, belonging, healing, hope. Now it’s been violated. Again.

When we’re afraid/insecure it’s a short step to losing perspective and another short step to despair. “I guess this is just the way things are now. Nothing I can do about it.”

The shootings just keep coming. We’re hit and hit and hit again with the pain, loss, fear. We want to protect ourselves – build up the security, only let certain people in and certain information in. It’s like building up a callus (Consider persons who work with their hands or the feet of dancers.)

I’m afraid of building up a callus on my heart. (hard-hearted, callous) I need to stay soft in God’s hands.

When we’re afraid/insecure it’s a short step to blaming and demonizing. It’s the fault of-

  • Gun manufacturers
  • Those who sell the guns/ammo
  • Those who own the guns
  • Those who enforce the laws
  • Those who make the laws
  • Lobbyists paying off the politicians
  • “Crazy people”
  • Those who are supposed to follow up on the “crazy people”

This only breeds false stereotypes and prejudice. It polarizes us into camps, “You’re either with us or you’re against us”

The Pro Guns Stereotype
Allow anyone to buy any type of gun and any type of ammunition, when and wherever they want, or they will break down your door, take away your guns, crush your freedom,
kill everyone you love, and put an end to the American way

The No Guns Stereotype
If you own a gun—any gun—you might as well be the one pulling the trigger in all of these terrible mass shootings.

God provides another way- Creation
The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation
The opposite of chaos isn’t order, safety, it’s creation
The Wisdom of God creates

Proverbs 3:19-20, The Voice 
19 It was by wisdom that the Eternal fashioned the earth
and by understanding that He designed the heavens.
20 Through His knowledge, the deep was divided into seas and sky,
and the clouds understood when to let down the morning dew.

The Wisdom of God Creates
The gift of God is God’s perspective and understanding of the situation. The gift of God is the ability to discern what is true, right, and lasting and good. The gift of God is to create something in the midst of pain and loss.

What do we do? Seek God’s wisdom to think past either/or solutions. The situation is often far more complex than that. It’s easier/safer to pick a side and demonize. It takes courage to stay at the table, be curious, ask questions, talk, pray, build consensus, work through the prejudice and complications to real, effective problem solving and action.

There’s a reason why Jesus calls us the Light of the World. There’s a reason we are described as living stones built into a spiritual house. By the grace of God we are Sanctuary- safety, belonging, healing, hope. We are the place where diverse people come together to seek God’s wisdom and out of that wisdom something creative and good is born.

By the grace of God, seeking the creative wisdom of God, it is possible to break through the polarization to something new, good. It’s possible to hold together common sense gun laws and limits while at the same time not demonizing respectful, responsible hunters, marksmen, gun owners and persons who never want to touch a gun. It possible to discuss and address the need for greater mental health access, healthy families, and the power of lobbyists.

Wisdom of God Creates. By the grace of God we will be courageous and we will be wise and we will be used of God for the light will overcome the darkness.

Proverbs 3:21-24
21 My [child], never lose sight of God’s wisdom and knowledge:
make decisions out of true wisdom, guard your good sense,
22 And they will be life to your soul
and fine jewelry around your neck.
23 Then each one of your steps will land securely on your life’s journey,
and you will not trip or fall.
24 Your mind will be clear, free from fear;
when you lie down to rest, you will be refreshed by sweet sleep.

Prayer
Merciful and Mighty God, how wondrous is your wisdom!
Your wisdom is eternal, beautiful, creative, powerful, good.
The strong foundation of life itself, all of life.
Grant us your wisdom that we may discern faithfully and be bearers of your life, goodness, and truth
Grant us your wisdom that we may walk with you all my days, clear-eyed and sure-footed and courageous
Grant us your wisdom that we may be your peace and rest in your peace, each night and forever.

We ask this for the honor and glory of your name, for the building of your kingdom, for the good of our neighbors and ourselves. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to the tech team and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. Videos of these messages are available on the church Facebook Page.

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.

sermon © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa by leaving a comment for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer for Violent Times

pulse-orlando-shooting-001Psalm 46:1 NRSV
God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble

God our Refuge, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They run to lonesome places, screaming an alarm
Calm our hearts so we can find you above the fear

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

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

Calm our hearts, so they may beat in unison with yours
So healing may flow over bodies and spirits broken by the chaos
So hope may fill families and communities devastated by prejudice and violence
So compassion and peace and unity may rise up among all people

God our Strength, our Refuge, our Help
We entrust our lives to you. Amen.

**********

Prayer for Violent Times © 2013 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.

Saint Patrick and Psalms of Protection

celtic-cross-cropPsalms 59, 62, 124 are all psalms of protection. This devotion is based on Psalm 59.

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
I will sing of your might; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been a fortress for me and a refuge in the day of my distress. – Psalm 59:16

Observation
In Psalm 59, the Psalmist describes living in a dangerous place. Each evening violent gangs roam the streets like wild dogs, bloodthirsty and hungry for trouble. (vs. 6, 14, 15) These enemies are pride-filled, mocking the authority’s inability to stop them. (vs. 7) The Psalmist is confident that God will stop them. God will deliver and protect. God is a shield, a fortress, and a refuge in the day of distress.

Application
Sometimes our choices place us in dangerous situations. Our action, inaction, or words play a role in the creation of enemies. Sometimes danger finds us and we are left to wonder at the cause. We experience random hate, thieving, or violence.

God’s protection is for the entirety of our lives- not just our bodies or our property. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we seek to live a Godly and reconciling life. The Holy Spirit’s counsel saves us from the ravages of revenge, bitterness, and unforgiveness. We are empowered to take Godly action in the face of injustice and violence, to speak the truth, to heal, and to transform lives and situations. The death and resurrection of Jesus provide the ultimate shield. They may hurt us, they may even kill us, but we are safe now and always in God’s eternal refuge and home. – Lisa <><

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere when human lives are in danger, when human dignity is in danger. – Elie Weisel

It is very easy to be servants of the word without disturbing the world: a very spiritualized word, a word without any commitment to history, a word that can sound in any part of the world because it belongs to no part of the world. A word like that creates no problems, starts no conflicts. What starts conflicts and persecutions, what marks the genuine Church, is the word that, burning like the word of the prophets, proclaims and accuses: proclaims to the people God’s wonders to be believed and venerated, and accuses of sin those who oppose God’s reign, so that they may tear that sin out of their hearts, out of their societies, out of their laws – out of the structures that oppress, that imprison, that violate the rights of God and of humanity. -Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love

The Breastplate of St. Patrick
Mark Herringshaw writes: “The prayer is often called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” because it seeks God’s protection in a world of both tangible and invisible dangers. Though Patrick of Ireland lived more than 1500 years ago his prayer asking that God would cover him is just as relevant today. Who of us haven’t wrestled with the haunting fear of living in this unpredictable world? Patrick’s solution: Run to God!”

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgment Day.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous people

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

***********
This post was originally part of a Summer in the Psalms Bible reading plan. In this plan, psalms are grouped based on common themes. Click the link – Psalms Reading Plan

Please leave a comment for more information the use of this devotional in other settings.

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

**************

© 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.

Prayer- All Lives Matter

2016 summer violence collageThis prayer was offered 7/10/16 during worship at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida in response to a month of overwhelming injustice and violence. 

The vows we make at our baptism, and the vows we renew when we make public commitments to Christ, seem especially poignant given the events of this past week. I remind you of them.

I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil power of this world, and repent of my sin.

I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

I confess Jesus Christ as my Savior, put my whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as my Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.

According to the grace given to me, I will remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world.

This week will mark the 1 month anniversary of the Pulse Orlando Massacre. 49 killed, 53 injured. Most young, Latino/Latina, and most from the gay community.

Two weeks after the massacre, Tuesday June 28, a terrorist attack consisting of shootings and suicide bombings occurred at the international terminal of the Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey. More than 230 people were injured. 45 people were killed in addition to the 3 attackers. The victims were from 11 different countries.

A few days later, last Sunday July 3, at least 298 people were killed and over 246 were injured after a large car bomb explosion in the middle of a busy market in Baghdad. The blast occurred in the Karrada area, the home to many Shia Muslims and a large Christian minority. The attack was part of series of Isis attacks during the holy month of Ramadan.

Two days later, Tuesday July 5, Alton Sterling was fatally shot by police outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was a 37 year old black man. The officers were each 28 year old white men.

A day later, Wednesday July 6, Philando Castile was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop. He was a 32 year old black man. The officer is white.

A day later, Thursday July 7, two black snipers ambushed and opened fire at the end of a peaceful protest in Dallas. 7 officers and two civilians are injured. 5 white officers are dead- Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Brent Thompson.

Genesis 1:27
God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Lord Jesus, help us accept your gift of life
All lives matter
All lives matter because all are made in your image
All lives matter and should be protected and respected
for their worth and dignity are from you
All lives matter and should come home safely to their loved ones
It’s not us and them, it’s just us

Lord Jesus, help us live your gift of love
All lives matter
Yet some are targeted with prejudice and violence
because of the color of their skin
the zip code of their home
their sexuality
what they do for a living

So we speak and pray specifics
Black lives matter
Muslim lives matter
Foreign lives matter
Christian lives matter
Law enforcement lives matter
Latino/Latina lives matter
LGBTQIA lives matter
The Poor, their lives matter
The Young, their lives matter
All lives matter

Break our hearts Jesus that we may weep as you weep
Break our hearts Jesus that we may love as you love
Break our hearts Jesus and raise our voices
that we may speak and act so all may be safe
so all may have opportunity
so all may know belonging

Lord Jesus, take away our fear, our apathy, our silence
Grant us your courage
Grant us your strength
Grant us your perseverance
That we may be your sanctuary, your safe place
That we may live your justice
That we may use your power with wisdom and humility
That we may be your whole and holy people
A people of integrity
That we may speak and act and love again and again and again
Till every dividing wall of hate, fear and mistrust
comes crashing down in your Powerful Name

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace
Fill us with your hope
Fill us with your salt
Fill us with your light

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace
Teach us to pray and teach us to live your prayer
Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

*********
Prayer- All Lives Matter © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

It would be easy to modify this prayer so different parts could be led by different worship leaders.

Sermon Recording- Speak, Responding to the Pulse Orlando Massacre

orlando shakes angels

Persons from the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre protecting those mourning the Pulse victims.

Message: Speak, Responding to the Pulse Orlando Massacre
Scripture: Ezekiel 33:1-9
Offered 6/26/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers

When we don’t speak, people die.

If we are silent people die
Speak! Keep speaking- Speak up, Speak out
Keep speaking until
Hate is overcome by affection
Bullying is overcome by blessing
Discrimination is overcome by opportunity
Violence is no more
This place looks like heaven
Lisa Degrenia 

In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.
– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe. – Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Speech

A Statement from the Bishop and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church in Response to the June 12, 2016, Violent Crime of Hate against the LGBTQ Community in Orlando, Florida

2016 Florida Annual Conference Resolution– Help End Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning Individuals

Worship Resources for this Message 
Prayer for Violent Times by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Prayer: All Will Be Revealed by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
The Sentinel’s Prayer by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Blessing in a Time of Violence by Jan Richardson

Prayer offered by the Rev. Dr. Steve Harper at the Florida Annual Conference prayer vigil for all involved with the Pulse Orlando Shooting
Almighty God,
We come before you in this moment as one human family, all of us created in your image and intended to glorify you with our lives–particularly in the ways we treat each other.

We also stand in your presence as heirs of the first sin after the Fall–the sin of murder, continuing to behave like Cain in our refusals to care for the lives of others, harming and murdering them with our words, our actions, our silence, and our judgment.

We come before you confessing our sins of commission and omission–the sins of saying and doing too much or too little–the sins of silence and shunning–the sin of self -righteousness which is no righteousness at all.

Forgive us for all the ways we have failed to love one another, to care for one another, and as the shooting in our city reveals, the particular ways we have failed to love our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, LatinX family, and their allies– turning a deaf ear to their pain and acting against them in ways which create a spirit of fear and a culture of discrimination that spawns acts of violence.

We especially lament the ways we have failed to love as Christians and as United Methodists, ways we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves–creating the false impression that our silence, our skewed perspectives and our retributive actions reflect the will of God. We humbly repent and are sorry for these our misdoings. The remembrance of them is grievous unto us.

Move among us by your Holy Spirit and remove our hearts of stone, replacing them with hearts of flesh that love you and everyone with a love as inclusive as your love for the world. Remove all walls that divide and drive far from us the desire to ever build a wall again.

We pray for the souls of the departed–those killed in the Pulse nightclub, and for their families and friends who grieve their deaths. We pray for the others who have been wounded, those whose lives will from now on be marked by this tragedy. And we pray for the soul of the one who committed this crime, and for his family and friends who are shamed and saddened by what he did.

We thank you for all those in the law enforcement and medical communities who risked their lives and offered their care to save others, and for our civic and religious leaders who must now guide us to beat our swords into plough shares and study war no more.

God, dwell among us to give us comfort, but not simply a comfort which enables us to move beyond our grief, but a comfort which causes us to move beyond our sin, so that we may be instruments of your peace–daily sowing love where there has been hatred, replacing injury with pardon, instilling faith where there has been doubt–until that day when justice rolls down and mercy like an ever flowing stream. Amen

*****************
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.

Prayer for Violent Times

pulse-orlando-shooting-001Psalm 46:1 NRSV
God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble

God our Refuge, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They run to lonesome places, screaming an alarm
Calm our hearts so we can find you above the fear

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

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

Calm our hearts, so they may beat in unison with yours
So healing may flow over bodies and spirits broken by the chaos
So hope may fill families and communities devastated by prejudice and violence
So compassion and peace and unity may rise up among all people

God our Strength, our Refuge, our Help
We entrust our lives to you. Amen.

**********

Prayer for Violent Times © 2013 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.