Welcome Our New Staff Members and Interns!

It’s Fall, and you’ve probably noticed a lot of new faces working around PUMC. We would like to introduce you to our new staff members and seminary interns. Please seek them out and make them feel welcome.   Introduce yourselves, ask them about themselves, ask them how you can help them become part of the life of our church, and tell them what you love about PUMC! We have several new staff that are focused on our children and youth ministries, in particular. And two seminary interns, one working with our youth and one working with Jenny in ministry.  We are so happy that all of these talented individuals are here!

Evangeline Burgers - Director of Children’s Ministry

Evangeline Burgers

Evangeline Burgers – Director of Children’s Ministry.  Evangeline is the proud mother of Henry, dog mom of Charlie, and wife of Alex. She and her small family are recent transplants to Princeton from Pasadena, CA. Evangeline grew up in St. Louis, MO and attended graduate school in Ann Arbor, MI. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a Master’s degree in Elementary Education. Evangeline spent the last four years teaching first grade in East LA and six years before that teaching various grades K-5 in the greater Detroit area. Having grown up as a double preacher’s kid in the UMC and serving churches in a variety of capacities as an adult, Evangeline is excited to offer her spiritual gifts of servanthood and exhortation in working together with the children and families of Princeton UMC.

Julia Hanna —Accompanist for Children and Youth Choirs

Julia Hanna

Julia Hanna Accompanist for Children and Youth Choirs.  Taiwan-born pianist Julia Hanna earned her Bachelor of Music and Master’s of Music at Rutgers University studying under Paul Hoffman.   Julia’s husband, Steve, who she met in choir at Rutgers, is a Middle School Band teacher. They have two sons, Kieran and William, ages 7 and 11, Julia has toured in the US and internationally with various choirs and artists in the NYC area.  She currently serves as a staff accompanist and coach at Westminster Choir College and at the summer Co-Operative Program.  Julia is delighted to be working with our children and youth music program at PUMC.

Mikaela (Miki) Langdon—Nursery Care Lead

Mikaela Langdon

Mikaela (Miki) LangdonNursery Care Lead.  Miki grew up at PUMC, singing in the choir and attending youth group. After acquiring an MA and BA in Writing from Rowan University, she is back at her home church, serving as a nursery lead and youth volunteer.  Miki started as a volunteer in the nursery where she clearly demonstrated her love of little children.  Miki’s day job is working as a publications and education administrator at The IEEE in Piscataway, NJ.  She loves being back “home” and working with our youngest and our youth, and we’re happy she is here!

Emma-Claire Martin – Nursery Care Lead

Emma-Claire Martin

Emma-Claire Martin – Nursery Care Lead.  Emma-Claire is a first-year student at Princeton Theological Seminary where she is working toward her Master of Divinity and Master of Christian Education and Formation dual degree with a focus in youth ministry. After studying filmmaking at American University in Washington, DC, Emma-Claire was most recently a substitute high school teacher in Philadelphia. This is her second time working in a UMC nursery, and she loves working with our children.  She can’t wait to meet everyone at PUMC.

Pearl Quick – Youth Intern

Pearl Quick

Pearl Quick – Youth Intern.  Pearl is a Divinity & Youth Ministry student at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is currently getting her DUAL degree and is expected to graduate in May of 2020. She is originally from Littleton, North Carolina where she was raised on a farm.  She has since settled primarily in NYC, where is attended Sarah Lawrence College for her undergrad in Biology— specifically Disease Ecology. She spends her free time  teaching Urban Farming to middle schoolers in hopes of starting a farm dedicated to healing black & brown people back towards the land.  This is Pearl’s second year working with our youth at PUMC, and we are so glad she is back with us!

Rebekah Anderson—Ministry Intern

Rebekah Anderson

Rebekah Anderson—Ministry Intern.   Rebekah is a second year student at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she is pursuing her Master’s of Divinity. Rebekah is originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and studied Religious Studies and Psychology at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida prior to coming to Princeton last fall. Rebekah is in the process of seeking ordination in the Presbyterian Church USA and is passionate about community, social justice, and telling stories. Rebekah is absolutely thrilled to be working at PUMC this year!

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Sermon “I like Giving: Change”

On Sunday, October 20, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “I Like Giving: Change.” The Scripture for the week is Luke 19:1-10. She focused on acts of generosity while looking at the story of Zacchaeus, that wealthy tax collector who is radically changed, ready to put right the wrongs he had done, and eager to give half of his possessions to the poor.  

Pastor Jenny at Princeton UMC

Sunday Service, October 20, 2019

Generosity is very complex. It comes easily in some ways but in other forms, not at all. People’s feelings, lessons learned, money, sadness, fairness, fear, and responsibility are all involved. But being generous to the point of extravagance is a crucial attribute of God, and thus of discipleship.

Indeed generosity is a significant theme in Luke’s Gospel, especially at a time when the rich keep their riches for themselves, believing they are given to them by God. Luke is concerned about wealth and what happens to the poor. He believes in distributive justice, and consequently, he is hard on the rich and how they use their money. Closely tied to the theme of welcoming outsiders, the poor and the marginalized, are money, and generosity of spirit. We could be generous with our money but also with our thoughts, words, time, energy, and love. 

Zacchaeus’ story is straightforward but still challenging. Something is stirring in Zacchaeus’ conscience at this time of his life. A tax collector, wealthy, involved in exploitation, extortion, and taxing, who has this desire to come and see this one with the reputation of being a friend of tax collectors. Zacchaeus is so eager to catch a glimpse of Jesus despite the mumblings of the crowd, who, no doubt dislike him, that he climbs up a tree in an undignified manner. The people are shocked to see that Jesus sees him, calls him, names him, showers him with love, and then invites himself to his home.   

God sees him, loves him, and claims him as his own – and this immediately transforms Zacchaeus. He receives the generosity of God’s presence and forgiveness – and it spurred him to action. He must, therefore, fulfill his obligation of theft and right the wrongs he has done. Reminded of God’s abundant gift of grace, he is moved to extravagance – giving away half of his wealth. 

Salvation comes not only because he is repentant and changes his ways but also to heal his brokenness. Now, marginalization is a thing of the past. God has freed him. In God’s company, giving back after defrauding the poor, changes the relationship and brings joy, eagerness, humility, and reconnection. Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Lack of generosity lies with the self-righteous observers who are mumbling, judging Zacchaeus and Christ. It keeps people on margins – withholding grace, love, acceptance. They act superior as they desire to maintain their reputation. They deny that people change. But God’s grace brings healing and transformation. God’s grace transforms us into more generous people. Acting in generous ways also brings us closer to God. When God saves and heals us, we are no longer broken. 

The story is asking us what lack of generosity, or attempt to stockpile wealth is keeping us apart from God and others, stifling our joy and leaving us broken? On the other hand, what longing for Christ is stirring in us? What joyful reactions to God’s grace are we experiencing? Eagerness, welcome, hearing our name called, looked upon with love? What change comes as we respond joyfully to Christ’s love, call, and presence? Let us now return God’s extravagant grace with our extravagance in giving.

This week, I invite you to try one big generous act in your own life. Also, pay attention to what you are worried about, like fear, excuse, debate, judgment, discomfort, violation of fairness, debt, time, need a reward, or what else is happening in your life. Jesus is saying, “I see your generosity. Give just 10% of your wealth.” Ask God to stir up your heart and make your spirit willing.

The sermon is a podcast on this webpage under the category worship. Here is the link

For the complete video of the October 20 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here.

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Sermon “I like Giving: The Way God Does”

Pastor Jenny Smith Walz blesses the Puerto Rico mission team

On Sunday, October 13, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “I Like Giving: The Way God Does.” Her message focused on the free-handed contributions of the Israelites to the building of God’s tabernacle, as found in the Scripture Exodus 35:4–36:7. She reminded us of how God is stirring our hearts to give generously and creatively for the work he is calling us to do.

God gave Moses instructions to build a tabernacle, a place for worship. Moses called the people together and invited them to contribute to this worthy cause, suggesting all sorts of materials – precious metals, fibers, cloth, wood, leather. And then, he asked for an offering of skills – labor, design, spinning, weaving, artistry, craftsmanship, intelligence, knowledge, teaching, training, apprenticeship, and leadership. And everyone whose heart was stirred, and whose spirit was willing, brought their offerings to the Lord. They were generous, creative and extravagant. The donations came pouring in and far exceeded the need that Moses had to tell them to stop contributing. Whoever does that?

The Scripture is descriptive, even with eyes closed. It gives a detailed description of the tabernacle building plans, making use of the senses of colors, taste, smell, and sound. While these details are glorious, what God is doing in this community of  Israelites is even more remarkable.

Remember, the Israelites had had a difficult life – slaves in Egypt, plagues on Egypt, Moses, and the burning bush, ‘Let my people go’, their escape from Egypt, 40 years wandering in the desert, the arrival at Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments, the Covenants – yet they responded generously to God’s commandment to give. They recognized they are God’s beloved children, created in His image. Their generosity was contagious. It was the first time this community formed a shared vision and purpose, and it brought them great joy.

Numerous studies have shown that giving makes us happier, like spending on others and giving donations to organizations trying to leave the world a better place. Achieving goals related to helping others not only increases happiness, satisfaction, and well-being but also erases the feeling of anxiety, depression, pain, etc. “Giving is the most potent force on the planet and will protect you, your whole life,” says Dr. Stephen Post. Give daily, in small ways and you’ll be happier, healthier, live longer. God created us in his image, and as such, we need to give, but somehow, we tend to forget. We notice the Israelites’ excitement about giving stuff, time, skills – joyfully singing, laughing, as they contributed. Remembering earlier in their journey, when they were complaining, God was generous in his provision to them. Now they are generous to God and others.

What is your “I like giving” story? When have you discovered, like the Israelites in Exodus, that God stirred your heart, and your spirit was willing? When did you realize that your gift made a difference – in you and the recipient? What have been your missed opportunities for generosity? Remembering that God created us to share joyfully the gifts he has given us, we encourage you to rediscover the joy of giving generously. Today, we invite you to ask God to stir your heart and make your spirit willing to give.

The sermon is a podcast on this webpage under the category worship. Here is the link

For the complete video of the October 13 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here.

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Art Against Racism: Opening Our Doors

Rev, Ginny Cetuk, left, with Caroline Clarke, who delivered Not in Our Town Princeton’s lecture on “The Case for Reparations,” and Robt Seda-Schreiber of the Bayard Rustin Center of Social Justice

Art Agaist Racism - "Girl in Prayer" by Rhinold Ponder

“Girl in Prayer” by Rhinold Ponder

Princeton UMC gave strong support to the first Art Against Racism project, founded by Rhinold Ponder and aided by the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice and Not in Our Town Princeton. Princeton UMC members hosted the intercongregational breakfast on Sunday, staged the reparations talk by Not in Our Town Princeton’s spokesperson Caroline Clarke, and opened the doors to the exhibit for 11 days. A member of PUMC bought one of the paintings, “Girl in Prayer,” and donated it to the church.

The exhibit attracted nearly 300 visitors. “We are extremely grateful,” says Rhinold, “that the PUMC family embraced the project with open arms and hard work to make it a very successful event. So much positive energy and relationship building came out of PUMC’s participation.” Other works were shown at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Princeton and the Princeton YWCA. 

Rev. Ginny Cetuk worked with Rhinold to bring these events to our church. “Thank you, Pastor Ginny, for bringing this wonderful opportunity to show PUMC”s commitment to work against racism and for justice and love for all people,” says Pat Ostberg, who took charge of scheduling exhibit volunteers.

Princeton UMC joined members of First Baptist church and Mt. Pisgah AME church at a breakfast cooked by Ian Macdonald.

Special thanks go to Chef Ian Macdonald and the hosts for thebreakfast, to Abu Ibrahim and Iona Harding who helped stage the lecture and reception, and to the 22 volunteers who worked to keep the show open for 10 ½ days. They include Judy Algor, Chris Cox, Dana Dreibelbis, Anne Fikaris, Barbara Fox, Iona Harding, Karen Hoagland, Mikaela Langdon, Karen Longo-Baldwin, Jeff & Vivian Sayre, Marv Ostberg, Pat Ostberg, Lori Pantaleo, Joe & Sunny Paun, Beth Perrine, Charles Phillips, Katheryn Ranta. Hyelim Yoon, Temi Tayo, and Michele Tuck-Ponder.

“I was touched by the artists’ statements through their art, the people who came through our doors to view the exhibit, and the volunteer’s willingness to devote some of their time to the issue of racism,” says Pat. “Thanks to Debbie Blok for the many behind the scene things she did and to Susan Lidstone for the eye-catching, outdoor signs. Many of our visitors were just walking by, saw the signs and dropped in.”

“I was so proud of our church for “opening” our doors to this very important community outreach,” says Katheryn Ranta.  “I was especially touched by meeting and talking with our visitors:

  • The young man with autism whose painting of hands forming a heart over the rainbow was on display.  His proud parents and grandparents were with him.
  • A young Asian woman with her white husband talked about how the painting of an interracial couple touched on the problems she faces.
  • Three college age students spent a long time discussing some of the paintings and then took Skitch’s Testing Your Spirituality and talked with Iona and me about it.”

Pat’s favorite story: “When Marv and I were there one evening, a couple came in. After looking at the paintings and poetry, the wife told me she had always wanted to see the inside of our church, and then said, ‘You can tell there is a lot of love here.’ I agreed with her.”

 

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Sermon “Rekindle The Gift”

On World Communion Sunday, October 6, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “Rekindle The Gift.” The Scripture for the week is 2 Timothy 1: 1-14.

World Commuion DayDo you ever waver in your faith? Not sure what you believe? Are you perhaps feeling like your faith isn’t quite enough? Or maybe it’s not God you question so much as the church – or how people receive you as a Christian?

There’s the story of Tim, a young pastor struggling a lot about his faith. It seems hard. He looks foolish. He is perhaps tired of defending Paul in prison or Jesus Christ on the cross. If the resurrection is real and Christ has conquered death, why is life still so difficult? Maybe Tim’s been prosecuted himself. Or he is probably exhausted helping others navigate as well. In whatever way, it takes guidance, courage, perseverance, and patience to grow strong in faith.

In the Scripture, Paul knew Timothy’s sincere faith was a result of the godly influence of his mother and grandmother, who taught him the Scriptures. Here’s what he told him: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” Parents and grandparents are there to provide godly training in the home and pass their faith to the next generation. When we believe in God, we should encourage our children and grandchildren to keep believing and following Christ.

Combined Choirs World Communion Sunday

Many conversations show that a lot of people have a spiritual hunger, for they do not connect to something bigger or one another. That’s what Paul is doing here for Tim. He is rekindling the gift that is within. Remember Lois and Eunice and what they did for their family? We must pray and worship always, even in times of adversity. Prayer in faith is not something the world still understands. Jesus has destroyed death and brought life and immortality so we should not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord. But know that the joy of church and worship rekindle in us a gift, for which we must give thanks.

We don’t know all of where God is leading us, but we are and can be a witness. We need each other! Let us dismantle racism. Let the Holy Spirit give us the spirit of power, love, and self-discipline and help us remove the feeling of cowardice. We need one another’s differences, worship styles, biblical understandings, life experiences, questions. We need dreams of multiculturalism, sincere worship, and even more courageous conversations.

As we come to the worldwide Communion table, remember to be inspired. Be encouraged to connect with something bigger than ourselves. Learn to connect and have a greater love for one another as Christ himself did. “Guard the good treasures entrusted to you.”

The sermon is a podcast on this webpage under the category worship. Here is the link

For the complete video of the October 6 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here.

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Sermon “Come! Journey With Jesus: Charting Course”

On Sunday, September 29, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “Charting Course” from the sermon series “Come! Journey With Jesus.” The Scripture for the week is John 15:1-17

It is Sunday evening, several years ago at the Phoenix Dance Studios. There is a mixture of confidence and anticipation as I put on my dancing shoes and line up for a group lesson. I love dancing. Freestyle dancing music begins. I am wondering whether someone will dance with me. Will I find partners? The right partner? Be a worthy partner? What about those partners I don’t want? Will I eventually more or less lose myself in music, moves, spinning, joy, and freedom. Will I be fully present, fully embodied?

Later, as a female pastor trying to prove myself, finding my place, arguing out how to live in a world where people don’t always accept my leadership, I learned how to release control and to trust and allow others to lead. During dancing, I discovered that the right dance partner helps you become a better dancer. He tells me where to go, when to go, catches me off balance, picks up on what I know, and challenges me with new moves.

As I look back on those times of dancing, I could feel excitement, joy, challenge. I knew God was choosing me and making me a better disciple. God was shaping me to do something more. I remember a few friends or dance partners. But mostly, I remember God as my partner. Although I do less dancing now, God and I still dance. I invite you into this dance as well, although it may have little to do with actual dancing.  I also know God is inviting each of you to dance, choosing you, offering a hand to you, saying, “will you dance with me?” If you accept, you will all be taking an intentional journey in this dance with God. Discipleship is a journey through which God’s grace transforms us, charting our course, perfecting us in love.

This passage from John 15 is an invitation from Christ to abide in love. Make your home in his love. Love one another as I have loved you. A wondrous, agape, unconditional love that never runs out, and of which there is enough to go around – from God, through you. Are you interested in the good, wholeness of another, one who doesn’t possess, dominate or control? Christ calls us friends. Enter for the sake of friendship itself. The best way to develop a virtue is to become friends with those we want to emulate, not the lousy company we keep.  

Christ is calling us into this dance of deep agape love and friendship. ‘You did not choose me. I chose you.’ God is teaching us to love like we might learn dance steps. God is the leader, and we respond. The moves may be awkward, clumsy, or misunderstand, but God’s love is patient, kind, and it transforms us. In any situation, we are God’s dance partners.

Friends, God is holding out his hand to you today with this invitation. What next step is God wanting to teach you? Here are some different dance steps: Come and see; Follow; Worship more regularly; Connect more deeply; Move towards tithing; Work on Forgiveness; Scripture; Release Grudge; Speak up; Find Mentor; Eat differently, Pray; Change Work. Dance with God through challenging times.

The sermon is a podcast on this webpage under the category worship. Here is the link

For the complete video of the September 29 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here.

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Sermon “Come Journey With Jesus: Companions Along The Way”

On Sunday, September 22, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “Companions Along The Way” from the sermon series “Come! Journey With Jesus.” The Scripture for the week is 2 Kings 2:1-15

As you think about your discipleship, think of who has helped you along the way. Teachers, mentors, authors? As a Seminary graduate, pastor, lifelong churchgoer, I’ve had many teachers, been to many classes, read many books, listened to many sermons and podcasts, done many studies, and attended many retreats. What has been the most impactful to me is talking and hearing from other people who helped me along the way, and asking how it is with my soul. When called to discipleship, did I follow, or did I not follow? Do I feel accountable for those things I did?

Discipleship means intentionally following Christ. It’s a journey through which God’s grace transforms us and opens us to see ourselves as God sees us, as his beloved. We can then learn to love God, and Jesus and others. This week we remember that disciples are made, not born. There is no such thing as a solitary disciple. In discipleship, we discover more and more how crucial companions are on this journey.

Today the story of Elijah and Elisha who are Old Testament prophets makes us see what companionship along the way means. Though we are in the Old Testament, even before Christ’s coming, the pattern is parallel to that of the New Testament. It starts in 1 Kings 19. Elijah is not only a prophet but a super-prophet. God tells him to take on Elisha as his successor. Elijah found Elisha plowing the field and threw his mantle on him. Elisha knew what it meant. He was at first reluctant like the rich young ruler of last week, but he accepted the call. We also need to hear God’s invitation through inward and outward calls. How? When? Discernment, resistance, acceptance.

We know Elisha received on-the-job training and became Elijah’s disciple. The job was difficult and risky. It involved speaking God’s truth to people, especially those in power, holding them in check, warning, and correcting them. It requires remaining faithful to YAHWEH in a world where Pharaoh had all the power. 

In this remarkable journey of discipleship, Elisha made an undying commitment to a life together with Elijah, sticking with him through stability but also conflict, struggle, or disagreements. Elisha was Elijah’s disciple until Elijah was taken up into heaven. Elisha was able to see when the whirlwind and chariot of fire came and was ready to receive Elijah’s mantle, a symbol of authority and God’s power. When Elijah’s time ended, Elisha became the new prophet.

Companions help us to live more fully into who God created us to be, with our unique gifts, personalities, spirit types, etc. Leaders emerge or are called, holding faith for each other. This companionship is reminiscent of John Wesley and the Holy Club.

How is it with your soul? Do you follow God with all your heart? Will you answer God’s call? If yes, then find a companion. I invite you to travel on this journey of discipleship together.

The sermon is a podcast on this webpage under the category worship. Here is the link

For the complete video of the September 22 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here.

 

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Sermon “Come! Journey With Jesus: You Are Here”

On Sunday, September 15, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “You Are Here” from the sermon series “Come! Journey With Jesus.” The Scripture for the week is from Luke 18:18-34. 

 

When have you been invited to take a step into the future and been terrified? Most of the significant steps in life we are asked to choose, involve a degree of difficulty, risk, and confusion.

Any time we start something new, there is a unique lifetime change. This change happens on our first day at school or work, on our first date, at our first meeting. It happens when we move to a new home, or when we call our marriage counselor or when we come out of the closet. Maybe when we start a new business, or when we follow a call to ministry. They may be exciting and precisely right, but these shifts can be difficult and risky. They require some degree of letting go. 

It is where we find our friend in the Scripture today – a rich young ruler who has done well on his journey so far – a role model, with evidence of blessings because of his riches. He comes to Jesus since he is ready for the next step – until he hears what the next step is. 

Christ gives this impossible and painful new thing, confronting him right in his weakness and inviting him to step away from that which holds him captive – possessions, status, power, security, evidence of blessing. Jesus said:’ Step away from that and step into a journey with me, one where together we put our trust in God,’ Jesus tells him to: ‘turn towards God and neighbor. Stop striving and start receiving. Move from captivity to freedom. From death to life. Change!’ He became sad, yet we don’t know what he chose. Was he sad because he couldn’t do it? Was he sad because he did decide to do it? And if not, then did the invitation work on him eventually? 

Invitations from Christ usually linger. The more we let them in, the more the impossible becomes possible – not by our power but God’s power. We can expect this at any stage of the journey with Christ. For each invitation we receive to follow Christ, it’s not what we do but what God is doing and how we respond and cooperate and let God in. However, it’s not always working all the time. Each comes with a big, painful, costly, risky task. Something impossible but for the grace of God – testing, letting go, selling, saying goodbye. 

We may not be rich, powerful, or young, but we are like this ruler in other ways. He is not sure what to do or what God is asking him to do. He is, therefore, holding a mirror to us, opening us to see ourselves as God sees us so we can love others, God, and ourselves,

God wants more for us than to be happy or good people. God wants us to be fully alive, free to know that we are indeed dearly loved, free to dwell in God’s kingdom. What some heard as demanding bad news, others heard as good news. How do you hear it? Where are you on this journey? Wherever you are is okay. Christ sees and hears you. He invites you into a next stop along the way, with him, even though it may feel impossible. 

The sermon is a podcast on this webpage under the category “worship.” Here is the link

For the complete video of the September 15 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here

 

 

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Sermon “Come! Journey With Jesus: Where Are We Going?”

On Sunday, September 8, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “Where Are We Going?” from the sermon series “Come! Journey With Jesus.” The Scripture for the week is from Mark 8:34-9:1, Mark 12:28-34.

At the Great Commission, recorded in Matthew 28:19, Jesus calls on his followers to make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

We continuously refer to discipleship when talking about curriculum, tithes, work, mission, or even Christ’s disciples, but do we know about what we are discussing? Likewise, do we know what we mean when we talk about a destination? Let us hear from one another. Where does our following of Christ take us ultimately? What is our goal in our journey of discipleship? Where are we headed? Heaven, Salvation, Kingdom of God, Heart of God, Unity of God, Holiness, Cross and Resurrection, Total Sanctification, Christian Perfection? Jesus talked a lot with his followers about what his way was. He often asked, “Who am I?” He was the Messiah – the only one, and constant hope. Messiah was the right title but with the wrong understanding. 

Peter doesn’t want to hear about suffering and death. Jesus gathered huge crowds and presented them with a set of paradoxes. “Deny yourself and take up the cross; to save your life, you must lose it; lose your life to find it,” he said. Surprisingly, there were followers left after listening to him. The map of Christ is full of mystery, tension, things beyond our grasp. It is not a Da Vinci Code style, nor is it a trick or a game. It is an unfolding of truth and life, always pointing us more deeply into the unfathomable mystery of God’s love and grace. There were disciples left resonating with the deep need and longing for something Christ embodied. But they and we also try to cheapen it by avoiding cross and suffering or by thinking we have to do the work by ourselves. But more disciples mean more burden and responsibility. We despair of a destination we can never actually reach. 

In response to a Scribe who asked which commandment matters most, Jesus said, “Love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself.” This type of love is fierce, all-embracing, healing, transforming, and world-changing. A passion that starts with God, not demanded or coerced but evoked by God.  Love that costs something when we love God and neighbor fully. It embraces suffering and death – our own and that of others. The story of love is not complete until we see the cross of Christ and the power of God in the resurrection. And Christ invites us into this story, to journey with him. It is not unattainable. Christ came precisely to embody agape love for the world and to show us the possibility and priority of such a love (Paul Ramsay).

Christ presents us with this love because he first loved us. So he invites us to embrace this love and let it change us. It will free us to joyfully respond with our love of Christ and neighbor, love of self, and love for the world.  Along the way, we too will pick up our cross, lose our lives only to find that life and love await us. 

Discipleship is, therefore, a journey through which God’s grace transforms us, opening us to see ourselves as God sees us, teaching us how to love so we can love God, others, self, and creation as Christ loves. 

 

THE BENEDICTION

Invitation to Follow 

~by Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Abandon the illusion you’re a self-contained individual.

Be a part of this wounded world,

and find yourself with Christ.

Set aside your own desires, 

give yourself fully for others;

be the hands and heart of Jesus.

Renounce self-protection,

accept your brokenness,

and reach out for love.

Let go of your own plans.

Join in the healing of the world.

You will not be alone.

Follow your soul, not your ego.

Follow it right into people’s suffering.

Follow it right into the heart of God.

Pour yourself out;

let the world pour in;

then you are one with the Beloved.

The sermon is a podcast on this webpage under the category “worship.” Here is the link

Here is the link for the complete video of the September 8 service at the Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page.

 

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Listen! Tuning In To The Voice Of God: Turn Up The Volume

On Sunday, August 25, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “Turn up the Volume” from the sermon series “Listen! Tuning in to the Voice of God.” The scripture was from Ephesians 4:1-4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What would you give up to dwell fully in God’s Kingdom?

God’s kingdom is what Christ was about. Christ ushered in the Kingdom of Heaven as being here but elusive. He bore it in his every action, healing, casting out evil spirits, and helping the poor. He taught about it, often in challenging ways such as in the Sermon on the Mount and in Parables.

Jesus told us that God’s Kingdom is all around us. Sometimes we find it by accident, like a treasure. Sometimes we find it after a long search, like a pearl. Sometimes we have to sift through a lot of things to find it, like for a fish. We also heard three short parables about what people did to get there:

  • One sold everything they had to buy a field where there was a treasure  
  • One bought this extraordinary pearl so they might have it in their possession
  • Another bought fish

Jesus told us the Kingdom of God can be elusive unless we have eyes to see it and ways to know this. He explained that the kingdom is like a mustard seed or like finding a loaf of bread.

In response to the Pharisees who asked him about the kingdom of God, Jesus said that it is like this pearl and it does unexpected things. It demands an extravagant response like selling all you have and giving it to the poor. What are you then willing to give up to dwell in God’s kingdom? Give away everything that you have?

There is a hunt for the kingdom of God. Something obscures it from our vision, from our understanding. We must, therefore, listen to God’s voice. God is always inviting us to have a more perfect love for each other. When we talk about discernment – seeking God’s will, direction, and guidance – we are seeking God’s kingdom. God will lead us to abundant life for all, with wholeness and restoration in his perfect love. A banquet that isn’t complete until all of God’s children share in it peaceably. We must look daily for God’s presence, which brings consolation. Feeling distant from God only brings desolation. You will find God’s kingdom by daily looking and observing where God has been. 

God is asking you to not do all of that by yourself or on your own. We can hear God’s voice more clearly when we are with others than on our own and when we allow others to help us. So think of who can help you. Try to rally a group of people around you. Turn up the volume so you can hear from God when you are with other people. The point is that we are fiercely independent and want to do everything on our own. However, we need to share our burden with others and trust them to help us. I, therefore, invite you to give yourself over to others to let them also bear your burden.

Here is the link to the podcast of Pastor Jenny’s sermon

Here is the link for the complete video of the August 25 service, go to Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page.

 

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