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.

 

Posted in General, Sermon, Worship | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Sermon “Come! Journey With Jesus: Where Are We Going?”

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.

 

Posted in General, Sermon, Worship | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Listen! Tuning In To The Voice Of God: Turn Up The Volume

Loving Music at an Early Age: PUMC’s Choirs

The beauty of Christian music comes alive when children and youth feel what the lyrics say, says Tom Shelton, PUMC’s director of children’s and youth choirs and a sacred music professor at Westminster Choir College.

Encourage families you know to bring their children to choir practice! Choristers learn good singing techniques and music theory; they participate in worship monthly, present a musical, and sing at special services throughout the year.

Open houses for parents and children will be Wednesday, September 18 at 4:30 p.m. (kindergarten and first grade) and the same day at 5:30 p.m. for second through fifth grade.

The first rehearsal for youth (grades 6-12) is Sunday, September 15, 5 p.m. Tom teaches the youngest children, ages three and four, during their Sunday School class.

There is no charge to be in a choir, and singers do not need to be church members.I want young singers to love music their whole life, not just for the time they are with me,” says Tom.

 

Posted in Children, Music | Tagged , | Comments Off on Loving Music at an Early Age: PUMC’s Choirs

Sermon “Ages And Stages: Become Like Children”

On Sunday, August 4, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “Become Like Children” from the sermon series “Ages and Stages,” and based on the scripture from Mark 10:13-16.

I invite you to go back to your childhood for just a moment. Think about those people in your life who loved you and who you loved. Who were those who let you be a kid, giving you space to be you, and value your opinions?  Who were those who weren’t interested in you or your views? Who were those who got irritated at you for just being a kid?

Today we are talking about how much we need children in our lives and how important it is for them to have adult faith when they grow up. Jesus tells us how wonderful it is to have children among us, even when his disciples tried to keep them away. In the Sanford Davies Room, we have an example in the large stained glass windows depicting mothers bringing their children to Jesus to be blessed.

Children play a different role in society. Having children means that God has blessed you  and given this particular gift. What is essential in life is that children make it to adulthood and be able to pass on the same things, both traditional and economical that were passed on to us. Not all children will make it to adulthood. Being blessed will give them a better chance to live long in this time and place.

We adults need be children to have  hope of entering the kingdom of God, “for to such [as these] belongs the kingdom of heavenIt is for this reason that we baptize children.  Many adults have forgotten what it is like to be children. Movies like “Mary Poppins,” “Polar Express,” or “Christopher Robin” seek to “inspire our nostalgia for the innocent fantasies of childhood.” It’s not just about having the good things in life. We must be able to enter the kingdom of God, to connect deeply with God and his purposes in this world and reconnect with one another. It is going to be joyful but also painful.

Children hold up a mirror in front of us, so we need to be careful how we treat them – how we pay attention to things like bullying, school violence, juvenile incarceration, child abuse, and the way we deal with immigrant children. Also, how we deal with fear, conflict, and anger. We must, therefore, be careful how we act in front of children as they tend to copy our ways, good or bad. Children are vulnerable, at-risk, dependent, in need. 

I invite each one of us to connect with five young people in our congregation and pray for them. Maybe you are being called to be a Sunday School teacher. Children can teach us too. Let them help you to see yourself as God sees you, as you need to be seen by yourself to enter into the Kingdom of God.

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

For the complete video of the August 4 service, go to Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page. 

 

Posted in Grow With Us, Sermon, Worship | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Sermon “Ages And Stages: Become Like Children”

Pastor Ginny Leads an August 24 Retreat

Times of uncertainty can be unsettling to say the least, says Pastor Ginny Cetuk. “I have had many experiences in my life that seemed overwhelming because I did not know which way to go. This was true even though my faith in God and God’s presence in my life was strong.”

“But as a church, we seek to help members and friends in all of the circumstances of life including times that bring great uncertainty. Together as the Beloved Community of Christ, we think and pray and study and worship and support each other in all times, especially in times of change and uncertainty.”

“One such time will be a retreat day set aside for us to think about the resources God
has given us when life as we know it is abruptly changed and we do not know how to
proceed. The title of the retreat is ‘Uncertainty as a Spiritual Discipline.'”

The retreat will be at Princeton UMC on Saturday, August 24, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. “In our time together that day,” says Pastor Ginny, “we will share stories, explore scripture, learn from other faith traditions about practices that are helpful in these seasons and enjoy food and fellowship.”

“Please pray for this event! Ask God to guide and bless you and me as we
ponder our responses to uncertainty and how our faith in Christ can sustain us in
these and all times. I look forward to seeing you there.”

Posted in Grow With Us, Worship | Tagged , | Comments Off on Pastor Ginny Leads an August 24 Retreat

Art Against Racism

 

Visual artists of all ages – you are invited to submit your work to “Art Against Racism: Princeton and Beyond,” a project in which PrincetonUMC will participate. Co-sponsored by the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice and Create Core Courage, this venture hopes to be a  platform to facilitate an ongoing exponential movement for social change.

The art could depict any aspect of racism, social justice, inclusion, equity, or anti-racism. It could focus on education, immigration, politics, culture, or LGBTQ concerns. The deadline is August 25 to submit photos of your work to artagainstracism@gmail.com. Consult the website of Create Core Courage for details.

It’s an exciting opportunity for PrincetonUMC. Some of the art will be on display in the Sanford Davis Room from September 20 to 30 and Princeton UMC will host a breakfast on September 22. Contact Pastor Ginny for information about hosting the exhibit or helping with the breakfast.

Posted in Community, social justice | Tagged | Comments Off on Art Against Racism

Sermon “Ages and Stages:Your Children and Your Children’s Children”

On Sunday, July 28, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached on the topic “Your Children and Children’s Children” from the sermon series “Ages and Stages.” Her sermon is based on the Scripture reading from Deuteronomy 6: 1-9.

Who helped you find faith? Who helped you to know how much God loves you by showing you how much they loved you. Who are those people that helped you to understand how to love God and others by showing you how they loved God and others? I invite you to give thanks to them now.

In Deuteronomy 6, the Scripture tells us, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” We all know this passage. Out of it come guiding principles and Christian practices that we all believe in and follow. This passage breathes with life and faith and spirit.

Jesus said the greatest commandment of all, is to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus is speaking to the community family of families. We are responsible for the children of the whole community and not just our own biological family. I urge you to keep these words in your hearts, recite them and talk about them to your children and grandchildren at home and others away from home to share this faith with them. We are also a model of hope for others around us, including our church family.

Some of you have different concerns for your children and grandchildren, particularly trouble or problems your loved ones are facing. The general desire is for our young people to have grown up in the faith. Grab onto one thing today and apply to your life or situation. Because challenges, suicides, world problems, and bullying will happen. But God is with us. He has endowed us with resilience, trust, and forgiveness. Don’t wait until your faith is where you want it to be. Start now and take the challenge to grow into the model you want to be. Good Christian practices include Loving God, loving our neighbor, showing grace, vulnerability, and forgiveness.

We are models of faith for others around us. Who are your models? It can be your parents, grandparents, and another adult from the church. These three groups are the most significant and have a lot of power for good or bad. It goes beyond just good behavior, and sometimes we forget the falls and the failures. We are therefore invited to pay attention to our spiritual development, to our practices of loving God and others. We must create a prioritized space in our lives where we are gathering, praying, and studying the Scripture with other Christians. 

Here is the link to the podcast of Pastor Jenny’s July 28 sermon.

Here is the link for the video of the July 28 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page

Posted in Sermon, Worship | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Sermon “Ages and Stages:Your Children and Your Children’s Children”

Learning about Uncertainty as a Spiritual Discipline

Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you do not know what to do? Have
you ever been puzzled as to which way to turn or how to respond to things that arise?
Have you ever felt overwhelmed, or anxious or lost because you just don’t know how
things will turn out?

If you said “yes” to any of these things, know that you are not alone, says Pastor Ginny Cetuk. She will lead a retreat at PrincetonUMC, entitled “Uncertainty as a Spiritual Discipline” on Saturday, August 24, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Part of the human experience is facing times of uncertainty,” she says. “All of us will have experiences that we didn’t expect to have; we have losses of multiple kinds in our lives that leave us uncertain about how to proceed; and all of us will have times when we even question God when the future suddenly is changed in ways we did not anticipate.”

In our time together that day, we will share stories, explore scripture, learn from other faith traditions about practices that are helpful in these seasons, and enjoy food and fellowship. Everyone is welcome.

 

Posted in Grow With Us, Ministries | Tagged , | Comments Off on Learning about Uncertainty as a Spiritual Discipline

Sermon “Ages and Stages: Growing Up in Faith”

On Sunday, July 21, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached on the topic “Growing Up in Faith” from the sermon series “Ages and Stages.” Her sermon is based on the scripture reading from 1 Corinthians 13: 8-12. 

 

When has your life been disrupted or thrown off course? When have you fallen or failed, or hit a wall, in a way that you couldn’t keep on living your life the same way that you had been doing before? Maybe it was a time when you knew that you needed to run away quickly from the trouble in which you found yourself. When have you hit rock bottom? Maybe it was a time like Moses, when you were in fear and rage came welling up. Maybe your experience was something like David’s when your whole world came crashing down around you when you felt you had overstepped the bounds. Maybe there was even adultery and getting people in your way out of the way.

Maybe it was more like Job when you suffered a severe loss of everything you held dear. Perhaps it was like that of Peter. Walking on water with Jesus, only to find yourself plunging into the bottom of the sea. Maybe you were thrown to the ground like Paul, who was on a crusade to make the world a better place. Or was it like that of the prodigal son who found himself in a pigpen?  Or the older brother doing it right all along yet finding himself staying outside the party? Some have even suffered divorce, bankruptcy, and addiction.

This idea came from a survey I sent out in May asking for your response. Over half of the respondents expressed concerns for children and grandchildren and longing for intergenerational connection, not just within one age group or another. However, failure is crucial in our life of faith and being a mature Christian. Just like child growth and development, our faith has direction and movement – a trajectory. Life is going to present us with failures all around, no matter how hard we try. I grew up thinking that we were supposed to be perfect, and we could avoid failure and squash imperfections.  It turns out we are likely to stay on the path we are already on, even if we are going nowhere. Unless, of course, we have help and encouragement.

Many philosophers from Carl Jung, to Erik Erickson, to James Fowler, to John Wesley have written about the stages that we go through as human beings seeking a more mature life. But the person I’m going to be most indebted to today is Richard Rohr who stated that the spiritual life explains how we can very quickly get lazy and stuck in our path if we don’t have other people or other experiences that are helping us to move along this path. And Rohr uses an image that is called the ‘Two Halves of Life.’ Both ‘Halves’ are essential, and we cannot skip over the second ‘Half.’  Wherever you are in your faith journey or maturity is excellent.  You should celebrate and allow room for growth. 

But what happens is that immature leaders rise and immature groups keep our systems moving in these ways. What we need is a group of people, family, church communities, other communities that help us to see ourselves for who we are and help us to see something of who we can become and for this we need people who are further along on their journey than we are. Still, we require experiences of falling and failing as well as that community of people that can help us, when that happens, to see that there is something beyond that. Someone especially who can help us move from that deep dark place?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul presents this picture of love that is extraordinary and way beyond any one’s grasp, the kind of love that only God embodies. He is holding up a mirror to us showing us what we look like and opening a window into what God is doing in us and for us, saying “You are a beloved child of God and more.” Can you draw an image of what is your trajectory of faith and life and love? Can you feel God’s love interwoven into all of it even at the very worst time of your life? Then I invite you to name wise men around you, the elders in your life who have to help you see where your life is going to go – where you are being invited by God to go. 

Posted in General, Sermon, Worship | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Sermon “Ages and Stages: Growing Up in Faith”

“Smartphone Tips and Tricks: How to Connect with Family, Friends – and God”

Our cell phone can be a discipleship tool!  

Join Robin Birkel, Chair of PUMC Communications Committee for 

“Smartphone Tips & Tricks: How to connect with family, friends – and God” 

Sunday, July 14  from 11:30 to 12: 30

Sunday, August 11  from  11:30 to 12: 30

Location:  Friendship Hall, PUMC

PUMC Members and visitors are welcome to attend this workshop. The goal is to encourage low-tech members to access available social media as well as recruit/train more experienced people for video and social media tasks.

Princeton United Methodist Church Building

 

 

 

 

 

 

➡️    Learn tips to get the most out of our smartphone

➡️    Learn how to stay connected to PUMC on facebook

➡️    Learn how to follow a blog post

➡️    Learn how to access our sermon podcasts

➡️    Understand our church’s website

➡️    Learn how to take compelling photos and videos with our smartphone

➡️    Ask our experts questions.

Learning THESE will make our life SO much easier. 

Posted in Community, General, Lifestyles, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Smartphone Tips and Tricks: How to Connect with Family, Friends – and God”