Sermon “The Bethlehem Trek: From Despair to Hope”

On December 9, 2018, the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Rev. Jenny Smith Walz preached a sermon titled “From Despair to Hope” from the series ‘The Bethlehem Trek’. Her text is from Malachi 3:1-4 and Luke 1:67-79.

To hear the sermon live, go to the Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page

Also, the sermon will be podcast soon on this webpage under the category “worship”.

 

 

 

 

Zechariah’s Song

Luke 1:67-79

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

   for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. 

He has raised up a mighty savior for us

   in the house of his servant David, 

as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 

   that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. 

Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,

   and has remembered his holy covenant, 

the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,

   to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,

might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness

   before him all our days. 

And you, child, will be called the prophet of The Most High;

   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 

to give knowledge of salvation to his people

   by the forgiveness of their sins. 

By the tender mercy of our God,

   the dawn from on high will break upon us, 

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

   to guide our feet into the way of peace.’

Are you sitting in darkness? Are you sitting in the shadow of death?

When does despair creep into your life? Maybe it’s a constant companion – especially if you suffer from depression. It’s there more often than not, no doubt. But most all of us have these moments where we just aren’t sure that the future will be positive, that there’s any way out of this mess, that good things can and will happen, that there is a future at all.

  • After a loss of relationship or job
  • death
  • in any sort of storm in life
  • after listening to the news
  • politically things don’t go your way

Zechariah sat in some darkness for a while himself. In Zechariah’s case – there were some reasons to be less hopeful – his own childlessness, and ongoing occupation by Rome, to name two. 

Do you remember Zechariah?  A priest, whose turn it was to offer incense in the sanctuary. Older, childless – social, spiritual implications if no children.

When Gabriel comes – angel catches him in a moment of despair. Uncertain about the future, that there would be a positive outcome in the future, at least for him and Elizabeth. Angel Gabriel – you will have a son! name him John! You will have joy and gladness! He will be filled with HS!  He will turn hearts to God, make people ready for this new thing God is doing.

“How will I know? – my wife and I are getting on in years. Yeah, I’ve heard this sort of things before – these prophecies about a savior. I’m afraid Can I trust? Hope? for Elizabeth and I? for my people? Struck mute.

The next time we hear from him is here. John has been born, and upon his birth, when others want to name him Zechariah after him, he writes, affirming his wife Elizabeth’s pronouncement, that his name was to be John. At that moment, he is able to speak again. And this song is his response. And it’s vastly different than when Gabriel meets him in his darkness. I wonder what happened to him in his silence. There are several things I think he did in that time.

Acted – he and Elizabeth acted as if the angel’s predictions were true. It’s an act of courage and strength to do hope-filled things. Jeremiah – bought a field as the nation was falling to the Babylonians.

Remembered – the ways God has acted and continues to act. God is trustworthy. God keeps God’s promises. This is part of why we worship, we read scripture, we study and pray with one another – to remember. God is the beginning and the end, the alpha, and omega. Christ was born, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Abraham, Noah, Moses, prophets, God will do a new thing, God is doing a new thing.

Patience found – Patience is the assurance that it is worth it, it is worth the frustration, worth the setbacks. “We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” verse: “the struggle is long, but the hope is longer.” Suffragettes – took 70 years to secure the vote for women: song: “we shall not, we shall not be moved, just like a tree that’s planted by the water, we shall not be moved.” Wild patience. Anne Lamott – hope begins in the dark. It depends, not on sight, glimpses, and glimmers, but on waiting, watching, and working.

Community engaged –  when we cannot, others will hope on our behalf (like belief, prayer.) We have each other, we are accompanied by these saints, and we carry candles to light at least a little of the way. We are the church.

Envisioned – in what ways are your Christian hopes too limited? If our life together as the people of PUMC was made into a wonderful movie with a happy ending, tell me what that last part of the movie would look like?  Our world history?  Or your life?

Zechariah was transformed in the silence. He was refined and purified in these months. He became hopeful, joyful!

Anne Lamott – Hope begins in the dark, it is not dependent on sight, glimpses, and glimmers, but on waiting, watching, and working. 

 

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Sermon “The Bethlehem Trek: From Fear to Love”

On December 2nd, 2018, the 1st Sunday of Advent, Rev. Jenny Smith Walz preached a sermon titled “From Fear to Love” from the series ‘The Bethlehem Trek’. Her text is from Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 and Luke 21:25-36

To hear the sermon live, go to the Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page

Also, the sermon will be podcast soon on this webpage under the category “worship”.

 

 

 

 

Have you ever wanted a reset button? To reinvent the world or some part of it? To go back and correct a mistake or to choose a different path?

Advent is for YOU! 

● New Year in our Christian calendar

● church gives time before Christmas to get ready, make room in our hearts.

● already and not yet

● History, mystery, majesty

● remember first coming, look ahead to the second

● with longing and need and lament and hope

● tension between the nostalgia of our beloved Christmas memories and all of the magic, warmth, and beauty of the season, and our real need to cry out in need because our world is broken and we are too, and there is a gap between the kin-dom (what we long for and the promise we seek) and now.

We are vision-challenged 

● we are often complacent and despondent at worst, afraid to dream of what might be. We tell ourselves, “it’s ok. We’ll make do.”

● At best we often dream in muted tones, smaller ways, afraid to ask for what we really need, what our souls most long for.  Advent is our opportunity to dream and vision, to see the gap, to hear our longing.

All three passages are dreaming of and longing for the Kin-dom

Jeremiah – in the midst of exile and dismantling of his nation. Weeping for his people. Everything has been cut off. There’s just this one thread of hope, of promise. David – highly flawed – still the best he could remember. For Jeremiah, the most hopeful, promising thing was to envision a shot from the family tree of David / Jesse

Luke – a transformative chain of events was launched at the announcement of the coming of the infant, God-incarnate, the strangeness and peculiarity of which can be proclaimed only with the help of this frightening apocalyptic imagery. 

Thessalonians – oldest book in NT. Paul’s 1st church plant. Can you imagine? No common practice or theology. Maybe not common morality even. Dared to envision a new, beloved, Christ-community. Audacious, daring, Hard, courageous work.

People of God, followers of Christ – we do things differently. In the face of fear and turmoil:

● we move toward it, calm and anchored

● we pray – root in God, which opens us to be able to 

● love one another, which results in

● joy

There is so much that could be said about loving the world, but I have a specific, immediate challenge and vision for us: 

Do we, here at PUMC deeply love one another?

● Not a corrective – openness, desire, affection, deep seeds of love. Already on the path. In the already, but not yet. Love Live On group. The Philippians group. Members Caring for Members project.

● Move from supportive and enjoyable to co-operative and deeply loving.

● Do we care for one another with the same passion with which God loves us?

● As we serve the community, outreach – do we love them as God loves us?

● Fear stands in our way

○ vulnerability

○ conflict

○ disagreement

○ beyond niceness

○ honesty

○ hard conversations

○ their concerns become ours

○ show up

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Sermon “God’s Home: Freedom Lives Here”

On Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday, November 25, 2018, Rev. Jenny Smith Walz preached a sermon titled “Freedom Lives Here” from the series ‘God’s Home’. Her text from Psalm 132:1-12 and John 18:33-37. 

To hear the sermon live, go to the Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page

Also the sermon will be podcast soon on this webpage under the category “worship”.

Sermon sentence: 

In a world of competing Kingdoms, it’s only in the Kin-dom of God that we truly find freedom from fear, insecurity, violence, stress, addiction, -isms, and more.

A number of years ago – in Washington, D.C., at some building on Capitol Hill, with a bunch of other young UM pastors. One of our Senators had agreed to come talk with us. Program of the General Board of Church and Society. Anti-gambling bill. But few of us wanted to talk about gambling. We wanted to talk about immigration, for this senator was one from AZ and had been doing a lot around immigration enforcement in ways that challenged many of us and our understanding of how God works in the world and what God’s people are called to do. So people started asking him questions. At one point he said to us “you’ll need to take off your clergy hats and put on your US citizen hats.” As if that were possible. You could feel the shifting in the room, the anger rising, At that moment it was clearer than it had ever been: I was in the middle of clashing kingdoms. And it wasn’t just in that moment that this was true, but that moment exposed this reality in my life in a stark and powerful way. 

Perhaps you’ve experienced this too, when some situation has asked you to decide which hat you are putting on – your Christian hat or some other hat. Maybe it was a choice between your 

  • Christian / work hats.
  • Christian/ socially acceptable hats
  • Christian/ family hats
  • Christian/ economist / political / business hats
  • Christian / don’t make it hard and complicated hat

Problem 1: perhaps you’ve felt it, our Christian hats aren’t meant to be slipped on and off so easily. We are asked to clothe ourselves with Christ, to put on the whole armor of Christ. Not just wear a hat.

Problem 2: you’ve no doubt felt – our Christian hats (practices, world views, relationships, ways of being, understandings) sometimes clash quite loudly with the other hats we are asked to wear in our world. 

Our experiences of these clashing kingdoms are but echoes of this episode between Jesus and Pilate. Very end of Jesus life. After last supper, Garden of Gethsemane, and his arrest. He’s already been through a couple of pseudo trials, and now he’s with Pilate – the Roman official in Jerusalem whose main job is to keep everything calm, to make sure there are no revolts or revolutions. The religious officials have brought Jesus to Pilate as the last step toward crucifixion. 

Picture the scene – the Patio where the religious official are and the headquarters where Jesus is. In the fuller passage, Pilate goes back and forth 7 times. He is also in the middle of clashing kingdoms. Not just two, but three, and he’s at the top level of one of them. He knows what’s right, that Jesus doesn’t deserve death. But he also knows what’s easy and expedient. He may not have known completely what truth is, but he knew enough to know that the kingdoms were clashing. Not unlike the senator I mentioned before. He couldn’t have asked us to take off our clergy hats if he didn’t know there was dissonance between the kingdom we were operating from and the one he was operating from.

Pilate chose easy, and we can understand. It’s not easy to choose right because:

  • clearly defined rules, regulations, expectations and knowns are easier than ambiguity and unknowns.
  • It’s simpler, less challenging, less risky
  • basic self-preservation
  • When you stand up to privilege, to systems that rely on sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, classism, ableism, institutions that survive and thrive on fear, we will get shut up, silenced, discredited, disregarded. We might well end up like Christ.
  • it’s hard enough just to get by.

Yet in God’s Kin-dom Freedom lives here.

● Jesus in this moment with Pilate is completely free. And his freedom was contagious. He was constantly setting people free – from fear, from isolation, from oppression, from physical ailments, from demons, from sin.

Paul was more free in prison than he ever was in his role as persecutor and power wielder

● Me with the senator – after that session with the large group of clergy, I had a small group audience with him because he happened to be one of my state senators. I had been struggling with what to ask him. On one hand I was terrified – what would I say? This was the most powerful person I’d ever sat and talked with. I wanted to make a good impression. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to be significant. At the same time, my realization about the clashing kingdoms helped me. It emboldened me, and freed me to be in Christ’s kin-dom and ask questions from that realm, including telling him I can’t take my clergy hat off as he’d asked me to do.

● Disciples – freed from fear, free for leadership, for celebration, for sharing the good news of Jesus.

From what do you need to be freed? What is holding you captive?

  • believing we aren’t enough
  • fear
  • compulsion
  • frenzy
  • stress
  • insecurity
  • empire
  • consumerism
  • acquiescence
  • individualism
  • injustice
  • oppression
  • the abuses of privilege and power
  • sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, classism, ableism
  • Advertisements
  • addiction
  • stigma
  • past
  • shame
  • bitterness
  • sin
  • death

What do you need to be freed for?

  • peace
  • joy
  • contentment
  • belonging
  • connection
  • enough-ness
  • meaning
  • worth
  • love
  • celebration
  • gratitude
  • to confront
  • speak truth

In a bit will we sing “I love Thy Kingdom Lord“, say “Thy Kingdom Come” in the Lord’s Prayer, speak words about God’s Kingdom in our creed. As we say this, may we pray that the kin-dom will also come to us, that we may participate in it, be part of it. God’s Kin-dom is coming, with or without us, but may we be part of it, may we long for it, and know the love, sacrifice, strength, and freedom that can only come in the Kin-dom!

Amen. 

 

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Thanksgiving Reflection 2018: Princeton Community Thanksgiving Service

Rev. Jenny Smith Walz gave her Thanksgiving Reflection for 2018 at the Princeton Community Thanksgiving Service held on November 22, 2018. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We know that practicing gratitude is beneficial to our health and well-being. Well documented:

● Better physical health

● Better mental health

● Less anger, more empathy

● Better sleep

● Better self-esteem

● Better emotional and mental resilience (deal with stress and recover from trauma)

● Better and more relationships

I believe there’s far more to gratitude than even this. Something beyond benefits to our own individual minds, hearts, and bodies. Something that moves us corporately, communally, into a different realm, a different way of being and of being together. Something that is even world changing. 

I think of images of gratitude from my tradition. They are full of song and dance. Running and joy. Eating and sharing. Freedom and transformation. 

● I see Miriam and all of the Hebrew women dancing and singing with timbrels on the other side of sea after leaving Egypt and Pharaoh and slavery behind.

● I hear the song of Moses after the sea closes behind him, both horse and driver having been hurled into the sea, in awe over this exodus God has accomplished.

● I see the unnamed Samaritan woman at the well leaving her water jar behind, running to the others in her village telling them how she has met one who has seen and knows her and LOVES her with compassion and hope and healing she’s never before known.

● I see Peter jumping out of a boat on the sea of Galilee after the risen Christ has appeared to him and the other disciples. After a miserable night of fishing, catching nothing, the risen Christ provides an abundant catch and then invites them to eat with him on the shore. Peter doesn’t wait for the boat to reach shore, he jumps off and swims, eager to greet his teacher.

● I see the early Christian community sharing all they have, eating together, caring for one another because God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them, adjusting their whole structure and practice to care for the widows when it came to be known they weren’t getting enough to eat. 

See, when gratitude is at work it changes not just our minds and hearts and bodies. It changes our whole society, our whole communal life together. When we practice gratitude, we are also living in the freedom and joy and abundant life of God’s realm. 

 

There are things that compete, however, for that same place in our hearts where gratitude dwells. One of the key competitors for the attention of our hearts is something none of us are immune to: consumerism. If your mailbox and inbox are anything like mine, those retailers we have relationships with have been gearing us up for the holiday shopping season for several weeks now. Today, I opened a Thanksgiving message from a Christian mom-blogger, and inside, to my dismay, were tips on saving even more money on Black Friday and throughout the season, and in a way that actually earned her MORE money. 

Friends we are so immersed in consumer culture, we hardly even know how deep in it we are. We have financial stake in it ourselves as our companies work to end the year as far ahead as possible, as we hope for the big bonuses. We have been shaped such that wish lists for Christmas are normal. And our wants are fed like starving dogs. And the messages all around tell us that we are lacking, our children need more, our households are incomplete, and our lives would be better, easier, free-er, more comfortable, more satiated if only we bought, had, acquired more, more, more. We are sure that we are not enough, and buying more will help solve this spiritual trouble. And not only this, but we are serving our country by spending, by growing the economy. 

But this, friends, runs counter to the heart of each of our faiths, each of our deeper spiritual wisdom and knowledge. God did not make us consumers. God made us receivers and givers. God made us dependent on God and one another, despite all of our behavior to the contrary. 

It’s gratitude, however, that deep gratitude that causes us to dance and sing. That causes us to run and jump out of boats. That causes us to eat and share and be generous and compassionate with one another. This kind of gratitude, it is powerful stuff. When practiced whole-heartedly, consistently, persistently, this kind of gratitude shatters the whole illusion that our consumer culture holds before our eyes and our appetites. And behind it reveals true freedom and joy – freedom from fear, from scarcity, from captivity, from envy, and greed, from avarice and illusion.

May we each discover this kind of gratitude today and the source of it as well. 

Morris West encourages us as well. He says, “At a certain age our lives simplify and we need have only three phrases left in our spiritual vocabulary: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

May we sing songs of doxology and praise. May we dance with joy and abundance. May we run toward the source of life and the giver of every good gift. May we share generously with one another and in doing so proclaim “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” to the God who gives us all we ever needed.

May it be so today and in all the days to come. 

Amen. 

 

 

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Continuing Conversation on Race: December 3

Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege is at Princeton Public Library is on First Mondays at 7 p.m.

Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege is at Princeton Public Library is on First Mondays at 7 p.m.

NIOT Princeton welcomes anyone who is committed to working towards building genuinely inclusive communities and working for racial justice. For more information, or to ask about volunteering, go to NIOTPrinceton.org or see Barbara Fox.

The next Continuing Conversation on Race and White Privilege will be Monday, December 3, at 7 p.m., and Rev. Dr. Charles Frederick Boyer will speak on “Liberating Public Policy Theologically.” 

What is liberation theology, and how does it connect with racial justice?
How can legislation and public policy be examined through a prophetic racial justice lens?  
What role should liberation theology play in birthing faith-rooted advocacy and activism?

Rev. Boyer has said, “As an African-American minister of the gospel, I am compelled to fight and encourage the struggle for freedom and justice. Mass incarceration, private prisons, and prison industrial complex slave labor which is legalized in our constitution, must be challenged at every level.”

NOT IN OUR TOWN PRINCETON is a multi-racial, multi-faith group of individuals who stand together for racial justice and inclusive communities. Our focus is to promote the equitable treatment of all, and to uncover and confront white supremacy — a system which manipulates and pits all races and ethnicities against each other.

Our goal is to identify and expose the political, economic, and cultural systems which have enabled white supremacy to flourish, and to create new structures and policies which will ensure equity and inclusion for all. In our commitment to uncovering the blight of white supremacy on our humanity, we take responsibility to address it and eliminate it in all its forms through intentional action, starting with ourselves and our communities.

 

 

 

 

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Sermon: “God’s Home: Sacrifice Lives Here”

On November 11, 2018, the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, Pastor Jenny Smith Walz preached a sermon titled  “Sacrifice Lives Here” from the series ‘God’s Home’. Her text is from Mark 12: 38-44 and Hebrews 9:24-28.

To hear the sermon live, go to the Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page

Also the sermon will be podcast soon on this webpage under the category “worship”.

 

 

 

As we look around today – here and elsewhere – what draws our attention? Who draws our attention?

Jesus and disciples sitting in the Temple observing. It’s easy to see the Scribes of the Temple doing their ritual thing. It’s easy to see the grandeur of the temple itself, its large stones. It’s not so easy to see the widow who is giving her two tiny lepta coins – it’s easy to overlook her, but it’s also hard to really see her because she exposes something in us we don’t particularly like to see. (but we’ll get to that in a moment).  What or who draws your attention – this morning while in worship, but also as you go about your day?

 

 

Taking a tour of God’s Home – Yes, God is everywhere. Particularly focusing on the Kingdom of God /Kin-dom. Peace, sharing, balance, let God be our God, love lives here. So does sacrifice.

Sacrifice – really risky to talk about because in today’s world sacrifice often means something very different from an act of devotion or worship, which it’s Latin roots would indicate it means. Comes from:  “sacred” and “to make” – sacrifice is something of value offered as an act of devotion or worship to God. 

In the US often it means: 

  • ● giving up more than should be given up;
  • ● asking those in the working class and those who are poor to bear the weight of tax cuts that benefit those who are wealthier; 
  • ● it often means expecting people to stay in exploitative situations in the name of
    • ○ virtue or
    • ○ some diminished concept of love
    • ○ the American Dream
    • ○ in order to just get by
  • ● It often carries an expectation of loss of self, sometimes in the hope of gaining power or reward or favor as a result;
  • ● Our non-sacred version of sacrifice often means holding up women like the widow in our story as a beautiful example without looking a little more closely.

She is where a lot of women in our world end up (Karoline Lewis reminds us) – sandwiched between violence and power. She is overlooked. Partly because she is exactly where she’s expected to be and where people in power like to keep her, lest they end up like her. It’s easy for us to look around this story and observe the widow and identify with her, even though few, if any, of us will actually do what she is doing. She is giving everything she has away. Everything. She’s completely trusting God and the system in which she lives.  Rather we are much more likely to overlook the widows of our day as the Scribes are so good at doing. We don’t want to be powerless like her. And we are afraid that to actually help her might demand the kind of sacrifice she demonstrates. 

It’s tricky because Sacrifice does indeed live here in God’s Kin-dom. Yet, it’s so easy for that sacrifice to fall off the thin edge into exploitation at the hands of us who are terrified to sacrifice in the ways God actually asks, terrified to sacrifice our own power or position or privilege or security or wealth. Not unlike the particular Scribes Jesus is observing that day. No one was going to overlook them! These were men who had PhDs in the law of Moses, the Torah. They were credentialed specialists. They were the insiders at the temple, among the Jerusalem elite. And their power is given largely by Rome at this stage in history. They were not easily overlooked because the system was designed to entice our attention toward them. 

We, like the Scribes Jesus is observing, love our power and our symbols of it – long robes, long prayers, public adoration, best seats in the temple and at the banquet table. 

What symbols of power, position, privilege, wealth do you wear? Which ones help you and others know your position in the world? What might it mean for us to take them off?

This is the last scene of Jesus’s public ministry. This is the last week of Jesus’s life. Not long after this, Jesus will sit with his disciples and take off his robe. He will take on the role of a servant and wash the feet of his disciples. He will tell them to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another.  No one has greater love than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. I have called you friends. 

 

Jesus gave his whole self as a sacrifice, He died, gave himself over to death. He did this without losing himself – he didn’t become less of Jesus, less Christ, less son of God. Yet he gave up his power. He allowed others to have power over him. And he did this all in love – an act of love, laying down his life for his friends. 

Sacrifice is about giving away power for the sake of love that others might be free and have life more fully.  It’s about offering ourselves fully, our whole selves, that we might make our lives sacred.

What draws the attention of God?  Sacrifice. Not because God needs it or demands it or because God is keeping score. In that temple – Jesus is telling his disciples – right here in my presence and in this widow’s, you find yourself in God’s home. Because here’s where sacrifice lives, whole trust, love of God, 

What robes of power are you being invited to take off, to sacrifice today?

Who needs you to lay down power and privilege and your own safety such that he or she might be able to live more fully, more freely? To whom is God sending you to love in this most difficult and powerful way?

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At the Seminary: Everyone Welcome

 

Joe R. Engel organ at Miller Chapel, PTSEM

Many of the courses and events at Princeton Theological Seminary are open to the community. Some are free, and most take place in either Miller Chapel or Mackey Dining Hall, or both. The daily chapel service from 11:30 a.m. to noon is an exciting spiritual experience.

A very popular favorite is the Carols of Many Nations concert on Wednesday, December 12. with three identical services at 3:30, 6:30, and 8:30 p.m. Tickets for that can be reserved on November 12.  Dress warmly – at the close, the congregation will follow the choir outside.  

Anyone may attend the CommUNITY Gatherings at Princeton Theological Seminary. On Thursday, December 6th, engage in a timely topic: Navigating Difficult Conversations in These Challenging Times. Leading discussion will be the Rev. Jennie Salas, PTS Associate Director in the Field Education, and Parish Associate at Iglesia Presbiteriana Nuevas Fronteras.

Worship in Miller Chapel is from 11:30 am-12:00 pm, followed by Lunch, Presentation, & Conversation from 12-1:30 pm. Select lunch ($10) in the Mackay Dining Hall, and then come to the the Main Lounge. Future Gatherings:

Thursday, February 7, 2019: Serving Those of Different Faiths: A Military Chaplain’s Experience,with Chaplain Jeffrey Ross, ThM ’19

Friday, March 1, 2019: In His Image: Art Ministry as an Essential Element of Worship, with Dave Teich, Art Minister, First Presbyterian Church of Hightstown

Tuesday, April 30, 2019: Walking with Those with Mental Illness, with the Rev. Kerri Erbig, BCCC, the Rev. MaryJane Inman, BCC, and the Rev. Miriam Diephouse-McMillan, BCCC, Chaplains at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital-Pastoral Services Department

To register for the CommUNITY Gatherings, click here or contact Rev. Joicy Becker-Richards, Director of Campus Relations Joicy.becker@ptsem.edu 609.497.7960. For concert tickets, try this link.

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“Stand here beside us” on All Saints Sunday

For the pastoral prayer on All Saints Sunday, we named, saw photos of, and prayed for the saints, a wide variety of them, ranging from winners of the Nobel Peace Prize to martyrs at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh. For each of those named in the liturgy, our response was “Stand here beside us.”

For those who were not at the service, and for those who may have had trouble seeing (and remembering) the many many photographs, click here to review the slides. The names of those dear to the congregation who died during the past year were recited at the service. For reasons of privacy, they are not included here.

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All Saints vs the Marathon

On November 4, All Saints Sunday, our usually saintly personalities may undergo some slight trials. It’s Turn the Clocks Back Sunday and also some roads will be closed for a Half-Marathon race, for a good cause, Hitops, 

The organizers have tried to schedule so the roads are clear in time for worshippers in Princeton to attend services. For the map showing the times when you can get through on a particular road, click here. 

However, the town issues this warning. The race and road closures will begin promptly at 7 am. As the runners proceed through intersections the roadways will be re-opened. Please plan accordingly if you are traveling into town between those hours. If you are attending a religious service or other business we are encouraging you to leave early and if you encounter a road block explain to the officer staffing that where you are going and they will be able to direct you accordingly. The race should conclude and all roadways will be open at approximately 11 am.

 

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Sermon “Miracles Everywhere: Believing”

On the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, October 21, 2018, Pastor Jenny Smith Walz preached from the sermon series ‘Miracles Everywhere’ on the topic “Believing”. Her text is from John 9:1-12 (Healing the Man Born Blind – He Has to Go and Wash) and  Mark 2:1-12 (Friends Carry Paralyzed Man to Jesus).

To hear the sermon live, go to the Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page

Also the sermon will be podcast soon on this webpage under the category “worship”.

According to Batterson

Jewish rabbis distinguished between a good eye and a bad eye.

A bad eye turned a blind eye toward the poor.

A good eye referred to a person’s ability to see and seize every opportunity to be a blessing toward others.

Greg Stielstra story from PyroMarketing

In a study involving a group of Americans who haven’t been to Mexico and a group of Mexicans who haven’t been to America, researchers used a binocular-like device with an image of baseball in one eye and an image of bullfighting in the other. When asked what they had seen, Mexicans typically saw bullfighting, and Americans saw baseball. We often see what we know, what we’ve experienced, what we expect.

Seeing is a miracle in and of itself.

Even the simplest process in the eye is enormously complex.  The retina conducts close to 10 billion calculations every second, before an image even travels through the optic nerve to the visual cortex.

Day 42 after conception – the first neuron is formed in a baby’s brain. By birth a baby will have an estimated 86 billion brain cells. Brain begins to form neuronal connections called synapses. By six months old, each brain cell has about 18 thousand connections.

Millions of neurons are firing across billions of neuropathways every second of every day.

Babies at birth – vision is no better than 20/200. Can’t focus on anything farther than 12″ away. 8 months – babies can see almost as well as we can. During that process – windows of opportunity open and close. Vision is wired between birth and 18 months. Synaptogenesis in visual cortex peaks at 2 months.

If patch is placed over eye of a newborn and left there during first few years of life, baby would be blind for rest of life in that eye, even if that eye was perfectly normal. No synapses would be formed between the visual cortex and optical nerve. Irreversible.

Not only is this the process for physically seeing, but also being able to create images in our mind’s eye based on our experiences and memory. Mountain. House. Family. School. These words bring up images in our minds that aren’t generic, but are actual images / impressions of places we’ve experienced that have meaning for us. This man born blind didn’t have these images or even ones of mom or dad.

For the Man born blind the whole chapter is a saga, fiasco, a big deal.

Disciples – who sinned?

Neighbors – is this the same man?

Pharisees – Jesus must be the sinner here

Parents – brought in and questioned

Man – questioned more

Jesus and the Man – who’s really blind…

The Blind Man received a set of instructions: Go to the pool of Siloam and wash. We don’t know exactly how far he had to go, but  it seems he would have descended hundreds of steps, and this miracle happened during the Feast of Tabernacles, so he would have bumped into thousands of pilgrims. Why? Why not just heal him on the spot? Seems unnecessary!!

Pool of Siloam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is this Story by Bishop William Frey. He volunteered to tutor a student who was blind since age thirteen, as a result of a chemical explosion. The student felt like life was over and was feeling sorry for himself. One day his dad said – “John, winter’s coming and the storm windows need to be up – that’s your job. I want those hung by the time I get back this evening.” He pretended to walk out of the room. John got angry – he was so angry he decided to do it – “when I fall they’ll have a blind and paralyzed son!”  He didn’t fall! He discovered he was capable of doing far more than he realized, even with blind eyes.  In reality, dad was never more than 5 feet away. He made sure John was safe, but knew that helplessness was a far worse curse than blindness.                                                                                                                        

Jesus didn’t just heal his blind eyes. He restored his dignity by not leaving him helpless. Most miracles require an act of obedience. Somehow, God keeps calling us, inviting us to be miracle workers with God.

Last week we were invited us to put on God-Vision Goggles in order to see what God is up to. This week, not only our GHE and our GSS, but also to become partners with God in making happen Miracles Everywhere.

I’ve been talking about miracles as experiences of God’s love, power, presence, and purpose, inviting us to open our eyes to a whole huge wide world or miracles.

Even though miracles are all about God – they are experiences of God, they are signposts to God. And while they always affect and change the people they happen to, they are even more about God and about the trust fostered in God as the miracle happens.  

When we think about miracles, we tend to think about God being the doer. And that is true of course. But it’s not the whole story. Think about the miracles that we read about in scripture…… Let’s name some…..and the way humans were part of it.

  • Mark’s paralyzed man – friends carried
  • water into wine – stewards, Mary
  • walking on water – xxx
  • healing paralytic – friends carried on a mat
  • feeding 5000 – boy with fish and bread, disciples
  • raising Lazarus – unwrapping by disciples
  • Moses – parting water
  • healing – faith has made you well
  • resurrection – xxx
  • burning bush – Moses to see it
  • Elijah and widow of Zarephath – flour didn’t run out, then healed son – Elijah
  • walls of Jericho – Joshua and crew
  • creation – xxx

In New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy

  • Nearly 12K volunteers rebuilt over 250 houses
  • immediately after people provided over 50K meals
  • gave 5000 people shelter
  • Mucked out 2000 homes
  • provided 11K flood buckets
  • 3000 Health kits
  • provided tons of clothing, blankets, heaters, etc.

In Africa – Imagine No Malaria

  • cut mortality rate by 60%
  • 4 million nets provided
  • 61 health facilities renovated
  • 2.7 million people treated, averting 6.8 million deaths
  • 175 structures treated
  • 1000 community health workers trained

See you are no less spectacular than any of these other helpers. God works every day with people. God has given you time, talent, treasure, gifts, passions, and a GOOD EYE. Take a moment – what are you seeing with your GVG? hearing with your GHE? With your Good Eye? See and seize every opportunity to bless others, to be a miracles worker! To be a partner of God!

 

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