Scholarships for PrincetonUMC Students

Ten undergraduate students, members of Princeton United Methodist Church, are being supported this year by PUMC Educational Scholarships. Other scholarships, for undergraduates and graduate students, are available from the GNJUMC and the United Methodist Church headquarters in Nashville. Click here for information. 

The Princeton United Methodist Church Educational Scholarship is awarded each year to church members attending an accredited undergraduate college, and to support those preparing for ministry at the Masters’ level. Scholarships are awarded in June. Applications are available in the church office. Deadline for submission of applications and supporting essays, references and transcripts is May 1.

The Scholarship Fund was established in the 1930s and revived in 1996 with the generous endowment from the will of Alice Parker and ongoing donations by members of the congregation. The Scholarship has been helping members of the church community achieve their educational goals for eight decades.

Applications are reviewed by the PUMC Scholarship committee and awards made from the earnings of the endowment. Students may apply for renewal for up to four years. The Scholarship not only supports students financially but reminds them that
their church community is behind them as they move on to future endeavors. A recent graduate explained, “as I head to start a new job I will take the love of PUMC with me. Your love and support have meant so much. Thank You.”

The PUMC Scholarship Fund needs to be continually replenished. You may make a donation to the endowment either online giving, personal check, or through transfer.

 

Posted in Community, Missions | Comments Off on Scholarships for PrincetonUMC Students

Ash Wednesday and Tuesday Lenten Meditations

PRINCETON, N.J. During the Lenten season, Princeton United Methodist Church (PrincetonUMC) hosts services at convenient times. On Ash Wednesday, March 6, at noon, Pastor Jenny Smith Walz will lead worship.  At 7:30 p.m. clergy from the community will preside at an ecumenical service with Andrew Scales, Presbyterian chaplain to Princeton University, preaching. Both services will conclude with the imposition of ashes.

Planned to fit into a lunch hour, weekly Lenten meditations will be held on Tuesdays, from March 12 to April 16, noon to 12:30 p.m., in the chapel. Afterwards a light lunch will be served. Entrance is on Nassau Street, at the corner of Vandeventer Avenue. All are welcome.

PUMC is a diverse congregation whose members come from many surrounding communities, backgrounds, and faith histories. Sunday worship services and Sunday School classes are at 10 a.m. with nursery care available. Small groups for adults are at 8:45 a.m. Parking is free on Sunday mornings and the church is wheelchair accessible. Call 609-924-2613 , email office@princetonumc.org, or visit http://www.princetonumc.org/

Posted in Lent/Easter | Tagged , | Comments Off on Ash Wednesday and Tuesday Lenten Meditations

Welcome to Princeton: UMC Ministers

Just as Princeton UMC commissioned Susan Victor to work in Trenton at the Maker’s Place (click here) we welcome two United Methodist Church Ministers to Princeton. Here are the official announcements from GNJUMC:

Hector A. Burgos is the new Capital District Superintendent.

 

Héctor A. Burgos currently serves as GNJ’s Director of Connectional Ministries. He has previously served as pastor of Oasis UMC in Pleasantville, associate pastor of FUMC of Tuckerton, assistant pastor of West Creek UMC and on MARCHA’s executive team. He has an M.Div from Drew University and a B.A. in Business Administration from the University of Puerto Rico. He is a Lewis Community Leaders Fellow and a Certified ICA Coach. He is passionate about urban, multicultural and justice ministries. Hector is married to Jazelis Adorno, pastor at Simpson UMC in Perth Amboy, and they have four children Fabian, Joel, Marcos and Valeria.

Headquartered in Neptune, the Capital District extends from Kingston and Lambertville to Freehold and Medford, and it includes more than 60 congregations. It is one of nine districts in the Greater New Jersey United Methodist Church.

Drew A. Dyson has been appointed to an extension ministry as Executive Director of the Princeton Senior Resource Center effective March 19, 2019.

He succeeds Susan Hoskins, who held that position for 17 years. The Princeton Senior Resource Center is the ‘go to’ resource for aging issues and serves the greater Princeton area, not just the town. According to the mission statement, it is where “aging adults and their families find support, guidance, education, and social programs to help navigate life transitions and continue to be active, healthy, and engaged in the community. Our vision is to create a world where aging adults are respected for their experience and wisdom.” It has 60 collaborative partners and 375 volunteers.

Drew  has been a United Methodist pastor for 19 years, most recently serving as District Superintendent for the Raritan Valley District. He has served as a lead pastor, seminary professor, denominational executive for young people’s ministry, and an associate pastor. He has authored several books, primarily focused on ministry with young people and most recently Wesleyan missionaries theology. He holds both his M.Div. and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Rev. Diane Dyson (a GNJ Deacon) have four children: Timothy, Jeremy, William, and Allison.

 

Posted in General, Missions | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Welcome to Princeton: UMC Ministers

Guest Preacher: Gerald Liu on February 17

We welcome Gerald C. Liu — a minister and professor who focuses on multicultural worship and the arts as a theological resource — as our guest preacher on Sunday, February 17 at 10 a.m. In the “Beloved Community” sermon series, he will preach on “Righteous Anger,” based on Jonah 3.

Gerald is assistant professor of worship and preaching at Princeton Theological Seminary. He earned his BA in Music at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, his Master of Divinity from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University (during which time he was also a theological fellow at Georg-August Universität in Göttingen, Germany), and his PhD from Vanderbilt University with a concentration in homiletics and liturgics.

He has previously served as a British Methodist Minister in Nottingham, England before becoming ordained in the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church. Currently he volunteers as a minister in residence at Church of the Village, a United Methodist congregation in Manhattan.

His classes and publications explore curiosities about the arts as theological resources and phenomena, Asian American identity, multicultural worship, and the production of believable public Christian witness.

 

 

Posted in Ministries | Tagged , | Comments Off on Guest Preacher: Gerald Liu on February 17

Susan Victor Commissioned: Maker’s Place in Trenton

Celebrating Susan Victor’s commissioning to serve at Maker’s Place, from left: Michael Reed, Pastor; Susan Victor, Deacon; Judy Miller, Cornerstone Community Kitchen Clothes Closet; Jennifer Hartigan, PrincetonUMC Volunteer

At worship on February 10, Princeton UMC commissioned Susan Victor to serve at Maker’s Place, a Hope Center of the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey.  Susan is an ordained Deacon, whose primary appointment is to Womanspace, where she works with women, men, and families impacted by domestic and sexual violence, as well as the staff of Womanspace. All Deacons who serve outside the local church are also appointed to a local church ministry where they also serve in various capacities, yet on a much smaller scale. For the last 9 years, Susan’s secondary appointment has been Princeton UMC.

Susan Victor found her faith home in the United Methodist Church after moving to the US from India. She completed her theological training at Union Biblical Seminary, India and Princeton Theological Seminary. She has an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania and is a licensed clinical social worker. She particularly loves working with the confirmation class at Princeton UMC.

Susan has discerned that her gifts and service are needed at The Maker’s Place, the new Hope Center and ministry in Trenton, which is led by Rev. Michael Reed. Michael was
with us for worship the first week in December and we collected diapers for The Maker’s Place throughout Lent. Susan is faithfully answering God’s current call for her life
and ministry, and we celebrate that with her. She will be an enormous help and support for The Maker’s Place as they connect in faith around Food and Families.

The Maker’s Place will be her secondary appointment, effective Jan 1, 2019. We aren’t entirely saying goodbye to her and Vasanth, however. Susan will continue to be part of our Relationships and Faith steering team. She also hopes to help our congregation to connect with The Maker’s Place in powerful ways. Vasanth will maintain his membership with us. And until The Maker’s Place begins holding worship services, they will continue to worship with us.

 

 

Posted in Community, Ministries, Missions | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Susan Victor Commissioned: Maker’s Place in Trenton

Children Sing Tom Shelton’s Musical “Lost Then Found”

The Children’s Choir musical is always something special – and we can look forward to some delightful surprises on Sunday, February 24, at the 10 a.m. service. Tom Shelton is presenting his own musical, “Lost Then Found.” It is based on three “lost” parables – the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, and the Lost Son.

Among the surprises – Tom’s collaborator on this musical is his sister, Camilla Shelton Pruitt. She is director of music at Trinity United Methodist Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

At Princeton UMC Tom is Director of Children’s and Youth Choirs, and at Westminster Choir College he is Associate Professor of Sacred Music. For the Princeton Girlchoir, he directs two ensembles – Grace Notes and SemiTones. He currently serves as the National President of the American Choral Directors Association. Last year he led nine choral workshops in six states. His portfolio (TomSheltonMusic.net) includes 18 commissioned works, more than 40 songs for children or treble voices, and 15 pieces for mixed or adult voices. In addition to his many other honors, duties, and publications, Tom has begun the new Tom Shelton Choral Series.

The children delighted us on February 4 with a selection from “Lost Then Found,” wearing their green robes, but they look forward to getting their costumes! Top photo: Tom Shelton with (Front row from left) Elizabeth Wong, Elliot Walz, Lily Oesterle. Second row: Isaac Penn, Julianna Collins, Ryan Babler, Phoebe Roth. Third row: Izzy Distase, Aditi Rapaka, Maggie Collins, Julie Potts, Alex Distase. Not pictured: Ethan Hamilton, Ryan Babler, Ivania and Sohela Neto, Mira Sridar.

Posted in Children, Music, Worship | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Children Sing Tom Shelton’s Musical “Lost Then Found”

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. 

 

Posted in Advent/Christmas, General, Sermon, Worship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sermon “The Bethlehem Trek: From Despair to Hope”

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

Posted in Advent/Christmas, General, Sermon, Worship | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sermon “The Bethlehem Trek: From Fear to Love”

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. 

 

Posted in General, Sermon, Worship | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sermon “God’s Home: Freedom Lives Here”

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. 

 

 

Posted in Community, General, Lifestyles | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Thanksgiving Reflection 2018: Princeton Community Thanksgiving Service