Sermon: “Come Holy Spirit!: Make Us Fruitful”

On Sunday, June 30, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached on the topic “Make Us Fruitful” from the sermon series “Come Holy Spirit.” Her sermon is based on the scripture reading from Galatians 5:1, 13-25. 

For Freedom, Christ has set us free, so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. How appropriate this is on the 4th of July. Freedom is our current culture. Many grew up in the US, far removed from the experience of foreign rule or political oppression. Yet still, they grapple in some way with concepts, experiences – freedom and bondage; many terms – political, economic, religious, psychological, spiritual, physical. We can also be held captive by loneliness, addiction, abusive relationship, fear, bitterness, jealousy, our own pursuits, disordered passions, sin, selfishness, pride, subtle avoidance, or isolation. 

Paul says, “Christ has set us free! We are no longer bound, or captive. If we ever moved from captivity to freedom, liberation is a process, a limited space in the wilderness. For what then are we freed?  Paul says very clearly: “Freed for love.” Deep, sacrificial, radical, messy love.

Now, the Galatians were a young congregation of new Christians. They were embroiled in debates and infighting, which are outward signs of inward enslavement. Biting and devouring one another through jealousy, strife, discord, factions, and widespread envy.  Have you been to places like this? Maybe, even at Church. This was a different way, which doesn’t make sense of the conventional ideas of freedom or freedom in Christ. This was doing what we want, the way we want, and when we want. This was one of fierce independence, such as freedom from attachment or obligation. 

Freedom in Christ frees space in us to let the Holy Spirit in. It reorders our passions, attachments, and desires and moves us from the realm of being self-serving to focusing on others. It engages us in a call to love – not from a distance, not on the surface, not part-time, but to know how much we need Christ and others. This kind of love shown by Christ and taught by Paul requires deep bonds and attachments with others and God. This may not make sense to our modern sensibilities, especially in our self-centered world.

This is why the Church exists. Religion comes from the Latin word ‘Ligare’ which means ‘to bind together’ – with God and others. We must invest ourselves deeply in God and one another. Feeding and being fed. Not at arm’s length but up close. It can be risky, hard, counter-cultural, even vulnerable to let others love us, knowing that we won’t do this perfectly. Churches indeed bring out the best and worst of people. Yet, I have great hope for the Church and the way it could be, even if this depth of love is elusive, even if there are seeds of a rift that lead to a gorge, distance, and friction. But I have also seen people that have enormous patience, kindness, generosity, and faithfulness. This could only be borne by the Holy Spirit, which makes one want more, bond more deeply and see God and Christ more dearly in one another, in love, in a relationship. 

Brothers and sisters, Christ sets us free in faith and trust. The Holy Spirit produces fruits in us to know Christ more.  Let us open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and trust that we are free. Look around!  How is the Holy Spirit making you fruitful? How is the Holy Spirit freeing you to love and be loved? 

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

For the complete video of the June 30 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here.

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Sermon “Come Holy Spirit: Make us One”

On  Sunday, June 23, 2019, Pastor Skitch Matson preached a sermon entitled “Make Us One,” from the sermon series “Come Holy Spirit” and based on the scripture reading from  Galatians 3:23-29.  His sermon was a meditation on being united in Christ as one through faith.  . . . Enhancing the theme of universal equality.

Pastor Stitch explained that most often when the Apostle Paul wrote to a church or churches in an area, he began his letters with cheering on the faith of the community. He was their pastor and wanted to celebrate what God was doing in their lives and spur them on to continue in faithfulness as we see in 1 Corinthians 1:4 and Philippians 1:3. 

Paul cares for his congregations like a parent, like a mentor, like a… A Pastor – he loves them dearly; he prays for them often, he celebrates them… and he corrects them…  In Galatians, correction is a focal point. From what we can gather of the letter, there has been a group of “Jesus Followers” who have told the community in Galatia that while Jesus may love them, they need “to be like Jews” to really be loved and share in the Blessings of God. And, from what we can tell, that’s what they did. And then Paul, the Parent, the Mentor, the Pastor, writes them a letter. The opening lines do not contain the healthy love we see in other messages. In Galatians 1:6,  he tells them, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ, and you are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another gospel… if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed.” Everyone listens to his words, feeling the sting of them. Even we hear them! He’s frustrated.  But we kind of understand, too… sometimes, we’re just like Paul. At times, we believe that yelling is the only way to be heard when something is deeply wrong. But by the time we get to Chapter 3: Paul is pleading. . .  In verses 25-28, he encourages them: “But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to the Law, for, in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

It’s a plea. It’s a plea to go back to the roots, to go back to the simple and profound faith we profess – that in Christ Jesus we are all Children, we are all beloved by God; we are all equal in status. The Grace of God breaks down the barriers and hierarchies we have created in this world that separate us into powerful and powerless, insiders, and outsiders. Grace unites us. Christ has brought us new life. Christ has united us together. Christ went to the farthest reaches of society to include people, as they were. Beggars, Paralytics, Outcasts. Jesus loved them where they were. Jesus loves where we are. In our begging. In our paralysis. When we’ve been outcast. And in him, we are brought together, United as One, to be the Body of Christ for the world.

In his fascinating personal story that happened during a rainstorm, we learn how Pastor Skitch came to believe that the rain water had united him and the people caught in the storm: “Our baptism in the waters of the storm knit us into one body.  We each had needs that guided us to this grocery store, we each had our shopping lists, but the Water on our clothes reminded us of our interconnectedness. It gave us all a shared identity ” Paul is calling us to look through the lens of the Baptism of Christ to see one another. It’s a unifying of us all, first, to Christ.

I wonder what the identifiers are that ring in your head, being used to keep you down: Too Young; Too Old; Divorced; Barren; Single; Widowed; Gay; Just a Woman; Not-from-around-here; Poor; disabled… different.

In Baptism, We are inspired by the claims, by the symbolism, by the action – that God loves us not because of anything we’ve done but because of WHO God is. That as God knows the things we wrestle with internally, how our identities have been named for us to keep us down, that God could call us Beloved Children of the Most High God. 

Hear God’s plea calling to you today, and every day. When the next rainstorm hits us with a double portion of God’s grace, let it be a reminder to see yourself as Jesus sees you. To see others as Jesus sees them. To let God’s love pour over you. For we are no longer separated, but United in Christ, BY Christ, to be ONE.

Thanks be to God.

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

For the complete video of the June 23 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here.

 

 

 

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Summer Sundays with Legos: Fun and Learning

Building with Lego Robots to learn about God — it’s what people of all ages are doing at Princeton UMC for Summer Sundays 2019. After Children’s Time in today’s worship service, the younger children began to build elements of God’s Creation, and the older children will populate the scene by building robots — all under the super-organized direction of Steve Wong and Lorie Roth and their adult and teen helpers,including  Robin,  William, Phoebe, Mae, and Leanne.

The learning and fun continue through the summer and all children are welcome. You don’t need to be enrolled to attend. On Sunday, July 14, everyone will be in church to welcome home our Appalachia Service Project Team!

Meanwhile, downstairs, the younger children are learning about God through play in the well equipped nursery/kindergarten space. Thanks, Marie, Malisa, Abrefi, and Iona — other volunteers are welcome! 

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SAYING GOODBYE

Phoebe Quaynor, our Director of Children’s Ministries, has been with us for about three years and is leaving Princeton UMC at the end of this month to pursue a Ph.D. at Penn State University. Phoebe has been a blessing to our Children’s Ministries, Sunday School,  our teachers, and most of all, our children. On Monday, June 10, 2019, Staff Parish Relations Committee organized a dinner for Phoebe at Amalfi’s Restaurant in Lawrenceville. Phoebe enjoyed the camaraderie, and everyone had a wonderful time on that rainy Monday evening. Pastor Ginny praised Phoebe for her remarkable energy and all that she achieved at Princeton UMC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During worship in church on Sunday, June 16, Pastor Jenny acknowledged Phoebe, who was standing together with the children, and presented her with the gift of a prayer shawl. The congregation offered their prayers and blessings. At the special Coffee Hour held on Sunday to celebrate Phoebe, Pastor Skitch thanked her for her leadership as Director of Children’s Ministries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Princeton UMC has also recently said farewell to other active members who have served our church family faithfully and have just recently left our congregation for a new home.

Richard and Cindy Gordon relocating to Maryland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Bernard and Karin Brouwer moved to Florida

 

They have all in diverse ways greatly contributed to Princeton UMC. Though we are sad to see them leave our church, yet we are happy for them to continue on their life’s journey.  Our prayers go with them as they pursue their different paths. The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)

 

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Sermon “Come, Holy Spirit! Make us Resilient”

On Trinity Sunday, June 16, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached on the topic “Come Holy Spirit!  Make Us Resilient” from the sermon series “Revealing Resurrection.” Her sermon is based on the scripture reading “Peace and Hope” from  Romans 5:1-5.  

Pastor Jenny pointed out that people have many different responses to suffering, given that there are many kinds of people, different types of struggle, and many different circumstances. Some feel undone by their plight, others nurture a sense of victimhood; still, others feel shame, which leads to depression. She believes that the best option is to face our suffering, hold steady, grow more alive, wise, and hopeful.

She noted that we are suffering because of our faith in Jesus Christ and we should not get stuck in the suffering, introducing us to Luther Smith’s words “There are places in the human heart that do not yet exist. Then suffering enters in to brings them to life.”  She observed that suffering is the Holy Spirit moving in us and through us. Pain creates patience, which builds character, which produces hope. Hope then brings peace because, through the Holy Spirit, God has poured love into our hearts.

Paul teaching in the Roman Catholic Church expounded on suffering and the church’s response to it. Pain leads to endurance, and we must exhibit patience, which will build up our character for peace and hope. He tells us that suffering is something that all Christians are called to expect. The pain will come, especially if we follow Christ who gave himself up for us, suffered under Pontus Pilate, crucified, dead and buried. We are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus.  Even though we know it,  we sometimes go to great lengths to avoid suffering or make up all kinds of excuses for our own struggle and that of others. Paul tells us we shouldn’t. 

Up to 50% of our population has experienced some trauma in our homes, in school, in battle, in our churches.  Suffering can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental. Many people don’t talk about it. They simply don’t trust anyone, especially the church, to believe them. And so they find themselves in a world of the walking-wounded – alone, stuck, ashamed, depressed, hopeless. How then do we handle suffering when something happens to us? The church’s response is to rejoice in our sufferings.  

Paul encourages us not to waste the pain or struggle. In Peter L. Steinke’s words,  “We waste suffering if we gloss over, deny, avoid or neglect its message . . .  If however, we can learn from pain, it is not wasted, but a source of life and health.”  People ask, “How is pain a source of life and health when we are under assault?” Pastor Jenny gives four responses:  “When pain comes, denial and avoidance are a waste. We must either (1) look around for help – from God and/or from our community; (2) fight, (3) take flight from the struggle, or (4) go numb.

Paul’s message is that we must be immersed in God and in our community so that when suffering happens, we can look around and see our tribe and continue to see God’s love poured into our hearts as a gift from the Holy Spirit.  Our community does not deny or avoid suffering. It is full of people willing to share in our struggle or bond with one another. We should practice calling on God to receive the Holy Spirit, which makes us brave, brings us together, and opens us to one another so that when suffering comes, the Holy Spirit is already in us. And when we can’t see the other side when we feel afraid, shame or despair, we must remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit will overcome, and we can share burdens with and for one another. Paul promised us that the Holy Spirit will help us in our suffering. Pastor Jenny is, therefore, encouraging us to heed Paul’s promise and call on the Holy Spirit to make us resilient.

 Can we feel the Holy Spirit moving within us, pouring unconditional, eternal, everlasting love on us?  If we feel it, Pastor Jenny invites us to take time to share with someone how the Holy Spirit is working in our life. If we can’t handle it, we must still talk to someone. This Holy Spirit fosters love, faith, and trust.

At the close of the sermon, Pastor Jenny invited Larry Apperson to share his story with the congregation of how he overcame suffering.  Looking back on his life, Larry remembered one snowy night in Princeton, many years ago, when he cooked lots of soup and brought it to our church, wanting to feed hungry people in the area. After setting the tables and putting up the signs outside, he waited hours for people to show up, but no one came. For a long time, Larry suffered enormously from this disappointment. He had this great idea, but he couldn’t get it done.  Yet, he could not let it go. Ten years passed, several things happened. Then, with the arrival of a new pastor, things started to change. One phone call from a church that needed food daily. . . . And so the Princeton Cornerstone Community Kitchen Princeton Cornerstone Community Kitchen at Princeton UMC was born. Cornerstone Community Kitchen served its first meal on June 6, 2012, and in partnership with the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) have since served 30,000 meals.  In Larry’s mind, he thought he had failed, but the Holy Spirit saw that this was a good idea and was telling him not to give it up.  Full of hope, endurance, patience, and not avoiding suffering, Larry has received God’s love through the Holy Spirit poured into his heart and overflowed to others.

 

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

For the complete video of the June 19 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here.

 

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Coffee With The Pastors

Got questions? If you would like to know more about Princeton UMC, you are invited to Coffee with the Pastors in Room 204 on Sunday, June 23, 2019, after worship service at 11:30 a.m. We also want to get to know you better.  Psalm 34:3 says, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.”

If you want to explore joining this congregation, a small group will meet starting in the Fall.

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Princeton UMC’s Confirmation Class 2019

On Sunday June 9, 2019 Princeton UMC celebrated the confirmation of Kasey Angello, Leanne Griffiths, Rachel Hoffman, Andre Penn, Robin Roth, William Wong, and Davita Wrone. All seven confirmands stood before the congregation with their parents and mentors and professed their intention to live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. The pastors and others put their hands on each of them while Pastor Jenny said a blessing. We congratulate them on this important step in their faith journey.

Seven young people were confirmed into membership of Princeton United Methodist Church on Pentecost, June 9, 2019. From left, they are  Leanne Taylor Griffiths, Robin Mary Roth, Kasey Elizabeth Angello, Davita Elizabeth Wrone, Rachel Lynn Hoffman, Andrea Mutayoba Penn,  and William KunHee Wong.

Phoebe Quaynor, Director of Christian Education, far left, and Paige Allen, far right, taught the class.

Each confirmand had a mentor. On the left, Christine Shungu and Ulanda Frisbee. On the right, Theresa Cann, Susan Victor, and Helen Curtis. Not pictured, Karin and Bernhard Brouwer.

Rev. Ginny Cetuk and Rev. Skitch Matson (left) and Rev. Jenny Smith Walz (far right) congratulated the seven confirmands.

Confirmands and their parents. Photos by Norman Cetuk

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Sermon “Revealing Resurrection:A Surprising Party”

On Sunday, June 9, 2019, Pastor Jenny Smith Walz preached on the topic “Revealing Resurrection: A Surprising Party.” Her sermon is based on the scripture reading ‘The Coming of the Holy Spirit’ from Acts 2: 1-21

She reminded us that the first Pentecost happened 50 days after the Resurrection and 10 days after the Ascension of Jesus Christ. The Jews were gathered from all over the land for the Festival of the Harvest and the Torah. The party was powerful and wild. While they were praying, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus’ apostles and others, and they found themselves speaking in different languages.  The entire community of Christians was made up of 120 people, but all present received the Holy Spirit without discrimination. Although everyone would have spoken Greek, the Galilean Jews found themselves speaking languages they didn’t know – those of the immigrant Jews.  Every language was made available to all. You could see the bewildered look on their faces. The native language was the language of the heart.        

In illustrating the scripture,  Pastor Jenny used  Brennan Manning‘s famous quotation, “The gospel is absurd, and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe. . . .  This, my friend, is what it means to be a real Christian.” She stated that it was time for our own Pentecost. We need to hear and understand each other across all divides. The Holy Spirit is calling for inclusiveness, and diversity, especially now in the midst of the most segregated time in our country. 

Listen to Pastor Jenny as she calls us to attention: “The Holy Spirit is moving here. Can you feel it?” The Holy Spirit wants to do more, to show God’s mighty deeds, power, and love inside and beyond Princeton UMC. What are we doing to allow Pentecost to happen in us today?

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

For the complete video of the June 9 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here.  

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Celebrating PrincetonUMC’s Larry — and Cornerstone Community Kitchen

 

Seven Junes ago, Larry Apperson launched Princeton Cornerstone Community Kitchen at Princeton UMC, partnering with the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) to serve over 100 meals weekly, on an unconditional, no-questions asked basis. Larry plants the “Free Meals” banner on the lawn every Wednesday.

Cornerstone Community Kitchen served its first meal on June 6, 2012. Some come for the free food, some for the fellowship, all are graciously served a hot meal complete with a decorated table and a piano player in the background. TASK delivers the main dish but CCK supplies vegetables, salad, bread, and a drink, plus sandwiches, children’s breakfast bags, and produce to take home.

For the first two years meals were served on paper plates with plastic utensils in the Sanford Davis Room, the church “parlor” with stained glass windows, because the kitchen — which did not meet health codes — was being constructed. Now the meals are prepared in an up-too-date catering kitchen and served on china plates in the renovated Fellowship Hall. 

“The greatest unexpected pleasure that’s come from our service has been the coming together of people from throughout the community to serve,” says Larry Apperson. Five teams from Princeton United Methodist Church alternate serving the meals, one week a month.

Now, each week,  Cornerstone’s opening on Wednesday night and its related offerings depend on some 30 volunteers and approximately 75 hours of volunteer time.

Cleanup is done almost exclusively by church members. Every week PUMC member jobs include playing the piano, setting and decorating tables, running the clothes closet, and washing the pots. One school-age girl helps, with her grandmother, before and after her PUMC choir practice. Judy Miller works Tuesday and Wednesdays — she runs the Clothes Closet with the help of two PUMC volunteers. She also decorates the tables with flowers and props from her personal trove.

Community members can also sign up online for ‘one-time’ service. “I wanted to create a place where people could go to do the good things they deep down feel they should be doing anyway,” says Apperson. “Volunteering would be easy, no homework, just come and do it.”

PUMC members supporting CCK include Pam and Tim Ewer, Charles Phillips, Karen Longo-Baldwin, Karin and Bernhard Brouwer (just moved to Florida), Susan Davelman, Joan and Bob Nuse, Judy Miller, Ed Sproles, Lula Crawford, Francia Francisco, Doug Fullman, Larry and Emily Gordinier, Lori Pantaleo, Valerie Newhall, Lorie Roth, Yvonne Macdonald, Joan Klass, Larry and Helen Curtis, Karen Johnson, Bruce Henry, Chris Cox, Kate Lasko, Ichen Mei, and some young new arrivals, Alex and Izzy DiStase.

In addition, the Clothing Store operates in a spacious, dedicated room and shares the same Wednesday 5 – 6:30 PM hours of operation.  Supervised by Judy Miller, the store is filled with a wide variety of neatly organized and displayed clothing and household items, where guests take turns shopping in small groups. Store volunteers manage seasonal programs for the children — selecting back to school backpacks, Halloween costumes, and Christmas gifts – carefully selected to match the child’s age and gender.

A significant number of the guests are Hispanic and some speak little if any English. Three years ago, PrincetonUMC member Karen Longo Baldwin, a certified ESL teacher, began teaching English as a Second Language classes that now meet four times weekly.

Judy Miller at the launch of the Period Project

Cornerstone’s newest offering is Princeton Period Project, a community program to help girls and women who don’t have an easy, reliable, affordable access to feminine hygiene products.  These products often take second seat to providing food at the family table. “We have already provided more than 51,000 feminine hygiene products to girls and women in the area,” says Gil Gordon, a member of the Jewish Center of Princeton and member of the board.

Judy Miller, Gil Gordon, and Larry Apperson at the TASK awards.

Earlier this year, the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) presented Larry Apperson with the Chuck Inman Memorial Award, honoring an individual who has made a significant impact in feeding hungry people in Mercer County.

Pastor Ginny Cetuk, who chairs the CCK board, points out that — for a  minimum wage job in Mercer County, one would need to work 130 hours per week in order to make ends meet.

As a 501c3 nonprofit organization, Cornerstone does not aim to deliver a religious message. “We are witnessing to our faith through our actions,” says Larry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sermon “Revealing Resurrection: An Ironic Escape”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Sunday, June 2, 2019, Pastor Jenny Smith Walz preached on the theme “Revealing Resurrection: An Ironic Escape.” Her sermon is based on the scripture reading ‘Paul and Silas in Prison’ from Acts 16:16-34. 

To illustrate the scripture,  she asked the children during Children’s Time if they had opened doors before: “What happened when you opened doors? What did you see on the other side?” Listen to their answers as you watch the video of the service on Princeton UMC Facebook page.

Pastor Jenny is captivated by this compelling story, told in the scripture, of a demon-possessed fortune-telling slave girl, possessed by her slave owners with their wealth and power, healing, exorcism, mobs, state jailer’s duty, midnight hymn-singing from the prison stocks, earthquakes, doors opening, prison break-ups, conversion, and finally baptism. At the end of it all, we are left with many questions and healthy skepticism.

As part of her message, she tells us that revealing resurrection is all about freedom – personal freedom, freedom of the mind. Yet there are different understandings of freedom, many of which are about seeking for self without regard for the impact on others. What then does freedom mean for us Christians?

How have you experienced doors opening, being unchained, unbound, be who you were created to be?  How have you overcome systems of oppression, poverty, sin, shame, addiction, cycles of abuse, or fear?

Looking at the broad sweep of the scripture as it relates to the life of Christ, freedom is big, complex, subversive, and world-changing. It is good news to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind, resisting evil and injustice, deliverance from sin.

The jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Simon replied,  Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” He was speaking about Jesus, who helped others and gave them hope. Their response permits us to open doors, to see beyond this moment, beyond oneself to something only God can make happen.

Listen to Pastor Jenny as she invites us to hear for ourselves how God is opening doors for us. She reminds us that we too are capable of doing that.  Where is God freeing us? Where is he inviting us to walk through an open door? How are we opening doors for others? What now? Take some time to tell others how God has opened doors for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

For the complete video of the June 2 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here.  

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