Celebrating from the Bottom: Sermon, November 1

Failure can be a friend! suggested Pastor Jenny Smith Walz on November 1, 2020. As in science experiments. But sometimes it is time to let go…God loves choosing the wrong people….Forgiveness is foundational.

Tune into her sermon on this web page – look for “worship” and page through the dates for November 1.

Here are some of the resources that Pastor Jenny mentioned or was inspired by.

Philippians 3: 7-4.1 Philippians 3: 7 and 8: For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ,[a] the righteousness from God based on faith.

Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints by Daneen Akerset is a book for children that Evangeline Burgers has used in her ministry.

Rumi’s poem, “The Guest House”. 

A Kids Book about Failure. By Laymon Hicks. 

Pastor Jenny has referred to books by Brene Brown, and Brown’s Rising Strong. ,deals with the subject in much more depth.

And then that wonderful hymn, For All the Saints…


Celebration: A Healing Practice

For the new sermon series, starting October 18, we will focus on “All Things New: Celebrating God’s Goodness,” about how we can celebrate even when we are in a  wilderness — of Covid, of personal trials, or of the world’s problems.

Pastor Jenny Smith Walz recommends the book,  The Healing Practice of Celebration. It costs under $10 at Cokesbury and is available in a Kindle edition for the same price. The book is part of  a series on different spiritual practices. The author, Elaine Heath, is a former dean of Duke Divinity School.

As described by the publisher: We think of celebration as a response to something good that happens: a birthday, a holiday, a new birth, a graduation. But what about when life is dull or flat, or especially when we hit rock bottom? Does God expect us to celebrate then? Yes, and we can. The Healing Practice of Celebration explores celebration as a response to the reality that God is continually present, always faithful, and ever loving. Celebration as a spiritual practice involves a posture of living so well anchored in the full story of God’s involvement with people throughout history that anticipatory faith and hope, regardless of present circumstances, inform our thoughts, words, and actions.

On October 18, Pastor Jenny opened the service with this prayer from Teresa of Avila

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
she who possesses God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices. Amen.

Romans 13: 8-14 and Matthew 18: 15-20     

The scripture reading for Sunday, September 6, 2020, is from Romans 13: 8-14 and Matthew 18: 15-20. 

“If Another Sins Against You” is the title of Pastor Jenny Smith Walz’s sermon. 

“. . . and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  ~Romans 13:9b

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  ~Romans 13:8

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’”       ~Matthew 18:20

To follow our worship service on FaceBook, hear the scripture, and listen to Pastor Jenny’s sermon, click here.

To watch interesting videos on YouTube of both scripture passages, click here and here.

On this September Communion Sunday, our Communion Offering this week goes to the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank. Please give this month as you are able for those whose need is so great. 

Romans 12:9-21 and
 Matthew 16:21-28

The scripture for Sunday, August 30, 2020, is from Romans 12:9-21 and
 Matthew 16:21-28.          

“Take Up Your Cross” is the title of Pastor Jenny Smith Walz’s sermon. 

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.”  ~Romans 12:9-13

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”  ~Matthew 16:24

To watch interesting videos on YouTube of both scripture passages, click here and here.

To follow our worship service, hear the scripture, and listen to Pastor Jenny’s sermon click here.


Sermon Response: August 23

On August 23, in her sermon “Who Do You Say That I Am?,” Pastor Jenny Smith Walz quoted this poem by Steve Garnaas-Holmes, posted on August 19, 2020 in his online collection Unfolding Light.

How does the poem resonate with you? Or — what do you NOT understand, NOT like about how the poet describes Jesus?

trickster, teacher, beggar,
on no church wall,
in no good book,
but on sad streets
and in my blood,
you are my unseen neighbor,
my secret self.

You are my divine possibility,
becoming me, so close
I can almost touch myself.
Ruler of my heartbeat,
fountain of my blood,
Jesus, you are my Pacific,
my wind, my sun, my gravity.
You are my victim.

My wound, and my healing.
My death, and my undying.
You are my exceeding of myself,
my becoming of the universe.
You are the heart of all of us,
the One of us, the holy Little One.
You are so tiny in this world,
so dim, I must become you to see you,
yet can’t not see you everywhere,
everywhen, every who.
Jesus, you are the me I hope to be,
the giving of God to me,
the giving of me to all the world.
Jesus, you, whom I cannot have,
yet who are so deeply mine,
how greatly I praise, I thank, I gaze,
I follow, and I join you.

Pastor Jenny urges us to answer the question “Who do you think Jesus is” in conscious ways. “Maybe a few words. A song. A journal entry. A sermon…”

Children’s Book: Images of God for Young Children

Here are some descriptions  of God from this book:  breath, light, night, the word, silence, secret, our tears, joy, fortress, promise, mystery, beauty, justice, peace, mercy, and love. Or — spring, rock, stream, root, wind, and fire.

What is YOUR experience of  God?

On August 23 during Children’s Time, Pastor Jenny Smith Walz read Images of God for Young Children.  

Hanna Schock agrees  that this book should not be completed in one sitting. Each entry should be savored. The 40 themes are so rich you could create a whole series of conversations or even lessons based on the variety of images for God given here.  

Comments from the service (without names, unless you’d like to have your name included)

Jesus has been my protector while we were stranded in Covid locked down India for 5 months and bringing us back us safely to NJ

my confidant, mentor, leader an example of peace, joy & love.

my friend.

The one who saved my life. The one who WILL save my child

Jesus tears down systems and lifts up the oppressed. Jesus heals.

love, an advocate for the “other” and an example of how to live

I see Jesus when others help me learn and grow from my mistakes.

Sermon Response: “Even the Dogs”

I write this to my friends at Princeton United Methodist Church, as I wind and rewind the opening of today’s service. so that I can enjoy the soprano/alto duets for the pre-service hymns, “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” “To God be the Glory,” “How Can I Keep from Singing?”…..Barbara Fox 

What was your reaction to Pastor Jenny’s sermon today (’Even the Dogs” 8/16/20, available at on the facebook page or on that date at PrincetonUMC.org) about the Canaanite woman “Justa” pictured above? It was based on Matthew 15: 10-28 (video of the first part of that passage here).

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Admitting it was a difficult story (did we catch Jesus on a bad day?) Jenny reminds us that Jesus was not only divine, he was human, raised as a Jew to followed the “clean and unclean” laws. The Hebrews believed that only by following the purity codes could they survive as God’s people.

In the comments I connected Justa  –who persisted against all odds to get Jesus to heal her daughter – with Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action and author of Fight Like a Mother, showing how the skill sets mothers use to manage their families can empower them to help any cause ”Every mom is already an organizer, a multitasker, and a hero going into battle every day for the ones she loves. Learn how to use those skills to enact change, pass laws that save lives, and FIGHT LIKE A MOTHER”

Then – I regretted posting that in haste. Did I distract or irritate someone who (quietly, because it’s really unpopular in Princeton) supports gun ownership? I can understand both sides. My late husband was raised in a family of hunters but came to reject the unreasonable gun lobby. Some of my children and grandchildren own guns, practice at gun ranges, honor the animals they hunt and are nourished by them. Others of my children and grandchildren – opposing the misuse of guns – march to support Moms Demand Action.

What connects Justa with Shannon Watts? All the mothers everywhere who fight for their children. I thought of the wives and mothers in the civil rights movement who put themselves ‘in harm’s way’ because they were less likely to be harmed than their men. Of mothers of children with rare diseases who fight for cures for their children. Of Deborah and Sara Hicks, fighting today at CHOP for the health of Zion.

Which person in this story are you, Jenny challenged us to ponder?

  • the daughter, who needs healing?

  • the disciple, who rejects the outsider

  • the Son of God, who we might say is changed by Justa?

  • the mother who raises a ruckus to make change?

One way “to grow as disciples of Christ” is to be in conversation with each other about our beliefs. You could comment in the link under the Facebook post, or talk about it in your small group, or email the Communications Ministry Team (Communications@PrincetonUMC.org) to have your thoughts published, or for a more private dialogue, email me or Jenny. What was your response to this or any other aspect of this passage? Had you heard of the Justa Center? Does my response smack of politics and you think politics should be separate from religion? What challenged you?

“Everybody But Me” by Margaret Goss Burroughs

“Justa” the Syro Phoencian woman, or the Canaanite woman

What response can we have to this poem by by Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs, “an American visual artist, writer, poet, educator, and arts organizer.” 

On August 16, 2020, in a sermon entitled “Even the Dogs,” based on Matthew 15: 10-28, Pastor Jenny Smith Walz read the poem below.

Here is another source, telling about  the amazing life of Margaret Taylor Burroughs, founder of what is now the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago.

Response: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…”

What is YOUR concept of the Kingdom of Heaven? Or as we sometimes say, the “Kin-dom of Heaven.” You are invited to respond to Pastor Jenny Smith Walz. On July 26, 2020, when Pastor Jenny Smith Walz invited us to finish the sentence “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” She referred to these verses from the lectionary,

Matthew 13:31—33

Matthew 13: 44—52

Romans 8:26—39

What is your idea of the Kin-dom? Your vision of a ‘beloved community?” YOU ARE INVITED to  comment on this Facebook post or ask the Communications Ministry Team (office@PrincetonUMC.org) how your words might be published.

Some resources:  a link to the bulletin) with this prayer:

 Form in us a new vision of community in which there is neither East nor West, neither South nor North. We pray for the sake of your Kin-dom that both is and is not yet.

If you want to hear the sermon again, go here and choose July 26 

The Benediction was a poem from Rumi

The Last Word

The Absolute works with nothing.

The workshop, the materials

Are what does not exist.

Try and be a sheet of paper with nothing on it.

Be a spot of ground where nothing is growing,

Where something might be planted,

A seed, possibly from the Absolute.

–Mevlana Julaluddin Rumi 1207-1273
Trans. Colman Barks