Sermon “A Potato, A Fish, and Bread: How Big Is Your Faith”

On World Communion Sunday, October 7, 2018, Pastor Gerri Fowler preached on the topic “A Potato, A Fish, and Bread: How Big Is Your Faith? “ Her text was Mark 9: 30-37.

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”.

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Sometimes Mark’s Gospel sounds like it is the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version. The word “immediately” is frequently used and it leaves us breathless in following Jesus as he moves through his ministry here on earth. Jesus and his disciples are on a private journey to Capernaum. Jesus wanted to teach them those things they needed to know while he was still with them. It was nearing his “end time”, as this was the second time he made the prediction of his death. They are listening, but not understanding. We can almost see them nudging one another and quietly saying, “Do you know what he means?” Perhaps they urged one another on saying, “You ask him what he means”. “No, you ask him.” Then Jesus hears them arguing and he finds out they are arguing about who is the greatest among them. We wonder if he perhaps asked in what we would call the vernacular, “Here I am talking about my death and you are worrying about who gets the prize in the Cracker Jack box.” Jesus says to them what we sometimes feel are annoying words, “Whoever would be first must be last of all, and servant of all.”

There was a child in the home where they were staying and he took the child into their presence. The conversation takes a pause. It is as though he holds up a mirror before them in the face of an innocent, trusting, vulnerable, dependent child. In those days, the child would be “the other”. He simply says to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me but the One who sent me.”

The spiritual journey asks us to set aside presumptions, assumptions, provocations, and prejudices. It often asks us to get on our knees rather than the top rung of the ladder. Sometimes it requires a leap of faith to do so. One month ago I was preparing the chapel at our church for our weekly Monday morning prayer time. Since the first week of our nation’s decision to separate immigrant children from their parents, I have led a time of designated prayer for this situation and the pain and sorrow of these immigrants. I saw a couple in the sanctuary while I was passing through to the chapel. Sometimes we have guests from the community who come to join us in prayer. There is a high ledge separating the room I was in from the sanctuary. In my haste to reach the man and his companion, I walked off the ledge and into thin air. That flying leap took me a distance of about 3 feet and I landed on the back edge of a pew, and then on to the floor.

The man that I was rushing toward in order to offer him prayer, became a vessel of caring to me. He had lived and worked in the United States for 23 years and he was to report to the police station at 1:30 that afternoon for deportation. I saw Jesus in his face. The tables were turned and I found myself in a circumstance of pure grace. He made sure I was able to move and then he helped me to my feet. We had a time of prayer for one another and he left for his appointment. We all lose our bearings from time to time. We suffer discouragement, betrayal, loss, shattered dreams, abandonment, misunderstandings. They all become a deportation into circumstances for which we are not prepared. It is at times like this that we are exposed to the limitless love of God for us.

Here we are on Worldwide Communion Sunday. Today (October 7th) we celebrate one great global relationship with Christians all over the world. Heaven help us if we begin and end our encounter with limitations as we argue about who is invited to God’s party and who is not. God’s table is full of the world– a world full of people created in the image of God. We sit at a table big enough for all “the others”, and even for those who see us as “the others”. Grace isn’t always neat and orderly, precise, and wrapped up in a pretty box with the rest of our prejudices. Grace is undeserved. As a pastor from South Africa once said, “God wants to come into our hearts and lives but God wants to bring God’s friends too”.

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When we imitate and follow Jesus our spiritual bowls get larger and larger. As we grow in faith, our world expands and so do we. When we act upon what we already know of what it means to be a Christian, God supplies more faith from God’s inexhaustible storehouse. It is the nature of faith to expand to meet our needs. Today we look around our world with spiritual eyes and we declare, “We are the Body of Christ”. We see millions eating at the table with us and we beckon to “the others” to come and join us. Jesus holds Open House every day. We are all invited whether we are naughty or nice.

We get the best food that is available which is the “Bread of Life”. We don’t say “take, eat, and be careful”. We say, chew the delicious bread, taste the sweet juice from the grapes. For as the Psalmist tells us, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” We celebrate the One who binds us together. God is pushing our boundaries, challenging our comfort zones, stripping us of our camouflage.
And Jesus took a Muslim–
And Jesus took immigrants from every country–
And Jesus took a homosexual couple–
And Jesus took the least, and the lost, the outcasts, and the discriminated, and the abused–
And he said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the One who sent me.”

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Sermon “Body Building: Equipped”

The Body of Christ

On Sunday September 16, 2018, Pastor Smith Walz preached from the sermon series “Body Building” on the topic ‘Equipped’. Her sermon is based on the scripture reading ‘One Body With Many Members’ from 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

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

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

This is a summary of her message:

What is your part in the Body of Christ? Are you a Foot? A Heart? A Hand? Brain? Arm? Knee? Eye? Ear? Mouth? Funny Bone? Stomach?
The Body of Christ
Hundreds of different parts work together.

This is the image Paul uses to talk about the Church, which we also call the Body of Christ. But Paul also uses humorous images to tell us there is no hierarchy in the Body of Christ.

EVERY part matters. EVERY ONE matters. EVERY ONE is needed to be the body, to be whole. Those who do manual jobs are no less important than the elected leaders or speakers. Those who work behind the scenes are just as crucial as the ones who are seen and heard. What then is your part in the Body of Christ?

Last Sunday, if you heard nothing else from the sermon of the same series ‘Body Building’, I hope you heard “You are called!” Each one of you is called by God to do God’s work of love, reconciliation and unity in the world. God equips you with one or several spiritual gifts to enable you to fulfill that calling. As we become aware of our calling and the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us to do the work, we find our place in the Body of Christ.

You are called! You are gifted! And you play a crucial role in the Body of Christ, which is the Church.

I was called to be a pastor. So, God helped me over the years to overcome my fear of public speaking, with the guidance and support of friends. And I’ve continued to hear God’s call on my life to be a pastor and to help others too. Thus, through my preaching, I am seeking to engage you, teach, inspire, connect you with God, and with your everyday life. The Holy Spirit called me, equipped me with gifts and I align myself with God’s call. My gifts are teaching, knowledge, shepherding, administration, leadership.

You too are called, you are gifted! You are equipped! God has called you. God has equipped you with one or more gifts. These are your natural gifts. You have to open the gift, use the gift, allow the Holy Spirit to keep equipping you – an active aligning of oneself with God’s intentions, open to being used by God.

Therefore, Let Your Light Shine

 

Gifts of the Dark Wood: The Gift of Uncertainty.

Erik Skitch Matson — March 5, 2017 — 1 Corinthians 13:11-12

What is Lent?

Lent was spoken of in the 2nd Century, but then established as Lent with the typical Ash Wednesday in the 6th century under Gregory the Great.

Why? Self examination and Penitence in preparation for EASTER. It is a time for Repentance and Renewal: Giving up things, originally food until sundown (vegetarian), but now it is a more robust “Fasting”. It is also a time for self-reflection, prayer and reading of scripture

Gifts of the Darkwood  

Our sermon series is based on the book Gifts of the Dark Wood by Eric Elnes, a wonderful Lenten book for reflection. In this series we can see our time in the Dark Wood as a gift.

Another book worth reading, Dante’s Inferno is about finding your place in the world at the very point you feel farthest from it. Here the dark wood includes struggle. It is “where you meet God.”

As we explore the Gift of UNCERTAINTY, we realise that this is not a “Typical” gift. We like control, certainty, and understanding, now. So where can we go with uncertainty.?

In 1 Corinthians 13:11-12, we see a flurry of pride, and then a swift shift to vulnerability. I had always known Paul to be the confident leader, with the perfect pedigree and best teachers backing him — he’d fit into Princeton pretty well. But this is not your typical Paul. This Paul is more vulnerable about his own limitations and his own uncertainty. Paul admits that he sees dimly.  What would it take for us to have the courage to admit that our own spiritual vision is dim?

Take a look at the people around you: what would it take for us to dig into the Lenten season, and live in the Dark Wood of our lives together? What would it take for us to have faith, now, in these lives we live.

What would it take for us to be the body of Christ—a body where each member is known, loved, and cared for.

What would it take to be vulnerable with one another about our personal pains? Our sins? Our uncertainties?

We know we want it. We know we need it. But what will it take…?

It will take a Christian Community that has ONE body, and ONE blood. A Christian Community where we—the broken, the maimed, the sinners, and the saints—are welcomed and accepted.

Where at times we are supported, and also where we support others. Where we are known not for our rigid certainty, but our radical faith in the midst of the fluidity of real, human life.

The Christians we have looked up to for centuries… Can we follow their example? Can we create a community, here, in this place, where the hope of seeing Christ face to face leads us to accept our own spiritual vision as dim?

Where does this start? It starts with the Release of Shame. One Body, broken for you; One Blood, shed for you. The Free Gift of Grace transforms us to be the Christian Community that calls itself “The Body of Christ.”

Let us come…

As we take communion, we wonder if, by leaning on each other, our collective vision can be more powerful. Let us therefore go together, as one broken body, through the Dark Wood of Lent.