On Sunday, September 29, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “Charting Course” from the sermon series “Come! Journey With Jesus.” The Scripture for the week is John 15:1-17
It is Sunday evening, several years ago at the Phoenix Dance Studios. There is a mixture of confidence and anticipation as I put on my dancing shoes and line up for a group lesson. I love dancing. Freestyle dancing music begins. I am wondering whether someone will dance with me. Will I find partners? The right partner? Be a worthy partner? What about those partners I don’t want? Will I eventually more or less lose myself in music, moves, spinning, joy, and freedom. Will I be fully present, fully embodied?
Later, as a female pastor trying to prove myself, finding my place, arguing out how to live in a world where people don’t always accept my leadership, I learned how to release control and to trust and allow others to lead. During dancing, I discovered that the right dance partner helps you become a better dancer. He tells me where to go, when to go, catches me off balance, picks up on what I know, and challenges me with new moves.
As I look back on those times of dancing, I could feel excitement, joy, challenge. I knew God was choosing me and making me a better disciple. God was shaping me to do something more. I remember a few friends or dance partners. But mostly, I remember God as my partner. Although I do less dancing now, God and I still dance. I invite you into this dance as well, although it may have little to do with actual dancing. I also know God is inviting each of you to dance, choosing you, offering a hand to you, saying, “will you dance with me?” If you accept, you will all be taking an intentional journey in this dance with God. Discipleship is a journey through which God’s grace transforms us, charting our course, perfecting us in love.
This passage from John 15 is an invitation from Christ to abide in love. Make your home in his love. Love one another as I have loved you. A wondrous, agape, unconditional love that never runs out, and of which there is enough to go around – from God, through you. Are you interested in the good, wholeness of another, one who doesn’t possess, dominate or control? Christ calls us friends. Enter for the sake of friendship itself. The best way to develop a virtue is to become friends with those we want to emulate, not the lousy company we keep.
Christ is calling us into this dance of deep agape love and friendship. ‘You did not choose me. I chose you.’ God is teaching us to love like we might learn dance steps. God is the leader, and we respond. The moves may be awkward, clumsy, or misunderstand, but God’s love is patient, kind, and it transforms us. In any situation, we are God’s dance partners.
Friends, God is holding out his hand to you today with this invitation. What next step is God wanting to teach you? Here are some different dance steps: Come and see; Follow; Worship more regularly; Connect more deeply; Move towards tithing; Work on Forgiveness; Scripture; Release Grudge; Speak up; Find Mentor; Eat differently, Pray; Change Work. Dance with God through challenging times.
The sermon is a podcast on this webpage under the category worship. Here is the link
For the complete video of the September 29 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here.