QUOTE OF THE DAY

It is an inspiring quote on forgiveness by Rev. Jenny Smith Walz. During her sermon on the 6th Sunday of Pentecost, also Communion Sunday, Pastor Jenny admonished us about the merit of continued forgiveness. The Scripture was from Matthew 18: 21-35.

“Jesus freed people from their sins over and over again, and it got him crucified,” reminded Pastor Jenny. “Yet Jesus went from that Cross, into death and resurrection,” she said, “showing us that Freedom from all of those sins is released through God’s long action of love and forgiveness.” “Forgiveness frees us from captivity,” she added. Failure to forgive holds us captive to our bitterness and keeps us in a cycle of revenge. Forgiveness requires us to name the pain and the hurt while we see those in need of forgiveness as also God’s beloved children.

What now?

“What if we were to have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that allows people to tell their stories of pain and victim hurt, that allows the pain and hurt to be felt, and Freedom to be found?” Pastor Jenny mused. “Then, we can love each other and together transform the world!” Ask yourself: Where is it that you need to be set free? Where is it that you need to be redeemed?

Click here to listen to Rev. Jenny Smith Walz preach about “Forgiveness.”

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.

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.  

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.