QUOTE OF THE DAY

 

In her sermon on Pentecost Sunday, Rev. Jenny Smith Walz encouraged each of us to ask the Holy Spirit to “tear our hearts apart for God’s people.” We should also ask the Holy Spirit to “anoint us to be God’s speakers, sending us forth into the world on the winds of his ‘Holy Trouble’ to continue Jesus’ work in the world around us.”

On the Day of Pentecost, the miracle of speaking in tongues and hearing many different languages was stirring up trouble among the people. “The Holy Spirit stirred up a lot of ‘HolyTrouble’ in Jesus Christ, and he went to the Cross for that,” said Pastor Jenny.  In the Scriptures, we also see other instances of God stirring up ‘Holy Trouble. God not only did it with Jesus, but he also did it with Moses, Peter, and others.

Pastor Jenny asked us, “How is God stirring up ‘Holy Trouble’ in your heart?” Share your answer on the PUMC Facebook page. What next? Ask the Holy Spirit of God to inspire and instigate you to make a change in yourself and in the world.

You, too, can experience God’s Holy Spirit in your life. Come worship with us at Princeton United Methodist Church, and be a part of this beloved community.  Click here to watch the PUMC worship Pentecost service and listen to Pastor Jenny’s sermon.

Image source: UMC Images

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 “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.

 

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.  

Phoebe Quaynor: Joy and Wonder in Routine

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Phoebe-Quaynor

A day is like a thousand years in the eyes of the Lord!
Two days (or two thousand years) ago we were in the thick of things. Sitting in wonderland as spiritual mystery happened. A fairytale was weaving all around us. Two women, Mary and Elizabeth; their ordinary first century world had been interrupted by God. They had been drawn up into heaven’s activities and timetable. The narrative reads like an epic tale like Alice in Wonderland or Dorothy being drawn up into the whirlwind. This however was not fiction. It was historically true
Today, 12 years later we are with this family as they go on their usual yearly trip to the Temple.
The parents of Jesus, Mary and Joseph were devout Jews. The Old Testament commanded such a trip for three festivals a year But by the first century, God-fearing Jews made only one journey a year because of the distances involved.
Even though a long time has passed since Mary’s scandalous pregnancy I wonder if tongues are still wagging. Are the women still giving Mary and Joseph funny looks?
After the supernatural events surrounding her pregnancy i.e. the angels announcement, the visit from the wise men and shepherds then Simeon at the dedication…there had been some strange events surrounding Jesus’ birth.
After all these things, what must be going on in Mary’s mind? There was a lot for this young woman to process as the days become months and years and life had to go on…
How does one return to being normal?
How was the miracle baby growing up?
Was Jesus doing strange supernatural things at home or was he growing up as a normal boy? We don’t know. What we do know is that life was moving along as usual…
“Each Year, his parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover” the text says.
We know that on this 12th year, they did it again, went to the Temple in Jerusalem
This was routine! This was something they did each year. Their lives were normal and ordinary in that sense. Each year, their faith required them to go to the temple and they did. Just as we routinely come to here to PUMC every Sunday.
However, this year was different! (I guess that’s why we get to read about it). Something happened this year. There was a problem. The problem was that the Boy Jesus went missing. Continue reading “Phoebe Quaynor: Joy and Wonder in Routine”