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.  

Sermon: “Swing Forward: Growing Pains”

Rev. Jenny Smith Walz preached on September 2, 2018 in the sermon series “Swing Forward”, on the topic ‘Growing Pains’.

Her message is based on the Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith in Mark 7:24-30.

She begins by asking some challenging questions – Who is the church for? Who is PUMC for? For whom will we exist in 20, 50, 80, 100 years? She concluded there was not just one answer.

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.”

Of the four gospels, Mark portrays Jesus as the most human. This allows us to see how Jesus might develop and grow. It’s still surprising to us to hear Jesus calling the woman a ‘dog’, but knowing Jesus is fully human could lessen that surprise a bit. Jesus is open to compassion and love and heals her daughter. Here we see the Kingdom of inclusion, which though not new in theory remains new to us in practice. The disciples were more offended that Jesus healed the woman’s daughter than he called her a dog. While we are offended that Jesus called her a dog, we are not so quick to notice the “dogs” of the world or to offer them healing.

Rev. Smith Walz made reference to Kaylin Haught and Karoline Lewis.

Learn also how Karoline Lewis gets Jesus to change his mind.

Rev. Smith Walz’s message is that church is for everyone. She encouraged everyone to come to church:
the children, who are not saying they left church but that their church left them behind;
– the young adults, the majority of whom feel lonely and disconnected;
those dealing with homelessness;
those who have experienced spiritual trauma, for whom we need to envision a healing center.

We need to share God’s love with them, share the fullness of life that we’ve found. Together with them, we need to discover more of who God is, living more fully in God’s kingdom.

Rev. Smith Waltz feels sadness when people call wondering whether they are welcome at church for all kinds of reasons, notably that they are different or they have nothing to give. She feels sadness also that people don’t call or won’t come to church for many reasons, not least that they don’t actually experience God at church or that their spiritual hunger isn’t being satisfied.

The good news is that Jesus knows our struggles and has compassion for us, but above all God invites us to the Table to serve us a feast, even as we are “unworthy of the crumbs’. Jesus came to save people not to exclude them.

Finally, the church is there to pass on the tradition from one generation to another.

— Isabella Dougan

God Imagines…All Are Welcome

Rev. Catherine E. Williams – Jan 15, 2017 – Revelation 7: 9-17

“God imagines…” signals a divine reality – a reality that exists already as far as God is concerned, although not quite yet as far as humans are concerned. “God imagines” is an invitation to enter a divine space called the Kingdom or the Reign of God, a place that holds the substance of the things we humans hope for, and dream of.

Things like peace on earth, a welcoming, inclusive community, an egalitarian society, and the total harmony of all creation – these already exist in God’s vision. They are the future that people of God lean into as we go about daily living, but we lean in because we have been inspired by the divine imagination and touched by the divine Spirit in some compelling way. Ever so often we get weary and frustrated, as Jana reminded us last week. Something happens in the home, in the community, in the country or around the world that takes the wind out of our sails. We throw up our hands and throw in the towel – why bother? And then God, for whom this peace, and inclusiveness, this equality and harmony already exists, touches our hearts again through some divine encounter, and we are inspired once more to live and lean into that vision; we become convinced in some uncanny way that this is real after all, and worth pursuing. Such is the power of God’s imagination; such is the work of God’s Spirit in the world. Such was the work of the biblical prophets like John who wrote the Revelation, this book from which our lesson was read this morning.

If you want to see imagination on steroids, you’re welcome to read the whole book of Revelation. Oh it starts off pragmatic enough with letters to seven churches, commending or chastising them based on their faithfulness to God’s ways. And then we get to chapter four and all imagination breaks loose: thrones, heavenly beings, beasts and horses, and dragons. Imagery and metaphor converge upon one another with lightning speed and thundering volume – it’s all so compelling and awesome that books, movies, songs, doctrines, and forecasts of human destiny have all emerged out of this book. But the fantastic tone of the book of Revelation is nothing strange if you understand apocalyptic writings; they envision a just and rightful end to injustice and human wrongs.

When we read the various books of the Bible it helps to think of reading through a newspaper; we interpret what we read according the nature of the writing. So the advertisements, the sports pages, the advice columns, and the comic strips all belong in the newspaper, but we don’t evaluate the information in the advice column the way we evaluate the information in the comic strip. In the same way the psalms, the law, the wisdom literature, prophets, the gospels, letters, and apocalyptic writings all belong in the Bible, but we understand the poetry in a much different way than we understand the prophetic oracles. Apocalyptic writings like Revelation tend to be filled with graphic images of all kinds: from violence and wrathful judgment to peaceful restoration and harmonious resolution to earthly wrongs. It’s a desperate yearning for right to prevail and for wrong to be punished. I just needed to put that perspective in place before I get to today’s vision, which thankfully is one of the more alluring ones.

In Revelation 7 John entered into God’s imagination when he looked and saw “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice saying, ‘salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Rev. 7:9-10 NRSV) In these verses, John skips to the end of the cosmic book, so to speak, to give us a glimpse of a community shaped by God’s vision of inclusiveness. Let’s remember that this was God’s vision from the very beginning when he called Abraham. In Genesis, the book of beginnings, God promised Abraham that in him all the families of the earth will be blessed, and that his progeny of the faithful would be more in number than the stars of the heaven or the sand of the sea. I think we’re looking at them here in Revelation. This is what New Testament scholar Brian Blount scholar calls the “innumerable, international multitude” – people from every nation, every tribe, every ethnic group, every language.

The earthly ministry of Jesus also demonstrated this vision of inclusiveness. You may recall the repeated derogatory comments made by Jesus’ detractors regarding the kind of company he kept. His roadies were fishermen and tax collectors.  His groupies came from the palace and from the pub. He was playful with the kids and gentle with the mothers-in-law. Jesus told so many stories about this innumerable international multitude we see in Revelation. His version of “once upon a time,” was,the kingdom of heaven is like” These stories illustrated a reality that God imagines where the first shall be last and the least shall be greatest, and where everyone is invited to the great victory banquet – everyone!

This inclusiveness is part of the DNA of God we receive at our baptism and when we come to faith in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God who grafts us into the church and who leads us to maturity works within each of us to develop this disposition of inclusiveness. And doesn’t our own congregational mission statement call us into this vision of God? We are a diverse community, joyfully responding to God’s love and growing as disciples of Christ by nurturing, teaching, reaching, and serving all people. It says right there on the front of your bulletin that all are welcome here: whatever your ethnicity, culture, nationality, faith tradition, age, gender, hair type, skin tone, educational background, profession or trade, sexual orientation, degree of physical ability, state of physical or mental health, whatever your political affiliation – ALL ARE WELCOME. Continue reading “God Imagines…All Are Welcome”