Sermon “Come! Journey With Jesus: Charting Course”

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.

Sermon “Come! Journey With Jesus: Where Are We Going?”

On Sunday, September 8, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “Where Are We Going?” from the sermon series “Come! Journey With Jesus.” The Scripture for the week is from Mark 8:34-9:1, Mark 12:28-34.

At the Great Commission, recorded in Matthew 28:19, Jesus calls on his followers to make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

We continuously refer to discipleship when talking about curriculum, tithes, work, mission, or even Christ’s disciples, but do we know about what we are discussing? Likewise, do we know what we mean when we talk about a destination? Let us hear from one another. Where does our following of Christ take us ultimately? What is our goal in our journey of discipleship? Where are we headed? Heaven, Salvation, Kingdom of God, Heart of God, Unity of God, Holiness, Cross and Resurrection, Total Sanctification, Christian Perfection? Jesus talked a lot with his followers about what his way was. He often asked, “Who am I?” He was the Messiah – the only one, and constant hope. Messiah was the right title but with the wrong understanding. 

Peter doesn’t want to hear about suffering and death. Jesus gathered huge crowds and presented them with a set of paradoxes. “Deny yourself and take up the cross; to save your life, you must lose it; lose your life to find it,” he said. Surprisingly, there were followers left after listening to him. The map of Christ is full of mystery, tension, things beyond our grasp. It is not a Da Vinci Code style, nor is it a trick or a game. It is an unfolding of truth and life, always pointing us more deeply into the unfathomable mystery of God’s love and grace. There were disciples left resonating with the deep need and longing for something Christ embodied. But they and we also try to cheapen it by avoiding cross and suffering or by thinking we have to do the work by ourselves. But more disciples mean more burden and responsibility. We despair of a destination we can never actually reach. 

In response to a Scribe who asked which commandment matters most, Jesus said, “Love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself.” This type of love is fierce, all-embracing, healing, transforming, and world-changing. A passion that starts with God, not demanded or coerced but evoked by God.  Love that costs something when we love God and neighbor fully. It embraces suffering and death – our own and that of others. The story of love is not complete until we see the cross of Christ and the power of God in the resurrection. And Christ invites us into this story, to journey with him. It is not unattainable. Christ came precisely to embody agape love for the world and to show us the possibility and priority of such a love (Paul Ramsay).

Christ presents us with this love because he first loved us. So he invites us to embrace this love and let it change us. It will free us to joyfully respond with our love of Christ and neighbor, love of self, and love for the world.  Along the way, we too will pick up our cross, lose our lives only to find that life and love await us. 

Discipleship is, therefore, a journey through which God’s grace transforms us, opening us to see ourselves as God sees us, teaching us how to love so we can love God, others, self, and creation as Christ loves. 



Invitation to Follow 

~by Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Abandon the illusion you’re a self-contained individual.

Be a part of this wounded world,

and find yourself with Christ.

Set aside your own desires, 

give yourself fully for others;

be the hands and heart of Jesus.

Renounce self-protection,

accept your brokenness,

and reach out for love.

Let go of your own plans.

Join in the healing of the world.

You will not be alone.

Follow your soul, not your ego.

Follow it right into people’s suffering.

Follow it right into the heart of God.

Pour yourself out;

let the world pour in;

then you are one with the Beloved.

The sermon is a podcast on this webpage under the category “worship.” Here is the link

Here is the link for the complete video of the September 8 service at the Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page.