2015-11-15 Messages Received from Sermon by Tezenlo Thong “Lessons from Hannah, Our Mother of Faith”

“Lessons from Hannah, Our Mother of Faith”

(1 Samuel 1:4-20; 1 Samuel 2:1-10)

Messages Received:

  • Find God’s message in your heart
  • Share God with others
  • Rejoice in answered prayers
  • Prayer is how you live your life
  • The God in us. to share is goodness
  • We should pray not only for ourselves but for those in our lives and those in need.
  • Pray without ceasing
  • Shocking statistic about our Veterans, there are more death by suicide than deaths in war – combat
  • Shocking statistic about U.S. prisons, we have the largest prisons in all the world, mostly populated by minorities, with the prisoners feeling no future and no hope

 

2015-11-15 Sermon by Tezenlo Thong “Lessons from Hannah, Our Mother of Faith”

“Lessons from Hannah, Our Mother of Faith”

(1 Samuel 1:4-20; 1 Samuel 2:1-10)

Today’s lection is the last of three weeks that focuses on women at the margin of society. Like Ruth last Sunday, Hannah is a woman who was marginalized and discriminated for reason beyond her control. She was barren or childless, and it was a shame for a woman not to bear a child. In the Bible, God is said to be one who opened and closed the womb, and there is no biblical story about an infertile man. So like many cultures, barrenness is considered a woman’s problem, not a man’s. Barrenness or infertility is thus construed as a divine hand or curse. Now, having a son would validate Hannah and restore her status in society.

In many male-dominated cultures, having no children, especially male children, was a sign of failure in life. It is seen as lack of a future because the “bloodline” is continued through the male child. Walter Brueggemann in The Prophetic Imagination says that barrenness is a metaphorical reference to “a loss of a future and therefore to hopelessness.” He says that “the notion of barrenness may be taken as a condition of despair in our society.” Indeed, it could be taken as a condition of our churches today. Many churches lament that they don’t have young people, youth and children. These are our future who have vanished and have very little or no interest in church. Where then is the future of the church? Hannah’s barrenness, wilderness, emptiness or insecurity of the future is perhaps a reflection of the state of the church today.

Also think of so many people who experience a deep sense of the lack of a future ahead of them. They see no way forward. Think of the veterans who suffer mental problem with no hope for future. Think of undocumented aliens who face deportation and separation from their loved ones any moment. They may be working hard, but their future is grim and uncertain. But the good news is that God “opened” Hannah’s womb and she gave birth to a son who became one of the greatest prophets. The church is called to be hope for the hopeless, to hold out hope and make a way for those who see no way.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

2015-11-1 Sermon “You Are the Church”, Tezenlo Thong

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You Are the Church

Acts 2:42-47

What image or memory does the word “church” evoke in your mind? I’m sure there is a whole array of things like friendship, love, meals, music, messages, prayers, mission, etc. But that’s not all. You might also think of other things like, anger, bitterness, frustration, conflict, etc. Perhaps, the one thing that resonates best with church is a building with a cross. For most people, the church is a building, a place we go to on Sundays. But is that truly the case? The church equals a building with a cross?

If we were to transport the first century Christians and take them into a modern church with lights, music and everything therein, I don’t believe they will ask, “Is this a church?” Or “This feels like a church. This must be a church, is it?” Instead, with utter confusion, they will surely ask, “What is this?” Because today’s church is not what they called church in the beginning.

The church has evolved over centuries. In the beginning, the church or Christianity was simply a way of life. There were no creeds or doctrines, no denominations or fancy buildings. It was a lifestyle, not an organized religion as we know today. In fact, the early Christians were called people of the Way (Acts 9:2). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Therefore, his followers were appropriately called people of the way.

Once a way of life, Christianity became an institution, eventually becoming a corporation or an enterprise. When we think of a church, our minds are so fixated on a building. However, the church is not a building. It is the people, who strive to live according to the teachings of Jesus. The church is a fellowship of believers striving to love, serve and make a difference in the world. Acts chapter two provides us with a good description of what the church was and ought to be.

 

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

2015-9-27 Sermon by Tezenlo Thong, “Dying in Order to Live”

Dying in Order to Live

Mark 8:34-38    

Oscar Wilde once said, “Come over here and sit next to me, I’m dying to tell you all about myself.” Now, that’s not what we mean by dying to oneself. That’s self-centeredness. D.L. Moody, the great 19th century preacher, said, “God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves.” Now, the opposite of selfishness or self-centeredness is selflessness or self-giving. Speaking of Mother Teresa, someone said, “Her secret is that she is free to be nothing. Therefore, God can use her for anything.”

Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States has fired up many devout Catholics. It has also brought religious fervor among non-Catholic Christians. I am sure non-Christians and non-religious people are also watching his visit with curiosity and interest. One of the reasons is his humility. Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope. All Jesuit priests take vows of poverty. Unlike many others before him, the present pope leads a life of humility and simplicity. So many people admire him because of his humility and life of simplicity. We see his virtues very clearly in several ways during his visit.

In today’s text, Jesus is philosophical about death. He is thinking or rather teaching philosophically about his death and death in general. He says, “If a seed is planted into the ground and it does not die, it remains a seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds and seedlings and those seeds and their seedlings produce much fruit.” What Jesus is saying is that “the key to life is death.” Jesus is saying that dying is important to living. Just like the seed, death is necessary for life. Dying is important for living. It is in dying to ourselves that we begin living. Individually and as a church we are called to die so that we may live. As a church, God calls us to die so that we may live in the memory of the community. God does not call us to be self-content and self-serving. God calls us to be self-giving, to die and bear much fruit.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

2015-9-20 Sermon by Tezenlo Thong “Tradition Vs. Modernity: ‘In All Things Charity’”

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Tradition Vs. Modernity: ‘In All Things Charity’”

(Mark 7:1-13)

What is tradition? What is modernity? Are tradition and modernity contradictory or mutually exclusive? Or can they co-exist in our thinking and practice? Is tradition obsolete or outdated? Is modernity our only way forward?

A clash between tradition and modernity is real. We know it because we encounter it every day. Whether it is in relation to technology, culture or morality, we observe and experience the clash frequently.

With the beginning of the era of “contemporary worship and music” in the 1970s, many churches experienced divisions and conflicts over tradition vs. modernity. Today, many churches have separate “traditional” and “contemporary” worship services. It does not, however, mean that the debate is settled.

As an ethnic church that is proud of our heritage, every year we engage in a series of cultural or traditional related activities such as Hina-Matsuri, Asian Food Bazaar, mochi-making, etc. Why do we do what we do? What’s the purpose of doing all these? Do we do or see traditional event as an end in itself? Or do we do it as a means to an end?

Like most churches, we do have a problem between “traditional worldview” vs. “modern worldview”? How does a clash between the two effects the functioning of our church? When the older folks want to do things the old way and the younger folks want to do things the new way, what do we do? How do we work things out, making everyone feel blessed and informed? How do we celebrate our heritage without being tied down by tradition? How do we allow our heritage to inform our vision, but not let our past, our traditions, determine our vision for the future?

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

2015-8-23 Sermon by Tezenlo Thong “Corpus Christi”

Corpus Christi

John 6:56-69

“Corpus Christi” in Latin means the Body of Christ. At the continued requests of Juliana of Liege, Pope Urban IV instituted the Festival of Corpus Christi in 1264. The festival is a celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Surprisingly, the Bible does not say much about the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus said very little about it. The only imperative statement comes from Luke 22:19, “Do this in remembrance of me.” More surprisingly, the partaking of Corpus Christi has been the deepest point of division in the church. There is so much pain and discord around the celebration. There are many differing views and theological beliefs about communion, especially about the supposed nature of the bread and the wine on the table of fellowship.

The institution of Corpus Christi is not meant for theological dispute and schism. When we celebrate communion, we say, “Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ,
that we may be for the world the body of Christ.” We partake communion so that we may become for the world the hands, the feet and the heart of God. By partaking the body and the blood of Christ, we become God’s hands, feet and heart to serve, to heal and to love as God would. That’s all it is!

Our bodies have limitations. Our bodies do not look like the ones we see in magazines. Rather, ours is a broken one. It has aches and pains. It is wrinkled and worn out. But our bodies can still be the body of Christ. They can still be the hands, the feet and the heart of God in the world. The scars, wounds, pains and aches in our bodies enable us to identify with others in similar situations. Without these, we cannot empathize with the broken, the scarred and the wounded. So each morning as we wake up, our prayer ought to be “Thank you, God, for yet one more day in which I can be your hands, your feet, your heart in the world.”

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church


Sermon by Tezenlo Thong “Be Imitators of God”

Be Imitators of God

(Ephesians 4:22-5:2)

What conjures up in your mind when you hear the word “imitation”? Fake, phony, counterfeit, copy, bogus, etc. You have heard people say, “Be yourself. Be authentic; be real. Don’t copy someone.” So the word imitation is seldom used in a positive sense. On the other hand, we also talk of people who do or have done great things. We talk about people who are special. We try to emulate them, their sacrificial love, service and giving, because they inspire and motivate us. So in this sense, imitation is positive.

Paul challenges the Ephesians and says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.” What does it mean for us to imitate God? How can we finite beings imitate the infinite being? How can we frail and mortal beings imitate the immortal one? If God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, how can you and I imitate such a sovereign God? To imitate God is the ultimate ideal, but it’s an impossible task.

The Greek word Paul uses here is mimetai from which we get our English word to “mimic.” The idea is to copy closely, to repeat another person’s speech, actions, behavior and mannerisms. Paul is not speaking about imitating God’s sovereign or infinite attributes. He is rather referring to “imitable” virtues such as love, forgiveness, peace, kindness, mercy and grace. We can copy God in moral attributes. We can copy our God in justice, righteousness, truth and equality. Simply put, we walk in love as God also has loved us. Just like little children observe and imitate their parents, we do likewise. Imitation is a part of discipleship. Imitation is something we strive as followers. It is something we do daily.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church