2015-7-12 Sermon “Troublemakers Needed” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

imageTroublemakers Needed

(Mark 6:16-29; Amos 7:7-15)

There are two ways in which you and I can be troublemakers. One way is by simply causing trouble – creating fear, spreading racism and bigotry, engaging in mass shooting, committing fraud or amassing wealth through ill-gotten gains. Creating trouble for oneself, one’s family and society by engaging in evil.

There is another way in which we are considered troublemakers in a different sense. If you lead an honest and truthful life, refusing to let wicked people go unopposed, unsettling their conscience, you are a troublemaker, because you bring trouble to their consciences. You are a troublemaker because you give no peace to a wicked person. You speak the truth, you stand up for justice and equality, no matter what, and people do not like it.

God’s troublemakers are those who speak truth to power and bring trouble on troublemakers. “Blessed are peacemakers,” so said Jesus. You can’t be a peacemaker without being a troublemaker. You have heard the saying, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” We are taught to be nice and not cause trouble, especially in church. The truth is, nice people seldom make history or bring about change.

As Christians, we stand on the prophetic tradition, a tradition with all kinds of trouble making radicals who made wicked kings, rulers and rich folks uncomfortable. The role of the Old Testament prophet was not foretelling, but forth telling, speaking truth as it is. That’s exactly what Amos did in the capital city of King Jeroboam. On hearing Amos, the chief priest declared, “The land cannot bear all his words.” Indeed, truth is hard to bear. One cannot not be troubled by a prophetic voice.

John the Baptist is considered one of the last prophets. He could not remain silent. He had to speak up against what he saw in his time as evil and immoral. He was a thorn in the flesh and heart of King Herod and Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife whom he married. John stirred things up that others were afraid to do. And it cost him his life.

When there is any kind of discrimination and injustice, the church should be out there stirring things up, crying and demanding for justice and equality for all. The prophetic voice of the church is the voice of God in unjust society. It is the voice of God in unrighteous generation. It is much easier to smile and be nice than to confront someone for wrongdoing. Being a troublemaker is not easy or comfortable, but it’s a part of the Christian calling and discipleship. May God help us to be faithful and bold troublemakers when circumstance demands our unwavering witness.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

2015/3/22 messages received from Sermon “Our Renewal Comes From Dying” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

image

Our Renewal Comes From Dying

Messages received.

Our renewal comes from using the big and especially the small opportunities God provides us:

  • sacrifice
  • acts of kindness to those less fortunate
  • giving of blessings to all in need
  • not ignore but do good
  • be generous of all we possess
  • let God’s love flow through us
  • Follow Jesus, follow God, let your soul rejoice and be happy!

2015/3/22 Sermon “Our Renewal Comes From Dying” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

image

Our Renewal Comes From Dying

(John 12:23-26)

 “Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.’”

————————————————————————————

Spring is in the air, and you can feel it. I see farmers getting ready to plow and sow seeds. Soon the seeds will begin to germinate and the flowers will be blooming. The lectionary reading from John’s gospel could not be more appropriate for this time of year. Because we see signs of new life and growth all around us. The trees and flowers are beginning to bud.

Have you ever wondered why the death and resurrection of Jesus is celebrated during the season of sowing and germination of seeds every year? Jesus says to his disciples, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (v. 24). Jesus uses an example of a grain to convey spiritual truth. He is telling the disciples that if they wanted to bear fruit they must die to themselves first. Another way of saying this is “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow.”

Denying the self or death to self is a painful thing. Some people call it the “ministry of fading”. We fade away so that God may be revealed in our lives. John the Baptist says, “I must decrease, so that he will increase.” If we want to bear fruit, he must die to ourselves first. We must swallow our pride at times. We must be willing to make sacrifices for God’s love to be revealed.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor

Simpson United Methodist Church

2015/3/8 Sermon “The Ten Commandments for Today” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

The Ten Commandments for Today

(Exodus 20:1-17)

For so long, the Ten Commandments have been a source of controversy in the United States. The controversy mostly relates to public display of the Ten Commandments in public schools, court houses and other government property. To post or not to post has created wide divisions in several communities. Proponents of posting the commandments are often deeply religious people who accuse the opponents of being “anti-God” or “anti-Christian.” Is the relevance of the Ten Commandment limit to this controversy? Beyond this controversy, unfortunately, many people do not see their relevance today. It’s hard to imagine how much money or time has been wasted just on this issue – to post or not to post publicly. The commandments were not given for this purpose. That’s for sure.

The Ten Commandments are not as straightforward or simple as we think. For example, how to we interpret the oft quoted commandment: “Thou shall not kill.” What does it really mean by this? There are more times in the Old Testament when God is said to have commanded to kill than not to kill. For example, in Deuteronomy 20:17, it is said that God commanded Israelites to completely destroy the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Could this be from the same God who said, “Thou shall not kill”? Could the two commandments be from two different gods? Or did God change God’s mind and decided to allow mass murder or genocide?

It all comes down to how we see the Bible. If we see the Bible as inerrant or infallible, we are likely to take the words of the Bible at face value. At the end what matters is not what we believe but how we act and how we treat each other in the name of God.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor

Simpson United Methodist Church

2015/3/1 Messages received from Sermon “A New Name, A New Journey” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

image

A New Name, A New Journey

 Messages received and meaning and history of names:

  • God changes names to give new vision and purpose, a new meaning to life.
  • We each have 2 names, our second name is “Christian”
  • Each of us lives up to 2 names, our given name and “Christian”
  • Tezenlo, beloved or please love him, my parents’ prayer for their first child
  • Nancy, full of grace
  • Chen, true happiness given to me by my grandfather, his wishes for his granddaughter
  • Teruko, shine or bright
  • Charlotte, named after my father Charley
  • Alisha, truth, named after my grandmother
  • Hondo, African for warrior
  • Molly, a happy Irish name for a little girl who is always smiling
  • Dante, from the Godfather movie and from the father of the Italian language
  • Soye, Little Jesus, from my parents
  • Eun Jung, right
  • Carla, wood cutter, given to me by my parents because they thought it sounded Japanese like Kara
  • Noel, I was born the day after Christmas
  • Paula, Latin for small (I was born prematurely) and named after my father’s best friend and well respected community leader who passed away shortly before I was born

2015/3/1 Sermon “A New Name, A New Journey” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

A New Name, A New Journey

(Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Mark 8:34-38)

What’s in a name? My name is given by parents, and it means “to be loved” or “beloved.” As their first child, my name carries my parents’ expectations, hope, prayers and wishes. Likewise, when my wife and I gave our children their names, we prayed and named them. The names we gave carry our hopes and wishes for their lives. So, names have meanings and significance.

The Bible is replete with examples of changed names. We see this fact in the reading from Genesis 17. Abram was changed to “Abraham,” which means “father of multitudes.” Sarai was changed to “Sarah,” which means “princess.” Also, Jacob becomes “Israel” (Genesis 35:10).

In the New Testament, we read in the gospels that Simon becomes “Peter, the rock.” Another familiar example is the changing of Saul to “Paul.” Saul who once persecuted the church is now changed into Paul – small or humble.

When we become Christians, we aren’t given new names as it used to be in olden days. But we are all given the name “Christian.” It comes from the Greek word Christianos, meaning followers of Christ. The word appeared only one time in the Bible – Acts 11:26.

You are given a new name – Christian. That is now your identity. That is who you are now. When God changes your name, your vision is also changed, and you gain a new perspective. You become a new person. Your priorities become difference. Your interest and desire become different. Your values become different. You have a new task or mission. And you are on a new journey for God.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor

Simpson United Methodist Church

2015-2-8 Messages received from Sermon “I Am Free, BUT….” , Pastor Tezenlo Thong

“I Am Free, BUT….”

Messages received:

  • Free speech is a privilege but as a Christian I must use my freedom with restraint and love to all, especially to my friends and family.
  • With freedom comes responsibility.
  • Identify the needs of others in service to God.
  • Identify and understand intolerance and conflict.
  • Is it more powerful to act with love and with grace?
  • Does the individual need the group?  Does the individual always represent the group?
  • Respect does not dishonor others.

2015-2-8 Sermon “I Am Free, BUT….” , Pastor Tezenlo Thong

“I Am Free, BUT….”

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

In 1993, Samuel P. Hungtington proposed a theory that in the post-Cold War, religious/cultural identities would be the major cause of conflict in the world. This seminal concept was first published as an article entitled A Clash of Civilizations. Are we, indeed, living in a period of a clash of civilizations? The recent killing of Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine staff and other Parisians by some religious extremists masquerading as “believers” has prompted condemnations around the world. Although there are some who believe that the killing was justified, most reasonable people across cultures and religious traditions condemn the taking of lives.

This unfortunate and atrocious event has triggered a crucial debate on freedom of speech. From prominent religious leaders (like the Pope) to political figures (such as the British Prime Minister), opinions are being raised in relation to freedom of expression and its responsibility. Does freedom of expression have responsibility? Is it acceptable to insult someone’s fundamental value in the exercise of my fundamental value?

The right to freedom of speech is often invoked as a fundamental right in the West. It is enshrined in the constitution or Bill of Rights. Many would go to the extent of arguing that free speech includes freedom to offend, mock, insult and provoke.

Do Christians have the right to freedom of speech? Yes, we do. Does it include the freedom to offend, insult or mock? Peter says, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16). Paul knew that he was free, but he voluntarily and willingly constrained himself so that he might be able to “win” some for God. Christian freedom comes with responsibility and limitations.

The scripture says, “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Our speech must be adorned with love always. Easer said than done, no doubt, but a principle worth trying. So, what does it mean to speak in love? Paul says, “Love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5). On one hand, to love is to refrain from doing anything to “dishonor others” (unlike what Charlie Hebdo does). On the other hand, love is “not easily angered” to perpetrate violence (unlike what the extremists did).

Because the secular government allows us to do certain things does not mean that they are in agreement with the Christian or godly principle. If my free speech is going to hurt, or cause harm, violence or death, I need to exercise prudence. Words can kill. Words also can heal.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

 

2014-11-9 Sermon by Tezenlo Thong, “Awaiting the Fullness of the Kingdom of God”

“Awaiting the Fullness of the Kingdom of God”

(Matthew 25:1-13)

Tezenlo Thong

As we near the Season of Advent, you will realize that the lectionary texts are leading us to what is called parousia, an eschatological event the Christians have always believed will happen soon. The parable for this Sunday talks about waiting for an important event, an event that no one knows when it might occur. The waiters are therefore kept in suspense. We all know what it is like to be in a state of constant suspense, waiting for something to happen any moment.

What is important is that our Christian life is not a passive waiting. We are to wait in active readiness. Some early Christians thought that Jesus would return in their lifetime and decided to wait passively. They became disengaged and disinterested in “earthly” matters. They became fixated on the “hereafter” and lost relevance in the “here-and-now”.

We are not called to wait passively as the world suffers, as God’s children go hungry or as oppression and injustice grow. We are to wait actively. That is why the Season of Advent is a busy time for the Church. We give, and we serve more than we normally do. This Advent, God will come. God will come moment by moment. Sometimes we are foolish, and we miss the coming; sometimes we are wise, and we see him/her in the face of someone in need – “Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.” Let us wait actively for the coming of God!

 

 

 

Messages received from sermon “God at Work in You”by Tezenlo Thong

Here are some of the comments received from the congregation describing the message received from the sermon “God at Work in You” :

  • Service of God without judgment.
  • Leaders are ministers too.
  • God gives us energy so we may extend kindness, forgiveness, grace, love and humility.
  • We the congregation are the church.
  • God is our bond to each other.
  • Christian love sometimes requires sacrifice.
  • Serve each other with a humble spirit.
  • We all have the desire to do what is good and God gives us the will, power, courage and energy to do what is good!

Special note to Tezenlo, our thoughts and prayers are with you and Eun Jung and your family during this time of loss.