2015-5-31 “The Mysterious Divine” Sermon, Tezenlo Thong

“The Mysterious Divine” Sermon, Tezenlo Thong

(Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; John 3:1-17)

Who or what is God? Is it/he/she God, YHWH, Wakan Tanka, Eshwara, Allah, Dark Energy, Gaia, etc.? Throughout human existence, human beings across the universe have been seeking to understand “GOD”. Hence, so many names of God and religious traditions.

Have we understood the Mysterious Divine? Do we know who or what God is? Someone said, “A comprehended God is no god.” That is comforting, because we have the tendency to comprehend God completely, fully to our satisfaction and liking.

For this Trinity Sunday, the lectionary texts portray a mysterious God who is awe inspiring, fearsome, and beyond description and comprehension. In the words of Amy Jill Levine, “God is free to be; God is a verb; God is being.” God is free to be what God is and wants to be. Conversely, that mysterious Divine, we believe, is not only majestic, but also loving and gentle like the wind; transcendent, yet immanent; mighty, yet graceful; and most importantly, calls or invites us to know, feel and share with others.

In the end what is important is not how much we know or how we know; what is truly important is how that knowing of the mysterious divine changes us, shapes us and make us to be better persons in the world.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

2015-5-10 Sermon “Chosen for a Purpose”, Tezenlo Thong

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Chosen for a Purpose

(John 15:9-17)

Life is made up of choices.

 

For high school graduates, it’s time to choose which school to join. Every two years, there are major elections in this country when citizens get an opportunity to choose politicians. Out of so many people, you chose your husband or wife to live and love for life. I can go on, but the point is that life is made up of choices. In this today’s passage, Jesus says, “You did not choose me; I chose you for a purpose.” We are chosen for a greater purpose.

1. We are chosen for love and to love

Paul says, “Faith, hope, and Love. These three outlast all other things, but the greatest of these is love. Love is superior to knowledge, it is more fruitful than understanding all mysteries, it is above all prophecy and more powerful than the faith that can move mountains.”

We live in a culture that uses the word “love” a lot – a culture that overuses love and under employs it in practice. Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” We are called to love because of the love of God.

2. We are chosen to bear fruit

“Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received–only what you have given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage” ― Francis of Assisi.

Again Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” We are chosen to bear fruit – fruits that will last forever. If love will remain, then whatever we do in love will also remain. Bear fruit – fruit that will last. Gal. 5:22 tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love….” Love is one of the fruits of the spirit. So if we have love we have the fruit of the Spirit. We have all been touched by someone’s love. We all have experienced what it means to be loved. The good things that we do out of God’s love are the fruits of the Spirit. Bear fruit – fruit that will last.

3. Chosen or called into friendship

Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants. Instead, I call you friends.” In the Old Testament, Abraham is called God’s friend. Jesus has called his disciples students, followers or disciples. But here during the last supper, he calls them friends for the first time. I’m sure many of you have experienced losing a friend to death. We grieve for lost friends because we love them. Also, part of friendship is allowing our friends to help us. And we have a friend who always walks with us in all the ups and downs of life. Proverbs 18:24, “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” In our moments of trial, temptation and hardship, we have a friend who is always there.

We are called to extend that friendship to others. You may have heard it often said that people are not looking for a friendly church; they are looking for friends in church. Extend friendship, fellowship and human connection to those who are lonely and seeking for a human connection and community.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

2015-4-26 Messages received from Sermon “Following the Shepherd, Loving the Sheep” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

shepherd and sheep2

Following the Shepherd, Loving the Sheep

John 10:7-18

Messages Received:

  • We need to live God’s love.
  • Community is Love – take care of those in need.
  • Self-giving and mutual concern, the mission of all Christians.
  • Caring church members make it easier to know God is a presence in our lives.
  • God = Love
  • Life and lessons of the congregation is explaning the love of God.
  • SUMC is a “resting place of love”.  We are sheltered by God’s love.
  • Your fellow Christians need your attention.
  • Humankind needs your attention.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

2015-4-26 “Following the Shepherd, Loving the Sheep” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

shepherd and sheep2

Following the Shepherd, Loving the Sheep

John 10:7-18

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. As a result, each year on the third Sunday after Easter we read from the tenth chapter of John’s gospel. The other passage from the Old Testament that goes with the gospel of John is Psalm 23. The Good Shepherd Sunday texts, as I see them, has two parts. The first talks about the shepherd’s love for the sheep, and the second part contains loving the sheep.

The shepherd so loves and is so devoted to his sheep that he would give his life for the sheep. In other words, the good shepherd’s love is self giving and sacrificial. And the shepherd commanded us to love one another in the same way that he has loved the sheep.

You cannot follow the shepherd without loving the sheep. This assertion is stated over and over again in the Bible. To follow the shepherd is to care for and love the sheep. In John 13:35, it says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” At another time, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” To which, Peter answered, “Yes. I do love you.” Jesus responded, “Then, feed my sheep.” Following the shepherd and caring and loving the sheep always go hand in hand.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

2015-4-19 Messages received from Called to Enhance Life, Pastor Tezenlo Thong

 

Called to Enhance Life

Acts 3:3-15

Messages received:

  • Bring healing to others and heal yourself.
  • One person can make a difference by good deeds and actions.
  • One person can make a difference with ill conceived deeds and actions.
  • Small acts of kindness can be powerful.

Simpson United Methodist Church

 

2015-4-19 Called to Enhance Life, Pastor Tezenlo Thong

sumc

Called to Enhance Life

Acts 3:3-15

 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished. When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

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Today’s text in the book of Acts begins with the healing of a man who was lame from birth. We see two groups of people in the text: one group kills life; another group restores life. The religious leaders killed “the author of life” who came to provide abundant life. But God raised him from the dead. Following the resurrection, Peter and John healed a handicapped person. By doing so, they enhanced his life and restored his social status.

The story begins with a place called Beautiful in the gate area of the Jewish temple. In that place called Beautiful, there is someone whom society considers not so beautiful, because he was born handicapped. He is considered by others as an eye sore in a temple entrance. He is considered a burden to society. Life does not seem to have much value.

Peter’s healing not only makes the man to walk, but more importantly restores him fully to society. Here is a man whose life was considered worthless and a sore in the eye by society. By healing the man Peter and John enhanced the quality of his life. Healing brought wholeness to this once discarded man. It raised his social status and value in the eyes of others. He is no longer a second-class citizen, but a fully functioning member, equal to everyone.

In your action, word and attitude you either enrich life or diminish it. You either kill life or add meaning and purpose to life. You enrich life by visiting a sick or bereaved friend or church member. You enhance life when you bring joy and comfort to someone who is feeling lonely or hopeless. You enrich life when you enable someone to experience God’s love by your love and kindness.

Everyone is a child deeply loved by God who created her or him. Whether poor or rich, young or old, female or male, everyone carries God’s image. And everyone deserves respect and dignity. We are called not to kill or destroy life but to enrich and nurture life. In your word, action and attitude, don’t diminish life, but enrich the god-given life.

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

 

2015-2-1 Messages received from Pastor Tezenlo Thong’s Sermon God’s Sufficient Grace

God’s Sufficient Grace

Messages Received:

  • I learned that I fall shamefully short when it comes to offering Grace to others. This week and beyond I will focus myself and consciously try to be the graceful person God wants me to be.
  • What is Grace? How have you experienced Grace?  How have you given Grace?
  • Grace is a gift from God.
  • Grace comes to us from faith.
  • Definition of Grace – God’s unmerited favor and as we receive Grace we are called to be gracious as well.
  • God has bestowed Grace to all of us. We are so fortunate, thus we need to in turn bestow the grace we have received to others.
  • Grace expressed (received from God, witnessed given by God, our gifts to others) through loving kindness, mercy, goodwill, redemption through faith and unmerited favor.
  • We receive Grace and have the ability to give Grace to others.
  • Our following God’s example and ministering Grace to the unlovely, unpleasant, undeserving and unlikeable may change their lives forever.
  • Our following God’s example and ministering Grace to the unlovely, unpleasant, undeserving and unlikeable may change our lives forever.