Today’s Haiku for Terry, Gary and Roxy

Our church has an area where you light a candle for your concern or celebration. The rest of the congregation doesn’t know what your candle is for, but they pray with you to honor your request.

This is a simple haiku for a fellow blogger, his partner and their companion that came to me at candle lighting today.

  • live in the moment
  • a gallantly fought journey
  • destination near

A daily reminder from my companions that living in the moment is truly important.

Henry 3 months

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

Sermon by Tezenlo Thong “Uncommon Community”

Uncommon Community

(Ephesians 4:1-16)

In the text for us today, Paul gives us his prescription for uncommon community. An uncommon community is one that is unconditional, unusual, unconventional or unlike any other in what and who we are as a people of God. Every group or community, including church, has a set of rules for inclusion and exclusion. To be an uncommon community means to be inclusive and open-minded to one and all, extending radical hospitality. It means to be unlike any other community in our attitude, behavior, acceptance and forbearance of each other. It is a grace filled community where our ability to forgive and love is unparalleled.

We see an example of such an uncommon community at the end of Acts 2, where all who believed were together and had everything in common. They broke bread and ate their food with glad hearts. They sold their possessions and goods and distributed the proceeds to all. As a result, the community enjoyed the goodwill of all the people. An uncommon community is marked by passion for loving, serving, encouraging, forgiving and other actions involved in building up one another and belonging to the body. It is a community where everyone experiences the community in its richest and most uncommon form.

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