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

2015-5-31 “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

2015-5-3 Messages received from Sermon Fear Factor vs. Love Factor

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Fear Factor vs. Love Factor

(1 John 4:7-21)

Messages received:

  • Are you driven by fear or love?
  • Are you serving God with fear or love?
  • Fear means no joy
  • Can acting in fear make your service harmful?
  • Love means welcome
  • Can acting in love make your service more effective?

2015-5-3 Fear Factor vs. Love Factor, Sermon by Tezenlo Thong

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Fear Factor vs. Love Factor

(1 John 4:7-21)

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

“This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

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What drives your life? What drives our church? What drive our society or the world? Is it love? Or is it fear? Probably, most of us would say that it is definitely fear that drives everything. We are living under constant fear. We are being bombarded with news that drives us to live in fear. We fear for another economic collapse, terrorist attack, cyber attack or scam, religious extremism, political and social unrest, hyper partisanship, extreme weather patterns, etc.

The feeling of fear can be a good thing. It can help us to avoid dangerous situations. Or help us to be cautious in life. However, fear can also be incapacitating. It can inhibit us from achieving our goal or attaining our potential. Fear can strain our relationship with others. The writer of first John invites us to live a life that’s driven not by fear but by love.

What drives your life – love or fear? In other words, is your life driven by fear factor or love factor? There are some people whose lives are driven by the fear of the other. The fear of people of a different religion. The fear of people who do not think or believe like us. The fear of people with different skin color. The fear of people of different ethnic origin. The fear of “illegal” immigrants. The fear of conservatives or liberals. Even in our religious belief, it is possible to live in fear. The fear of being punished by God. The fear of going to hell. The fear of God not loving or forgiving us.

The scriptures this morning call us to live not in fear of others but to love one another. Love and abiding in Christ go hand in hand. If we say we love God but do not love others we do not abide in God. For love comes from God. “If we love one another, God lives in us,” writes John.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

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

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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

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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.’”

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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

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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