Recent Sermons from Calvary UMC
Don’t Let Covid-19 Have the Last Word or Loudest Voice!
03-15-20 Calvary UMC, Dumont NJ Rev. Elaine Wing
It’s been a crazy world of late, right? Before we get to our scripture reading and brief reflection, I want to give us a few minutes to offer examples of people behaving selfishly or poorly this past week. (Time of Sharing)
I’ll be honest with you and share that I’m already pretty tired of the Corona Covid-19 virus. I know this is a marathon event and not a sprint, but I want to take a break from the news. Yet, I know that as your Pastor and member of society, I have a responsibility to stay updated on what is “fact and not fear-based information” from reputable sources.
I’m wondering if any of you are in the same place. Yet, because you may be working from home, trying to figure out how to pay bills if your income has been reduced because of economic slow-down or the stock market downfall, we do have to stay tuned to at least the CDC, NJ.Gov, Bergen County and Dumont updates.
So, what can we do as people of faith to keep our head on straight while this plays out? How can we keep ourselves from panicking like those folks who hoarding toilet paper, water, and food? (your stories about people who are acting poorly?)
Let’s start this morning with a reminder of God’s unshakable kingdom. Covi-19 isn’t an earthquake, but it has certainly shaken our sense of security, trust, and calm.
Scripture Hebrews 1: 1-11 (selected verses) and Hebrews 12:29 (CEV)
1 Long ago in many ways and at many times God’s prophets spoke his message to our ancestors. 2 But now at last, God sent his Son to bring his message to us. God created the universe by his Son, and everything will someday belong to the Son. 3 God’s Son has all the brightness of God’s own glory and is like him in every way. By his own mighty word, he holds the universe together.
8 God says about his Son, “You are God, and you will rule as King forever! Your royal power brings about justice. 9 You loved justice and hated evil, and so I, your God, have chosen you.
10 The Scriptures also say,
“In the beginning, Lord, you were the one
who laid the foundation of the earth and created the heavens.
11 They will all disappear and wear out like clothes, but you will last forever.
In Hebrews 12: 29 we read: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe . . .” May we be blessed by this reading of God’s word…
How does this scripture help us?
For me, it is reassuring that while other things may fall apart in my life or in the world, that God is reminding us Christ will never change. God’s love for me (and you) through Jesus is unshakable. Nothing will separate us from God….and the kingdom on earth and heaven that God created is NO MATCH for any disease, natural or human made disaster. Because this is a foundational belief, these next words written by the Apostle Paul to his protégé Timothy carry more weight and credibility in my mind.
Philippians 4: 6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul has given us a concrete step to take… Pray – communicate with God about our requests while being thankful
I’d like to suggest that maintaining a sense of humor is another way of keeping our heads on straight and our faith intact.
On the NPR Show “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me,” I heard a comedian share how Harvey Weinstein has become a role model during the Covid-19 crisis. He is going into isolation for 23 years… what a guy…
Those of us who are worried about our ability to pay our bills as we experience work slow downs as a ripple affect of this crisis might also find humor to help… When the stock market crashed during a previous crisis, one witty writer asked how bad is the financial situation? It is so bad that…
Parents in Beverly Hills have fired their nannies and learned their children’s names.
· It was so bad . . . a truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico.
· It was so bad . . . Motel Six won’t leave the light on anymore.
· It was so bad . . . you get a credit card in the mail and it’s already pre-declined.
· It was so bad . . . McDonald’s is now selling the 1/4 ouncer.
Another coping mechanism we might consider adopting during the Covid-19 pandemic is acceptance and flexibility.
We like to think that we’re in control of our lives but as life goes on, we learn two important words: “Life happens.” And, we might add, “It is what it is.”
We had no control over the fact that this virus started in a fish market in China and has travelled all around the world.
Please do not hear me as being indifferent to the sorrow and grief many families are feeling as their loved ones have died or are hospitalized. My heart aches for them, and for the fallout we are all experiencing from this crisis.
I want us to simply consider accepting the fact that every now and then we are going to get shaken up as individuals and communities.
Think of the people in Nashville or other communities where tornadoes changed their lives forever while they were sleeping on an ordinary night. “Life happens”
Acceptance and being flexible will help us stay grounded in our faith in an unshakable God. A God who is with us in the trials and tribulations of this world and who will bring us into the peace of eternal life.
A third response to Covid-19 is to strengthen our trust in God.
While individuals around us may be frantic, we can choose to put our trust in God who is unshakable. With the coming of Spring next week, I’ve been enjoying the sounds of the birds in the trees. So this story resonated with me.
“Have you ever watched a bird sleeping on a branch high in a tree and never falling off? How does it manage to do this?
The secret is the tendons of the bird’s legs. They are so constructed that when the leg is bent at the knee, the claws contract and grip like a steel trap.
The claws refuse to let go until the knees are unbent again. The bended knee gives the bird the ability to hold on to his perch so tightly.
“From sleeping birds, we can learn the secret of hanging on to a life with God. That secret is the knee bent in prayer. It is only when we bend our knees before God in prayer that we can hang on to a life with Him.”
I KNOW that many of you are lamenting about the absence of sporting events on the television or in the stadiums. How can March really be March without March Madness? This may not be a point that you want to either accept or be flexible about. However, the one of the beauties of our modern world is that we can watch things on TV that have taken place in previous times.
Dr. David A. Davis says that one afternoon he was flipping channels and he came upon the induction ceremony for the National Football Hall of Fame. He listened to the speeches for a while. While all of the former players thanked family members, one player in particular thanked his mother not just for her support for his football endeavors but for what she taught him about faith.
This player’s mother had been a single mom raising a family of kids with very little resources. It was very difficult. From an early age this player could remember hearing his mother say these words: “God has promised that my latter days will be better than my former days.”
The player described it as statement of faith that went far beyond material want or need. It was, he said, a reference both to heaven and what would be left of her days on earth. “God has promised that my latter days will be better than my former days.” His mother understood what the writer of Hebrews meant when he spoke of a kingdom that was unshakable.
We live in a world that can easily be shaken by the pandemics, natural disasters or acts of violence. God wants to give us a center of calm when the foundation of our lives is wobbling. It is God’s free gift to us.
Will we unwrap the gift? Or will we choose to hang on to the familiar anxiety that many persons embrace because God is not yet real to them?
The last coping response that may be helpful to all of us is to help others. I heard a radio interview with a therapist who said that having a purpose and especially one that involves helping others is vital to reducing our anxiety. So, let’s share what we’ve read, seen, heard, experienced in the way of people showing “good and compassionate behavior” during this time. (Lots of wonderful stories were told!!)
The song that we’re going to sing now is titled “Yes, God is Real.” I chose it to end this reflection because I believe people NEED to know that God exists, that God can be counted on to be present, and that this crisis won’t have the last word. One of the ways that we make God “real” is by being an instrument for God. Our helpful hands, our voice of calm, and our generous heart will help others to believe.
Note: You can hear this sermon, prayers and music on Calvary Dumont’s Facebook page. Please feel free to share this sermon. God bless you!
SERMON CALVARY UMC 03-01-2020
REV. ELAINE WING
“Do No Harm: Called to More” Pt. 1 of 6 “What is More?
Introduction to “More” and “Abundance” Early in the Service
STORY: The college faculty gathered for their weekly meeting. A professor of archeology brought with him a lamp recently unearthed in the Middle East. It was reported to contain a genie, who, when the lamp was rubbed would appear and grant one wish.
A professor of philosophy was particularly intrigued. He grabbed the lamp and rubbed it vigorously. Suddenly a genie appeared and made him an offer. He could choose one of three rewards: wealth, wisdom, or beauty.
Without hesitating, the philosophy professor selected wisdom. “Done!” said the genie and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
All the other faculty members turned toward the professor, who sat surrounded by a halo of light.
Finally, one of his colleagues whispered, “Say something. What wise insight do you now have?”
The professor, much wiser now, sighs and says, “I should have taken the money.”
This morning we will address this question: “What does Jesus mean when he says, “I have come that they (us) may have life and have it more abundantly.”
We often confuse the “abundant life” that Jesus taught with the “good life.” To many people, the good life consists of things.The accumulation of toys.
Someone once saw an epitaph on a tomb that read like this: “She died of things.” The next tomb said, “He died providing things for her.”
Have you ever noticed that when a natural disaster strikes, and houses are destroyed by fire, floods, earthquakes… that we hear people say “It was only stuff. What’s important is that we’re alive….”
There is nothing wrong with having material items that bring us joy and comfort. But what Jesus means by “abundant life” is not the same as “abundance of things.”
So it seems very fitting that our opening song this morning is “More Precious Than Silver” - # 2065 from TFWS hymnal.
GOSPEL READING John 10: 7 – 11
7 Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.
9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Both Psalm 23 and John’s gospel compares us to sheep. Given what I told the kids about the reality of sheep, that’s not so complimentary. But, both of these passages give us some insight into how we receive abundant life and what it looks like.
John’s gospel tells us right up front that the key to abundant life is to recognize the voice of Jesus. John wrote, “The sheep listen to his voice….they follow him because they know his voice.”
The person who seeks an abundant life also knows follow in his steps, performing acts of love in imitation of Christ.
When Kobe Bryant died, the media was filled with stories of how people recognized the impact of his life as a pro basketball player, a “girls’ Dad” AND as a philanthropist.
Do you know the story of basketball player David Robinson? Nicknamed, “the Admiral,” from his days as a Navy Officer, Robinson is a 10-time NBA All-Star, the 1995 NBA MVP, a two-time NBA Champion (1999 and 2003), a two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner (1992, 1996), a two-time Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.
As a retired professional athlete, David Robinson surely enjoys the good life. But did you know that David Robinson also enjoys the abundant life?
In 1991 David Robinson visited the Gates Elementary School in San Antonio and challenged the kids to go to college, promising each one who did a $2000 scholarship.
Many of them took him up on his offer--and he ended up giving each of them $8000 instead of $2000. He and his wife then started the Carver Academy in San Antonio. They donated $9 million to get the school started.
This is believed to be one of the largest charitable contributions ever made by a professional athlete. Carver Academy is dedicated to academic excellence--but because Robinson is a Christian, he wants the kids to understand that spiritual values are as important as academics or athletics.
Why do you think Dave Robinson and his wife felt that spiritual values were important to instill in youth?
I wonder if the Robinsons were thinking about training youth in the ways of the Lord – living with integrity and good values.
Could they have also wanted to ensure that the next generation was prepared for life’s valleys and rough times? Thinking again about Kobe Bryant – who among us knows the hour or place of our death?
Go back to the words of the 23rd Psalm… the Shepherd promises to lead us through the valley of the shadow of death… David, the author of this Psalm, writes that he will fear no evil; because he knows the Shepherd King is with him… And when David faces enemies, his head will be anointed with oil and the cup of abundance will overflow.
So this life that Jesus came to give us abundantly is a life lived free from fear, uninhibited by enemies and not even death. As a colleague writes, “It is life willing to risk losing life, because there promise is that there’s always MORE (eternal life) given freely by God.
I want to wrap up by offering some thoughts from Rev. Mike Ripski about Jesus as the gate through which the sheep enter and leave. I’ve been reading Mike’s words over and over again this week because he’s forced me to think about my role as a gatekeeper. Take a listen.
Jesus is the gate through which we are saved. What does it mean to be saved by going through Jesus? To be saved is to receive the life that Jesus gives abundantly. Elsewhere in John’s gospel, Jesus calls it eternal life. It is life from God, life lived the way God intends it. Because it is God’s life, it endures, lasts, isn’t diminished by aging or life’s challenges. It is eternal because its Source is eternal.
Jesus is the gate to such life. When one is enjoying this life that Jesus gives abundantly, one will live as he did. How did he live?
One the night that he was betrayed, he got up form the table and washed his disciples’ feet. He told them to do as he had done. He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Throughout its history, the church has done a lot to undermine its witness to his life that Jesus gives abundantly. Instead of washing feet, it has beaten people over the head with its grasp of the truth. It has been prideful, arrogant, self-righteous. It has even resorted to violence in the name of the Prince of Peace. As gatekeeper the church has seen its role to be that of deciding who qualifies to be let in, who should be kept out.
Jesus’ way was to offer life precisely to those the gatekeepers of his day had shut out. Jesus invited to the table those who needed to experience the truth about how God viewed them.
Now notice in this passage that the Shepherd doesn’t lead the sheep into the sheepfold to keep them there. No, Jesus the Good Shepherd, leads the sheep in but also out to find pasture.
Jesus says in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.”
The Shepherd leads us through the gate in and out. “Out” is as crucial to the life Jesus gives abundantly as “in.”
If we are the gatekeeper, we open the gate in and out – and because we are also the sheep, who enjoy life that Jesus gives abundantly, we open the gate so all who hear his voice and recognize it can come in and go out.
We are generous, merciful, graceful gatekeepers, because we seek to do unto others as we want them to do to us.
By what right do we have to say who is hearing Jesus’ voice and recognizing it? And, if they aren’t, aren’t we called to help them rather than condemn them?
There used to be a TV cop show called Hill Street Blues. Each show began with roll call. The sergeant would end his announcements and assignments with these words, “Let’s be careful out there.” He meant, “It’s dangerous out there. Stay on your toes, so nothing will happen to you.”
Jesus the Shepherd leads his sheep out of the sheepfold into the world and says, “Let’s be careful out there.” He means, “Let’s care for everyone out there as royalty, as God’s beloved children, as those to whom God wants to give life abundantly.
Amen and amen
What Is Happening with the United Methodist Church??
The News Media Says That We are Going to Divide!!
True or False? A Very Simplified “Q & A”
Dear Friends and Members of Calvary,
I am frequently asked about the future of our church and the global denomination pertaining to the news of a “split.” I hope this sheet is helpful. Don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or to ask for resources so you can read more on your own. Let me also emphasize that I will continue to embrace and pastor ALL persons as equally valued children of God.
Grace and peace in Christ,
Rev. Elaine Wing, Pastor Calvary UMC Dumont
E: P: 201 384 3630
Q: What are the issues about the LGBTQ+ Community within the UMC?
A: First, for those who are unaware the acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (a non-binary, self-identifier). Second, the UMC’s Polity (rules) currently does not allow LGBTQ+ persons to be ordained (as Pastors) in the UMC or for UMC clergy to officiate same-sex marriages without facing disciplinary action.
Generally, those persons who support the current UMC Polity are called “Traditionalists” and their view is supported by their interpretation of the Bible. Similarly, those individuals who feel that LGBTQ+ individuals should be able to be ordained or be married in the UMC are generally called “Progressives” and their view is also supported by their interpretation of the Bible. “Centrists” are often viewed as those who hold views lying between these two polemic views.
Q: Is the UMC dividing over LGBTQ+ issues? A: The “Protocol Proposal” was given to the media in early January and it is what has caused many to believe that the denomination is splitting soon. The proposal was authored by 16 individuals representing different views as noted above. This proposal is best understood as a conceptual path that “could” enable the denomination to divide so that the polemic groups could form their own denomination. The Protocol Proposal does not have any authority within the denominationat this point in time.
Our denomination is organized like the United States Congress. Proposals must be sponsored, pass through committee, and go to the “House or Senate” (General Conference) to become legislation. This proposal is currently NOT authorized by the UMC as legislation. When our General Conference meets in May 2020, the delegates will discuss legislation that has passed through the committee process. It is TOO EARLY to know what will happen in May 2020. IF legislation passes to allow for a division of the global church, it will take years to complete the separation.
Q: Will the UMC cease to exist if the proposed protocol plan is enacted?
A: Absolutely not. The UMC will continue as a global denomination and continue the proud history and tradition of the church.
Q: Will congregations have to vote to continue in the UMC?
A: No. A congregation does not have to vote unless it wants to leave the denomination. An annual conference does not have to vote unless it wants to leave the denomination or affirm staying with the denomination.
Q: Are the most conservative (“traditionalists”) and the most liberal (“progressives”) congregations, and the most conservative and liberal clergy being exited from the UMC?
A: No, not at all. ALL are welcome to be United Methodists. We are enriched by our global, ethnic, and theological diversity. Bishop John Schol, the Episcopal Leader of the Greater New Jersey Conference (GNJ), has vowed to ensure that no one is forced to leave or forced to make a decision to leave the UMC in Greater New Jersey.
Q: What is happening within the Greater New Jersey Conference?
A: Last October, GNJ took a courageous step when it said that we may not all think alike but we can love alike, that we may not all practice the same ministry, but we can be in mission together. We said that different congregations will practice different ministries with LGBTQ+ persons.
Q: What is happening at Calvary UMC, Dumont?
A: In March 2020, friends and members of Calvary will be encouraged to meet for 1-2 sessions with trained facilitators. We will listen to each other as we collectively explore our views based on our understanding of scripture, our life experiences, traditions and sense of reason. Like many other of the 530 UMCs in the GNJ Conference, we will create a covenant that states how we currently perceive ourselves and our ministry among the LGBTQ+ Community. We expect that our Covenant will be unique to our congregation and the people we serve in Dumont and adjacent communities.
For more information please go to and follow the links to either “General Conference 2020” or “The Way Forward.” You can also go to www.umc.org