Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him.
1 John 3:17-19
Message of Stewardship
from Ed Martel
Well, my association with Church of the Valley began in 2004 when I was hired to be the organist and choir accompanist under the direction of Bill Thomas. And for those of you who may remember, Church of the Valley was in the midst of big changes at that time.
Larry Keene had recently resigned as senior pastor. I was asked to replace a very talented Dave Loeb, who left to become the director of jazz studies at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Now, both of these men had really big influences on the church and when they left, their legacies also left big shoes to fill. One thing I remember about that time that impressed me was that there were several church members, who rose to lead worship and guide the church through those troubled times. Now many of them have even since moved on.
But, you know, I remember how impressed I was with all those people who used so much of their time and energy to keep the church going. You know, I also realize that out of all the hundreds of churches, synagogues, and various houses of worship that I have played music in during my lifetime, this was the first and only place where I actually wanted to be a member. It's a place I felt I really got the message of Christ. It’s an open and affirming church, a place where everyone was truly accepted. As Laura Hall’s song states, “This is a church that has room for everyone!”
And when Bill Thomas left Church of the Valley and Little Brown Church to become senior pastor at the Little White Chapel, he turned to me after the last 8:00AM service here and told me that I was going to take over worship music leader at LBC. Now, that surprised me as it’s something that I had never done or even ever aspired to do, but I accepted this commission and set out to learn how to become a church music leader and strive to be the best that I could be.
Now, Bill taught me an awful lot about church music. And during my time here at LBC, I was also blessed to have not one, but two Cal State Northridge professors of religion in my praise band, Randall and Bob, and they encouraged me to pursue my own vision of church music, which thankfully was also accepted by the attendees of the 8:00AM LBC service.
I will be forever grateful for the help and for the opportunity that was affored me here at LBC.
So we are also now entering another time of big changes at Little Brown Church and Church of the Valley. Lianne and I will be moving to North Carolina next month, but COV and LBC will be gathering again and in person for live worship in two weeks time after 14 months of doing only virtual worship.
Now, I think there's some really exciting times ahead for the church and I am confident the church will thrive. Someone told me during the lockdown that the pandemic was not only a great disruptor but it's also an accelerator. Now, we have all got proficient at little things that we didn't know we could do a year ago. Similar to what happened to this church in 2004. I think this church has a dynamic cast of people who will guide her path.
Pastor Michael is an energetic man with a vision for the church, the elders are a very inspiring group, that was so evident to anyone who watched the recent Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. David Joyce, a close personal friend of mine and wonderfully talented musician will be taking over my position here at Little Brown Church. And there are also so many talented young people here, like Adrianna, who you just heard sing, who I believe are ready to step up and take a larger role in the church.
So now is the time for those people to write their church legacies.
Pastor Michael's Sermon - April 25th, 2021
Today I want to begin by telling you a couple of short stories.
The first one is about an aqueduct in Segovia, Spain. And it was built in the year 109. It was a mighty aqueduct and for 1,800 years, it carried water to the city from the mountains above. It was a sort of a landmark to the city because it carried water to nearly 60 generations of thirsty people.
But then a generation of people came that had an idea for the aqueduct. They thought this aqueduct was such a great marvel that they needed to preserve it. They thought we need to make it into a museum piece so further Generations can enjoy it. They decided to relieve the aqueduct of its centuries long labor. And that's exactly what they did.
They laid modern pipes all the way from the water source on the mountain, all the way down to the city, and they let the aqueduct remain dry, but still visible out of respect for its service. And as the aqueduct set dry, the hot sun beat down on it and the ancient bricks and mortar began to crumble and eventually the aqueduct fell apart. As it turned out, what ages of service could not destroy, idleness did.
The second story is about the great violinist Paganini.
In his will, he left one of his famous violins to the city of Genoa, which was his birthplace, but also in his will, he wrote that after he was gone, the instrument could never be played again.
Well, the city reluctantly agreed.
And after his death, they placed the violin on display for visitors to see. Well, the violin was made of a type of wood that stood up very well to people handling it and playing it. In those conditions it showed very little wear but as soon as the wood became untouched it slowly began to decay.
Today, the once beautiful violin has deteriorated. Deteriorated into a useless relic.
Both of these stories impress on us the importance of service. But not just service, ongoing and active service. Today's scripture asks us how does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?
This is saying that if we honestly understand the presence of God's love is in, around, and through us, we are incapable of not serving someone in need if we possess the means. It is the presence of God's love that is the empathy, that is the compassion, that is the fuel for our serving others. The love of God within us allows us to see others as God sees them. The love of God within us allows us, no, invites us to treat others the way that God would have us treat them.
If you remember last week we talked about the importance of always being aware of the presence of Christ in our world and in our lives. We talked about how we need to be aware of his presence to reap the benefits of what Christ is doing for us. Well, the same is true for the presence of God's love within us. It is vital that we remain aware of God's love for us and God's love within us because it is our most critical tool for fulfilling what God has created us to do.
In the gospel according to Matthew, Christ is asked, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” And he replies, as you well know,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all of your mind, this is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it, that you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Loving God, God's love for us, these are so closely connected to our serving our neighbor. When we love our neighbor as ourselves, we love our neighbor as God loves our neighbor, and we will do for our neighbor as we will do for ourselves.
In my neighborhood, I see almost every day two men going out for a walk. One of them is a very elderly man and the other one is a much younger man. They may be related, I'm not sure. As they walk, the elderly man is very bent over so much that he is pretty much looking at the ground. And in addition, he walks with a walker at a very, very slow pace. And at his side, the younger man walks, maintaining that very, very slow pace as well. Often times with his hand, on the back of the older man. They always seem to be having a conversation.
Whenever I see them, I am always struck by the patience, the care, and the compassion that I see in the eyes of the younger man. I can see the love of God within him. Inviting him to serve another.
Each time I see these two, what is apparent to me is that I am witnessing an act of care. I am witnessing the love of God playing out in service.
Now, we've talked about the ways that we can serve others through our church,
we've talked about the many ministries that our church will continue when we get back to in-person worship and the new ministries that we will begin as well,
and I believe that these ministries are truly fueled by the love of God in each one
of you, and they are important ministries and I can't wait to get back to them. But I also want us to take a moment and put some extra attention towards how we serve others in our day-to-day lives.
These are really the smaller things. For many people, receiving a handwritten note in the mail can make their day. We can simply write a note to someone that we know, telling them how important they are and how happy we are to have them in our lives. This is service.
I have a neighbor who about once a year gets up on his house with a leaf blower to blow all of the leaves off of his roof and out of his gutter. And after he does this, I will hear a noise on my roof. Because he will usually jump from his roof onto mine and blow the leaves off of my roof, and out of my gutters. This is service.
Our elders recently delivered meals for a week to someone in our church community who had a medical procedure. Maybe you have a neighbor who
for whatever reason could use a hot meal but is unable to make one. An unexpected meal delivered to someone's door is always appreciated.
This is service.
And then, of course, service comes in forms that are even simpler. Service comes in the form of a smile, of listening, of a compliment, of getting the door for someone. Each act of service that is done for another is fueled by the same love of God within us. No matter how big or how seemingly small,.
There's a wonderful line in today's scripture that sends a message that is important to remember.
Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
We're reminded not to simply talk about it or to shout amen when someone else speaks of service, we are reminded to do it. It's about our actions. And these should not be actions that we perform only to please God.
These should be genuine actions that pour forth from us because we already possess the love of God. The more we act upon the service that God's love invites us to do, the more It becomes simply a part of our lives. It becomes a part of who we are.
Go out this week fully aware, fully acknowledging that there is love within you from God. The love of God is within you and allow yourself to be led. Accept God's invitation to serve. And as you serve others, you too will be served through an even closer relationship with God.
Holy one, we feel your love for us. We feel your love within us. Make that love fuel us to serve one another today, tomorrow, and always. It's in your son's holy name we pray.