"Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever."
1 Peter 4:9-11
Message of Stewardship
from Amanda Swann
As a high school theater teacher, when we are putting on a production it is all hands on deck. Everyone has to contribute, the performers, the technicians, the production committees, even the audience when it's time for the show. To have it be the most meaningful and impactful experience, we can't do it alone. We have to pool our resources and put on a show together.
In our church, our church family is called to contribute. We are each called to give of our resources, our time, our funds. When we pull together our resources, we can have a greater impact on our community and on our world. So as we move forward doing the work of the Lord, let us think about pooling our resources in a joyful way.
"Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the father will honor."
Pastor Michael's Sermon - March 21st, 2021
You know, I don't talk about politics too much when I'm preaching, unless it's about social justice or the environment or racial issues. Well, maybe, maybe I do talk a little bit about politics if you consider those issues political. I guess what I meant to say is that I don't talk about political figures a lot.
But today I wanted to talk about a former president. No, not that one. And really this has little to nothing to do with politics.
Today I want to lift up former President Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter is a pretty amazing human being. You know back in the early to mid 60's, he was a vocal supporter for civil rights, even though it kind of harmed his political career in Georgia, but beyond that, what is really amazing about Carter is the light that shone from him after his time in politics.
After being president, he created the Carter Center. And according to the Stennis Center for Public Service, the Carter Center does many things, and the former president is still working for the center. Their work has helped to ensure fairness in elections in over a hundred countries all over the world. The center does work in Africa offering Health Care in thousands of communities and villages. And throughout the world, the center has fought for human rights and helped in world conflicts. Now, this is part of the reason that in 2002 Jimmy Carter was given the Nobel Peace Prize.
He still teaches bible study in Plains, Georgia and people come from all around to be a part of his group.
Now, these are all amazing ministries. However, in interviews that I've heard and read, what seems to be closest to the heart of Jimmy Carter is Habitat for Humanity. He has worked for years for this organization and even at the age of 96, he continues to work with Habitat for Humanity. And that includes hands-on house building.
He once told CNN, “I'll stop when I have to but I won't stop until I have to.”
And when he was one time working on a house and a photographer wanted to take a picture of him holding a hammer, he said, “Sure, but as long as I'm holding the hammer, it's going to be hitting a nail.” Sounds like something Rick Hall would say.
Jimmy Carter told reporters, “One of the best ways to practice my faith as a Christian is to participate in Habitat every year.”
In today's scripture, Christ says, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the father will honor.”
I am sure God honors Jimmy Carter
because Carter's work is a glowing example of how to follow Christ, how to be a servant to Christ.
As people of faith, it is our aim to be in God's honor and as Christians we do this by following Christ, by serving Christ.
We've talked a lot about the many ways that we can follow Christ, but bottom line it always comes down to following his teachings, living his message, and caring for each other.
Being in God's honor comes in part by knowing the ministries of Christ
and making those ministries our own.
Being in God's honor always involves a light that shines outward, a caring
and compassionate heart that sees the world around it as an extension of God.
This is the image of one who is following Christ. The image of one who is living in the light. But this image of one goes beyond us simply as individuals, this image of a shining light that sees the world as an extension of God and yearns to minister to it is the image of what a church should be. The image of what our church should be.
It's true that even with our doors closed, we've been able to continue some of our ministries. Others however have had to be placed on hold. But soon we will be returning to in-person worship and we will have an opportunity to resume some other ministries and we can begin some new ministries.
Now you may have already heard but I'm going to tell you our current timeline for returning to in-person worship.
Coming up in a couple of weeks, we will be taking our walk through Holy Week and that will be online.
On Saturday the 27th of this month, at 3:00PM, we will be doing Bless the Pets on Zoom. That's this Saturday! Sharing our animal friends and catching up with one another.
Then of course the following day, we will have a special Palm Sunday service that you can watch wherever you're watching this service today.
Our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services will be on April 1st and 2nd at 7:00PM and these will be on Zoom, so they will be interactive and then of course April 4th, we will have a glorious service of Easter Sunday which again you can watch wherever you're watching this service today.
Also, let me tell you this Easter Sunday the big wooden cross is going to be placed right here in the Little Brown Church and I invite you to stop by any time and place a flower on it. We've got a lot coming up for Holy Week, but let me get back to the subject of in-person worship. Shortly after the Holy Week events are over, as long as Los Angeles county is still above the purple tier, I will be calling a meeting of our church officers, our executive board, elders, our deacons, and our church staff and we will be deciding when we will be returning to in-person worship.
I'm very excited to get back into our buildings together, of course so that we can see one another but also so that we can get back to building our ministries. Not only have we been separated from our brothers and sisters within our church, but we have also been separated from those to whom we minister for over a year.
Our food pantry has been closed for weeks. But on April 13th, it will be reopening with those running it already vaccinated. This is an important ministry, and I'm so excited that it's going to be operating again soon. Kevin Lewin and the rest of our elders are always coming up with new forms of ministry that can be a part of our work.
I invite each of you as we slowly return to a sense of normalcy, to birth your own ideas for new ministries for our church. And the ideas don't have to be complicated! When we began our ministry of collecting socks for the people of Hope of the Valley, all that was involved in setting that up was placing a large basket in both of our church buildings. And then you all brought thousands of pairs of socks with you to worship over the past few years.
I would love to get to the point where anyone could go to our website and click on a button that says Ministries and find a page filled with all sorts of outreach that our church is doing and ways that anyone could help just by signing up.
Begin thinking now. What am I good at? What can I contribute? What do I see a need for in this world?
If we are all doing this, think of the change that we could make, think of the impact that we could have. Soon we will be back to in-person worship and I know some of you will be slower to coming back but I feel that we are getting so close to that point.
Let us come back with hearts that are even more deeply committed to service.
Let us come back following Christ even more closely.
Jimmy Carter once said, “It's a decision only you can decide. What kind of a person so far in my life have I chosen to be? Every person can be a complete success in the eyes of God.”
So I ask you, what kind of a church so far have we chosen to be? Well, I think we've chosen to be a pretty great church, but I think we can also do more, allowing us to be even more of a success in the eyes of God.
Holy One, lead us, guide us to where you would have us do your work. On this Earth, let us be your hands and your heart. It's in your son's holy name we pray.