Easter Sunday 2021 - April 4th, 2021
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
1 Peter 1:3
"As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, 'Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.'”
Pastor Michael's Sermon - April 4th, 2021
In front of my house, there are two huge trees. They are liquidambar trees.
There must have been a big sale on liquidambar trees when they were building local neighborhoods, right? Because liquidambar trees are everywhere in the San Fernando Valley.
Now, there are a couple of drawbacks to this particular type of tree.
One is they produce these round hard sticker balls that when they fall on the ground not only create a slip and fall hazard, but also you really don't want to step on one of them while barefoot. The other problem with these trees, and if you have one you already probably know what I'm going to say, the other problem is that the roots tend to come up very close to the surface of the ground. As a matter of fact, very often the roots will come up over the surface of the ground. And if your liquidambar tree is anywhere near the sidewalk in the front of your
residence, your sidewalk could end up looking like a roller coaster.
But there are also some wonderful things about these types of trees.
As I said, they grow very big and in the summer, they are filled with a thickness of leaves and those leaves make a soothing, rustling sound when the breeze blows through them, and the density of the leaves always provides a cool shade for both you and your home.
And then in the fall, the green leaves turn beautiful autumn colors of red, orange,
and yellow, and throughout the season as the leaves fall and they float to the ground, it's like a multicolored snowfall until finally the trees are bare through the whole winter season. Which is how my two trees have been pretty much for the past few months.
But the other day I was sitting on the sofa in the window of the front of my house.
And while I was talking on the phone, I was looking out the window and I suddenly noticed that the two trees that had been bare for the past few months were now covered in tiny little green buds. Both trees! And not only my trees, the same thing was happening to the two liquidambars in front of my next door neighbor's house. And it seemed to all happen overnight.
Just like that this new life seemed to be suddenly appearing and all at the same time. And as I sat and looked out the window at the trees and their new blooms, I heard a voice coming from the television in the other room. The evening news was on and I heard a voice say, “Well today is the first day of spring!” And I thought could these trees really have begun their new growth on this very first day of spring? Well, whether they had or whether I had missed the first green by a couple of days, it really impressed in me just how much spring really is a season of renewal.
It's a time when things that seem to have gone lifeless suddenly become alive once again. So how fitting is it that each year we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ during this season of renewal.
This glorious day when we celebrate that from the tomb arose new life in Christ,
but also new life for us as well because it isn't only through his resurrection that we find renewal in Jesus Christ.
As Christian people of faith, Christ himself is our renewal. Christ offers us newness every moment of our lives. In times of trouble and even in times of tragedy, Christ offers us the hope of renewal and he can be quite patient with that hope.
When we are experiencing darkness and don't yet have the strength to pick ourselves up and look to the horizon, Christ patiently waits. And when we're ready he shows us a way through and creates a newness we never thought could have existed. Christ even offers newness to those of us who may stray. There are times when many of us may struggle with our faith.
We talked about this a few weeks ago how some of us who are experiencing
darkness in our lives will move away from Christ rather than towards him. For whatever reason you may be experiencing a time of struggling with our faith,
Christ not only offers a way back but also a new and stronger relationship with him and a new and stronger faith.
Christ provides renewal.
Having him walk with us provides constant newness. Just by seeing Christ and things around us we’re provided with a newness in the way that we look at the world.
Look at our church for instance. When we see Christ within our food pantry. The pantry is no longer simply shelves and groceries and supplies, but rather it becomes a living illustration of Christ called to serve.
In Christ, there is renewal.
When I see Christ in the work of our elders, their work is not simply assignments handed out by Elder Kevin, but rather when seen through Christ their service to this congregation is a reflection of Christ's compassion and humility.
In Christ there is renewal.
And in all of you, the sisters and brothers of our congregation, when I see Christ in all of you, I do not simply see a group of people worship together, eat together, hold meetings together and for the past year, Facebook and Zoom together, when I see Christ in all of you, I see a family. I see a family who truly cares about one another and about the world around them. I see in all of you a reflection of Christ’s commitment. An illustration of Christ's faith and an echo of Christ's love.
In Christ there is renewal.
Christ renews us daily and through Christ’s renewal, we find newness in almost every aspect. No, I would have said every aspect of our lives. This unique time in our history, both as a church and as a world, is offering up so much opportunity for renewal. Our very way of life is approaching its own time of renewal, isn't it? A chance to get back to the lifestyle that feels more like normal? But Christ has taught us so much over this past year about what is really important.
So as the world begins to slowly open back up, let's step back into a new normal. Remembering to take advantage of all that we've learned over this past year, spending more time with loved ones, taking time to rest, being more aware of and more in touch with God's world around us. Through what Christ has shown us to be precious, let us renew our way of life.
Our church life is also approaching a time of renewal. As I've been telling you on April 15th, the church leadership and staff will be meeting and determining when we will come back to in-person worship and I imagine it will be very soon after that meeting. Our coming back together in person offers us so many chances for renewal. For coming back together is done in the name of Christ Jesus.
A couple of weeks ago we talked about our return being a new opportunity to expand the ministries of this church and that is important and that is something that I am really excited and looking forward to us all doing together. But we also have a chance for newness in so much more. We will soon have the opportunity to commit ourselves to an even deeper relationship to our church and to Christ.
I encourage you when we return to in-person worship to get more involved, find a place or two where you feel called to be a part and jump right in! Whether that be joining the choir, volunteering to deliver a communion meditation, helping out at special events, meeting with our women's group, Sisters with Heart. And Rick Hall of course is always looking for people for the property committee.
There are so many ways that you can be a part of the life of your church.
Allow Christ to bring renewal to your place in the church.
Another way to bring newness is through your support of the church. Now many of us have had a difficult year financially and we understand that, but if you are in a position that you can lift up your financial support of this church, even a little bit, it will help significantly increasing our ability to get back to the work that Christ has put in front of us. A greater support of your church in the name of Christ brings renewal to yourself and to our work.
And let us also bring newness through our commitment to attend. As we return to our buildings let this be an opportunity for us to commit to increasing our attendance. We are never as strong as we are when we're all together. Let's reprioritize our being in church on Sundays. When things arise that call
for our attention on Sundays, let's move church up that priority list. Watch! Say it with me.
"I can't. I have church."
So, you know, that wasn't hard at all was it?
Christ brings us renewal in greater worship.
And finally when we return to in-person worship, it's going to be very exciting.
So let us not keep all that excitement to ourselves. I invite you to invite others to experience our worship services. This new beginning is a perfect time to invite friends and extended family to be a part of our church and to fully understand why you love Church of the Valley and the Little Brown Church so much. And to those of you who have discovered us online over this past year, I invite you to worship with us together in person. We can't wait to meet you. Christ brings renewal through new friends.
I wish you a wonderful Easter Sunday, and an inspirational Easter season.
May the renewal brought to you through Jesus Christ regenerate, renovate,
restore, replenish, refurbish, and revive your body, your life, your work, your world, your spirit, and your church. And made the newness that you feel today remain with you and strengthen you through this life and into the next.
Gracious God, today we rejoice at the resurrection of your son. We thank you for the gift of his life and the gift of his love. It's in his holy name we pray.