Pastor Anne – Stewardship: Because God…

Stewardship part 1: Because God…1John 4:7-21

We may complain about cold weather here on the West Coast but we really have little to grumble about compared to the weather in the East and the storms.
I saw this story the other day of a young college student named Zoe Everett. Her parents were killed in Hurricane Sandy and she decided to leave school to help raise her three younger siblings. She posted her story on some online site called Wish upon a hero. Her goal was to raise $5000 for food and essentials till their parents estate was sorted out. She ended up raising $56,000. Donations were still coming in. She closed it so others in need could be helped. She wrote, “My family has been so blessed, and we would like to be able to do the same for others who have suffered the misfortune of Hurricane Sandy.” Touching, admirable, courageous. I wonder that if you had asked her before, she would have said that she loved her family. Would she have known that she would make this sacrifice and step in to lead and care for her family?
Today is the first of a two part preaching series on Stewardship. People tend to think about Stewardship as being about money. Stewardship is fundamentally about what we do with what we have.
It is about what we love, because what matters to us is what we spend our resources, time and skills on. It is essentially about love and love begins with God’s love.
Our scripture today in 1John is a letter believed to have been written by the apostle John who also wrote the gospel. John was known as the disciple whom Jesus loved. The letter was about basic issues that many communities were facing.
Even in these verses it may feel a bit repetitive and some probably could say it in fewer verses. And yet there are also volumes of books written about these verses.
As I looked through, I found that it follows our new branding and logo of Inspiration, Incarnation and Intersection.
Inspiration. The love we have from our parents, family, friends, our community and teachers are all gift from God the source. Love is from God.
It goes on to say whoever does not love, does not know God. I began to wonder, before I knew Jesus, did I really love? I think I was shaped more by books, people and movies. At best, my love was imperfect, manipulative, human focused and limited. I became cynical about romantic movies because they were unrealistic, but I had nothing to replace them with. For me, the love and witness of Jesus gives me a larger picture of love that I can join in receiving and giving. It is not just my own or someone else’s idealism.
The amazing truth of who God is is that God reached out to each of us and all of us first. God did not wait for us to recognize him as our creator or ask for help. He reached out with love.
Incarnation Though God is reaching out, humans did not get it. John says, God revealed His love by sending his son so we could live through him. As followers of Jesus, we believe this to be true and life changing and world changing. We did not deserve it or love God for this to happen. And God still acted in love to us in sending Christ.
Many of you know Pastor Dave Rodriguez. I enjoy his poetic use of words. At one point he wrote me a note and talked about Doxology moments. The doxology is what we sing when we give our offering to God. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. We give God thanks for all that is and all that God has created. Our offering is a response to that gratefulness.
Many of you know that my mother died a few years ago of pancreatic cancer. She told us very clearly that she had lived a long life, my father had passed away many years before and other peers. She did not want to undergo the pain of treatment and she was not afraid to die. We prayed that she would not suffer in her final days.
As I shared her passing with the church a few days after her death, I felt a deep sadness and an overwhelming gratefulness for God’s presence and blessing to her and all that God had provided. As we sang the doxology, praise God from whom all blessings flow, I knew it more deeply than ever before. I couldn’t stop crying with all those different feelings stirring around as I worshipped God. It was an unusual and amazing moment that I wanted to tell others about. Inspiration.
Another Doxology moment was our Capital campaign last year. Before we collected our total pledges, we had already had faithful testimonies, people stepping up to serve, care, worship and offer generosity. On the last Sunday, our DS Rev. Kristie Olah came to preach for us. Pastor SunHee and I spoke before worship and felt that whatever happened we were so grateful to God. It was clear that God was doing amazing things and we were grateful for the opportunity to be part of it.
I still remember Louie giving me the little piece of paper with the pledge total. We were so excited! I showed it to our DS and we both jumped and smiled w/excitement. Incarnation.
When have you had those moments? When have you been overwhelmed with gratefulness for God?
Because God loves us and reaches out, we want to share that love with others. We must respond! Give back, share it with others, whole body is smiling from the inside out. We can’t help but show it! Verse 11 tells us if God loved us this way, then we ought to love each other. Our godly living expresses love. This “ought” makes it an obligation of love and action. It is more than a good feeling for just a moment.
Our gratefulness for God’s generosity is expressed in action. The Tuesday morning Bible study is in Exodus. They were discussing the people giving from their riches for the building of God’s sanctuary among them. In Exodus 36, the artists who were building the sanctuary came to the priests to tell them that the people were bringing too much and tell them to stop. They already had enough for what they were instructed by God to do.
Can you imagine that, people would need to be told to stop? Why would they give so much and be so generous? I think it is out of that overwhelming gratefulness to God.
I would like to share with you an update on our Ministry Center. Last year in our Capital Campaign, we raised money towards a new Ministry Center. We had the miracle of meeting our goal of $500,000 in a not great economy. God has given us a vision for expanding ministries especially for the care of children, youth and others not here yet.
We hired an architect to help us explore the feasibility of building who also led us through the conditional use permit process with the City of Fremont. As is often the case with construction, what seemed simple took much longer than expected.
The increased capacity of preschool students led to the need for City Planning and City Council meetings. Additional survey and landscaping drawings were required. It took time to comply with all this.
A Technical sub-committee met to plan, discuss and recommend next steps. We explored two typical methods of construction. For those involved in construction, one is to hire an architect who prepares construction drawings and a general contractor is hired to build. The other method is to hire a general contractor who works with an architect from the beginning in the design. This is called Design Build. We pursued the more traditional method and then out of concern for getting the best price, we explored the Design Build as well.
We were also exploring the loan process for the balance of the cost of the building with the United Methodist Development Fund (UMDF), with which we had the loan for our current building, and different local banks.
Our Building committee has met, emailed hundreds of messages, argued and discussed a great deal for the best interest of the church. Most of them have regular full time jobs, families, other commitments. I cannot begin to thank them for the offering of their time and skills.
At times the details have been tiring, discouraging, frustrating and has taken much longer than expected. And we are certain that God is calling us to build and expand God’s ministry. It is not in our timing but God’s. We continue to pray, “In this situation with the building project, we choose to trust you God.” I hope you will pray with us.
Currently we have signed a contract with an architect and have lawyers reviewing the general contractor’s contract and advising us as we prepare to sign. We will let you know when that happens. Once construction drawings are done we will have a firmer idea of how long construction will take.
Why would we have taken on a capital campaign to raise more money during a bad economy? Because God called us and loves us. We have known God’s love in many small and large ways. We could just stay comfortable where we are with just us. We do this because we want to and must share God’s love with others in that fleshly, tangible, carne asada incarnate way as others have been the incarnation of God’s love to us.
This leads us to the place of Intersection. We love God by loving others and God’s Spirit stays with us. When we know God’s generosity and love God, we want to do what God desires.
John writes that we cannot say we love God and hate our brothers or sisters. That is a lie! It is like oil and water, they just don’t mix or go together.
“The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.” 1John 4:21 the Message
Jesus is perfecting us in love, that is what He cares about. He is not perfecting us in singing, dancing, cooking, writing, math, or fixing things though you may be good at those. He cares about how we love through those things.
Love is defined by God, not Jersey Shores, or the Bachelor or Bachelorette, the Twilight movies, neighbors or movie stars.
I saw a recent article by Rev. Bener Agtarap who preached for us on Heritage Sunday, District Superintendent for Congregational Vitality. He wrote, “We do what matters to God. We recognize that our work is not about us. It is about God. The world needs churches to be vital today, more vital tomorrow and even more vital the day after.”

Stewardship is about what we do with what we have and it begins with love, God’s love. Today is Veteran’s day and we honor those who served in our military, offering their lives as a sacrifice out of love for their country and others. We also heard about Zoe Everett who is sacrificing her plans for her future out of love for her family and siblings.
Today we have an opportunity to give towards relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy and additional storms. Our individual gift may not seem like much but together with our church and the national connection of the United Methodist Church, we can help a lot of people in need.
We are also doing the Hearty Harvest Thanksgiving meals for families in need in the area who might not have a meal for Thanksgiving. You will find the list in our bulletin of items for each meal. Please bring them next Sunday to be distributed the following day.
Also you will find a pledge card in your bulletin. Pledges made for the Capital Campaign were for three years. Pledges for our church budget are made each year. Prayerfully consider if God is nudging you to move towards a tithe, to a tithe or even beyond.
Giving to our church operations budget is low. Our Capital Campaign fund is doing great! Please remember that our ministries do not stop and we really expect to gear up as prepare to expand into the new space.
As we approach Thanksgiving, make time to reflect on how God has blessed you this year
☐ When have you been overwhelmed with gratefulness for God? Remember how you felt and what you did because of it.
☐ How is the Holy Spirit nudging you to share God’s love generously with others?
☐ Take time to prayerfully consider how God is calling you to give and build God’s kingdom, doing what matters to God.

I know you all have stories of God’s loving presence in times of great joy and celebrations and times of deep sorrow and loss. God has been with you and Jesus has been made incarnate in flesh in people and at SAINT PAUL.
In that reality of God’s love for you, consider how God is calling you to act in gratefulness. How will we use the resources we have now to build God’s Kingdom?

Pastor Anne – Incarnation: Dwelling in Community, Present in the World

October 28, 2012 | “Incarnation: Dwelling in Community, Present in the World”John 1:9-18

Today is the third of a four part series on our new church branding and logo. As with many things, it is a tool to help us communicate what God is doing here.
Our stories of God at work here are about Inspiration Incarnation and Intersection.
Last week we talked about Inspiration with the story in Luke 24 of Jesus joining the disciples on the road to Emmaus. This was in the chaotic days soon after his terrible death and hours since a possible resurrection.
We saw Jesus entering their story and our story. Jesus explained what had happened by opening scripture. The disciples noticed and followed the nudging of the Holy Spirit to invite Jesus to stay with them even before they recognized him. They soon knew it was him and went to tell others about how their hearts were warmed.
What was a tragic story turned into an amazing victorious story. Jesus’ story becomes part of their story and their lives are changed as part of God’s great story.
Inspiration begins and ends with God always reaching out before we realize and whether we know or not.
Today we will look at Incarnation -dwelling in community, present in the world.
Incarnate means in the flesh or body. We often think of Incarnation as one of those hard churchy words. One of my favorite foods is carne asada which means grilled meat. Incarnation, being in the flesh, is very ordinary.
The scripture we hear today is more often heard at Christmas. It is hard to come up with the words to describe or express who God is, they mystery of God and the Trinity, the work of the Holy Spirit.
God was at the beginning of everything. The capital W Word was with God and was God in the very beginning. It reminds us of the book of Genesis, painting a picture of how the world was created. God speaking with power to create and form the world. The Word and God is and are Creator, the Source of all life.
As Christians, our faith is grounded in an infinite God who comes to be with us in the finite and limited body in the person of Jesus. God is not just a spiritual, unseen, mysterious something. God is an in the flesh person, incarnate.
John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, was the first witness (like the disciples to Emmaus and us). He was clear that he was not the light but pointed to the light, to Jesus who is other and much more than us.
As witnesses, we testify to Jesus so that all might believe through him. Those who welcome and believe in His name and embrace Jesus become God’s children regardless of their birth or background.
We see that Inspiration or the movement of God begins with God entering in and ends with us pointing back to God. This is a guideline and reminder as we minister, plan, organize and live together. How are we pointing to Jesus?
In verse 14, it tells us that the Word became flesh and lived and made home among us and moved into our neighborhood. The Message interpretation reads, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
The Light still came to people, though not welcomed. Praise God, Jesus still came. Not just to live at a distance or far away. Right here in our neighborhood and communities to make home. It is because of this, we have seen his glory. From his fullness we receive grace upon grace.
Verse 18 tells us no one has ever seen God. God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made God known. The Message interpretation says, “No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day.” This is incarnation.
In my exercise class I like instructors who do it all with us. I feel we are in it together and am more motivated. If they just tell us to do it and do not do it themselves, then I am less motivated. I still get something out of being led and coached and believe they can do it themselves. I am just more willing to push when they invest and lead by example, sharing and participating with.
Through Jesus’ life and example, we are called to a new way of living in this world. Not just teaching or wise sayings which can be helpful. I find it easier to blow off teaching and make excuses like it is too hard to follow Jesus or it is unrealistic.
But Jesus was actually doing it. That tells me this is what it looks like, tangible, in flesh, incarnate.
There have been movies over the years that expressed Jesus’ life. Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, the more recent movie, The Passion. I recently saw Jesus Christ Superstar again.
I noticed different things out of it since I know scripture better than before. I enjoyed it and thought about Jesus and his relationship to his disciples, the religious leaders, rulers and the crowds. It is not just a story but actual people with more going on than can be described in writing.
To follow Jesus is to follow the precedent that He set. His incarnation – the Word made flesh – is our call to become the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. We are to take the love of God and share it with others.
Jesus’ followers are the hands and feet of Christ in the world, living out his love for people. Not just their own love but to grow in his love. We are to do likewise in becoming God’s children through God’s sanctifying grace, the ongoing love of God. We are to live into God’s grace and be the incarnation of God and the love of Jesus in the world.
Where have you experienced the tangible love of Jesus at SAINT PAUL?
There are so many glimpses of God’s Incarnation here. In how we greet newcomers and each other. Our United Methodist Men helped members move. Bringing food, giving money, praying for those in need, sharing skills and knowledge. Cleaning up, raising money, offering time to serve cheerfully where needed.
It all begins with God who reaches out to us and calls us to love God with all heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbors as yourself.
How have you been cared for by others at St Paul? People extend kindness and care through food, smiles and laughter.
I think of times when the prayer intercessors listen and pray for me at prayer meetings. People offered love when my mom passed by asking, sharing, through cards, prayers and hugs. Those acts of care during challenging times lead me to notice smaller acts of love along the way.
People caring and sharing their love for Jesus through scripture, testimonies, affirmation, honesty, time and generosity.
I saw this sign. It says, “So…what do you do? I’m a cashier. Oh, I didn’t mean what do you do for money… …I mean, what do you do for the world?” What are we doing?
We have a little slideshow to show of pictures from church activities. Thank you to Namu Williams who prepared it.

Where is Jesus being made Incarnate through SAINT PAUL? Please take some time to think about the following questions.

INCARNATION Q’s to consider:
☐ How has God’s love been offered to you through SAINT PAUL?
☐ How do you see God’s love shared at SAINT PAUL?
☐ What will you do to offer God’s love to others?
☐ How does your life and actions point others to Jesus?

Our core values are Inspiration, Incarnation, and Intersection. Your story is part of SAINT PAUL’s story and God’s great story.

Pastor Anne – Inspiration: Touched by the Spirit, Changed by Grace

October 21st | “Inspiration: Touched by the Spirit, Changed by Grace”Luke 24:13-35

It is not a rare thing for the people of SAINT PAUL to be able to share their testimonies of how God touched their hearts in worship or spoke to them through a particular message. Like the two individuals walking to Emmaus, we often find our hearts burning with the Spirit… when Scripture is opened to us.

Last week, Pastor SunHee began a preaching series on our new branding and logo. Some are excited and there are others who don’t see the need. I just think of it as wanting to see my husband in a new outfit, not the same clothes for the last 10-20 yrs. Though they may still be good, it is nice to get a fresh start with current styles and same husband inside.
We are still looking at making disciples by following and teaching others about Jesus. We still believe that following Jesus Christ changes us and can transform the world. How do we describe what goes on here that tells of who our Lord is?
Inspiration Incarnation Intersection
I want to bring your attention to our new brochure in your bulletin today to share with people who we are. There are some great photos and information about us. Share it with friends, neighbors or co-workers that you have told about SAINT PAUL. Big Thanks to Pastor SunHee and Pastor Sam Yoon at Los Altos UMC for investing a lot of time and discernment.
Today we begin with looking at INSPIRATION. When I think of things that inspire, I think of sayings, beauty, music, nature or great talent.
The definition of Inspiration is something that invigorates or animates, it is life giving. The word Inspire means to breathe in, the immediate influence of God. God is present

Our United Methodist Church is rooted in Wesleyan theology of grace– God’s spirit is always reaching out to us in love.
Grace is God’s unconditional love.
Prevenient grace – even before we know God, God is reaching out to us.
Justifying grace is that moment when we know our brokenness and need for grace and choose to follow Jesus. This is that moment of conversion or heart and life change.
Sanctifying grace reaches out to us in our ongoing life as Jesus’ followers as we live into God’s perfection in love. We continue to live into what God has for us as a reflection of Him.
Throughout our lives before and after we know Jesus, God is nearby, reaching out to us.

We see this in today’s scripture as two followers walk to Emmaus, taking a couple of hours. It is later during the same day of Jesus’ resurrection. It has just been days since Jesus crucifixion and just that morning a few women have said that he is resurrected. Sometimes when we are overwhelmed with chaotic things happening you just need to do something and keep busy. They are still talking over what happened, reliving and trying to figure it out in between the ordinary things of their journey. Maybe they stopped to rest or drink something on the way.
We hear that Jesus comes near to them and their eyes are kept from recognizing him. I wonder that strange as it was that they were so focused on themselves, fearful, consumed by confusion and grief that they barely noticed where they were and who was with them.
We see that Jesus enters into their lives and our lives, asking and listening as they pour out their pain and sorrow. In response to them, Jesus doesn’t just tell them what is going on and say, “Here I am!” Jesus explains the things about himself through scripture. Because it is not only about Jesus and these disciples, but them in the whole context of God’s world.
As they get close to Emmaus, Jesus seems to be going on away from them. Here I believe the disciples notice the Spirit’s nudging and invite him to stay and eat with them. Have you ever had one of those hunches, a feeling or nudge to do or say something that leads to much more?
Jesus could have passed on out of their lives but the disciples invited him to stay with them longer. Praise God they acted on it! In the breaking of the bread they recognize him, seeing him at the dinner table doing what he often did and did just days before at the Passover meal.
Jesus not only becomes part of their story, he reorients it so what was tragedy is victory through the power of God. Their story is changed by Jesus’ good news and now part of God’s greater kingdom story.
Last week I heard my nephew’s University Choir. It was incredibly beautiful and made me want to do it more. There are lots of Inspirational music, sayings, scenes in nature, teachings. There are sayings that inspire like “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” by Mahatma Gandhi.
I saw Video clip on Facebook of very different dad’s singing Ariel’s song “Part of your World” from the movie “The Little Mermaid”. It was very sweet and heart warming to see dads singing this song for and with their little daughters.
As humans, we are part of moments of inspiration that give us a glimpse of the divine.
And people will also fail. We are imperfect with moments where we are much less than loving soon after.
In a recent SAINT PAUL Youth study on Simon Peter, we looked at Matthew 16:13-23. He has a moment when he recognizes Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus praises him. It shows him thinking to himself, “I must be Jesus’ most favorite disciple.” Then seconds later Jesus speaks about his suffering and death and Peter scolds him and Jesus rebukes him saying get away from me Satan. Peter then thinks, “I must be Jesus’ least favorite disciple.”
With the internet we can search and watch amazing performances, singing, see art, beauty and read. We do this again and again because these glimpses barely quench our thirst. Instead we can drink deeply of God who is the source of Inspiration. He will not fail. He is faithful. His love is unending.
This God invites us into a personal relationship through Jesus Christ. He wants to fill us with living water that quenches our thirst so deeply that we will become springs of water to others.
Let those moments of inspiration large and small take you back to be with God in scripture, worship and prayer.
Like the disciples, Jesus joins us on the journey. He enters our story and sets our story in God’s larger story. We go from not recognizing Jesus to open eyes that see him, hearts on fire, seeing more with the eyes of Christ and knowing God’s heart.
We began this visioning process back in April to consider who we are as SAINT PAUL. We shared stories of what brought us here, why we stayed and what we love about our community. Leaders told their stories of coming to worship and praising God. Through the music, preaching, testimonies, communion and the Holy Spirit’s presence, we meet Jesus in worship.
Jesus comes near, scripture is opened and hearts are warmed. We find our lives and story molded by God and becoming a part of God’s greater story, plan and Kingdom purposes.
Jesus comes near and “Jesus’ story becomes our story”. Through Inspiration, we are touched by the Spirit and changed by grace. Again and always, that unconditional love of God is always reaching out.
When our Worship leaders meet, I often ask them to think of a meaningful moment in worship. It may be music or testimonies. Perhaps it was particular sermon series like Prayer, Christianity 101, Heroes, Why? Seeking God’s will or Forgiveness. Or it may have been special Sundays like Small Group Sunday or special evening services leading to Christmas and Easter.
A special moment for me was at a Christmas Eve service. I saw the faces of people in candlelight and O Holy Night was sung. The words “Fall on your knees…” brought me into a sense of awe. I was reminded of other times when God had been so faithful and brought me through hard times. I felt so grateful.
Perhaps you remember Holy Week footwashing, placing stones that represent your burdens at the foot of the cross. Maybe it was the testimonies of our youth, Felino Bautista, Lisa Yalung or of faithful stewardship. Recent teaching about Forgiveness pulled me deeper into the Spirit and life with Jesus. There are songs that stay with me, expressing my deepest longings like Psalm 16.
These are points on the walk to Emmaus with Jesus when scripture is opened and our hearts are warmed. We know more deeply who God is. We are touched by the Spirit and changed by grace. Jesus’ story of love, mercy, suffering and victory reframes and becomes our story.

Many of you have shared your testimonies. I love the basic format from the Alpha study:
What is happening in your life?
How did you experience God, or where was Jesus in the situation?
What difference did it make in your life?
Isn’t this the same story as the walk to Emmaus?
Life is that road to Emmaus where Jesus comes alongside. Invite Jesus to stay.

Our core values are Inspiration, Incarnation and Intersection. Let’s say those words together. God’s inspiration is with us throughout our lives if we would be open.
Last week Pastor SunHee said that the bottom line is that there are multitudes of amazing stories here at SAINT PAUL just waiting to be shared. We know that to be true.
Your story is part of SAINT PAUL’s story and God’s great story! The Holy Spirit is mightily at work here! Know your story.
I encourage you over lunch or dinner today to share a meaningful moment in worship with others.
Next week we will look at Incarnation. Once we are inspired, what do our lives look like as people following Jesus?