Archive for sermon series

Resurrection Stories Worship Series, April 16 – June 4

The Easter Season is a time of celebrating all the ways in which resurrection is possible in our lives. We can be in need of rising out of the depths of imprisonment, addiction, poverty, illness and oppression—not just physically and literally, but also spiritually. What holds us back from the joy of life? What binds us, keeping us from the fullness of who God created us to be? What keeps us down? Join us for powerful testimonies–Resurrection Stories–from those who have found “resurrection” in their lives. It might just inspire you to your own rising up!

April 16 (Easter): Resurrection From Death

The ultimate message is this: no matter how dead you feel, God has plans for you! Easter kicks off our “Resurrection Stories” series with the Story of all Stories and the reason why there is always hope. Can you turn your life around? Can you find new life when everything feels lifeless? Can light shine in what feels like a dark tomb? Yes. Yes. Yes! Our scripture is John 20:1-18. Senior Pastor Mariellen Yoshino gives the message at the morning services and Pastors Dirk Damonte and Debbie Weatherspoon at the evening service.

April 23: Resurrection From Addiction

In 12-step programs, the first step is admitting powerlessness over anything that threatens to destroy our connection to God, to ourselves, and to others. Rev. Sam Lewis will give the message at all four services, helping us celebrate the Good News that we can refocus our lives onto things that lead us to life and connection to the Holy. Our scripture will be John 20:19-31.

April 30: Resurrection Stories: The Joy of Children

Come join us for Children’s Celebration Sunday! We will give thanks for the life-giving and life-affirming presence of children in our church and in our lives. Our scripture will be Nehemiah 8:10. Pastor Debbie Weatherspoon will give the message at all services.

May 7: Resurrection From Oppression

This country is made up of so many who escaped to the “promised land” from oppressive regimes. Throughout history people have had to flee situations of horror. Even within our country and in our own time, there are those who live with oppression and fear. We will listen to three inspirational Resurrection Stories to widen our understanding of what we must do to continue to work for liberation on so many fronts. Our scripture will be Exodus 3:1-15.

May 14: Mother’s Day

We will celebrate mothers and the ways they embody resurrection. Pastor Mariellen will give the message at the morning services and Pastor Debbie at the evening service.

May 21: Resurrection From Imprisonment

We may be imprisoned by many things. Jesus’ declaration that he had come to “set the prisoner free” can be interpreted for all of us, whether we’ve ever experienced being behind literal prison bars. We will hear the powerful Resurrection Story of someone who was incarcerated and is now living a truly free life, thanks to the help of a new-found faith. We will reflect on how we can each step into freedom from whatever binds us. The scripture is from Acts 16:16-34.

May 28: Resurrection From Illness

Illness of mind, body, or spirit can sap us of our life passion and energy. Sometimes illness can change the course of our lives forever, asking us to adapt in ways we never imagined. A Resurrection Story of rediscovering a passion for life after a devastating illness will offer us a different perspective on how we deal with any life-altering situation. The scripture is Genesis 32:24-32.

June 4 (Pentecost): Resurrection Spirit

The Spirit is alive and moves among us as it did in the early church! The end of our series will offer us an opportunity to commit ourselves to some important and concrete goals for our mission in the world. We are a church that can mobilize to alleviate suffering and proclaim resurrection hope through the power of the Holy Spirit! The scripture is Romans 12:1-16.

Lent Worship Series: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Our Lent worship series is “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” The lectionary for Lent this year offers many images of where love, grace, forgiveness, righteousness, healing, can REALLY be found. And usually it is not in the usual places. Isn’t it as true of us today as it was of the scriptural authors? Don’t we often look for wholeness and happiness (love) in places that offer only temporary good feelings and satisfaction? Lent is a wonderfully reflective time to reassess where we are searching for meaning, for redemption. We’ll move through the lectionary to find out who offers the real deal.

March 5: Look for the Resistor

The story at the center of our look for love this week is the story of the temptation of Jesus in the desert after his baptism found in Matthew 4:1-11. In this story we see the futility of looking for love in the things that only provide temporary satisfaction, in seeking empty highs, tempting fate, and in mindless adoration. Rather, as Jesus demonstrates, it is in our resistance to evil that we find true communion with God. Resistance to evil starts with our own confession of complicit acts that move us further from love. Our groaning can turn to “glad cries of deliverance” as we choose good over evil time after time—even and especially if it isn’t the popular thing to do.

March 12: Look for the Helper

Oftentimes we believe that we must “deserve” the love we receive. We work, work, work to get approval and to feel like our life is justified—pulling our own weight, thinking that whatever life we create and love we get is only what we ourselves can conjure up. But John 3:1-17 offers the image of God as our “keeper”—always helping, always present. Nicodemus, a Pharisee who comes to Jesus for advice in the middle of the night, has followed all the rules and done everything HE can do, and yet he is still looking for love—for tangible connection with God. Jesus says that he must be born “of the Spirit.” It’s not all up to him! It’s not all up to simply “doing the right thing”! It is about allowing the Spirit to help birth love in our lives, having faith that the Spirit of God is always present and urging us to choose love. For “God so loved the world” that God birthed into the world a Son (Love) that would embody the grace we can count on.

March 19: Look for the Thirst-Quencher (Confirmation Sunday)

The Samaritan woman at the well found out that the water she came for was not really the water she needed so desperately. This woman had looked for love in many places, in many faces and when finally offered a soul-quenching love by Jesus, she became a powerful messenger of Good News. Just as the water given by God that flowed in the desert for the Israelites offered new life, the desert of our lives can be refreshed if we look for love regularly at the well of living water and offer life-giving water to others. This Sunday, we will also celebrate with those eighth graders who joined as members of the church at the previous evening’s Confirmation Service. Holy Communion will be offered at all services.

March 26: Look for the Shepherd

We too often look for security (love) in powerful figures, sure that they can “fix” things for us. It was no different for the people of the First and Second Testaments. They were looking for kings, saviors, or liberators who would offer peace and security in uncertain times. And they often looked “in all the wrong places.” The story of Samuel looking for God’s appointed ruler among the sons of Jesse is a case in point. The youngest son, a “ruddy” boy out taking care of the sheep, turns out to be the one (David). So, too, the Pharisees just can’t believe that this trouble-maker, rule-breaker named Jesus is the One, the Son of God and Savior. Time and again Jesus uses the metaphor of a shepherd to teach us how we ought to love and care for each other. No wonder: the Shepherd does what is needed, when it is needed, regardless of the “rules.” Our scripture will be Psalm 23.

April 2: Look for the Liberator

Sometimes the things we think offer love actually seek to bind us, preventing us from being full and whole and offering our best love to the world. In John 11:32-45, the story of Lazarus, whose funeral shrouds trail him out of the tomb, offers us a metaphor of new life as we recognize that true love is that which unbinds us, that which wants for us more, not less, freedom and life. Jesus says to us, “Come out!” Walk! Live! Love! Shed your funeral clothes and offer your deepest self, your deepest love, for the world. Of course this kind of love can be dangerous, as we will see as the events of Holy Week loom closer. But the price of continuing to look for love in the wrong places is higher than the blessing of life lived boldly. Come out! Walk! Live! Love! Note: Holy Communion will not be offered this week.

April 9: Look for the King (Palm Sunday)

We will celebrate Palm Sunday with the traditional palm processional, as we enter into Holy Week together. The scripture will be Matthew 21:1-11.

Living Generosity: January Worship and Stewardship Theme

Have you noticed the huge heart posters that have been displayed in our Sanctuary entry and the entrance to Creekside, each heart filled with sightings of generosity? Last fall, our Extravagant Generosity Practice Committee asked us to notice moments or experiences of generosity and write these “generosity sightings” on cards that were placed inside the big hearts. It has been inspiring to see these hearts become filled with cards, each with an example of generosity, of loving and caring actions.

Since we have noticed and shared these generosity sightings, the heart posters are overflowing. We can’t help but feel drawn to the stories of extravagant giving, sharing, living, and loving. As our faces light up and our hearts are warmed, we realize that we were made for this. Our generous God designed us to be generous people. If you found joy and inspiration in reading the cards, and if you found your own heart overflowing with the desire to be more generous, maybe this is God’s way of growing your heart of generosity.

We will further explore these concepts in our next worship series on stewardship and generous hearts, “Living Generosity.” This stewardship season will include three Sundays focusing on Living Generosity and three gatherings to talk about stewardship in different ways, culminating in Commitment Sunday on February 5, when we will make our commitments to the 2017 LAUMC Operating Fund. As we prepare to commit to a plan of financial giving for the coming year at LAUMC, consider how God is nudging you to give extravagantly and imagine the impact of sharing your resources with our church and our world. Perhaps the next time we are asked to reflect on generosity sightings, it will be your own story that comes to mind.

Living Generosity Worship Series

January 15: Living Generosity: Responding. The scripture story from Luke 9:12-17 is of Jesus feeding the crowd of five thousand with five loaves and two fish.

January 22: Living Generosity: Realizing. The scripture from Mark 8:14-21 is of Jesus talking to the disciples, who do not understand the significance of his feeding miracle.

February 5: Living Generosity: Rejoicing. The scripture from 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, 10-15 reveals that God gives us gifts that God wants us to use generously. We will make our commitments to LAUMC’s Operating Fund as part of our living generosity. Holy Communion will be served.

Stewardship Gatherings

To support our stewardship focus, there will be three informational and participatory gatherings, designed to help us “live generosity” in 2017. Please consider attending at least one gathering.

Generosity: Gifts and Graphs
Thursday, January 26, 7:30pm, Creekside C/D
Would you like to understand the congregation’s giving patterns and the underlying demographics? Would you like to know more about how we invest our operating funds to support our ministries? Through our stewardship, we provide resources that enable LAUMC to live out generosity for our congregation and our community while, at the same time, we cultivate our own living generosity. Come learn more about the financial state of our congregation as Extravagant Generosity committee member Tonya Treble and Finance Chair Derek Nam host a discussion of how our stewardship can ensure a healthy future for LAUMC.

Generosity Across Generations
Friday, January 27, 6:00pm, Creekside Center
It’s tough to raise a family in the Bay Area. How can we be generous to the church and still pay for tuition, sports, extracurriculars, and a home, all while trying to pay off debt and save for retirement? What do we teach our kids about giving, and how do we set examples of living generosity for them? How can our practice of giving draw us closer to God and give us peace? Hear Brian Jones and other church leaders share their experiences, and then discuss what living generosity might look like for us. Come for a pizza supper at 6:00pm, followed by childcare for young children, stewardship activities for older children, and interactive conversation for adults. If you are bringing your child(ren), please RSVP to childcare@laumc.org with the number of children and their age(s) so we can plan an appropriate number of childcare providers.

Generosity Sightings and Giant Sandwiches
Saturday, January 28, 12:00pm, Creekside C/D
Were your heart touched and spirit inspired by reading about or witnessing an act of extravagant generosity over the holidays? Phil Pompei will lead the gathering in sharing stories of “generosity sightings” over lunch and reflecting on how we might be inspired to respond with our own living generosity. Come with your stories and reflections and leave with full hearts and stomachs.

Not a Silent Night Advent Worship Series

Our Advent and Christmas worship series this year is taken from Adam Hamilton’s book Not a Silent Night: Mary Looks Back to Bethlehem. The series looks at Jesus’ life through the eyes of his mother, Mary, working backwards from the resurrected Christ to the birth of a baby in a humble setting. This reverse focus will help us examine the significance of Jesus’ birth through the lens of his life, death, and resurrection.

November 27: Beginning With the End
In Acts 1:8-14, Mary is named among those who formed the community of Jesus’ disciples after his ascension. Senior Pastor Mariellen Yoshino will give the message at the morning services and Rev. Sam Lewis at the evening service.

December 4: The Piercing of Mary’s Soul
Pastor Mariellen will preach from Luke 2:33-35 at the morning services and Pastor Dirk Damonte at the evening service. Holy Communion will be offered at all services.

December 11: Amazed, Astounded, and Astonished
One of the few stories of Jesus as a child is found in Luke 2:41-51, where Jesus visits the teachers in the temple without his parents’ knowledge. Pastor Mariellen will give the message at the morning services and Pastor Debbie Weatherspoon at the evening service.

December 18: Mary, Full of Grace
In Luke 1:26-33, the angel Gabriel brings a message to Mary. Pastor Mariellen will preach at the morning services and Rev. Sam at the evening service.

December 25: It Was Not a Silent Night
This year Christmas falls on a Sunday! Come spend an hour with your church family to celebrate. We will hold one service, at 10:00am, in the Sanctuary (no evening service). Pastor Mariellen will give the message from Luke 2:1-7, the telling of the Christmas story.

January 1: Now What?
Christmas and the baby are here, the new year is here, but has anything really changed? Isn’t the world just as troubling as it ever has been? Christmas is here – now what? Rev. Sam will preach from Matthew 2:13-23. On New Year’s Day we will also have only one service, at 10:00am in the Sanctuary.

January 8: Epiphany
Pastor Mariellen will give the message, using Matthew 2:1-12.

Told You So Worship Series, Nov. 6–20

Advent is the season of preparing for the birth of Christ, and for the last few years, Los Altos UMC has used a pre-Advent worship series in November to “prepare to prepare.” The commercial holiday season comes upon us so quickly, by December 1 it seems Christmas is already here! By “preparing to prepare” in November, we set ourselves up in a better frame of mind for an intentional Advent season of true preparation.

This November, our worship series has the theme “Told You So: Preparing for the Coming of the Christ.” The book of Isaiah is filled with prophecies that point to the coming of our Messiah, Jesus Christ. In a sense, these prophecies were the Hebrews of the time “preparing to prepare” for Christ’s coming. As we prepare for our annual celebration of Christmas, how do these prophecies speak to our culture, our community, and our context today? We know what we are preparing for, or think we know. How do these prophecies help us really know what to prepare for?

November 6: God With Us. The scripture for this week is Isaiah 7:14, one of the sections that is used in the New Testament to claim Jesus as the anointed one the people were waiting and hoping for. As we prepare once again to prepare our hearts to make room for Jesus, we turn our attention back to the realization that in Jesus, God is with us. Maybe we have forgotten that. Maybe we’ve just been too busy to notice that. Maybe things have happened that make it difficult to believe that. God’s promise to the people of Isaiah’s time is still God’s promise to us today: God is with us, and we know that through the incredible gift that we are preparing for, the gift of Jesus Christ. Senior Pastor Mariellen Yoshino will preach at the morning services and Pastor Dirk Damonte at the evening service. Holy Communion will be offered at all services.

November 13: Wonderful, Mighty, Everlasting. Isaiah 9:6 is another section of Isaiah that is viewed through New Testament eyes as pointing to the birth of Jesus the Messiah. (It is hard to read this passage without hearing the music of Handel’s Messiah echoing in our hearts!) What is amazing about this passage is these descriptions of the one God is sending: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. This one whom God sends, this Jesus, is all these things and so much more! As we prepare our hearts to realize the depth and scope of this gift from God, we see that this Messiah is a Messiah for all time, and we can put all of our trust in him. Have we done that? Have we gotten away from that? Do we doubt that? In our preparing to prepare, we reflect on the ways that God’s love lives in these attributes of Jesus. We can put all of our trust in him! Pastor Mariellen will give the message at the morning services and Pastor Debbie Weatherspoon at the evening service.

November 20: The Spirit Is Upon Us. Luke 4:16-21 tells us that Jesus himself quoted Isaiah 61:1-2, and concluded by saying “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled.” Preparing to prepare for Jesus to (re)enter our hearts and lives means recognizing that this good news, healing, justice and release comes through Jesus. John Wesley liked to go further than these two verses and point out that Isaiah goes on to include more categories of the marginalized that God’s Spirit is reaching out to. John Wesley considered this a mandate for all of Jesus’ followers. As we prepare to prepare, we are being called into deeper relationship with God’s creation through Jesus Christ. Pastor Mariellen will preach at the morning services and Pastor Dirk at the evening service.

Guest Preachers Lead Creekside Crossings Toward Compassion Week

The Bold Service and Social Justice Committee and the Creekside Crossings worship team have arranged a series of guest preachers at our evening services this month to help us thoughtfully prepare for Compassion Week.

September 11: Rod Cardoza, founder and executive director of the Abrahamic Alliance International
The Abrahamic Alliance is a faith-based, nonprofit organization uniting Jews, Christians, and Muslims for active peace building and poverty relief. Rod Cardoza is a cultural, theological, and linguistic anthropologist who has extensively researched Muslim culture and lectures internationally on Muslim-Christian dialogue. His sermon topic will be “Loving Your Muslim Neighbor.”

September 18: Paul Bains, senior pastor at Saint Samuel Church and founder of Project WeHOPE
Pastor Bains is a third-generation clergyman who grew up with a spirit of hope and a heart for the homeless. He founded Project WeHOPE in 1999 with his wife, Cheryl, with the initial goal to strengthen the East Palo Alto community by developing transformational leaders to address the critical issues facing the community. Our Outreach Connection offering this Sunday will be for Project WeHOPE.

September 25: Dave Robinson, executive director of Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy (CIC)
CIC offers love to incarcerated children and adults in Santa Clara County through a prison ministry that brings church into local jails and youth correctional facilities, giving inmates hope for and guidance toward a better life with Jesus Christ. By sharing worship, testimonies, and gospel messages, CIC chaplains and volunteers minister to individual needs and present the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who will listen.

Love Does Fall Worship Series

Our fall morning worship series is based on the book Love Does, by Bob Goff. Each week’s theme follows one of the book chapters highlighted in the study curriculum that small groups will be using to discuss how to “do love” in our everyday lives.

September 11: “I’m With You” (Welcome Home Sunday)
Senior Pastor Mariellen Yoshino will give the message, using the scripture text from Matthew 1:18-23. Choirs and Sunday school classes start up for the new school year.

September 18: “Free to Fail”
Pastor Mariellen will preach from John 21:15-19.

September 25: Guest preacher Bob Goff
Love Does author Bob Goff is delivering the message at our three morning worship services. Bob will share how Love in Action is how he lives his life. Invite your family and friends to this inspiring experience! Afterwards, we have the opportunity to join Bob for lunch in Creekside at 12:30pm. We will chat with him and ask him our burning questions. Space is limited, so please register to attend the luncheon.

October 2: “Audacious Love”
Pastor Mariellen will give the message, using 1 John 4:7-12. Holy Communion will be served.

October 9: Compassion Week
There will be no regular worship services on this day. We will be worshipping in our community by “doing love” through hands-on service opportunities! Visit the Compassion Week registration site to learn more.

October 16: “Be Not Afraid”
Pastor Mariellen will preach from Mark 6:45-52. After morning services, a Compassion Week Celebration will be held from noon to 2:00pm in Creekside to highlight our volunteers and partner agencies. Family fun activities are planned.

October 23: “Follow Me”
Pastor Mariellen will give the message. The scriptures are Matthew 4:18-20, Matthew 16:24, and Luke 18:18-22.

Worship Series: To Begin Again

This month, the Creekside Crossings evening worship service (Sundays at 5:00pm) has its own worship series. “To Begin Again: Preparing for New Seasons in Our Lives” follows the prodigal son story of Luke 15:11-32 and explore these topics: wandering from the path, wondering if there’s something better, God’s whisper of “Come back!” and God’s loving welcome. Come explore the story with us!

August 14: Wandering
Our new beginnings often arise out of wandering away from the path we want to be on. Pastor Sam Lewis will give the message.

August 21: Wondering
We wonder if perhaps there is something better, if a new beginning might be possible. Pastor Debbie Weatherspoon will preach.

August 28: Whispering
The voice of God whispers to us, “Come back, come back, come back!” Pastor Dirk Damonte will give the message.

September 4: Welcoming
God welcomes us with open arms and a loving heart, saying, “Welcome home!” Senior Pastor Mariellen Yoshino will preach. Holy Communion will be offered.

The Big Questions Worship Series

Our next worship series starts July 31 and continues through September 4 at all morning services. We will examine some of the biggest questions of our faith and try to respond in a way that makes sense for this time and this place. Senior Pastor Mariellen Yoshino has invited people in our congregation to join her in speaking on many of these topics. See the details below.

July 31: What Is the Point of Living?
Pastor Sam Lewis will give the message, using Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23.

August 7: (How) Should We Live Together?
Senior Pastor Mariellen Yoshino and GroupLife Chairperson Kim Jones will present a dialogue message. The scripture is Colossians 3:14-17. Holy Communion will be served.

August 14: Why Should I Do Anything About Poverty?
Pastor Mariellen and Bold Service & Social Justice Cochair Jan McDaniel will have a conversation about poverty and faith, reflecting on Matthew 26:6-13. Our featured Outreach Connection agency will be Hope’s Corner.

August 21: So What About Hell?
Pastor Mariellen and Steve Moyer will speak together about the concept and meaning of hell. The scripture is Mark 9:43-50.

August 28: Why Do Bad Things, Like Alzheimer’s, Happen to Such Good People?
Pastor Mariellen and Bonnie Bollwinkel will present a dialogue about Alzheimer’s and other life struggles. The scripture text is Proverbs 3:5-6.

September 4: What Happens When We Die?
Pastor Mariellen and Dr. Bill Buchholtz will offer a conversation about death and what happens to us, using Luke 23:42-43. Holy Communion will be offered.

Bob Is Coming Sept. 25!

Get out a pen or your electronic calendar and highlight September 25. No, really: Do it now before you forget. On that Sunday, we will have Bob Goff as our guest speaker in all three morning worship services. Who is Bob? He is a crazy guy who loves Jesus and tells incredible stories. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Love Does. He is a lawyer, Honorary Consul for the Republic of Uganda to the United States, and founder of a nonprofit that helps children in Uganda and India. He has an office on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland (read his book for more details). And he is coming to share with us at Los Altos United Methodist Church. The back of his book puts it best: “When Love Does, life gets interesting. Each day turns into a hilarious, whimsical, meaningful chance to make faith simple and real.” We hope you will come on September 25 to hear Bob speak, explore Love Does with us this fall, and invite friends to come, too!