We love God

October 23, 2022 – Stewardship One

Church of Peace

Michael Swartz

One of the major developments in church in the last 50 years has been computers and printers.  Publications look better and better, photographs are commonplace in bulletins and newsletters.  If we look back on reports for annual meetings they have evolved from mimeograph documents to crisp color booklets.

Accordingly, several years ago I was encouraging every church group to submit a report, a photo and some comment on how they fit into the bigger picture; why they did what they did.  At that time Bea Anderson was the coordinator of the Altar Guild, and her narrative report was brief.  She said of the Altar Guild, “we do this because we love God.”  We do this because we love God.

The Church of Peace is a gospel train rolling down the track with a fair amount of good humor, a humble recognition that we are all sinners saved by the Grace of God, and with a serious spiritual culture of a genuine love of God.

It goes deep.  There is a commitment to being the genuine article.  This is not Christianity lite, this is the traditional love of God, in our place and our time and we are doing our very best for God and for each other. It is tradition. There is a promise of spiritual integrity, which is seldom articulated but very real.

As a younger person I took my turn on the dusty catwalk above the vault of this ceiling and below the roof to change some light bulbs.  I was impressed to see crossed I-beans near the middle of the space, painted red no less.  Those Germans were not messing around when they built this structure in 1912, talk about “give of your best to the master.”  Such forward-looking structural integrity calls us to stewardship to do our best in our time.

And with the educational building of the 1950s – have you ever tried to hang a picture on the wall?  This is not sheetrock, or even lath and plaster – it is some kind of cement that seems to make it impervious to tacks!  And the wood is real.

I once served a country church whose building was erected about 1920, I am sure with a lot of love, but without the German sophistication.  When a new roof was applied the building began to sprattle or bow out from the weight.  That church building now has a steel bar across the interior of the sanctuary with a turnbuckle, to hold the walls perpendicular.  While integrity is not unique, neither is it universal.  We have a valuable heritage.

The reason we find it easier, or I find it easier, to talk about the structure of the building is because it is visible – where the spiritual commitment to honesty, loving our neighbors, devotion, moving forward in our acceptance of those different in some way, finding new avenues of service and ways of being in wholesome supportive relationship with each other is more difficult to talk about.  But it is equally real.

We do this because we love God, and know that we are loved by God.

In our stewardship emphasis this year we are talking about trains.  When travelling I’ve found that folks universally know where the Mississippi River is located, no matter where they live.  And because “The Rock Island Line is a very good line,” they have learned the name of our city.

And on our four Sundays we will talk about four assets of the church:

  • Deep faith tradition, we love God. That is this week.
  • Our Setting at 12th & 12th is an asset for ministry and service.
  • We are Loyal – that is our All Saints Sunday.
  • Accessible, “Welcome Aboard.”

It is important to establish a realistic estimate of our financial strength as we move forward in finding a new pastor for the church.  I see that the pandemic that kept us away from each other far longer than I, for one, anticipated, has dealt churches a serious blow.  And believe it or not, we are stronger than many churches at this point.

I was impressed that the goals from last year’s stewardship were expressed in terms of moving forward and thriving, rather than surviving.  And I say, “Praise God, and more power to you.”

We are on the right track and we never will go back …

 I am walking a fine line here.  This sermon does not want to be self-congratulatory, the gospel today warns us about those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt.”   However, please know, integrity is not universal.  And my observation is that those who have served the Church of Peace over the years, pastors, employed staff, elected leadership and volunteers have not “phoned it in.”  They have given it their best effort.

Our musicians guide us in praising God, our teachers lead students to know God, our service is so neighbors can experience God in concrete and realistic ways.  And we are all neighbors.  And we do this because we love God.

A white boy from Los Angeles, I spent my internship in Newark, New Jersey in the Black community.  Black and Puerto Rican.  One phrase from I heard often is “I ain’t playing with you.”  While this could sometimes be challenging speech, it was most often, when I heard it, loving speech by elders to younger people.  In that setting it meant, “I love you.  This is serious.  Take note.  This is important and I am going to go the extra mile to see that you do the right thing.”


The Church of Peace.  As Bea Anderson said, “We do this because we love God.”  And “I ain’t playing with you.”

Amen and amen.

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