What You Leave Behind

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders—great and terrible—upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. 24 The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 20-25

What will you leave behind?

There is a deep-seated need in each of us to know that we matter, to know that our lives have made a difference. That we contributed something to this tapestry of life and that we left the world better than we found it. Sometimes though, we get confused as to what will actually make a difference, and we go off and do crazy things thinking they will matter. We want desperately to be remembered as if somehow, the memory of our name will keep us alive long after our bodies are in the ground. But think about it. What does it matter if people remember our name? It’s at these times I think about George Washington. Nearly everyone in the United States knows George Washington. As Americans go, he’s about as famous as they come – 91% recognize him as the first president.[1] But how well do we really know him? Do we know what he liked to do on a rainy day? Do we know what his favorite comfort food was? Who was his closest childhood friend? We might know his name, but we don’t really know him. To be sure, Washington left a great legacy, but if his goal was to be remembered for the man he was, he ultimately failed. As do we all. Yet the impact of his life is still felt by us today. Because he was willing to lead our troops, we have independence. Because he knew the dangers of monarchy, we have an elected president. Because he was willing to give up power, we have term limits. So even though the man may not be truly remembered, the impact he had on our country lives on. And isn’t that what’s truly important?

Hard at work at one of our chicken dinners at Palm UMC, Frank Abe is truly one of the saints of the church

What will be your legacy?

If we hear the words of Moses from our passage this morning, it’s clear that the best way for us to leave a legacy that will last is by living out the Word of God. Moses tells us not only to impress upon our children his commandments, but to live them out. To make them be more than words but a part of our lives. To always have in the forefront of our minds, the lessons God has taught us. That is how we can love the LORD our God the best, by leaving a legacy of a Christ-like life in our midst. I was thinking of this especially in light of the life of Frank Abe, one of the saints of our church. Frank himself would say he wasn’t a saint by any means, but if we understand correctly the meaning of the word “saint” it is a member of the body of Christ and surely that was Frank.[2] He was the kind of man who lived his faith. And judging by the rich legacy of friends and family that he leaves behind, it is easy to see that the impact of his work will be felt literally for generations. Rarely have I seen a family so close and so filled with love for one another and that alone is a wonderful testament to the love of God. That is the kind of impact that has lasting power.

The same is true for another of the saints among us.

Like Frank, this person would never consider themselves a saint, but by the testimony of the many people who surround this person’s orbit, they truly embody a life in Christ. I know that this person is an inspiration to those whose lives are touched by the work that they do, including my own. This person lives a life rich in God’s love and that truth is obvious to anyone who knows them. An ardent volunteer both in and out of the church, this person gives time and effort without seeking or wanting praise. For those of you unfamiliar with the larger United Methodist Church, we are all connected through our annual conference. Ours encompasses the entirety of Northern and Central California as well as most of Nevada and is presided over by the bishop. Our last Bishop, Bishop Warner Brown, established what he called the Bishop’s Award to honor the laity in our conference who do exceptional work for God and their community. He wanted to recognize these people for the work they do and the inspiration they give just for being who they are. Bishop Carcaño, our current bishop, has continued this tradition and asked for local pastors like myself to submit the names of people in our congregation who we felt deserved this award. This year, I submitted the name of one person in particular. Out of the hundreds of churches in our conference, over 330 of them; out of the thousands of people who are a part of these churches and all the work they do; each district of our conference was awarded one Bishop’s Award. There are only four districts. Only four people out of nearly 80,000 were given this honor and one of them was from our very own church. Normally, this is done during our meeting of the annual conference and it is a total surprise. But unfortunately, this person could not make it because of very important family matters so our District Superintendent, Rev. Debra Brady, and Bishop Carcaño allowed me to accept the award on this person’s behalf and present it to her today. The recipient for the Bishop’s Award for 2017 from the Central Valley District is none other than our own Aiko Takeda.

Aiko after receiving the award in person at Palm Church

Here is what I shared about Aiko with the Bishop. All of it 100% true.

Aiko Takeda is one of the mostly Godly women I know

She is humble, kind, giving, devoted (to God and the church), sweet, and with a heart for service. At nearly 90 years of age, she is still full of energy, wit, and wisdom.  Within the church, she is the co-chair of our Missions Committee which won an award for missions service in 2014.  Our Missions Committee hosts a donation lunch about once a month which she not only helps to coordinate, but also cooks and cleans afterward.  Aiko also coordinates and cooks for our annual Ozoni Breakfast we host at the church on the 2nd Sunday of every year which is a traditional Japanese soup that welcomes in the New Year.  She comes in days before to wash the bowls and make sure everything is ready and then comes in extra early the day of the event.  In addition to those things, she is our organist and has played regularly in worship for many, many years.  She also loves to lead the singing of our praise songs during worship and is the Choir Director for holidays and special occasions.  On top of that, she is also the chief organist for all the funerals we’ve had at the church.  She is a founding member of the Prayer Group we currently have and has been a faithful attender of our regular Sermon Bible Study.  In the past, Aiko has also served as PPRC chair.  

Just a few of the many ways Aiko serves at our church and in the community

If her service to the church wasn’t enough, Aiko does MANY things outside the church in service to God as well.  She started a flower arranging group (in Japanese called Ikebana) which is a form of Japanese art that was taught to her by her mother.  Many people in the community come and attend her class including people of other religions like Buddhism.  Every year, this group puts together an Annual Boutique whose funds go toward Open Gate Ministries (a transitional housing shelter and food pantry in Dinuba) and a youth group in Reedley, CA our neighboring town.  She also volunteers regularly and weekly for Open Gate Ministries in their thrift store to help support them.  She also does all the flower arrangements for the quarterly Open Gate dinners and sells the arrangements for additional fundraising for the ministry.  She does this in addition to the Ikebana class.  On top of that she finds time to offer people rides to church and tend to their needs.  She regularly visits people in hospitals, takes people food and flowers, and is trying to start a ministry to sing carols to our local hospice and recovery care facility.  She does all of this with an air of humility and love of neighbor.

When our home caught fire, Aiko was also the first one to offer to bring food and then on top of that told us to keep all the Pyrex and Tupperware she brought it in, knowing we were without anything at the time.  She is without doubt one of God’s finest examples of service I know.  I hope to have her kind of faith and dedication as my legacy.  

When we consider what our legacy will be, when we think of what we hope to leave behind, I hope we remember that fame, money, and power are fleeting and that even those we consider the most famous will not be remembered. Even if somehow our names are remembered, it will not mean that who we are will be. But we CAN leave a legacy that will last, a legacy that will influence generations to come and that will have an effect upon the world. Live a life dedicated to God and the power of your life will outlast the rocks and the mountains. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A38575-2005Feb19.html

[2] https://www.gotquestions.org/saints-Christian.html

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