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God’s Economy vs Caesar’s

UCC CBLF Team Zoom Meeting


Here’s the reflection that I shared with our national  UCC Church Building & Loan Fund (CB&LF)  group this week for  this Just Peace Sunday

On February 18, 1965  at the University of Cambridge, in a debate (the motion of the debate was that the American dream was at the expense of black Americans) between William F. Buckley Jr. and the brilliant author, James Baldwin, Baldwin responded: 

“The American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro,” picked the cotton, and I carried it to the market, and I built the railroads under someone else’s whip for nothing,” he said, his voice rising with the cadences of the pulpit. “For nothing.”

In his 2012 book, The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future,  by Nobel Prize economist  Joseph E. Stiglitz, he writes,

“There are two visions of America a half century from now. One is of a society more divided between the haves and the have-nots, a country in which the rich live in gated communities, send their children to expensive schools, and have access to first-rate medical care. Meanwhile, the rest live in a world marked by insecurity, at best mediocre education, and in effect rationed health care―they hope and pray they don’t get seriously sick. At the bottom are millions of young people alienated and without hope. I have seen that picture in many developing countries; economists have given it a name, a dual economy, two societies living side by side, but hardly knowing each other, hardly imagining what life is like for the other. Whether we will fall to the depths of some countries, where the gates grow higher and the societies split farther and farther apart, I do not know. It is, however, the nightmare towards which we are slowly marching.”

Stiglitz continues, saying,

The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy are to spend money on common needs… clean air, water, healthcare, education..  The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security.”

He adds,

“The protesters have called into question whether there is a real democracy. Real democracy is more than the right to vote once every two or four years. The choices have to be meaningful. But increasingly, and especially in the US, it seems that the political system is more akin to “one dollar one vote” than to “one person one vote”. Rather than correcting the market failures, the political system was reinforcing them.”

And now, the apocalyptic times have come. The perfect storm of  Covid 19, 1619, and the terrifying fires and hurricanes, all of which are disproportionately killing the poorest people of color.

As Nelson Mandela once wrote,

“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”

This Sunday’s gospel from Matthew reveals the great tension between God’s economy and Ceaser’s.  Just before today’s story, the disciples ask, Who will be the greatest among us?  (Aren’t we supposed to be first?) In typical fashion, in answering a question,  Jesus told a parable, about a generous landowner who promises the first workers a fair days wage, and the others, who are unemployed,  who came later – even just an hour before the end of the day, “whatever is fair.” 

In the end, each laborer received a fair day’s wage. 

And those who were first in line, complained.

The need is urgent, the time is now, and the place is here to bring forth God’s generous economy. Here in the US, the world’s wealthiest nation, where the top 3 billionaires have as much wealth as the bottom 50%, while at the same time 48% of the US population lives at or below the poverty line; while 20% of children and 1 in 9 seniors are food insecure, and are disproportionately poor people of color.   

I am grateful to be part of the CB&LF, doing our part, to transform the economy of Caesar into God’s economy, to reach out and to welcome those most vulnerable, into God’s generous vision for all people.   May God inspire us to do so together.  

Our Story: We Are in this Together

Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay


Can you believe it? This weekend is Labor Day! Where has the summer gone? Where has 2020 gone? I imagine far fewer of us are “getting away” for Labor Day weekend, so perhaps you’ll have time to remember the unique origins of how and why the US decided to change Labor day from May 1st, ’International Worker Day, from the rest of the world, to a sleepy weekend at the end of the summer. 
 
As is so often with history, there is a political battle for who gets to tell the story. In fact, it often is HIS story (a white wealthy, male landowner) telling the story.  Far too often, history is  told by the winners, while the voices of the marginalized and the oppressed are hidden. We are wise to learn from these hidden histories, so as not to repeat it. 
 
Related to our stories, and the importance of hearing everyone’s perspectives about OUR stories, I want to share with you a beautiful quote that Nancy Taylor lifted up  in our bible study today. The context was that we were lamenting about how hard it is to connect with people, including beloved friends and family members, because we are so far apart on issues, (especially when our stories and the media perpetuate the belief that we are separate).  We were discussing what is at stake when we fail to remember that we are all in this together.  The quote is by Michael Meade, D.H.L., is a renowned storyteller, author, and scholar of mythology, anthropology, and psychology (follow the link or see text below). 
 
Last week in our McLaren discussion I challenged each one of us, as hard as it might be,  to seek to connect with someone with whom we are are far apart on issues, and seek to empathically connect with them. I look forward to our continued conversation about this!
 
May we be moved to go out to the margins and the edges of life, and in doing so, find each other. 
 
with love, Pastor Laurie 

“There’s an old Irish myth about how when the center falls apart, when there is no big unifying story that can be told in public so that everyone remembers, yes, we all are in this together, when that happens, when the center cannot hold, the old story says then it’s time for each person to go to the margins and the edges of life. Because the center when it’s missing does not completely disappear. Rather, the elements of the center are then found at the margins and edges of life. And so it becomes a time for each person to go to the edge that attracts them and at the same time causes them to be fearful.

And the old story says that if each person goes in the direction that is both attractive and fearful to them, they will find that at the edge of their life a thread, and if each person would then pick up that thread and begin to pull it back towards the center, then the unifying center can be remade from the weaving together of many individual threads of life. In the greater myth that serves life, not death, no one has to be heroic and do it all or claim that they are the only one who can do it. Each person is just responsible to find their thread and find a way to weave it back into life. And the key to this narrative of the great way is that no one can be excluded for any reason, not because of their age, or their origin, or their race, or their economic disposition. Because each person has a life thread that has vitality and meaning and creativity in it.

And the point isn’t to indulge in some kind of magical thinking that would say that no one is going to die on this troubled path that we all share at this point. And certainly, the point cannot be that we’re all going to go back to life and business as usual. The understanding of the bigger myth right now is the world as we knew it is already gone. The point now is to be inhabiting a bigger, unifying living myth in which the words that we are all in this together have genuine, heartfelt meaning. We are in a time of radical change throughout the world, where life and death are struggling on a daily basis. And that requires each of us to change and come out of the crisis as greater souls not smaller people.”

– Michael Meade

 
 

If There Was Ever a Time to Conspire Together in Love, it is NOW

Lighting, Fires, blackouts, a heat wave, a pandemic, economic recession, and the poorest people of color are suffering.

We are living in apocalyptic times . Early Sunday morning, lightning bolts lit up the Bay area sky.  Within days, fast moving fires ignited across Northern California. We wake up each day: check the news, check our cell phones for area alerts about everything from air quality, PG&E rolling blackout alerts, & Covid updates, and then reach out to our loved ones, as the raging fires double in size. We wonder, what’s ahead this fall?

All this in the midst of a global pandemic and an economic recession that has resulted in 170,000 deaths in the US, unemployment rate at 10% and another enormous transfer of wealth to billionaires.

I am worried about us, especially those most vulnerable. Where is our hope? Could it be in the very midst of this apocalypse? The word itself, Apocalypse (ἀποκάλυψις, apokálypsis) is a Greek word meaning “revelation“, “an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling”.

In fact, we are in the midst of apocalypse. It is a time of great unveiling, things not previously known are being revealed, if we have the eyes to not only see it, to hear it, to be transformed by it, and to take action, together,  to participate in our collective salvation. Who will save us? If there were ever a time for a great spiritual migration, it is NOW. If there was ever a time to participate, to conspire together, in love, it is NOW.

Who would have ever imagined that the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, born right here in Oakland during the civil rights movement, would give her acceptance speech as the first woman of color on a major party ticket?  She urged us to perceive the times and to take collective action together for justice for all people. Former President Barack Obama issued a grim warning about the durability of American democracy, and our role in participating in democracy as informed, engaged, voters.

A short time remains before the US elections on November 3.  While churches can take no partisan stands, we can pray and work for a just common life as a natural extension of our faith.

Resources to assist with this are available at Our Faith Our Votehttps://www.ucc.org/ourfaithourvote)

 Thank you my friends, for our leadership and migration together. 

                                         Love, Pastor Laurie

This Sunday:  

I am so pleased to have as our guest preacher this Sunday, our very own Teresa Jenkins!.

After the service, we continue on our journey, continuing our book discussion of Brian McLaren’s the Great Spiritual Migration, facilitated by Tom Manley! (please review the article below for details)

 

Zoom with the Justice and Witness Team: Racial Justice

Thursday, August 13th, 7:00 pm
 
As we experience heightened awareness of racism and White Supremacy in our country – and in our community – especially since the killing of George Floyd; and as we consider how we can become involved with one another in this movement for racial justice, our first meeting in a series will start from the the desire that we connect more deeply with one another.  To that end, we will share our “stories” – who we are, our beginnings, what are the things in our lives that have shaped our world views.  All are invited!  Please join us!  

For questions, contact Nancy Taylor via the office at 510-531-8212, office@skylineucc.org. (during shelter in place email is best)

Join Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/901784352 Meeting ID: 901 784 352 One tap mobile +16699009128,,901784352# US (San Jose) +13462487799,,901784352# US (Houston)

 

“Our Democracy Hangs in the Balance”

We are living at an inflection point in the history of our country, and in the history of this planet. 

Michelle Alexander; a writer, civil rights advocate,  visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, and author of The New Jim Crow; writes in the NY Times:

“Our democracy hangs in the balance. This is not an overstatement.

As protests, riots, and police violence roiled the nation last week, the president vowed to send the military to quell persistent rebellions and looting, whether governors wanted a military occupation or not. “

Is this the beginning or the end? Where lies our hope? Where do we begin? We must face our racial history and our racial present. We must re-imagine justice.

Michelle Alexander continues:

My hope lies in the movement that brings together people of all  ethnicities, genders and backgrounds as they rise up together, standing in solidarity for justice, protesting, marching and singing together, even as SWAT teams and tanks roll in.  — a reflection of the best of who we are and what we can become. It is a glimpse,  of a beautiful, courageous nation struggling to be born.

Let us, as people of faith, be inspired by this Spirit.  

Blessings, Pastor Laurie 

Take Action:

The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III is the senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He has recently recorded and posted two video messages about the killings of African Americans that have been fueled by white supremacy. I hope you will make, over the next couple days, the forty minutes it will take to watch and listen to them both.

The Trinity UCC YouTube channel suggests watching “When Is Someday?” first.  The other video to watch, whatever order you watch them in, is “The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery.” 

May these two messages to awaken your spirit, open your hearts, and inspire you to action.

P.S. The petition Dr. Moss refers to in “When Is Someday?” can be found here.

Poor People’s Campaign Town Hall: In the context of the uprisings across the country against police killings of Black people and the devastation of COVID-19, people will come together across movements at a virtual town hall entitled “Poor People’s Campaign 1968-2020: Everybody’s Got A Right to Live! We Won’t Be Silent Anymore,” which will be held on Saturday, June 13, at 11:00 a.m. (Pacific time). Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will be the keynote speaker. RSVP to join the online town hall on Saturday, June 13, at 11:00 a.m.

Being Grateful in Difficult Times:  Theologian and historian Diana Butler Bass  is offering an online class on “Being Grateful in Difficult Times.” It includes mini-lectures, suggested practices, and conversations with other writers (including some surprise guests whose books you probably love!). It is a completely self-paced online course – you decide when you start and when you finish. The course goes live on June 22 and only costs $59 if you register by June 20. Learn more and register here.

Advocacy: For those of us who can’t take to the streets, we need to take to our phones and computers to make our opinions known to the politicians. Here are two ways you can do that:

  1. Sign up to be part of the Poor People’s Campaign.
  2. Become part of the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Peace Action Network.

Care for the Earth at Home: Undertake some (or all) of the environmental activities that can be done at home listed here. The list maker says they are activities kids can do; adults can do them, too.

Re-Opening Skyline – Safely and Inclusively

Can you believe it? It’s week 8 of SIP here in Alameda County.

So many of us in this country are engaged in the question, when will we open up again? How will we do so in a way that keeps us all safe?  As states begin to open again and restaurants welcome patrons, offices reopen, and churches begin holding in-person activities, the question we face is: Who will we leave behind?

COVID-19 is with us until we have a vaccine or cure. Some of us are more vulnerable to being killed by this virus if we contract it. As a nation, we are caught between the tension of restarting our economy and risking the spread of COVID 19, that has already killed over 80,000 people in our country, disproportionately poor people of color. How do we re-open in a way that keeps all of us safe and leaves no one behind?

It’s a particularly challenging question for Skyline as a faith community. The Skyline community, like many protestant churches, is older and most at risk. How do we open the church and carry on knowing that our oldest members, already struggling to engage new technology, will be left out of important moments of being a community together? Who will we leave behind? I’m reminded of how often Jesus promised: I will not abandon you, whether you’re a lost sheep, or an orphan. Let’s not leave anyone behind!

It’s also a particularly challenging question for Skyline as a small church, that also owns a preschool and offers our venue for rentals and weddings. The challenges of maintaining social distancing and sanitary conditions will be formidable in such gatherings. How do we plan to open up in a way that maximizes the safety of us all, and balance this with our economic reality that most of our revenues come from our preschool and weddings?

I don’t have an easy answer for us, as a country or as Skyline. We are continually monitoring the guidelines from the CDC and local Alameda County health department for both church and preschool openings.

But I do have faith that we can do this if we engage in this process together. You’re invited to consider the gifts that you have in this important conversation. Get involved!

As we begin reopening, let us do so with deep compassion and measured patience. We have much to learn about how to be together right now. Let’s make sure we discern the way forward together.

 

Ways to Support for Our Immigrant Communities

Dear Skyline Family,

The immigrant communities are facing an especially hard time during the pandemic but there are many community organizations coming together to help. As Skyline Church is a Sanctuary Church, the Justice and Witness team would like to offer ways to support the communities that we have been accompanying. Thank you for sharing with those among us who are in so much need.

The Maya Mam in Oakland organization is helping coordinate food distribution to the Mam community, including the Nueva Esperanza Preschool families. The Mandela Partners and the Alameda Food Bank have been providing food for distribution at Iglesia de Dios, Mam Church at 4500 International Blvd. Henry Sales, organizer, says they haven’t been able to get fruits, chicken, rice, beans, eggs, and milk. He’s working to partner with other organizations, as well  as getting a nonprofit designation. Monetary donations will be used to buy food for distribution and  materials (masks, gloves, and sanitizer) for volunteers. On-line donations can be made HERE.

If you prefer to write a check, please contact Mirtha through the church office, office@skylineucc.org.

The Centro Legal de La Raza, along with six community partners, created the Oakland Undocumented Relief Fund for Oakland immigrant workers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Donations can be by check or online HERE.

Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity has set up a Migrant Emergency Fund which helps recently arrived immigrants, formerly detained and incarcerated folks, and other immigrants encountering urgent survival needs due to the severe economic impact of COVID-1.   

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant continues to support clients by phone, providing up-to-date information about their legal cases and social services. Action items to support the immigrant population are listed on their website.  

Save the date for a zoom discussion on Monday, May 18th at 7 pm with Pastor Laurie,  Nancy Taylor and myself! More details to follow!

Join Zoom Meetinghttps://zoom.us/j/241524878  Meeting ID: 241 524 878, or call 510 421 2646

Thank you! Mirtha N., co-chair, Justice & Witness

God is with us through this Storm

These are days in which we feel tossed about by the rough winds and waves, like boats at sea. These are times of change, loss and confusion. And times of living with so many unanswered questions: When do we open?  Do we stay home? Will my job be there when this is over? Will my child be going to school in the fall? Will I run out of money this month? Can my family help me if I should need it? What will I do if I get sick and don’t have insurance?

It’s hard to find our bearings, hard to predict the winds, and hard to see the shore.  Life feels adrift, and while we are sharing the experience of disorientation, we are not all experiencing the same vulnerabilities. We are in this together, but our journeys are uniquely our own.

I am grateful to ride out the winds and waves together. My comfort comes not in an expectation that God will perform some great miracle, but that God is with us through it all. We can trust this journey because we are not alone.

I recently read a piece that conveyed this sense of isolated connection that I’ve been experiencing: 

I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked, and mine might not be.

Or vice versa.

For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflections, of re-connection, easy in flip-flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial and family crisis.

For some that live alone, they’re facing endless loneliness. While for others it is peace, rest, and time with their mother, father, sons and daughters.

With the $600 (US) weekly increase in unemployment, some are bringing in more money to their households than they were working.

Others are working more hours for less money, due to pay cuts or loss in commissioned sales.

Some families of four just received $3400 from the stimulus package, while other families of four saw $0.

Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter, while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk, and eggs for the weekend.

Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break quarantine.

Some are at home spending two to three hours a day, helping their child with online schooling, while others are doing the same on top of a 10–12 hour work day.

Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it, and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it.

 

Others don’t believe this is a big deal.


Others say the worst is yet to come.
Some have faith in God and expect miracles this year.

We are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.

Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, actually seeing.

We are all on different ships during this storm, experiencing a very different journey. — Unknown Author

Connecting, Updates, Prayer and Palm/Passion Sunday

Here we are, in April, beginning  another month of sheltering in place. What a time we are living through! 

Even in the midst of this there are blessings. Among them has been the blessing of communicating with you through social media: worshiping, studying, praying and yes, even sharing birthday celebrations and happy hours together.

I am grateful to the virtual teams within our faith community, rising up to offer all kinds of support within and beyond us. I hope you were able to join the zoom crowd who worshiped online this week. If you missed it, you can find it here on our website.  Many of us are using zoom for the first time, and here’s a helpful tutorial to get started.  You can always call me on my cell phone! All of our computers are facing buffering challenges due to the overload on various platforms and the internet in general, please be patient.  

Last Sunday, the 29th of March, I lifted up the theme of grief, so I want to offer a helpful article for you to better understand your own experience of grief. 

Please continue to check our weekly email, our  Facebook  page, and our website for updates.    

This Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday— please find a palm, or a leafy branch, or a symbol of gratitude for praising the heroes of our time, and bring it with you for our service.  And, before you sit down to participate in the Zoom service (here’s the link), please have ready nearby elements of food and drink to share in our agape meal, remembering Jesus and all those we love that we wish were here with us, and all those in need, especially during the pandemic.  Finally, David G. is leading a Zoom Children’s time at 11:30 – read more here.

Prayer for today:

You have been our strength, O God.
At the beginning of the day you brought us from darkness into light.
At the ending of the day you lead us from busyness into stillness.
In earth’s cycles and seasons you offer us new life and fresh beginnings.
Be our strength this day and the strength of new beginnings in our world.
Be our help, O God, and the help of those who cry out in need.
~ by John Philip Newell, excerpt from Celtic Treasure: Daily Scriptures and Prayer

Prayer in music & videos:

Inspiration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter at Skyline – Virtual Services 2020

Palm Sunday Virtual Service:  April 5, 10:00 – 11:00 AM

Our virtual service: a readers theater, journeying from the entrance into Jerusalem, into the Garden of Gethsemane, with the inspiring music of Ken Medema, Gabrielle Lochard and Benjamin Mertz.  Hear the stories of Jesus’s journey to Jerusalem, listen to music of God’s love, peace, grace, sorrow and beauty.

Meeting ID: 716 026 467
Dial in by phone 1-669-900-9128

Maundy Thursday Virtual Service:  April 9, 12:30 PM

Worship with the United Church of Christ. The leaders from across the life of the denomination will be leading a streamed worship service.  Register for the webinar here.  Click here for more details.  Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash
 

Good Friday Virtual Service: April 10, 2:00-3:00 PM  **Note time change**

On the most somber day of the Christian year, we gather in prayer and song to hear the Seven Last Words of Jesus, and mourn the death that changed the world.  Our talented musical team, Ken Medema, Benjamin Mertz, Gabrielle Lochard, join with Pastor Laurie and others in this solemn and beautiful service. All are welcome.

Zoom Meeting Link:  https://zoom.us/j/716026467
Meeting ID: 716 026 467
One tap mobile +16699009128
phone # +13462487799

Easter Sunday Virtual Service: April 12, 10:00-11:15 AM

The promise of the resurrection is proclaimed, even in the midst of  pandemic.There is nothing traditional about a zoom Easter Service, but we have a beautiful service planned for our expanded, loving progressive and inclusive faith community meeting via zoom. Rev. Laurie Manning, and our talented musical team of  Ken Medema,  Benjamin Mertz, and Gabrielle Lochard will be leading the service from their homes.  We are creating a special experience.  

Meeting ID: 716 026 467
Dial in by phone 1-669-900-9128

Children’s Time Easter Sunday 11:30 AM

Come along for an adventure with David G and Pastor Laurie! Here’s what’s in store: 

  • Story Time:  Have you ever had a friend who went away? Best friends Enriquita Kittycat and Edmund Caterpillar have a story to show you! Discover the meaning of friendship and reunions as we watch the tale unfold.  

  • Brain Teasers: Get ready to put on your thinking cap!

  • Art Sharing Time: Parents, print off these coloring pages for kids to color or decorate, or kids can create their own art. We will share our art at the meeting!

  • After Service Family Chat: We’ll have a time of sharing to catch up and connect with children and families.

Zoom Link