Oakland church

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God’s Time

On this first Sunday of Advent, we begin to prepare for the story of Jesus’ birth with the strangest of readings, near the end of Luke, and just a few lines before the story of his death. 

“When you hear of war and insurrections, do not be terrified, for these things must take place first. But the end will not follow immediately. ‘Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes and famines and plagues, and dreadful portents and great signs from heaven…’” 

He predicts persecution for the disciples. He says “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days.”  Woe is right!  As in whoa! Ease up, man! We haven’t even digested our Thanksgiving leftovers!

So much for ‘little baby Jesus.’  Instead, we’ve got super serious, super stern sounding, adult Jesus.  What’s more, he goes all kinds of end-timey on us, here!  What does it all mean, especially now in the troubling times we are living in?

This Advent season, we are called to see these troubled times not just as our time, but as God’s time as well. That long view of time which spans millennia and generations, a time which encompasses memory and hope, with God as our mercy and our judge. The season is about God’s coming to us, to be sure, but it’s also about our coming to God,  about our coming to Jesus, returning year after year, and perhaps especially this year, to his prophetic voice of hope, to his way of radically inclusive love, to the long view of human history and with it the long view of our human redemption.  May we heed his call to be on guard, and to be not afraid. May we draw near to that already and not yet day of God, even as it draws near to us. Amen.

     peace, Pastor Laurie 

Advent Bible Studies

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The Spiritual Life Team invites you to join us for Bible Studies in honor of Advent.  And we’ll treat you to coffee, tea, and pastries.
We will meet  9-11am on the first three Saturdays of December.  On Dec. 1 and 8, gather with us at the home of Paula and David Byrens, 2359 Manzanita Drive, Oakland; then we will switch to the Fellowship Hall at church for the Dec. 15 session.

The studies will give us time to reflect on the reasons that the birth and life of Jesus reminded his first followers of Jewish stories and prophecies that they had loved first in Hebrew scripture.  The old and new embraced each other in the Christmas Story. If you want to get a head start on the readings, check out the three topics below. We will focus on the New Revised Standard Version for reading together. Several copies of NRSV and NIV Bibles (popular modern translations) will be available. Bring your other favorites if you would like—so that we can add their voices to the conversation.
     
Dec. 1…IMMANUEL IS THE ANSWER TO A QUESTION
ISAIAH 7-9
MATTHEW 1:22-23

Dec. 8…MRS. M AND THE CLOUD OF SMOKE
JUDGES 13  A WOMAN’S WOMB AND THE STATE OF THE NATION
LUKE 1:5-25,  The barren one, the father, and the virgin
LUKE 2:6-38 Thomas Moore’s commentary has a beautiful translation

Dec. 15…ELIJAH AND ELIJAH RETURNING
1 Kings 16:29- chapter 17
Malachi 4:1-5
Matthew 16:13-16, and 17:1-4, 10-13

Easter Renewal

After last week’s rain drenched, cloudy days it’s been a joy to hike in the Oakland hills; breathing in the fragrances of pine and eucalyptus, and to behold the vibrant orange California poppies contrasted with the fresh green grassy fields. We enter the season of celebrating fertility, new life, and hope that follows the season of darkness and death. May we hold onto the paradox of this season, and enter into the beauty of its mysteries. 

Join us for a beautiful Good Friday service this Friday at 7 pm, of candlelight, music, and readings, drawing parallels between the seven last words of Jesus and those of the Rev. Dr. MLK Junior, honoring the 50th anniversary of the assassination of this great prophet of our times. 

Join us also to celebrate Easter at 6:30 am for a sunrise service with the Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus.  Or come to our 10 am Easter service with drama and our amazing choir, guest percussionist and alto sax player.  Right afterwards is our annual Easter egg hunt.

Enjoy this beautiful poem by Mary Oliver, entitled Mysteries, Yes.

love, Pastor Laurie 

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the

mouths of the lambs.

How rivers and stones are forever

in allegiance with gravity

while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds

will never be broken.

How people come, from delight or the

scars of damage,

to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those

who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Easter Events 2018

Skyline Community Church, United Church of Christ Invites Oakland Community to Attend Easter Services

Come celebrate the Spirit of Easter where we welcome ALL of God’s people. Experience fabulous music and an inspiring message with a spectacular view of the Oakland Hills.

Good Friday Service: March 30, 7:00 PM:

Our Music Director, Benjamin Mertz, and Reverend Laurie Manning lead an empowering, spiritually expansive candlelight, meditation and music service.  All are welcome.

Easter Sunrise Service: April 1, 6:30 AM:

Rise and shine to the uplifting music of the Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus! Experience sunrise from our Sanctuary which rests on the summit of the Oakland hills and has windows spanning 30 feet high! As you look out on a stunningly beautiful view listen to inspiring preaching, heavenly music and feel welcomed into the warmth of a loving progressive and inclusive faith community.

Rev. Laurie says, “The music in this service sings out about a God of love, of freedom, of liberation… and that the world is more wonderful with the great diversity of all of humanity. This is good news!”

Easter Sunday Traditional Service: April 1, 10 AM:

Skyline’s sanctuary windows overlook Redwood Park to Mt. Diablo Here we have a traditional Easter Service as a loving progressive and inclusive faith community. Rev. Laurie Manning , the choir and orchestra (directed by Puja Soto) and the people fill the sanctuary with joy, celebration and love. Today’s service will have drama, singing, prayer, and a special honor garden for loved ones. And to top it off, an Easter Egg Hunt (following service) for children of all ages: 11:30 AM.

Easter Egg Hunt: April 1, 11:30 AM:

Skyline’s traditional Easter Egg Hunt is happening RAIN or SHINE. We welcome our neighborhood families and all who would love to come to join us! Stay for refreshments and conversation following the hunt. We also welcome you to join our community Easter service at 10 AM before the hunt, if you wish. We offer a children’s program for your little ones.

Skyline Church UCC is a community faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ. We acknowledge the worth of all beings, regardless of ability, age, ancestry, family or economic status, gender, sexual orientation, spiritual path, cultural origin, or any other visible or invisible difference. We invite all who wish to enter our Sanctuary and the full life of our church family. Ours is a God of justice and compassion, and our church lives in covenant with God to do its utmost to pursue justice and compassion, as an Open and Affirming congregation.

For more information please contact our office at:

Skyline Community Church,
United Church of Christ
12540 Skyline Boulevard
Oakland, CA 94619
510.531.8212

Email Skyline Office

Ash Wednesday Service: Create in Me a Clean Heart

Dust and Ashes 

Create in me, a clean heart, that I may live, aware of the gift.

Feb 14th at 7 – 7:30 pm @skylineucc.org

A brief service with Pastor Laurie and Music Director Benjamin Mertz.

 

 

 

 The Gift of Mortality

   

 

 

 

 

Meditation, Taize music, prayers, ashes, candlelight

 

Black History Month Events 2018

Sun, 2/11: Discussion/Conversation with Pastor Laurie:  Dr. King’s Last Sermon
In the sanctuary from 11:30 – 12 noon  Join Pastor Laurie for a discussion after worship about Dr King’s last sermon the night before he was assassinated.  Did he know? How did he provide comfort and vision and reassurance for the movement? Where do we go from here, 50 years later? 

Sun, 2/11: Where Do We Go From Here: Dr. Barber & the Poor Peoples Campaign,  Sunday, February 11, 4:30 to 6:30 at City of Refuge UCC.  Following Rev. Dr. William Barber’s visit to the Bay Area, join us for a community conversation on local struggles for racial and economic justice!  All are welcome to this FREE event. The Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy is honored to co-present this event with City of Refuge UCC.  RSVP: david@workingeastbay.org.  

Sat, 2/17:  Skyline folks will be going to AAMLO (African American Museum and Library) on Saturday, February 17, 2 pm, to hear a presentation by a National Park Service Ranger on the subject of “Buffalo Soldiers at the Presidio.”   This is in keeping with the Black History Month theme this year of “African Americans in Times of War.”  This is a chance to see one of the more beautiful historic buildings of Oakland, as well as an interesting and informative presentation.  If timing is right, we can go together for a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants. Contact Nancy T.

Sun, 2/18:  Rev Robert Wilkins preaching 10 AM; see bio below. 

Fri, 2/23, Time to Be Determined:  Black Panther Movie:  Join us on Friday night, February 23rd at Grand Lake Theatre for evening showing of “Black Panther” the Marvel superhero action movie.  Contact Nancy Taylor.  Black Panther touches on black identity and the fantasy of a people unburdened.  There is an interesting argument with Blaxploitation films. The movies, predominantly made during the 1970s, are usually characterized by having a predominantly African-American cast, with the lead character having to deal with some endemic problem affecting their community, while also having to fight “The Man,” who’s in the form of corrupt cops, corrupt city officials, corrupt business officials, or any other aspect of society associated with white assholes…..”  Read More of this review.

Here are a few reviews: “Black Panther Poised to Shatter Hollywood Myth“;      “‘Black Panther’ Shakes Up the Marvel Universe”

Review: ‘Black Panther’ Shakes Up the Marvel Universe

Sun, 2/25:  Join Nancy Taylor to carpool to City of Refuge UCC after church to attend their 1 pm service.  

See the display on bulletin board in Friendship Room 

Rev Robert Wilkins:  Rev. Wilkins is the Managing Director of Encounter Alliance, a consulting firm which advises churches and faith-inspired organizations on all aspects of organizational development and mission fulfillment. Wilkins serves a host of community and professional organizations including the One Pacific Coast Foundation (Board of Directors), the Lake Merritt Uptown District Association (Corporate Secretary), the California YMCA State Alliance (Public Policy Committee), American Baptist Seminary of the West (Trustee) and the Graduate Theological Union (Trustee, Library Committee Chair) among others.  

Rev. Wilkins is a graduate of the University of Southern California (Religion – Biblical Studies) and earned Master of Divinity degrees from both Fuller Theological Seminary and American Baptist Seminary of the West. He has completed class studies in the Doctor of Ministry program at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Rev. Wilkins is a graduate of the Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and is an alumnus Fellow at the Center for Social Innovation (also at Stanford). Wilkins holds a Certificate in Strategic Marketing from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California.

Now Is the Season of Lights!

Lights are kindled in the long dark of the winter night, the same fires our forbearers lit in hope and faith that, in time, the sun would return to warm the earth.

Now is the season of lights—Diwali, Chanukah, Tazaungdaing, St. Lucia’s Day, Loi Krathong, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Yule, and Christmas. Every Sunday morning in worship we begin by lighting candles, symbols of our hope and our faith.  In this season of waiting we light more candles to remind us that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.  Across cultures fire signals divine power and knowledge, witness, sacrifice, purification & illumination,  courage, curiosity, and the quest for justice.

I encourage you this week, as we prepare a space within our hearts for the light of Christmas,  to take a quiet moment to simply behold

  • Behold the beauty of candlelight
  • Behold the wonder of the stars in the heavens at night
  • Behold the preciousness of love

Blessings and peace be with you,

Pastor Laurie

Advent-2nd Sunday: Isaiah “…the glory of the Lord shall be revealed”

This week our Advent themes continue, echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”.

On Saturday, December 9th from 4-5 pm, we remember all those killed and injured in mass shootings in this country in the 5 years since the Newtown, Connecticut school tragedy.  

On Sunday, Dec 10th, following worship Mirtha Ninayahuar will present highlights from her trip to the Arizona/Mexico border. She will share with us about the growing humanitarian crisis happening at our southern border.  More information is included below! 

Childcare is provided for both events, and all are welcome!

Blessings in this season of finding our way through the wilderness, to be reunited in love. 

Thanksgiving Gratitudes

“I am thankful for many things. 
 I am thankful for the earth, because without it we’d be floating in outer space. 
 I am thankful for mom and dad and my sisters and brothers because they help me. 
 I am grateful for nature because if we didn’t have nature it wouldn’t be pretty.
 I am thankful for all of these things.”
That’s what one of our preschoolers wrote several years ago in response to an assignment. 
 
 On Thanksgiving Day this year, I’m grateful for simple gifts:
  • For the ground on which I stand — whether it’s the rich green earth, or the kind in which my soul can take root.
  • For the people who’ve supported me — from those who know me well and love me anyway, to strangers who’ve offered help in time of need.
  • For the beauty of the earth, which really does make things pretty — a beauty to which I often turn for comfort, healing, inspiration, and peace.
Thankfulness is a gift,  to be shared. So on Thanksgiving Day this year — in a world where so many have been deprived of so much — I’ll give thanks by finding more ways to share the abundance I’ve been given.
 
I’d like to share with you this beautiful poem about gratitude for the work of loving the world. Hear these beautiful words from Mary Oliver, in her poem  entitled “Messenger”. 
Messenger

by Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
          equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
          keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
          astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
          and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
          to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
          that we live forever.

Jesus: the “New Moses” and the Suffering Servant

The Jewish Passover and the Christian celebration of Holy Week that evolved from it, begin this week.   During this sacred time let us remember Jesus, whom Matthew saw as the fulfillment of the Hebrew prophets – the new Moses, the Prince of Peace, and yes, the suffering servant. 

This week, we remember a man.  A man…
who had dreams,
who had those dreams shattered,
who needed time to think and pray,
who knew he was likely to die for what he believed…

A man of extraordinary religious insight.  A man who did die – a cruel death.

This week,  we look at the cross, and we remember…
the betrayal of friendship and its consequences,
the casual cruelty of Roman authority and execution,
and how unreliable others proved to be in a crisis. 

This week, may we also remember that religious bigotry, cruelty and unreliability are still a part of our everyday lives.

This week then, may we learn some new precepts for living…
do not avoid contact with suffering, or close your eyes before suffering;
do not maintain anger or hatred;
do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest, or to impress people;
do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature…

This week we remember, as we journey through death into new life.

See you on Easter Sunday! Blessings, Pastor Laurie