Oakland church

Archive for Messages from the Pastor

Forgiveness and Mercy

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Dear Beloved Community, 

This week we continue in the all so human themes of love manifest in our capacity to forgive ourselves and one another.

I’d like to share some beautiful quotes on these themes with you: 

Henri J.M. Nouwen, 20th century
“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”

Anne Lamott, 21st century
“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 20th century
“By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 20th century
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
 
Abraham Lincoln, 19th century
“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”

Traveling mercies this week! See you on Sunday! 

Now’s the Time to Celebrate Love and Unity

Last weekend a contingent of us from Skyline gathered glorious Sunday morning to celebrate Oakland Pride. It was my first year actually participating in the parade, and I’m very grateful to Teresa Jenkins for preaching last Sunday. Truth be told, I was especially grateful after returning from a family reunion, and the harrowing experience of my father almost dying the night we arrived. I returned exhausted, physically and emotionally, and that combined with the state of the world, I would have preached about the apocalypse. Consider it all:  the total eclipse over the US last month, last week’s powerful earthquake in Mexico, the unprecedented destruction of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the raging fires in the West, the heartless proposed DACA deportations, the ever present threat of nuclear strikes from North Korea, and the precarious state of our democracy. Does it ever seem as if God is sending us many signs from the heavens that the world is coming to an end?
 
I don’t believe that God brings forth the violence that we’re experiencing, but I do believe that God uses the violence to wake us up and to bring us together.  I was grateful to celebrate Pride, and to celebrate love and unity. Below you’ll find some photos from the parade.
 
Join us this Sunday as we celebrate our reunion together at Skyline! The choir returns, we will enjoy some festivities after worship, and above all, we will celebrate love.

Advocate for Our Planet Home

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I’ve returned from sharing precious time together with my family on the east coast where I grew up.  I’m grateful for the cooler weather out here, especially after the record setting temperatures last weekend!

Many of us have been stunned by the unprecedented climate events these past few weeks, with global heat records being surpassed, and hurricanes like Harvey and Irma becoming ever more devastating. Many of us are wondering how can we support the disaster relief efforts and how can we prevent such events from occurring in the future?
 
Here’s a word from the UCC and a way to donate to disaster relief in Houston, in response to Hurricane Harvey.
 
Charity Navigator  provides guidance to ensure that your donations maximize your contributions to relief efforts for Harvey and Irma victims.  

In the long term, we need to embrace God’s calling to us to love and to protect this precious planet, not only for ourselves but for future generations and for those most vulnerable. We must continue to embrace the science that points to the underlying influences of human induced climate change and continue to advocate for our planet. In an effort to do both, and as our NCNCUCC Climate Justice Rep, I have applied for and have received a scholarship to attend Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Conference in October. I look forward to sharing this learning with you, as partners in this ministry.
   
Peace in these times and prayers for all who need help and safety,

Pastor Laurie

Offer Love’s Response to White Supremacy’s Hatred

I am sickened by the latest incidence of violence, this time  in Charlottesville, Virginia. I pray for the families of the two police officers who died on their way to help. I pray for the family of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old paralegal who was killed by a 20-year-old white supremacist, a terrorist whose name I will not speak, who turned his car into a weapon against non-violent protesters. Heather was killed, and 19 other people were struck down by malice, hatred and racism.

They were struck down by what has stricken our nation since its founding: the horrible lie that is white supremacy. This lie was formed in the mouth of Thomas Jefferson, who had a suspicion that the Africans who had been enslaved by the freedom-seeking colonists were inferior to their white owners. This horrible lie was fanned into pseudo-science about racial hierarchy. This lie spits in the face of the truth: there is only one race, and that race is called human.

We who know the truth must be set free from apathy and boldly challenge the falsehood of white supremacy every time and everywhere we see it. We who are people of faith must not pretend that what happened in Charlottesville was violence and hatred on “many sides.” We must say the truth out loud.

This is the truth: White supremacists organized themselves and descended on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a symbol of hatred and racism. They will keep organizing and use every tool in their power to make America racist, again and again.

And we who believe in freedom, we who believe in the power of revolutionary love must keep organizing as well, and use every tool in our power to fight this hatred, to renounce this bigotry, and to call our leaders into account. This is NOT the America for us. This rising ugly tide of white supremacy, if unchecked, will become a tsunami that will drown the liberties espoused by our constitution, and will end more and more innocent lives.

Hatred kills.

We must recognize that all of these movements (black lives matter, women’s march, immigration reform, LGBTQ Pride, affordable housing, education, and healthcare, prison reform, climate justice, etc) are all part of the human rights movement. We must join together to stand on the side of love. Here are some things we can all do now in response to white supremacy:

  1. Tweet the president or retweet a prayer that @POTUS joins us to name and fight #WhiteSupremacy and the #terrorism that accompanies it.
  2. Read “UCC Pastoral Letter condemns racist violence in Charlottesville, demands equality for all”
  3. Read these articles and learn more about what’s happening here in the Bay area, Aug 26-27 weekend:
    1. Message from Mayor of Berkeley – The Aug 27 Rally does not have a permit
    2. Nancy Pelosi asks if White House had a hand in approving the permit for Aug 26    
    3. Don’t give the haters any bragging rights 
  4. Sign this petition from Faith in Public Life that calls on the @POTUS to behave like a president. It calls “on all elected officials to explicitly and publicly condemn white supremacy and the organizations that advance and seek to give it mainstream credibility.” And it asks “President Trump to remove Steve Bannon and other supporters of the alt-right from his White House and stand against the racist policies they propose.”
  5. Join us for an interfaith worship service on Sat Aug 26th, in which our very own music director, Benjamin Mertz, will be performing; stay tuned for more as plans unfold. 
  6. Join us for a conversation immediately following worship this Sunday about our own personal discernment in response. 

And never forget that when we take these actions, we are praying with our hands and our feet. We are mourning, and we are organizing against white supremacy with revolutionary love,  until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

I leave you with the prophetic words of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr: 

Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that. 
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, 
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. 
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, 
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. 
Through violence you may murder the hater, 
but you do not murder hate. 
In fact, violence merely increases hate. 
So it goes. 
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, 
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. 
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: 
only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
A time to end the Silence. 

History will have to record the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words and other violent actions of the bad people but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only the words and acts of the children of darkness but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

How Does the Holy Show Up in Our Lives?

How you know when God is present? When the danger has been avoided? When your heart stops pounding & you know you can breathe normally again?  When you aren’t afraid anymore? It’s an appealing idea, but unfortunately the Bible will not back it up. In that richly disturbing book, much of God’s best work takes place in total chaos, with people terrified!

This Sunday we wrestle with our faith and our understanding of how the Holy shows up in our lives. Join us as we  dive into the timeless and universal story of Jacob, who, fearing for his life, and wrestling with an angel in the darkness, gains his new life. It is a story that has captured the imaginations of artists from the great painters, Marc Chagall to Rembrandt to the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. May we open ourselves to the cloud of unknowing, and discover the light within the dark clouds and the painful experiences of our lives. 

Blessings upon your week!

Pastor Laurie 

The Man Watching  

By Rainer Maria Rilke

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after 
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes 
that a storm is coming, 
and I hear the far-off fields say things 
I can’t bear without a friend, 
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on  
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
 
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,  
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!  
What fights with us is so great.  
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm, 
 
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,  
and the triumph itself makes us small.  
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us. 
 
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament: 
when the wrestlers’ sinews  
grew long like metal strings,  
he felt them under his fingers 
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel  
(who often simply declined the fight)  
went away proud and strengthened 
and great from that harsh hand,  
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.  
Winning does not tempt that man.  
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,  
by constantly greater beings.

                –Translated by Robert Bly

Heaven on Earth – Look Around You!

Oh, the splendor of summer days where we revel in the beauty of sunlight sparkling on water, in fields of tall wheat like grass, and in the Oakland hills with feasting herds of goats. I imagine seeing through the eyes of Jesus thousands of years ago, and how he perceived heaven here on earth within such images. 

Join us this Sunday as we immerse in these timeless parables, that we may perceive the heaven at hand here in our midst. 

I leave you with a quote from St. Augustine of Hippo, 5th Century: 

“Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book, the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Note it. Read it. God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead God set before your eyes the things that God had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that?”

From Laurie and Siri

I’m actually dictating by Siri my weekly email to you because I broke two fingers in my right hand last Saturday!

Whether or not God preplanned this, it has been a wonderful opportunity to be reminded of the gift of both hands and the gift of the helping hands of others, and the gift of asking and receiving support. Over the past few days I have experienced such love and support from friends and neighbors and family and from you, Skyline!

This weekend I will be traveling to Sonoma to present a resolution on climate justice which hopefully is headed to our General Synod. Joining me are skylines delegates Cheryl Coleman and Nancy Taylor.

This weekend I am thrilled to have the Rev. Sandhya Jha here at Skyline preaching. See her information later in this newsletter.

Our prayers for traveling mercies for all those attending our NCNCC Annual Meeting, all those traveling on vacations, and all those traveling to be with family and friends.

Blessings, Pastor Laurie 
(421-2646) revlauriemanning@aol.com 

Memorial Day, Equality, Love, and Non-violence

On this Memorial Day, as people of faith we come to mourn the ways in which all religions, including Christianity, have been “literalized”, nationalized, and taken out of context to justify wars, division, and violence in our words and actions throughout human history. May the still speaking God move us to liberate the timeless messages of love, peace and righteousness; and prevent us from being coopted by empires for military, political and economic interests.

May we remember the courage, love and power of Jesus who taught another way of achieving this birth of freedom: the ideal where all people are created equal. 

May we recognize our interdependence with everyone.

May we take courage challenging unjust laws, and exercising non violent civil disobedience in our words and actions.

May we remember the power of princes of peace like Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., to mobilize and inspire millions to change the world for the better through non violence. 

Join us this Sunday as we celebrate the feast of the ascension and Memorial Day. 

with love, Pastor Laurie 

“No Hands…But Yours”

There’s so much news this week between the new website, earth month, and stewardship season! Here we go! 

New Website!

Last week we launched our new website for the church, weddings and preschool, and I must say, it’s beautiful!  Check it out!  https://skylineucc.org/!  What a compelling way of letting our light shine to the wider word, to engage others in the life giving ministries that we are engaged in!  Special thanks to Pastor Laurie and Office Manager Nancy Montier, with input from the church council, for managing this process! 

Earth Month Honored:

In addition to our new website, this month we honor our commitment to the earth. Earth.  As many of you know our Green team has quite a track record with our commitment to the environment, locally and globally, and you can read more about it on our website:  https://skylineucc.org/environmental-justice-green-team/.

Join us this Saturday, for the People’s Climate March (more info below).

Stewardship Month

Finally, it’s also the season of stewardship for our faith community,  to serve for the glory of God. I encourage you to consider giving of your time and talents generously, to support the life giving ministries of this amazing faith community. 

When I was confirmed in junior high school, I chose as my confirmation name, Teresa of Avila. Her words continue to inspire me. May they inspire us all! 

Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

Christ Has No Body

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

 

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