Oakland church

Archive for Messages from the Pastor

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humor

 

Praying in Crisis, Holding Back Nothing from God

Dear Ones,

We are in the season of praying in crisis, holding back nothing from the God who invites us to come, naked and vulnerable, just as we are, holding nothing back from the One who loves and knows us better than we know ourselves  Be encouraged in your time of prayer in the days ahead. I encourage you to join us for 1 PM contemplative prayer on Friday: Zoom Meeting, Meeting ID: 910 815 155, or just call me!

There is a beautiful poem, which captures the essence of intimate, naked vulnerability before God in prayer, entitled the Guest House, by the Sufi poet, Rumi, 

I leave you with Rumi’s words:

Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

“Be the Loving Embrace of God to our Neighbors”

I’d like to share with you a beautiful centering prayer for these times:
Prayer for a Pandemic
By Cameron Bellm
May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.
Amen.
 
     Let us choose love, 
Pastor Laurie

Shelter-in-Place Virtual Worship Services and Gatherings

Photo by Paolo Nicolello on Unsplash

Virtual Worship, Bible Study and Prayer

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven… Now is the time for “shelter in place” here in the greater Bay Area. It is a time to refrain from embracing, i.e. physical distancing. And more than ever, it is a time for social and emotional connection.

Skyline is utilizing Zoom.us for our virtual worship services and weekly gatherings. Zoom links and numbers are listed below for accessing the events on your computer, your smart phone, or a regular phone call.

  1. Sunday Services are being delivered by Zoom Meeting at 10 AM.   (You will access all Sunday Zoom calls at this link or number)
    Sundays, 10:00 – 11:00am
    https://zoom.us/j/716026467
    Meeting ID: 716 026 467
    Dial in by phone 1-669-900-9128
    Dial in by phone: 1-346-248-7799
    Video of past services will be available.  
    Here is a video of our Sunday, March 15 worship, recorded and edited by our very own Tom Manley!

  2. Pastor Laurie’s virtual bible study, Weekly on Tuesdays.  10:30 – 11:30 am.
    First meeting – Tuesday, March 24⋅10:30 – 11:30 am
    https://zoom.us/j/901784352
    Meeting ID: 901 784 352 One tap mobile
    Dial in by phone 1-669-900-9128
    Dial in by phone: 1-346-248-7799

  3. Pastor Laurie’s Prayer, Care, and Share time, every Friday from ⋅1:00 – 2:00 pm.    Join us for a time of praying, caring, and sharing!   If you’re at home, you’re invited to light your own candle, so we’ll all have our candles together.  We’ll gather with a little meditative music, then spend some time lifting up our prayers together.  In this stressful and uncertain moment, perhaps we need to turn to prayer even more than usual.  Join us, breathe deep, and trust that the Spirit will be with us wherever we are.  Whenever two or three are gathered in the name of God, even gathered digitally, the Spirit is in the space between, connecting our hearts and strengthening us.  Hope to see you for our collective prayer:
    https://zoom.us/j/910815155
    Meeting ID: 910 815 155
    Dial in by phone 1-669-900-9128
    Dial in by phone: 1-346-248-7799 

  4. Palm Sunday Service:  April 5, 10:00 – 11:00 AM …Read More

    Zoom link:  https://zoom.us/j/716026467 
    Meeting ID: 716 026 467
    Dial in by phone 1-669-900-9128

  5. Good Friday Service: April 10, 12:00 Noon – 1:00 PM …Read More

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

  6. Easter Sunday Service: April 12, 10:00-11:15 AM …Read More

    Zoom link:  https://zoom.us/j/716026467 
    Meeting ID: 716 026 467
    Dial in by phone 1-669-900-9128

 
 

“As serious as I know the Coronavirus is, I wish…”

I’d like to share with you, especially in this season of searching  for leaders and policies that represent and protect all people, these words of the Executive Minister of Justice and Witness for the UCC, The Rev Traci Blackmon:

Dear God,

As serious as I know the Coronavirus is…

I wish Poverty was classified as a deadly virus so the world would respond to the deaths of the 2.6 million people who die annually in the US alone with precautions to contain its effect and protect the most vulnerable among us.

I wish Racism was classified as a deadly virus so the world would begin studying its origin and its mutations and investing adequate resources in developing a response to completely eradicate the effects of this disease on all citizens, globally.

I wish Sexism was classified as a deadly virus so that literally 50% of this world’s population might receive the attention, investment, and escalation of time and resources necessary to remove it from society.

I wish Homophobia was classified as a deadly virus so those showing symptoms could be effectively screened and, if infected, quarantined to protect the rest of us from getting sick.

I wish Transphobia was classified as a deadly virus so that we might actually work to save lives by stopping the spread of this disease.

I wish Xenophobia was classified as a deadly virus so that we would finally isolate the right people instead of those just seeking a safe place to lay their heads.

Basically…I wish the pain, silencing and marginalization of so many were enough to move us to panic mode…with daily updates…and urgent precautions…and monetary allocations…dedicated people at every level…working together like ALL of our lives depended on it…because they do.

I wish we were as ready and willing to wash our souls as we are our hands.

Hear my prayer, oh Lord.
And grant my request.

May we wash our hands, and our souls! 

Blessings upon your week, Pastor Laurie 

Lent – Lost in the Wilderness

Ever have an incredible spiritual experience? One where you felt the presence of God so close to you? One where you just knew that God had a plan for your life, and God was walking with you?

And then, has that feeling ever left just as soon as it came? And have you ever felt as though you are lost in the wilderness?

Jesus knew what that was like. So do we.

In Lent we are called share the wilderness experience, for forty days, to resist the temptation of forgetting that we too, are God’s beloved. 

Blessings upon your week, Pastor Laurie 
 
for further reflection: 

Henri J.M. Nouwen, 20th century
“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection….When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions….Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”

Jonathan Martin, 21st century
“But that’s one way we can identify the devil’s voice: It always plays to our fears. It is the voice that tells us we must do something to prove who we are, to prove that we’re worthy, to prove that we are who God has already declared us to be. When we know we are loved by God, we don’t have to prove anything to anyone. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves more beloved than we are.”

A Light so Bright….

It seems fitting to end epiphany, the season of light, with a light so bright that no one on earth can produce it, a flash of brilliant, blinding revelation that illuminates not only who Jesus is, but also his mysterious words about his coming suffering, death, and rising again. May it also illuminate who we are on the journey. 
 
I share with you, for further reflection, two beautiful quotes: 

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, 21st century
“It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance–for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light….Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it?”

John O’Donohue, 21st century
“Much of the stress and emptiness that haunt us can be traced back to our lack of attention to beauty. Internally, the mind becomes coarse and dull if it remains unvisited by images and thoughts that hold the radiance of beauty.”

Blessings upon your week! Laurie 

Love and Anger?

This Sunday we celebrate love and anger, featuring guest musicians Rachel Garcia and Thu Tran, known as The Singer and the Songwriter!!  Here’s more about their music and their background.    What a perfect way  to explore on Valentine’s day weekend the connections between love and anger, especially with those we are closest to!

In addition to this worship service, Rachel and Thu will perform a 30 minute set after fellowship time at 11:30, followed by a time of sharing Skyline’s love poetry.  Bring with you your favorite person to be angry with and to love!  Enjoy hearing Rachel and Thu’s  My Favorite Person.

 

Intentional Love in Polarizing Times

We’re living in polarizing times that tempt us to fall into patterns of violence, judgement, and “othering” in our words and actions.  What an opportunity to intentionally develop our capacities for love in its many forms. Here are just a few examples of what is being offered this month: 
 
Our latest offering in the Health and Happiness Series for the benefit of the health and well being of us all: 
  • Sun, Feb 9, 4-5:30 PM:  The Best and Worst of Popular Diets…How to Meet our Nutrition Needs and support Long term health for Body and Planet, Speaker: Catherine Kessler, RDN, CDE.
Our justice and witness team’s offerings during black history month: 
Love/ music/poetry in worship:
  • Music during and after church service with “TheSingerandtheSongwriter”,  Sun Feb 16th
  • Distribution of Skyline’s Love Poems in “Poetry Aplenty in 2020” Sun, Feb 16
Love of the most vulnerable, as evidenced in our justice work: 
  • Food of God, meals served to people in need, once a month (Nancy Taylor) 
  • Nueva Esperanza preschool education for children from Guatemala (Mirtha Ninayahuar)
Love of learning and growing in our faith with our spiritual life team: 
  • Learning to Pray, Rev Jerri Handy Feb 23 after service
  • Brian McLaren book study, March 1
Love  is at the core of who we are at Skyline. – it under-girds our extravagant welcome. This week we will celebrate the themes of salt, light, and righteousness… I leave you with a prayer reminding us of why we gather together. 
Let the Mystery of God draw us in:
Beautiful, Just, Merciful!
Let the Wisdom of God surprise us:
Vulnerable, Powerful, Searching!
Let the Glory of God shine through our work:
Salty, Bright and Good!
In the Mystery, the Wisdom, the Glory of God
Let us worship!

 

Choose the Road of Connection

Have a Blessed day! quipped a cheerful woman at the airport Starbucks,  to my friend Ken Medema. 

It reminds me of some messages I’ve have heard this year: “I’m feeling really hopeful about 2020 — it’s going to be a great year,”

What’s your response? Is there some resistance… some skepticism?

Sure, there’s a long list of events that happened in 2019 that could make us  embrace hopelessness or apathy, which I believe is a much easier path than hope and staying engaged. Instead of citing the heartbreaking realities you know and read about in the daily news,  I invite you to  start 2020 on a different road. One that leads away from despair, resignation and disengagement; or convincing ourselves that none of this is my fault, and therefore not my responsibility.

In the words of Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who of all people had reason to despair and disengage,  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. His words, so powerful in his time, are as powerful today, offering us a needed corrective to the rampant individualism that erodes our interdependence. The stark truth is that when we diminish one’s person humanity, we diminish our own.

We can talk until late in the night about the character and actions of our president, “the other party,” and “other proclaimed Christians”, about whether they are really following in the ways of Jesus. But when we engage in that kind of conversation, we’re deflecting the real work of this moment, the work of asking ourselves some very hard questions about our identities as citizens and our claims as people of the “way” of love. 

Jesus said it loud and clear in the Sermon on the Mount and on several other occasions: all God’s rules for human living are summed up in the direction to love God and love our neighbor. Everything else springs from this work. To be a Christian in the way of Jesus we will, in fact, have to swim upstream in today’s American culture, embodying what Jesus had to say in that sermon up on the mount. S hare what you have with anybody who needs it. Love your enemies. Live generous lives. Tell the truth. Act toward each other the way God acts toward you. Sacrifice something big for something good.

This year, let us to choose a road that acknowledges that we are all connected. Choose the road of hope tied to action. Resolve to live into hope, into a better year.