Oakland church

Archive for Messages from the Pastor

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.

Impeachment: Seek, Defend, and Act Upon the Truth

This week, as the impeachment hearings begin, truth itself seems to be on trial.  As a nation, we are embroiled in a deeply divisive political moment. Not only is President Trump on trial, but so it seems, are truth, the rule of law, and the moral ideas of our nation.

Are we living in a post truth world? Shall we know the truth that shall set us free? Shall the truth prevail? The truth is that we’ve never lived up to the ideals ascribed at our nation’s birth.

Among the greatest concerns of the founders was the ascendance of a president with unchecked power and authority, and foreign influence over the presidential office.   Truth, honor, and the advancement of the common good – these moral values matter if our elected officials are to deliver on their promises to govern for the betterment of the public wellbeing.

Let us  heed the wisdom of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, ‘the church is called not to be the master of , or the servant of the state, but to be the conscience of the state’.  Let us remember the prophets throughout time who demanded that the government be based on truth, justice, and peace. Let us look to Jesus who often challenged authorities to seek God’s deeper truth. Let us look to the US Civil rights movement: to  Dr King, Fannie Lou, Ella Baker, and so many others, all who risked their lives to improve our democracy, and to build a more perfect union.

May this impeachment crisis be a time to again seek our deepest social and spiritual ethics and the democratic processes that elevate truth telling and healthy discourse. Let us seek to prioritize seeing things through a moral lens rather than a partisan one. Now is the moment to stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, following in the ways of love embodied in Jesus. Let us stand together in an effort to seek, to defend, and to act upon the truth; so that we shall overcome and advance the common good together.

Join me in praying for our Congress this week, and if you feel called to do so, sign this letter initiated by a faith group “calling on senators to uphold their oath by seeking the truth, acting on the courage of their conscience, and protecting our democracy through an impartial trial.”

Join us this Sunday, as we seek to love mercy, seek justice, and walk humbly with God.  

Peace, Pastor Laurie

On a lighter note:  Fun and educational way to learn about the racist history of our suburbs in the US:  The Disturbing History of the Suburbs | Adam Ruins Everything

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday – MLK and Housing

We are living in historic times…
 
On Tuesday before dawn, a group of moms were evicted from a vacant house in Oakland, drawing attention to the fact that here in Oakland there are nearly four vacant properties for every homeless person. It’s not so much an issue of scarcity, but of distribution.  It raises many questions: Who are we? Why is this happening? What are we called to do, as a society, and as people of faith? 
 
The questions raised by another great prophet of recent history, Rev Dr Martin Luther King Junior, who, following in the ways of Jesus and of Gandhi,  embraced non violent civil resistance to bring forth greater justice and good news for the poor, who continue to be disproportionally people of color. 
 
I am sharing with you these articles about Kingian Nonviolence conflict reconciliation: “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence and “Statement and Letter from Birmingham Jail“. 
 
Please join us for worship and for a conversation after worship about non violent conflict reconciliation as it relates to our current housing crisis. 
 
I leave you with the prophetic words of Dr King: 
We shall overcome someday, 
The ultimate measure of humankind is not where we stand in moments of comfort and  convenience but where we stand and times of challenge and controversy.
We’ll walk hand in hand… 
We will have to repent in this generation.. not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of silence of the good people. in the end will not remember the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.
We are not afraid… 
nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon because it cuts without wounding and ennobles the one who wields it.  Non-violence is a sword that heals.
The truth shall set us free…
unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.  Right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.
We are not alone .. 
the solution to poverty is simply this.. we must abolish it..
We shall all be free… 
on the day before his death he simply said,  I just want to do God’s will.. 
Blessings, Pastor Laurie 
 

Begin by Seeking the Light

I write this to you on the last day of a decade, and you will receive this in this new decade. 

I encourage us all to begin by seeking the light… be it the light of a single candle, or the light in the clear night sky of the stars and the planets, especially Venus these days. I encourage us to seek the light to remind us of something far greater than ourselves –  the Light of Divine Unconditional  Love that permeates everything, showing us a well-lit path to wholeness, forgiveness, and life.

The star over Bethlehem is a major symbol of Christmas—we sing about it, put it on the top of Christmas trees, even wear it on neckties—yet if you read the story closely, only a few wise men saw and understood the star. The shepherds did not notice a star, nor did anyone else.  Would we have been among the wise? Are we seeing the stars of Christ around us now? Do we understand the signs of light that God is giving us that can fill us with hope and inspire us?

The wise men saw and were moved for a reason: they were looking, they were searching the skies for meaning, they had practiced and made themselves students of the light. They were part of a tradition that passed wisdom along to them. They added their own knowledge and experience and were open to something new happening in their day.

We need to practice looking and finding meaning, too, if we want to be among those who see signs of Christ’s presence in our world, who see the light and understand what it says and follow where it leads. We need to be open to learning the wisdom of our tradition and being changed by the new things that God is doing.

   with love, Pastor Laurie 

A light has dawned. For unto us a child is born…

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;  on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 

For unto us a child is born. 

Unto us,  love is born.  

The highest truth of the human soul is love.

Let us remember love. 

Let us remember this all-powerful force being born in a humble child in an impoverished and oppressed setting.

Let us  remember how this force was at work, guiding and empowering his mother and father.

Let us remember how it has brought about good news to the poor, freedom to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and is ultimately more powerful than empires. 

Together, let us bear witness to how love is still is at work in the world, and within every one of us. 

I give thanks to God for each one of you, in the world and in my life! 

Here are some videos of our beautiful Christmas Eve service, for all of you to experience! 

This Sunday, join us, as we experience the beautiful music of Gabrielle and Ken Medema, and the powerful preaching of Rev Jerri Handy! 

Advent: “Wait Without Hope” is not Pessimistic

In the midst of this advent season of waiting, I invite you to set aside the distractions of the busy-ness of this season to to take a moment of mindfulness.  I invite you to realize the radical transformation that comes from setting aside preconceived ideas. 

This Sunday, we will explore questions raised by T.S. Eliot and other great thinkers to move towards a direct, experiential understanding of what it means to live an awakened life, and to contemplate the meaning of waiting in the words of the poet, TS Elliott:

Wait Without Hope

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

https://dailypoetry.me/t-s-eliot/wait-without-hope/

We may not be ready for thought unless we’ve trained our minds in mindfulness. Our love may be tainted by selfish attachment.  Let us begin —be still, even if for a moment. And now, “wait without hope.” Isn’t that pessimistic? I venture to say, no, it is not pessimistic. Optimism is good, hope can get in the way.

Is it better to acknowledge our desire, to understand its context, and to wait without hope? Yes, I think so. Then we can watch the spectacle unfold with pleasure and equanimity. If we cling to hope, we make ourselves vulnerable to disappointment, anger, and frustration.

 

What are you waiting for?

The words “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit” are used interchangeably to remind us that God is always coming to us.  Become aware of your breath. Notice how breathing more deeply calms you. Notice how long you can hold your breath to remember how essential it is for your life. The Living God, or the God of Life, seeks to come to dwell within us and to give new life to us and through us. 

 Advent calls us to pay attention and to anticipate what “the God who comes to us” wants to do within us and through us. So, we wait in hope of what yet may be.  This process of waiting in hope, is active, not passive. 

 
Join us this Sunday as we continue to awaken to the new life full of hope, peace, joy, and love that God is calling each one of us, by name, into. 
 
What are you waiting for? 

Blessings,  Pastor Laurie 

 

Thanksgiving – Message from the Pastor

Last Sunday we focused on the theme of gratitude as a conscious practice, particularly living in an age of disillusionment, divisiveness, and dissatisfaction. 

Among the many people that I am grateful for are our creative members Tim Carter, David Guerra and Allegra Figeroid.   I want to share with you a beautiful memory from last Thanksgiving offered by them:  A special thank you to Tim Turkey and the Martians!!

May we remember, especially on this Thanksgiving, the heroism of Squanto who showed unconditional love to the Pilgrims despite his entrapment and enslavement by white skinned people; to those he could have easily seen as the enemy. May we remember that this sacred land that we live on was first their land.  May we remember the wisdom of the Native Americans who recognized their deep connection with this precious planet. 

Blessings and safe and easy travels, to all of you who are traveling for Thanksgiving.