Oakland church

Archive for Messages from the Pastor

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 

Jesus Wept

We continue our journey through the season of Lent in the Gospel of John.

This Sunday’s gospel includes the phrase,  “When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.  He said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus wept. – John 11:32-35

The above passage from John contains the shortest verse in the Bible, a sentence consisting of just two words: “Jesus wept.”  He wept for all the reasons mourners weep—because he had lost his friend Lazarus, because he felt helpless, because this is a stinging encounter with the fragility of life.

Some biblical commentators express puzzlement that Jesus would weep over the death of Lazarus when he is about to restore his friend to life.  But death is painful even when we know that eventually it will be swallowed up in victory.  Grief is baptized with tears even as it enters into the promise of new life.

The shortest of sentences—”Jesus wept”—is an arresting reminder of a very big truth:  Jesus was human.  He joins us in our grief so that we join him in his victory.

May we, in this season find ourselves walking ever more closely in the journey with Jesus. 

Reminder – Congregational meeting this Sunday, April 2nd, after worship.

For our Passion and Easter Services – see the announcements below.

Blessings upon your week,

Pastor Laurie

Cultivating Balance in This Age of Unrest

Particularly now, in this age of unrest and uncertainty with the endless wave of inhumane executive orders, we can be tempted to give in to  the emotions of fear, rage, and despair.   It is so important to learn how to acknowledge all of our feelings so that we do not react, repress, or succumb to them.   It is so important to learn how to choose our response by cultivating a sense of peace within ourselves. 

We have much to learn from the great spiritual traditions of this season, especially the contemplative practices including prayer, yoga, and seated and walking meditation.  I invite you to join us for our weekly hikes, or get in touch with me about our ongoing prayer group and meditation sessions.  Also stay tuned for more Taize services coming up. 

© Kutt Niinepuu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

There are some who would dismiss these methods as passive,  escapism, and being too inwardly focused. Yet, consider the power of such leaders as Gandhi and Dr. King  who transformed society through peaceful, non violent civil resistance.  Cultivating balance is so important in this age of unrest. 

I’d like to share with you a short video to inspire you in these challenging times to cultivate mindfulness, understanding, clarity, and renewal:   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/zen-and-the-art-of-activism_us_58a118b6e4b094a129ec59af?section=us_religion

Blessings upon your week. 

Immigration, Health Care, and Born Again

One of my favorite quotes is from Alexis de Tocqueville,  America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.  I believe that we are called to make America great, by making America good, by imagining what it would be like to be born again, as the most vulnerable in this world and in this country.

In religious circles there’s an overused phrase called being “born again.”   I believe that it’s time to reclaim it. I believe it’s time to ask ourselves, what would it would be like if I were born in Syria, or born in Honduras, or born into poverty in this country? What would it be like to be living in this country, as a Muslim? As an undocumented person? As a transgendered person? As a poor child of color, who’s family cannot afford health insurance or must choose between housing and education and health insurance?  

Over 65 million people are living displaced on this planet we call home; men, women and children fleeing from war, persecution, and poverty. What if we were born into such unimaginable realities?

Here in this country, the world’s wealthiest nation, prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act 47 million people were uninsured. With ACA, 20 million additional people were covered. What if we could not afford health insurance because of the circumstances we were born into? 

I am grateful to our denomination for taking an early stand in joining the ecumenical movement to safeguard the lives of immigrants and refugees. I am certain in the weeks and months to come our denomination will take a stand for affordable healthcare as well. 

I am also grateful to the cities of Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro for declaring themselves sanctuary cities; and to this congregation for entering a time of discernment about our call to advocate for those most vulnerable.

Join us this Thursday, at 7 pm at the Justice and Witness meeting to learn more about where we are in the process with the sanctuary movement.

Finally, here are a few articles about the UCC’s efforts to safeguard immigrants and refugees. 

UCC Joins Ecumenical Effort to Safeguard Immigrants and Refugees

UCC Leaders Condemn Revised White House Travel Ban

Listen for the Voice of the Holy

© creativecommonsstockphotos dreamstime

When I’ve been under pressure reading too much news and too many theological journals, and spending way too much time indoors during these rainy days, and it’s all beginning to get to me, I know it’s time.  It’s time to get my boots, my pack, a bag of raisins, and drive west to the land of the Great Spirit to climb the great west hill, the sleeping maiden as the Miwok’s called her, or as we affectionately refer to her here in the Bay Area as Mt Tam. I need to head for a summit where the wind and the light and the view are waiting to welcome the lonely walker who has no other purpose than to be there for an hour or two. I imagine in this sense I’m not so different from you, or from Jesus for that matter. We all need to take time away, to get a new perspective, to listen for the voice of the Holy. 

Climb up the mountain to Skyline this Sunday, to share in some peak experiences with us!

“Mornin”

Sometimes the news gets so discouraging that it’s hard to wake up in the morning. I invite you to listen to this musical tribute, entitled “Mornin”  to the great musical legend and inspiring human being Al Jarreau, who died last Sunday.  This tribute is sung  by our very own music director, Benjamin Mertz. 

Join us on Sunday morning as we lift up our hearts and voices, including a song of tribute to Al Jarreau entitled, “We’re in This Love Together”.

Blessings, Pastor Laurie 

Righteous Indignation to Resist Injustice

Among the most eloquent chroniclers of racial discord in the United States was James Baldwin. I was first introduced to his writings while attending seminary and studying with Professor James Cone.

Though Baldwin died in 1987 his observations from 50 yrs ago still ring powerfully, and depressingly, true as evidenced by the trailer to the new documentary, I Am Not Your Negro.

 It is a timely memoir, meditation, and study  of the lives of three slain civil-rights leaders—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr., based on the writings of James Baldwin.

 The documentary provides an exploration of many issues including race in America, what this country stands for, and the topic of righteous indignation to resist injustice and to bring forth greater equality.  

I’d like to share with you a preview of the film (follow the link and scroll down the page for the trailer). Be forewarned.. This piece includes quotes from James Baldwin in which he uses a racial slur.

“If any white man in the world says, ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’ (Patrick Henrys words) the entire white world applauds,” Baldwin tells talk show host Dick Cavett, in a scene from the documentary. “When a black man says exactly the same thing, he is judged a criminal and treated like one and everything possible is done to make an example of this bad nigger so there won’t be any more like him.”

The film has received rave reviews from the NY Times, A. O. Scott, and Rotten Tomatoes.

Join us this Sunday as we explore constructive uses of anger that have not only fueled liberation movements throughout time, but have also improved the quality of our most intimate relationships. 

Blessings, Pastor Laurie