Oakland church

Archive for Messages from the Pastor

“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

Immigration: Who Is My Neighbor?

You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord,
“My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”  Psalm 91:1-2

 In light of President Trump’s recent executive order banning immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries, we are once again confronted with the question: who is my neighbor?

Join us this Sunday as we explore the ethics and biblical teachings about sanctuary. Joining us to share his experiences with the sanctuary movement is Bob Lane. In addition to working with the justice task forces in his home church, the Mt. Diablo, UU Church, Bob is an active member of the Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (FAME).  FAME is a coalition of clergy, lay leaders and congregations that works in solidarity with marginalized groups toward the Beloved Community where all persons have their basic needs met, where every person’s worth is recognized and affirmed, and where the dignity of labor and of all those who perform it is honored.  FAME is currently a part of the New Sanctuary Movement providing accompaniment and protection for those targeted for displacement and dispossession.

This Sunday we will also be collecting donations, food & clothing for those most vulnerable here in Oakland, including undocumented families. (please read the announcement about “Souperbowl Sunday“) 

Also, speaking about sanctuary is our very own Mirtha Ninayahuar, who’s advocacy work over the past few years has been life-changing, not only for the families she has supported, but also for her.

According to a Jan 31st  New York Times article, the children around the world who most need emergency international assistance come mainly from the countries singled out in President Trump’s order barring entry to the US, according to a United Nations assessment. 

“This shows who the ban really impacts: the world’s most vulnerable, women and children who are fleeing terror,” said Jennifer Sime, a senior vice president at the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian organization focused on refugees. “America is turning away from its leadership role on refugee resettlement, and it is refugees who are paying the price.”

 Blessings and peace, Pastor Laurie

“Lord, Who Can Be Trusted with Power?”

Last Friday, inauguration day, was a long and painful day for many of us in the Bay area.

But then Saturday came, with the women’s marches happening on every continent on this planet; millions of women and men, of every race and religion, of every age from babies to women in their 90s, all over the globe marched, including an estimated 100,000 people right here in Oakland. An empowering movement is happening now that so many of us are drawn to, and it gives me hope.

Today’s gospel is a story for our times.  It’s the age old story of the ongoing grass roots movement of the people inspired by leaders who, throughout time, believed in the people and loved them, and had compassion and hope for them.  Leaders who also had the courage to challenge systems that did not value all of the people equally, so before long the masses of people began to follow them.  And they learned not only to follow, but also to lead.

I leave you with these words from Psalm 15 that remind us of the nature of true leadership:

 

Psalms 15      A Book of Psalms, translations by Stephen Mitchell)

Lord, who can be trusted with power,

and who may act in your place?

Those with a passion for justice,

who speak the truth from their hearts;

who have let go of selfish interests

and grown beyond their own lives;

who see the wretched as their family

and the poor as their flesh and blood.

They alone are impartial

and worthy of the people’s trust.

Their compassion lights up the whole earth,

and their kindness endures forever.

Blessings, pastor Laurie