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Archive for Sunday Worship

Love and Listen Deeply

This Sunday we gather to celebrate love, including a family friendly picnic with lots of games and activities for all ages, an encore performance of the “Parable of the Dancing Queen”  and a beautiful worship service! 
 
A friend of mine is getting married, and she and her fiancé recently asked if I would marry them. Of course, I said, yes. Here’s a poem she shared with me today, which in turn, I would love to share with you! 
 
God is still speaking! Let us create the time and space within our hours,  to listen deeply. 
 

Why am I reaching again for the brushes
When I paint your portrait, God,
nothing happens.

But I can choose to feel you.

At my senses’ horizon
you appear hesitantly,
like scattered islands.

Yet standing here, peering out,
I’m all the time seen by you.

The choruses of angels use up all of heaven.
There’s no more room for you
in all that glory. You’re living
in your very last house.

All creation holds its breath, listening within me,
because, to hear you, I keep silent.

~ Ranier Maria Rilke ~

(Rilke’s Book of Hours:Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)

Pride Sunday – Welcome Home!

Last weekend Oakland celebrated LGBTQ+ Pride  in a tastefully, over -the -top way!

This Sunday, September 15th, we will bring LGBTQ+ Pride  to Skyline, in worship!

We will celebrate Pride with a family friendly service, featuring the Parable of the Dancing Queen, written by our very own Tim Carter, former Senior Producer at Sesame Street and winner of 14 Emmy awards!! Also featured are puppetry and costuming, from our very own David G. and Alegra Figeroid, artists extraordinaire!

After all, it’s a big year!  Fifty years ago, the Pride movement began in the US. on  June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in NYC. Just think of it….Skyline and Pride were both born out of the liberation and justice movements fifty years ago, as part of the evolving understanding of the equal rights of women, people of color, LGBTQ people, indigenous people, and the ecumenical interfaith movement, as well as the wisdom that with our evolving understanding of science and human development, so too must our faith evolve. Ours is a still speaking God! 

Have you ever felt left out? Excluded? Singled out for being different? How did you feel? Did you ever want to run away from home, from school, from church, your country, from it all? Have you ever yearned to find other people who really saw you and understood you and loved you for who you are? Have you ever yearned to be free to sing, dance, and  just be yourself?  I think of Jesus’s parable for this Sunday,  of the  lost and found coins, sheep, and people; and God’s love for each and every one of us: seeking, finding, loving, and welcoming us home, just as we are. 

When the UCC, Golden Gate Association in 1972, ordained Bill Johnson as the first openly gay minister in an historical protestant denomination and to become the first denomination to support equal marriage rights for same sex couples, we were saying welcome home! You are part of the family.

When, in 2008, at the height of the debate over the Prop 8 same-sex marriage legislation in California, Skyline hung a banner in front of the church entrance, proclaiming to every passerby “Support Marriage Equality. We do.” we were saying welcome home! You are part of the family.

And when I, Skyline’s pastor Laurie, blessed same sex couples for many years before it was a legal right, and urged all heterosexual couples I married to stand in solidarity with them, until the day that this became a legal right for all people, we were saying welcome home! You are part of the family.

Read more about UCC’s LGBTQ actions and programs.

Welcome home! It’s Pride Sunday! Children are especially welcome!!

Power of Love in the Midst of Destruction

The prophet Isaiah, thousands of years ago, described God’s creative power – bringing forth new life in the midst of destruction, within and all around us:

Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.
Isaiah 43:16-21 

Join us this Sunday, as we awaken to this power of love within, and all around us. 

Photo by ardito-ryan-harrisna-1194309-unsplash

Gratitude

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash


It has been a hard week, especially for children and those with respiratory conditions given the poor air quality in the aftermath of the worst fire in California history. Yet, the faithful remnant arrived to worship on Sunday, donning our  M95 masks, and focusing on gratitude and compassion. Special thanks to Tim Carter, David G. and Al Figeroid for their amazing Thanksgiving skit! (Please see photos and video below.)
 
We also  offered gifts to support the people of Butte County, especially in Paradise and have opportunities to share more (please see article below). 
 
We are reminded with every breath that we share the same air, and that we are more connected than we realize. May the breath, the Spirit of God, unite us together despite all that seeks to divide us. May we resolve to care more deeply for the earth, for one another, for future generations, and for poor people of color, globally and locally,  who live in disproportionally more polluted areas. 
 
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. 
 
Next Sunday join us for a conversation about becoming more conscious of our own white privilege, and a discussion after worship on Robin D’Angelo’s book, “White Fragility”. If you haven’t ordered the book, and don’t have time to read it, I encourage you to read this white paper
 
Blessings and safe and easy travels, to all of you who are traveling for Thanksgiving. 
 
I leave you with a quote written in Nov, 2016 about Thanksgiving by Dianna Butler Bass entitled, “Choose Gratitude”.

God, there are days we do not feel grateful. When we are anxious or angry. When we feel alone. When we do not understand what is happening in the world or with our neighbors. When the news is bleak, confusing. God, we struggle to feel grateful.

But this Thanksgiving, we choose gratitude.

We choose to accept life as a gift from you, and as a gift from the unfolding work of all creation.

We choose to be grateful for the earth from which our food comes; for the water that gives life; and for the air we all breathe.

We choose to thank our ancestors, those who came before us, grateful for their stories and struggles, and we receive their wisdom as a continuing gift for today.

We choose to see our families and friends with new eyes, appreciating and accepting them for who they are. We are thankful for our homes, whether humble or grand.

We will be grateful for our neighbors, no matter how they voted, whatever our differences, or how much we feel hurt or misunderstood by them.

We choose to see the whole planet as our shared commons, the stage of the future of humankind and creation.

God, this Thanksgiving, we do not give thanks. We choose it. We will make this choice of thanks with courageous hearts, knowing that it is humbling to say “thank you.” We choose to see your sacred generosity, aware that we live in an infinite circle of gratitude. That we all are guests at a hospitable table around which gifts are passed and received. We will not let anything opposed to love take over this table. Instead, we choose grace, free and unmerited love, the giftedness of life everywhere. In this choosing, and in the making, we will pass gratitude onto the world.

Thus, with you, and with all those gathered at this table, we pledge to make thanks. We ask you to strengthen us in this resolve. Here, now, and into the future. Around our family table. Around the table of our nation. Around the table of the earth.

We choose thanks.

Amen.

Celebration of Gratitude – Family Friendly Worship/Drama

Members Tim Carter and David Guerra will present a fun, creative puppet drama this Sunday. It features several Martians visiting planet earth trying to understand what Thanksgiving and gratitude are. They discover it includes not only “abundance,” “food,” “pumpkin pie,” “cranberry sauce”, “pilgrim,” and “Indian,” but also…“turkey!!!”
 
They encounter a very upset giant turkey (Mr Tim Turkey), who helps them understand the deeper meaning of giving thanks!
 
Join us as we explore the deeper meaning of gratitude and Thanksgiving as an inter-generational community.
 
Bring your children and friends and your appetite for fun!
 
Also, at the service we are collecting pies for the Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless and non-perishable food donations to Alameda County Community Food Bank, so please share whatever abundance you can. Thank you!

The Sacredness of the Earth

Even as more and more people are beginning to see God, not only in the heavens, but right here on the earth, we are also discovering how fragile and endangered the Earth is. 

Just consider the latest reports from the UN. Or consider the increasingly dangerous fires, droughts, and hurricanes we’ve been experiencing.  The greatest need seems to be mobilizing the spiritual and political will to stop catastrophic climate disaster.  It is, among the greatest moral imperatives of our time, disproportionately affecting poor people of color, and future generations on this planet.  The U.N.’s climate panel tells world leaders the time for dithering on climate change is over.

  
For millennia, the ancients looked to the heavens, to the light of millions of stars above, to find God.  Although the stars still move us to wonder, contemporary people are learning that the soil beneath our feet is as mysterious, complex, and awe-inspiring as gazing into the night sky.  “I was stunned by what I learned about life in the soil,” says journalist Kristin Ohlson, “that when we stand on the surface of the Earth, we’re atop a vast underground kingdom of microorganisms without which life as we know it wouldn’t exist.  Trillions of microorganisms, even in my own smallish backyard, like a great dark sea swarming with tiny creatures.”
 
In fact, the soil is sacred.  Even the most secular writers understand that the ground calls forth an ethical, moral, and spiritual response.  We are powerfully connected to the ground, and the soil is intimately related to how we understand and celebrate God.  The late Irish Roman Catholic priest and philosopher, John O’Donohue, called the land “the firstborn of creation” and the “condition of the possibility of everything.”  The Earth itself, he insisted, holds the memory of the beginning of all things, the memory of God.  When feminist theologian Sallie McFague offers the metaphor of “body” to describe the relationship between God and the world, she is reminding us of both scientific truth and a sacred mystery.  “What if,” she asks, “we saw the Earth as part of the body of God, not as separate from God (who dwells elsewhere), but as the visible reality of the invisible God?

 
In her book, Grounded, author and scholar of American religion and culture,Diana Butler Bass, writes, “Although I had observed wounded landscapes, it did not occur to me that dirt was threatened on a larger scale.  Soil was like air or water, a boundless gift of creation, always present. Yet soil is being lost at an alarming rate all over the planet.  During the last century and a half, the planet has lost half its topsoil.”  According to a Cornell University study, American soil is disappearing ten times faster than the rate at which it can be replenished; China and India are experiencing erosion rates thirty to forty times faster.  In the last forty years alone, about one-third of the world’s formerly productive soil has become unusable, and the planet continues to lose approximately twenty-five million acres a year to erosion.  This is an environmental crisis to be sure, but it is a moral and ethical one as well.
 
Something odd is happening, however, as this disaster is unfolding.  At the same time that the Earth is losing its soil, more people than ever are making their way back to the ground. Skyline’s Green team, and our Garden of God, is a great example. So are many of you! Urban gardens are cropping up throughout the world, and people are learning to respect and participate in the miraculous processes that are happening, literally beneath our feet. 
 
An atheist friend of mine is fond of saying, “I just don’t believe that God is an old man sitting on the throne in Heaven.”    Nor do the millions of people who still trust in God, yet reject this particular conception of God.  McFague calls it the “transcendent sky-God tradition.”  As Diana Butler Bass writes, “Instead of seeing God as distinct and distant from the world, we are acquiring a new awareness that the universe itself is God’s body, a complex and diverse interdependent organism, animated by God’s breath, the spirit of creation.  We are with God and God is with us because – and some people may find this shocking – we are in God and God is in us.  Maybe the far-off Heavenly Father is finally retiring, replaced by a far more down-to-earth presence, a presence named in Hebrew and Christian scriptures as both love and spirit.”  As Wendell Berry puts it “The idea of Heaven doesn’t take religion very far,” because the distance makes for too great an abstraction.  “Love,” as the very being of God, he continued, “has to wear a face.”  And that “face” is “our neighborhood, our neighbors and other creatures, the Earth and its inhabitants.
 
Join us this Sunday at 10 am  as we continue this revolutionary spiritual journey, drawing from the wisdom of Genesis, Jesus’s parable of the sower, Diana Butler Bass’s book, Grounded,  and Forrest Pritchard’s book, Gaining Ground.
 
After worship, food and fellowship, our conversation will continue from 11:45-12;30. All are welcome! Childcare is provided!
 
peace, Laurie . 

“Won’t you be my Neighbor?”

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?   Mr. Rogers

This Sunday at 10 am, come and experience the Parable of the Good Samaritan, not only in a sermon but also in a fabulous children’s skit based on the gospel according to Fred Rogers! 

The skit is written and performed by our talented,  Emmy award winning, Tim Carter who is a former Senior Producer with Sesame Street  http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Tim_Carter, and David Guerra, an artist and award winning costumer who is creating special props and puppets.  Join us for a wonderful day in the neighborhood, filled with inspiring music, delicious food, wonderful people, child-friendly programs, and an interesting discussion about our local and global neighbors.

It’s also a time to join us later in the afternoon as we celebrate the end of the ICE contract with the West County Detention Facility, and as we continue to support undocumented men, women, and children, as our neighbors. We will also be receiving a special collection for the UCC’s justice ministries supporting our local and global neighbors in need. 

Come join us, neighbors!!   

Pentecost, Unbounded Energy of the Spirit

This coming Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, the mysterious, life giving power and unbounded energy of the Spirit.  We welcome the wind and fire, wonder and wildness to change our lives, personally and collectively, particularly when it seems to be on the verge of apocalypse. 

Wear RED if you can in celebration of the fiery spirit.  

Id like to share with you a benediction by May Sarton;  an invitation to return to the deep source:

Unison Benediction

Return to the most human,
nothing less will nourish the torn spirit,
the bewildered heart,
the angry mind:
and from the ultimate duress,
pierced with the breath of anguish,
speak of love.

Return, return to the deep sources,
nothing less will teach the stiff hands a new way to serve,
to carve into our lives the forms of tenderness
and still that ancient necessary pain preserve.

Return to the most human,
nothing less will teach the angry spirit,
the bewildered heart;
the torn mind,
to accept the whole of its duress,
and pierced with anguish…
at last, act for love.

~ May Sarton ~

Put on those Crash Helmets

The scene of Jesus cleansing the temple has always been more than a little bit scary for me. I think the reason is that my “turn the other cheek” version of Jesus doesn’t allow for this kind of radical behavior. This is over-the-top and scary Jesus sort of stuff. Angry Jesus, the one who turns over tables and scatters sheep or who curses fig trees,  is an unpredictable and fearsome Lord,  one who will not be tampered with, placated, or pandered to.

This is the Lord author Annie Dillard images, saying, “On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”

She’s right!

Just in case you think this week’s gospel reading has nothing to do with us in 21st century western Christendom,  consider what moneychangers exist in our modern congregational edifices. Consider what  currency must be exchanged in order to “rightly” worship and enter the community today. We may not have doves, sheep, and cattle in the sanctuary, but what about the worship battles between organ and piano lovers, or competing capital improvement project plans that so many faith communities struggle with?  We are still at risk of falling into the trap of a currency exchange of faith.

What are we to do?  I believe that it’s about falling wholly in love,  being swept off our feet by the risen Christ and fully focused on following him.

Branding, innovating, reframing, and reimagining church is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it is necessary to measure how we’re doing in communicating the good news and equipping God’s people, but being church is not so much about marketing and metrics as it is about faithful discipleship. You can bet your last goat or turtledove that when we do get sidetracked, the all-consuming Jesus will start turning over a few tables and discomforting the comfortable.

Be ready. Be prepared. Put on those crash helmets and expect a miracle. 

Benefit Concert to Support Oakland’s Homeless

Featuring: Cantori, a an acclaimed after-school training choir for the Grammy Award winning Pacific Boychoir Academy Troubadours –http://www.pacificboychoir.org/choir.

 

Sunday, March 18, 2018 @ 10 a.m. 

At Skyline Community Church, UCC

Come to listen to these young people’s beautiful music with a soaring view of the Oakland Hills to Mt. Diablo as a backdrop. The concert is in the midst of and following a special abbreviated service. Chocolate protein bars given to singers and the first 20 children in attendance. The first 80 adults receive a novelty mini-carnation.  

Would you let a friend know about this?

Free will offering to support the homeless in Oakland, including St Vincent de Paul & St Mary’s.

Co- sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Alameda County (ICAC)

If you can help by donating food or money, please contact the office (510-531-8212   office@skylineucc.org)

See you there and bring a friend!

Donors:  Trader Joe’s,  Skyline Church UCC