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Archive for Sunday Worship

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

Skyline Votes on Becoming a Sanctuary Church

Congregational Meeting to Consider Sanctuary Movement Vote

Sun, Jan 21 • 11:30 am

When an immigrant resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the immigrant. The immigrant who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the immigrant as yourself, for you were an immigrant in the land of Egypt. (Jewish and Christian Tradition, Leviticus 19:33-34)

Dear Ones, 

The Church Council has called a meeting of the congregation on Sunday, Jan 21 at 11:30 am to formally establish Skyline Church, United Church of Christ as a Sanctuary Congregation.

I want to extend my deepest thanks to the leadership and dedication of Mirtha Ninayahuar, and Nancy Taylor. 

The meeting will take place in the Sanctuary immediately following the 10 am service. During the past year, the council and the congregation heard from members of the Planning Team for the Sanctuary Movement about what declaring itself as a “Sanctuary Congregation” would mean for Skyline. 
 
Evolving Definition of Sanctuary 

The Sanctuary Movement, which began in the 1980s, is experiencing a resurgence. But today it has a slightly different meaning. Originally it was a movement of churches and political activists to shelter Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict and trying to avoid deportation. It has since expanded to “a broader range of thinking by faith communities as to how they can be helpful to communities of undocumented persons.” See this description below, which includes the 4 categories of being a sanctuary.  Here are sanctuary activities Skyline is already involved in.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/irjfoqt6ing7n9o/Revised%20final%20resolution%20July%202017%202%20after%20edits.doc?dl=0

 Some churches are part of the movement by offering resources, such as food and supplies, while others will provide education and advocacy and accompaniment, and still others, rapid response, and still others, housing for undocumented persons. Any one or more of these 4 categories constitutes being a sanctuary church. We are involved in all areas except providing physical housing. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. Would we be breaking the law? “There is a law against bringing in and harboring persons not authorized to be in the U.S. (INA Sec.274). Some courts have interpreted harboring to require concealment of a person, when we declare Sanctuary for an individual we are bringing them into the light of the community, not concealing them in the dark of secrecy (U.S. V Costello, 66 F.3d 1040, 7th Cir. 2012). Other courts have interpreted harboring to be simple sheltering (U.S. V Acosta de Evans, 531 F.2d 428 (9th Cir. 1976)… To date no one has ever been arrested for offering Sanctuary.” – From the New Sanctuary Toolkit 
  2. What prevents ICE from entering a church to execute a deportation order? There is nothing that categorically prevents ICE from entering a church, however there is an existing Memo (https://www.ice.gov/doclib/ero-outreach/pdf/10029.2-policy.pdf) that advises officers and agents to avoid “sensitive locations” including schools, hospitals, churches, and the site of a public demonstration. 
  3. Why not just keep on doing service, why bother voting?   Voting offers political strength to the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, as well as to the state of California that have voted to become sanctuary. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/california-sanctuary-state_us_59ce7423e4b05f005d341453  Voting represents another form of spiritual courage and resistance to laws which punish hardworking civic minded people who are contributing to our cities and states. 
  4. Who are the members of the Sanctuary Movement Planning Team?
    Contact Mirtha Ninayahuar, Nancy Taylor, Rev Laurie Manning 
  5. What other faith congregations in the Bay area are sanctuary?  http://www.im4humanintegrity.org/sanctuary-map-northern-california/
  6. Other Resources?
    1. Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
    2. United Church of Christ Resources on Sanctuary
    3. National Sanctuary website and toolkit

 We look forward to your attendance at this important milestone in Skyline’s history on January 21 at 11:15 AM

Thank you,

Pastor Laurie

 

 

MLK Sunday – a Drum Major for Justice

50 yrs ago the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. preached his last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church before his assassination. It is a remarkable sermon. In it, he discusses his own death and how he wanted to be remembered. In addition, he skillfully used the “Drum Major Instinct” theme – “thinking that you are somebody big because you are white” – to offer a deep critique of contemporary culture and an inspired, practical vision for living the Gospel. Specifically, he critiqued the dangerous down-side of the drum major instinct. He addresses white supremacy, racism, economic injustice and war.

Like so many of his sermons, this one has incredible relevance for us today, the year after an election in which various forms of the drum major instinct are on parade all across our nation.  It is also what makes the message King brings home so poignant: the call of the Gospel to be a drum major for justice and peace, a drum major for serving humanity, that we may “make of this old world a new world.”

Join us this Sunday, as we listen to the prophetic voice of Dr King, 50 yrs later.

I share with you an excerpt from his sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church:

… And when we were in jail in Birmingham the other day, the white wardens and all enjoyed coming around the cell to talk about the race problem. And they were showing us where we were so wrong demonstrating. And they were showing us where segregation was so right. And they were showing us where intermarriage was so wrong. …And then we got down one day to the point—that was the second or third day—to talk about where they lived, and how much they were earning. And when those brothers told me what they were earning, I said, “Now, you know what? You ought to be marching with us. [laughter] You’re just as poor as Negroes.” And I said, “You are put in the position of supporting your oppressor, because through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. (Yes) And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And you’re so poor you can’t send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march.”

Now that’s a fact. That the poor white has been put into this position, where through blindness and prejudice, (Make it plain) he is forced to support his oppressors. And the only thing he has going for him is the false feeling that he’s superior because his skin is white—and can’t hardly eat and make his ends meet week in and week out. (Amen)

Delivered February 4, 1968.  listen to the audio.

Coming Out Sunday

This Sunday, Oct 15, we celebrate “Coming Out Day”, which is really an invitation to all of us to let our own uniquely brilliant light shine.  And, in doing so, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. Please join us this Sunday as guest preacher, Nichola Torbett, shares her reflections on this theme. I will be away on the east coast visiting family, and then attending the Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership conference. I am with you in Spirit!

     With love, Pastor Laurie

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

― Marianne WilliamsonA Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

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