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 Lent 2021 Day by Day: the Journey to Love

Lent reminds us that, day by day, suffering and brokenness find us.

Day by day, we doubt again, we lament , we mess up. Day by day, the story of Jesus on the cross repeats—every time lives are taken unjustly, every time we choose corruption, greed, violence, and indifference, every time we remain silent in the face of systemic racism, sexism, and homophobia, every time we forget how to love.

We cry out, How long, O God?”

And yet, amid the chaos of our lives, God responds “I choose you, I love you, I will lead you to repair.” Day by Day, God breaks the cycle and offers us a fresh way forward.

Agape Love  is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. It is the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. This Greek word, agápē (pronounced uh-GAH-pay), and variations of it appear often throughout the New Testament. Love invites us on the journey now. 

Even while worshiping apart, we come to God day by day, with our prayers, our dreams, our hopes, and our doubts. Even if from a distance, we will continue to be community to one another—especially when it’s hard—by choosing each other day by day. We will continue to love God with the same persistence God chooses and claims us.

Our sub- theme is strengthening spiritual muscle- in body, mind, soul, and spirit – to develop and strengthen our endurance and our capacity for love. It takes practice! It takes teamwork! It takes discipline to be a disciple. Let’s do it together. For love’s sake!

Embodied practice builds muscle memory. Repetition helps retrain our neural pathways. We need the 46 days of Lent because this season shapes us into more faithful disciples. Join us this Lent as day by day, we bring all of who we are to God and trust that God will meet us, day by day, along the way.

 

February 17 – Ash Wednesday

Day by day, we’re invited in

Matthew 6:1-16, 16-21 | Isaiah 58:1-12

As Lent begins, we’re invited in—, to our own spiritual journey, to  our own transformation. We’re on this journey together, but we’re invited to turn inward. We are reminded that performative acts (of piety and justice) are not the way.

 

February 21 – 1st Sunday in Lent

Day by day, God meets us

Mark 1:9-15 | Genesis 9:8-17

God meets Jesus at the water before he is tempted in the wilderness— this is vital. Above all, God claims us. God meets us in the liminal space, at the water’s edge, at the threshold of something new, and names us Beloved. God’s covenant with all of creation reminds us that God meets us where we are—in the midst of our reluctance, doubt, eagerness, or weariness—and proclaims we are good.

 

February 28 – 2nd Sunday in Lent

Day by day, we’re called to listen

Mark 8:31-9:8¹ | Psalm 22:23-31

 Like the disciples, we are often stuck in the pattern of messing up repeatedly. We cling to power, we climb the ladder, we remember Christ’s teachings rather than embodying them. So many forces, such as shame, guilt, ignorance, pride, and  inaction can block us from seeing and hearing. It requires humility for transformation. Day by day,  loves beckons to listen—to God and to others.

 

March 7 – 3rd Sunday in Lent

Day by day, we are shown the way

 John 2:13-22  1 Corinthians 1:18-25

According to John, Jesus begins his ministry by showing more than telling. In the temple, Jesus disrupts and overturns the systems of corruption and profiteering taking place, but ultimately points us to the promise of restoration. Paul reminds the Corinthians (and us) that God’s wisdom is more expansive than we can imagine. We are shown the way, even if God’s “way” feels foolish, counter-cultural, disruptive, or uncomfortable

 

March 14 – 4th Sunday in Lent

Day by day, God loves first

John 3:14-21 | Ephesians 2:1-10

After inviting Nicodemus to be born anew, Jesus tells him in John 3 that God so loved the world that God sent his son to restore it. Therefore, when we read John 3:16, we remember that Jesus is speaking in metaphor and poetry. Ultimately, love is where God begins and ends. This love, like grace, is a gift we do nothing to deserve. Day by day, love is our refrain. Before we act, think, or believe, can love be first for us too?

 

March 21 – 5th Sunday in Lent

Day by day, we are reformed

John 12:20-33 | Jeremiah 31:31-34

We desire for God to write on our hearts so that God’s law can re-shape and re-form us from the inside out. Reformation is a journey of letting the old fall away for something new to emerge, of returning to God’s words over and over, of being drawn into the heart of God. This is the process of justification and sanctification; transformation must be internal and communal.

 

March 28 – 6th  Sunday in Lent

Day by day, we draw upon courage

John 12:1-19²

On Palm Passion Sunday, we remember that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was not a risk-free, palm party. It was a protest parade—a protest against those in power, a parade to prepare the way for a different kind of king. And this was all happening with plots to kill Lazarus (and Jesus) building in the background. We’re reminded that the crowds were brave to show up that day, and that Jesus drew on courage to face his journey to the cross. The root of courage is cour, meaning “heart.” Courage is deep within us; we often find it when we most need it, when everything else has been stripped away.

 

April 1   – Maundy Thursday

Day by day, we are drawn together

 John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Foot washing is a practice of radical vulnerability, of being seen and known. Jesus loved the disciples “to the end.” In this act, we remember that God holds all of our pain, vulnerability, doubts, and sufferings. As we venture toward the cross, we can lean into God’s everlasting arms, knowing we are held.

 

April 2 – Good Friday

Day by day, we find ourselves here

 John 19:1-30

Day by day, we find ourselves at the foot of the cross, at the pit of despair, in the face of death, in the grip of state-sanctioned violence. “Here” is an emotional place. “Here” is grief. “Here” is the reality of sin and brokenness. On Good Friday, we are called to sit in the silence of death, knowing that God is here.

 

April 4 – Easter Sunday

Day by day, the sun rises

 Mark 16:1-8

According to Mark, on the first day of the week, the women rise with the sun and buy spices to anoint Jesus’ body. They are shocked to find the tomb empty, and leave in fear and terror. Mark’s resurrection story is less triumphant than the other Gospel testimonies (as scholars believe the rest of Mark’s gospel was a later addition). Mark’s version, reminds us that Easter comes to us, day by day, even if we don’t know what to make of God’s resurrection ways. Day by day, the sun rises. And some days, that is enough.

Sanctuary, Solidarity, and Epiphany

It’s the season of Epiphany! I’m searching for the light of that star, especially this year, how about you?

What is epiphany? An “epiphany” is a moment of understanding, a moment of consciousness. In last Sunday’s gospel, Matthew tells us the Magi (who were gentiles [that is, non-Jews]) know something is up. They’ve been watching the night skies and a star suggests to them that something is happening in Judea, something to do with royalty. So they travel Judea and check in with King Herod. They get sent off to Bethlehem to find the child and when they find him, they have an epiphany. They realize that this non-royal, peasant child carries God’s love in a special, perhaps even unique way. Thus, Epiphany (the holiday) celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles.

But that one paragraph summary fails to capture the drama of the story. During their visit to King Herod, the Magi were ordered to report back to the king the location of the child. “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road,” Matthew tells us.

Theology professor Dr. Serene Jones tweeted, Civil disobedience lies at the heart of the Epiphany story: The magi receive an unjust order from a vindictive tyrant. Instead, they defy him. May we do likewise.”

Our sacred stories remind us that Jesus came to stand up to the principalities and powers that abuse and neglect. Time and again, Jesus calls us to participate in this holy work. Regardless of the outcome of the elections in Georgia, regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s certification of the Electoral College vote, that holy work will not end. The principalities and powers – in the halls of government and the halls of corporations – that abuse and neglect will continue their ugly work. And so, our Christ-like work of pursuing justice, compassion, and love will continue.

Join us this Sunday, as we continue in this season of Epiphany, with Jesus’s baptism. We are invited to remember that each one of us is God’s beloved child, and that together, as Skyline community church, we are a beloved family, building the beloved community. As part of this service, we will remember our calling as a sanctuary congregation – a renewing of our sanctuary vows, and the power of solidarity in this season of Epiphany.

We are also pleased to have with us this Sunday, my/our friend and colleague, Rev Deborah Lee, https://www.im4humanintegrity.org/our-staff/, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center For Human Integrity. https://www.im4humanintegrity.org/who-we-are/. We will learn more, during and after the service about their work and how we can be of support.

Please be sure to bring with you, a bowl of water for the renewal of our baptismal vows.

Blessings, Pastor Laurie

Behold What is Beckoning Us this New Year

Those of us who are hikers know what a cairn is, right?  A cairn is a little pile of stones that we sometimes see along the trail — or maybe a marker of some sort — that marks a turning point, or a crossroads in the trail, a decision point.

If you’re a hiker you know that when you come to a cairn on the path it’s usually a good idea to let your pack down and sit down and maybe take a sip of water and eat some trail mix, take out your map and figure out where exactly you’ve come from and where it is that you’re going.  A time of reorientation, to make sure you’re still headed in the right direction.  That’s what New Year’s was for our ancestors, a kind of milestone, a reckoning point on life’s journey.
I can remember hiking in the high Sierras, where the stars are so bright that you can see our home (our galaxy-the Milky Way), gracefully revealing her light, which so often is obscured with our light pollution. In such moments, it is so important to stop, and behold, like the Magi long ago, to consider this journey, and what it is that is beckoning us, and what it is we are all a part of.
.
We, like the Magi, are walking toward you.
One foot in front of the other, we are walking
toward you. 

It is our very prayer to move your way. 
So if you can, oh God of love, leave the light on
and the front door unlocked. 

Leave a fire in the hearth and food on the stove. 
And when we start to get lost or doubt our dreams, 
Give us the will to persevere. 
We are walking toward you, O God. 
So like the parent that throws open the door, 
Open the door to us and welcome us in. 
Amen. Join us as we begin the new year together, this Sunday in worship! 
Peace, Pastor Laurie

Magnificat Sunday

Magnificat Sunday, Dec 20 10AM

Join us for Sunday worship on the 4th Sunday in Advent – Magnificat Sunday – Love, Magnifying the Light into the World as we explore Mary’s ecstatic and mystical expression of the divine, featuring a premier of “My Soul Magnifies the Light” by composer and vocalist Sarah Grace Graves. In this new setting of the Magnificat, commissioned and written for Skyline’s virtual choir, Sarah offers an interpretation of these words woven in meditative sonorities and ecstatic, expressive improvisations for the voice.

She writes, “I love the Magnificat. Mary’s words are so charged with feeling and energy. […] Mary’s song resonates with me at the time of my writing this because the world is, like it was then, completely upside down, and I don’t know what will happen. I can accept not knowing. […] But in moments like these, I want to hope, and the hope and awe of her words inspire me to face the future with courage and grace.”

Featuring music by the talented Gabrielle Lochard, Ken Medema, our Skyline choir ensemble, and our sermon from Pastor Laurie.

Zoom Link:  https://zoom.us/j/716026467
Meeting ID: 716 026 467

Virtual Christmas Party

Join us this Sunday, December 13, for our Virtual Christmas Party!

Sunday Service 10AM – 3rd Sunday in Advent – Joy, Young at Heart
Zechariah (Luke 1:5-25) 

Jane Medema guest preacher in worship

*Stay tuned – At 11:30AM after worship for our Virtual Christmas Party
with lunch, lessons, and carols. Bring your lunch, download the Carol Sing hymnal, and let’s join in singing. Feel free to share your own celebration ideas with Pastor Laurie & David Guerra! So far we have – the 12 days of Christmas, your earliest Christmas memories, your own experiences of being young at heart, brainstorming together about the good news about virtual Christmas parties!

Zoom Link:  https://zoom.us/j/716026467
Meeting ID: 716 026 467

Leveling the Uneven Ground

What does it mean to pave a way for God through a planet groaning from exploitation, through societies plagued by inequity, and through religious and political systems corrupted by power and privilege? 

How does the wisdom of the prophets speak to these questions?

The prophet Isaiah, 40:1-11 lifts up these words:

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s h& double for all her sins. A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 
 
If paying attention to the prophets aligns our dreams with the dreams of God and drives us to prophetic action, then the cries of Isaiah today are a reminder that sometimes this means getting in the demolition businessSometimes this means flattening the mountains of privilege and power, clearing away the obstructions of legalism, and leveling the uneven ground of racial, economic, and religious inequity. 
 
Join us, this Sunday, in God’s work in the world, preparing the way, in the work of leveling the uneven ground.
Love,
Pastor Laurie   

From Gratitude to Service

Our guest preacher last Sunday, Mr. Benjamin Mertz, lifted up some powerful challenges to us, on the eve of this 400th anniversary of the first “Thanksgiving”, shared between the Pilgrims and the Wampanaugs.

He asked,
What do we do with this fantasy story of this Thanksgiving of the big meal, shared among people who are different getting together? How do we square it with the rest of the story?

What do we do instead? All of these gifts, given to us justly, or taken through the spoils of conquest & slavery? What do the prophets say? They are calling us, to agape love, to loving our neighbors, to loving those as the parable of the Good Samaritan taught us, those we view as enemy, as other. To love them, not as an intellectual exercise –but as active, alive, agape love, in service to others. .
  
Let us remember, on this 400th anniversary of that feast shared between Pilgrims and the Wampanaugs that this is not our land. Let us remember, that for many of us, too much of our money is in the bank, not much has gone to our neighbors right here, from the Ohlone tribe.

 


 
Here is another great piece for us to reflect upon this Thanksgiving:
 
Yes we are in the middle of a pandemic, yes, Corona has taken so much away from us., and many of us are mourning. But, despite it all, we are so blessed, there is so much abundance, food, housing, clothing, bank accounts, internet.
 
Let us transform Thanksgiving into a day of justice,
Let us transform Thanksgiving into a day of agape love
That doesn’t mean just sitting around the table with our families & friends, it means being active in the community, lifting up the oppressed & the poor.
Let us transform the fantasy of Pilgrims and Indians from the past ..  into the dream & strategy for the future of racial and economic of justice for all.
 
Let us transform the fantasy of giving thanks into giving help.
Let us transform the gratitude of what we’ve been given into service of others.


 
Here are some opportunities to do so, safely, even now, in this pandemic:

1.    Donating to land reparations to the Ohlone people in the Bay Area:
 
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/dec/31/native-american-land-taxes-reparations
https://sogoreate-landtrust.org/shuumi-land-tax/
 
2.    Offering support for the children and families of East Oakland Community Project, the largest transitional homeless shelter in Alameda County. Our chair of justice and Witness,  Nancy Taylor, encourages you to reach out and contact her, if you are interested and able to help provide a meal (boxed food or gift card) for families who have found permanent shelter from East Oakland Community Project (homeless shelter). 

Together, may we transform the gratitude of what we’ve been given into service of others. 

Gratitude for the Earth

With The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal , guest preacher  in worship            

Special Advisor on Climate Justice to UCC General Minister and President

Author: Climate Church, Climate World  

  -Discussion after the service with Jim

Climate Change  is the greatest existential threat of our time. The Rev Dr Jim Antal is a denominational leader, climate activist, author and public theologian. He serves as Special Advisor on Climate Justice to the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. Antal’s book, CLIMATE CHURCH, CLIMATE WORLD, was featured on Earth Day in the Chicago Tribune (2018), in Christian Century Magazine (2019) and by the AAR (2020). From 2006-2018, Antal led the 350 UCC churches in Massachusetts as their Conference Minister and President. Antal is a graduate of Princeton University, Andover Newton Theological School, and Yale Divinity School, which recently honored him with the William Sloane Coffin Award for Peace and Justice. In 2019 Antal was honored as recipient of the UCC’s social justice prophet award. An environmental activist from the first Earth Day in 1970, Antal wrote and championed three groundbreaking national UCC resolutions: in 2013 the UCC became the first national body to vote to divest from fossil fuel companies; in 2017 the national UCC Synod voted to declare a new moral era in opposition to President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord; in 2019, the UCC national Synod became the first Christian denomination to endorse the Green New Deal

Remembering Loved Ones on All Saints Day: Sunday Service

Sunday, November 1, 10-11 AM
From Pastor Laurie: November 1 is All Saints Day. I invite us to remember our loved ones who have died.
As part of this service, I would like to make a video of photos of our beloved dead. If you would like to remember someone who has died from your past – a family member, a mentor, a dear friend – in this video, please send a photo of that person to Pastor Laurie at (office@skylineucc.org) by Thursday, October 29. The simplest way is to take a photo of your printed photo, and email a large image to me.
 
Second, please have photos of your beloved dead set out by your communion elements when you set up for worship on Sunday, November 1.
With love, Laurie
Meeting ID: 716 026 467 

Being Peace within the Storms

As a teenager living in Rhode Island, one of my greatest joys was the experience of taking the sunfish sailboat out on hot and humid late summer afternoons on Narragansett Bay,  and experiencing the refreshing power of the wind filling the sail and the waves crashing over the deck,  as we surfed the white caps. 

I’ve also experienced some terrifying times on the ocean, lost at night in the fog, and the importance of maintaining peace within, to make it home. 

Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that one person with peace in their heart can act to calm an entire boatload of people. In his book “Being Peace”, he writes: “I like to use the example of a small boat crossing the Gulf of Siam. In Vietnam, there are many people, called boat people, who leave the country in small boats. Often the boats are caught in rough seas or storms, the people may panic, and boats can sink. But if even one person aboard can remain calm, lucid, knowing what to do and what not to do, he or she can help the boat survive. His or her expression – face, voice – communicates clarity and calmness, and people have trust in that person. They will listen to what he or she says. One such person can save the lives of many. Our world is something like that small boat. Compared with the cosmos, our planet is a very small boat. We’re about to panic because our situation is no better than the situation of the small boat in the sea. 

He continued, “We need people who can sit still and be able to smile, who can walk peacefully. We need people like that in order to save us. Mahayana Buddhism says that you are that person, that each of you is that person.” 

He’s right… you are that person, each of you is that person. 

Join us this Sunday as we learn more about being peace within the storms of our lives.