This past week, as the rains began to subside, I was eager to behold the glory of God in nature, to listen to the melody of the flowing streams, to breathe in the fresh clean air, to behold the infinite shades of green in our own backyard (the East Bay regional parks), and yes, to step ankle high into some mud! What appears to be dormant and dead, is in fact, waiting for the right elements in order for new life to take root. And as part of nature, this is true for us individually, and also collectively. I encourage you to take a hike out in the beauty all around us!
Lent begins, and with it, is the season for our own renewal and return to life and to love. I encourage you to walk with us on the journey to life and to love; exploring ever more deeply, as the eloquent Mary Oliver puts it, what is God is calling you to do with your one wild and precious life? I believe above all, God is calling us to love. But love is such an overused, watered down word; when in fact it is as brilliant and as powerful as a supernova.
In her book, Becoming Wise, Krista Tippet, describes love:
Love is the superstar virtue of virtues, and the most watered down word in the English language. I love this weather. I love your dress. And what we’ve done with the word, we’ve done with this thing, this possibility, this essential bond, this act. We’ve made it private, contained it in family, when its audacity is in its potential to cross tribal lines. We’ve fetishized it as romance, when its true measure is a quality of sustained, practical care. We’ve lived it as a feeling, when it is a way of being. It is the elemental experience we all desire and seek, most of our days, to give and receive.
Love is a practice, a discipline, a way of being, and throughout Lent, we walk together, to practice, deepening our capacity to love.
I will be away the next two weeks, from 3/11- 3/25, visiting family, but you will be in capable hands.
On March 17th, Tom Manley will be preaching.
On March 24th, Rev Ruth Sandberg, will be preaching
In the event of pastoral emergencies while I am away, please contact Revs Sheryl Johnson or Ruth Sandberg (510-531-8212 to reach either during the week).
In the meantime, various service teams are organizing some opportunities for you to engage in spirituality, community organizing, town hall meetings, and Lenten studies. I encourage you to follow where the Spirit is calling you!
Blessings and peace, Pastor Laurie
Join Skyline friends and neighbors in reflecting on the Gospel of John, and we will make sense of being 21st century Christians with a 1st century scripture. We’ll be meeting at 7 pm in the church Friendship Room, on Wednesdays, April 3, 10 and 17.
Consider the following two points of view on the Gospel of John. Does one of them match your own perspective better than the other one?
First: “My experience…as a Christian, is that Jesus is for me the bread of life, the living water, the door, the way, and the resurrection, but I am confident that the Jesus of history never literally claimed to be any of these things. So that the Johannine “I Am sayings were never literally spoken by this Jesus. Indeed for him they would have been all but unthinkable. I find the literal Jesus of history to be only dimly present in the Fourth Gospel, yet having said that, I still need to register that this gospel continues to feed my faith more deeply than any other.” ……..by Bishop John Shelby Spong in “Liberating the Gospels”, pages 178-179.
Second: “The historical tradition preserved by the beloved disciple…is independent of those traditions represented in the Synoptic Gospels, but no less authentic…The historical tradition was not simply preserved by John and his disciples. The sayings of Jesus and incidents from his ministry which it inshrined formed the basis for further meditation, instruction and preaching; it flourished as a living and growing tradition, but remained faithful to its historical basis.”.…by F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, pp. 5-6
As a faith community, we believe that migration and the need to seek asylum are sacred acts of faith. As people of faith we believe that God is with the migrant, the refugee, and we are called to welcome them.
We are living in a season when the threats to unity are many. Talks of walls that mark refugees as threats, overt racial bias that normalizes fear and hatred, a pandemic of abuse to women, and to LGBTQ people have made it harder and harder to recognize our faith. It is one thing to read about their experiences. It is another to meet someone who’s lived through it.
This Sunday, March 10th, the first Sunday in Lent, we are pleased to welcome Charlotte to our service, a courageous trans woman who fled Honduras because of fears from death threats. She sought asylum in the US. She was held in a detention center for months, under horrible conditions. Join us to hear Charlotte’s story, meet her lawyer, and learn more how we can provide support as people of faith.
Charlotte and her legal assistant, Elaina Vermeulen, will be presenting her story as part of worship. In addition, we will be gathering after worship for an extended conversation about the plight of refugees from Central America, the current conditions in detention centers, especially for trans people, and what we can do to advocate for them.
Elaina Vermeulen the Transgender Detention Release Specialist for the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, where she organizes advocacy groups, service providers and community members nationally to create networks of support and sponsorship for transgender asylum seekers detained in Cibola County Correctional Center and South Texas Detention Facility. Within this role, Elaina was responsible for directing on-the-ground legal accompaniment and services for the LGBTQIA+ exodus in November 2018.
Elaina also works the Post Release Accompaniment Project Coordinator at Centro Legal de la Raza. Within this role, she works with detained immigrants seeking asylum and other forms of relief from deportation before the Immigration Courts and U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. She co-coordinates the Post Release Accompaniment Project to secure the release of eligible, detained immigrants on bond and parole from Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield, CA.
The Skyline Justice and Witness Team invites you to volunteer to support these groups and organizations.A Su Lado/ By Your Side is a one-day volunteer opportunity to accompany immigrants in need of community support at their immigration court hearings in San Francisco. Email Hugo at hlopez@im4humanintegrity.
org to sign up.Become a Sponsor for an Immigrant in a Detention CenterInterested in helping release an immigrant from ICE detention that has recently arrived with a caravan? Please consider being a sponsor. Contact Samantha Vazquez for more information: svazquez@ im4humanintegrity.org.LGBTQ+ Sponsors: There’s a great need for sponsorship of LGBTQ+ individuals currently in ICE detention. Email Elaina Vermeulen, Transgender Detention Release Specialist for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.Friends Afuera (Outside)Join our Friends Afuera letter-writing program to write to those in detention at ICE facilities and donate to their commissary account once a month. Email us at: friendsafuera@ im4humanintegrity.orgCompassion has no Walls Interfaith Immigration Vigils: Join our monthly vigils every 2nd Friday at ICE building, 630 Sansome Street, San Francisco from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm. Sponsored by Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity.
We close Black History month by focusing upon the most challenging form of love: loving one’s enemies. We recall the arresting words of Jesus, “You have heard it said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies”.
These are profound words. Is it possible to live out these words? Some would say that Jesus was an impractical idealist. But I would argue that especially now, Jesus was a practical realist and his words shine out with new urgency. This command is vital for our survival as a civilization. Love will save our world, love even for enemies.
So how do we begin? We begin with ourselves.
Loving one’s enemies begins by confronting the hate response in the soul of oneself. In the words, of Dr King, Hate destroys both the one hated and “distorts the personality of the hater.” King also noted, “This is true in our international struggle” as well. Love, on the other hand, “has within it a redemptive power,” the power of the cross.”He who loves is a participant in the being of God”
Mental health conditions are common everywhere, including in our churches. People are dealing with a variety of mental health and substance use challenges every day. Due to stigma, many people may be reluctant to either seek help professionally or to speak about it with their pastor or other members of their church. But we want to create a place of belonging, where truly everyone…including those with mental health challenges…is welcome, no matter where they are on life’s journey.
Congregations are invited to explore becoming WISE: Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged for Mental Health by attending a conference on March 2 at City of Refuge in Oakland, offered by the UCC Mental Health Network.
This conference is an opportunity for clergy, church members and leaders to:
The conference brochure is attached, or can be seen on the Mental Health Network website, mhn-ucc.org. All are welcome and encouraged to attend. Questions? Contact Robin Kempster, member of the UCC Mental Health Network, at email@example.com.
UCC WISE Conference (Oakland, CA 3_2_19) for more information about break out sessions, speakers, and schedule.
This week we explore the meaning of the Greek word, agape. Every time you hear the word “love” in the passages like the First Letter of John, and 1st Corinthians 13, it was agape in the original Greek. “God is agape, and everyone who abides in agape abides in God and God abides in them.”
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. contributed his own experience to the traditional interpretation of agape. King saw this kind of love from the perspective of someone whose church had been bombed, killing four young black girls. King knew the power of agape as someone who struggled with the temptation to hate and fight violence with violence, to get revenge and oppress those who had oppressed his people. King spoke about the power of agape as someone who had seen it work miracles, not only in enabling his own heart to transcend its hate but also overcoming a vast systemic evil that no one thought could ever be overcome. King saw firsthand that the love a person wields when they become zero is the most powerful force in the universe.
We need that power now for the overwhelming challenge ahead of us, bringing about a revolution of values in human civilization within a very short period of time. We need King’s wisdom about it.
He called us in his book, Stride Toward Freedom, to project the ethic of agape love to the center of our lives. He said, “Agape…. is the love of God operating in the human heart…. It is a love in which the individual seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor…. Agape is not a weak, passive love. It is love in action. Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community…. The Holy Spirit is the continuing community creating reality that moves through history. He who works against community is working against the whole of creation…. In the final analysis, agape means a recognition of the fact that all life is interrelated…. Whether we call it an unconscious process, an impersonal Brahman, or a Personal Being of matchless power and infinite love, there is a creative force in this universe that works to bring the disconnected aspects of reality into a harmonious whole.”
On that rainy Sunday, we honored the Spirit of God, remembering the prophetic life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in inspiring music, in preaching, and in community.
On Sunday evening we were blessed with a glimpse of the lunar eclipse.
We lift up prayers of gratitude, as we are called to creating the Beloved Community.
Blessings upon your week, Laurie
O God, You who created the sun, moon, stars and this planet earth,
and set them all in motion, Who’s beauty we honored,
in beholding the rare lunar eclipse, when the shadow of the earth,
illuminated by the sun, is cast upon the moon.
O God, all people are your Beloved,
across races, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations
and all the ways we are distinctive from one another.
We are all manifestations of your image.
We are bound together in an inescapable network of mutuality
and tied to a single garment of destiny.
You call us into your unending work
of justice, peace and love.
Let us know your presence among us now:
Let us delight in our diversity
that offers glimpses of the mosaic of your beauty.
Strengthen us with your steadfast love and
transform our despairing fatigue into hope-filled action.
Under the shadow of your wings in this hour
may we find rest and strength, renewal and hope.
We ask this, inspired by the example
of your disciple, Martin Luther King, Jr.,
and in Jesus’ name. Amen.