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Water and the Divine

Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

I am grateful that our liturgical year always begins with watery readings and rituals that reflect God’s spirit. I am also grateful for the rains this week and the deep and varied shades of green; and that the fragrances of the earth are returning and coming back to life.

On Monday afternoon, just before the New Year, we took a familiar walk on the shores of Lake Chabot. The sun was shimmering, the sky a clear blue, and the wind sounded like the ocean.  As we walked I couldn’t help but recall the Creation story from Genesis, and those waters of the deep that existed before creation; with God’s spirit moving, even brooding above them, and the spirit hovering above the waters. I couldn’t help but recall the story of Jesus’s baptism in the waters of the Jordan River.  Both of these watery images mark Divinely inspired beginnings. God and time come out of water in a wave or a cloud or a Divinely uttered word of precious and foundational affirmation, like “it was good” or “you are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased.” 

Join us this Sunday, as we remember that we too, are God’s beloved child, and are called to the renewal of our lives by the Spirit.

A Movement of Epiphanies: Let the Light of God Shine Through Us

Have you ever felt discouraged about the world lately and powerless to do anything about it?  In need of hope that it’s possible for ordinary people with no weapons but the truth and courage of their convictions to overcome oppressive forces of hatred, injustice and violence? In need of an epiphany to shine forth and give us ways to shine this little light of ours so that we may be an epiphany to others?  You’re not alone!

Jesus said that if his followers were to fall silent the stones themselves would shout out their praise. (Luke 19:40)  The light we see in Jesus is as old as the universe—older, for it brought this universe into being.  It has filled and  moved all things, held together all that cohered, evolved and changed all toward higher levels of organization and life and eventually consciousness, and brought life out of death, forming new stars and planets and living beings out of the old.

It’s this force speaking through Jesus in The Gospel of Thomas saying, “There is light within a person of light, and it shines on the whole world…. I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all come.  Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there…. The realm of God will not come by watching for it…. Rather, it’s spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it.”  from the Gospel of Thomas, 24, 70, 77 & 113

Join us this Sunday, for the story about an ongoing movement; a movement of freedom, of light, and of epiphanies that draw us forward. Epiphanies are not for us alone.  They recruit us to a Movement, the same movement that Martin Luther King Jr. led, Jesus led, Isaiah led, and Moses led; and the movements of our time.  Epiphanies transform us by the light of God they reveal so that we will transform the world around us to be more like God’s realm of mercy, justice and peace.  Let us see and be radiant and go out into our homes and into the beloved community of this town and into this divided and endangered world and shine in every way we can so that others see our light and are inspired to shine their own.

Join us as together we look for the light within our deepest heart, and open ourselves to be led to new ways to shine.

Prepare a Space for God “to be Born Within Us”

It’s Monday, December 17 at 7;30 pm, and as I type this, it’s hard to believe that next week, literally at this time, we will be celebrating our Christmas eve service! 
 
    It’s so easy, in the midst of grief, to feel that the promise of new life is not meant for us. 
 
    It’s so easy, in the midst of stress,  to lose sight of the deeper meaning  of God with us
 
    It’s so easy, in the midst of fear, to want to close ourselves off from the hope and promise of love. 
 
   As the great Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart once wrote, “God is always wanting to be born within us” 
 
    I believe that it’s true, and like pregnancy and birth, we need to be active participants in the process. 
 
    I offer you some suggestions for preparing a space within yourself. 
  • Take time to read the timeless words of the prophets, that speak to us, personally and collectively,  as people 
  • living in the wilderness, in need of comfort, living in a land of deep darkness. I love the words of Isaiah 40, and 35, and 9.
  • Take time to read the birth narratives, especially  Luke 2.
  • Take time to be still, to breathe deeply, to breathe in peace, to breathe out fear, and to allow yourself to be fully open, vulnerable, and real, with the God who loves you completely. 
  • Take time to be grateful, even in the midst of all of the pain,  violence, and suffering,  for the gift of life, of love, of this moment, of the beauty that is all around  and within us. 
     
Blessings and peace to you this week, with love, Pastor Laurie

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service with Black Spirituals and Traditional Music

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, December 24th, 7 – 8 PM 

Come experience the wonder of our candlelight service and celebrate the birth of Jesus with

  • Carols
  • Scripture readings
  • Christmas Choir
  • Instrumental music

The service will be followed by delicious Christmas treats, hot apple cider, and fellowship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a beautiful way to celebrate the season with your entire family. ALL are welcome!

Skyline Community Church UCC
12540 Skyline Blvd, Oakland

For more information please contact the office at 510.531.8212, office@skylineucc.org

Camp Fire Relief Benefit Concert

Join Pastor Laurie and Music Director Benjamin Mertz for a community sing along with gospel spirituals and readings.

Funds raised are to benefit the victims of the Camp Fire, and promote advocacy for the environment and future generations. 

 

Friday, December 14, 7:00 PM

12540 Skyline Blvd, Oakland, Crossstreet is Brookpark  Office:  office@skylineucc.org  510-531-8212

Words of Comfort and Hope

This Sunday we lift up the timeless words of the prophet, Isaiah, offering a glorious vision to be revealed, of straightening out the crooked places, of offering comfort and hope to all people. 

Blessings upon your week! 

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”
Says your God.
“Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
That her warfare is ended,
That her iniquity is pardoned;

The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 40:1-5  New King James Version

Christmas Pageant 2018

Come and experience the wonders of the Christmasstory!

The child / family friendly Christmas Pageant this year will be the “Bethlehemian” Rhapsody featuring our:
  • Emmy award winning Tim Carter from Sesame Street 
  • Award winning creative artist,  David Guerra
  • The talented musician Benjamin Mertz
  • The Skyline Choir 
  • Pastor Laurie 
  • and YOU! 
 
It will be a splendid worship service Pageant 3 kingsof carols where everyone is invited to take part in the pageant. Come wearing a costume or put on one of ours when you arrive! Be a shepherd, sheep, king, queen, angel, superhero, or donkey!  All are welcome – friends, family, all are invited!

Sunday, Dec. 23 at 10 AM!  

 

“We’re in this thing Together”

As Al Jarreau once sang it so beautifully, We’re in this thing together!

Last Sunday was a beautiful example of our togetherness, with SCC’s uniquely talented spiritual life team leading us in a worship service; revealing to us one body with many parts that makes us Skyline.

This prayer by Jane Medema, recently a new member, embodies the message of Sunday’s service:

You, Beloved God, you have gathered our separate hearts and minds, our different stories, and our surprising array of gifts, into one family. We once again offer our lives to you so that we may be strengthened for our daily journeys.” 

Jane’s a member of our spiritual life team.  Special thanks to each member of this team for their superhero gifts! 

As part of the service, we joyfully welcomed three amazing superhero new members, Tim, Jerri and Shaun, whom I encourage you to get to know! Please read more about them below!

This Sunday the superhero gifts continue as Tim Carter -our brand new member, David Guerra, and others  join together in creating a fabulous family friendly worship service.  It features several Martians visiting planet earth trying to understand what Thanksgiving and gratitude are.  They encounter a very upset giant turkey (Mr Tim Turkey).  Join us as we explore the deeper meaning of gratitude and Thanksgiving as an intergenerational community, and bring your friends and your appetite for fun! Also, please bring your pies for the Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless (see Paula Byrens) and your donations to ACCFB!

See you Sunday!

Whoever and Wherever You are, You are Welcome

Nearly every week, at some point in the service, Pastor Laurie tells us, “Whoever you are, and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” Sometimes, I let the sentiment fly by, but sometimes, it hits pretty hard.  That’s a profound statement.

Whoever you are… we’re all different; different backgrounds, experiences, tastes, foibles, flaws, and gifts.

Wherever you are on your life’s journey… since we’re all different; how could our journeys be the same? We come from different places, walked different roads, taken different wrong turns, and scaled different mountains.

I hope you will join me and the Spiritual Life Team this Sunday at Skyline as we explore what it means to be a pilgrim on that road and as we welcome new members who’ve decided to join Skyline to walk that road with us.

Article by Tom Manley, Spiritual Life Team

Saint Oscar Romero, Faith, and Voting Nov 6

On the eve of All Saints day and the week before an important upcoming election,  I find myself thinking of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the fourth Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador, who was recently declared a saint. During his beatification ceremony in 2015 the Pope said, “His ministry was distinguished by his particular attention to the most poor and marginalized.” We must remember and bear witness to his faith, especially now.  

Romero was born on August 15, 1917. He began pursuing a life of ministry at age 13 and was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1942. Although he started out as a conservative priest and theologian and member of the wealthy elite, his faith deepened over the years and took a radical turn in response to the anguish of the Salvadoran people. The question that burned in his heart and eventually turned his life around was “How do we speak of God in the midst of unjust suffering?”

Over 60,000 people died in the civil war which raged in El Salvador during the 1980s. The right-wing government, with financial aid from the United States, carried out a vicious campaign against leftist guerrillas, and many civilians were caught in the crossfire. Romero, then the Archbishop of San Salvador, tried to prevent this by speaking truth to those in power, calling them to conversion and a change of their ways. He was assassinated while celebrating mass in a hospital chapel.

As we think about the role of our faith in our lives and in the political realm, let us lift up the values of this saint who was transformed through love as his heart opened ever wider to love the poorest, most vulnerable people in his country, who spoke truth to power, and who was assassinated for his convictions.
 
Let us remember the ideals of this saint this week as we remember all those we love who have died; and as we strive to embody them in our lives and in our civic commitment in voting on Tuesday Nov 6th.
 
I leave you with a few quotes from this amazing man:  

The Purpose of Our Life

“The purpose of our life is God’s glory. However lowly a life is, that is what makes it great.”

On the Poor

“I am glad, brothers and sisters, that our church is persecuted precisely for its preferential option for the poor and for trying to become incarnate on behalf of the poor. And I want to say to all the people, to rulers, to the rich and powerful: If you do not become poor, if you do not concern yourselves for the poverty of our people, as though they were your own family, you will not be able to save society.”

The Struggle for Justice

“Everyone who struggles for justice, everyone who makes just claims in unjust surroundings is working for God’s reign, even though not a Christian. The church does not comprise all of God’s reign; God’s reign goes beyond the church’s boundaries.”

Peace

“Peace is not the product of terror or fear.

Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.

Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.

Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.

Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.

It is right and it is duty.”

Resurrection

“I have often received death threats. I must tell you that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.