Oakland church

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. 

Still Thankful: Vespers with Skyline Church

Wednesday, November 25, 7-8 PM by Zoom

Zoom Link:  https://zoom.us/j/716026467

Meeting ID: 716 026 467

An evening of meditative songs and prayers.

On the day before Thanksgiving, in this season of separation, sadness and strife; rest in a moment of slow, beautiful gratitude, community, and hope.

An hour of interfaith readings, prayers, music, and silence.

 

Music: Ken Medema

Host and Speaker: Pastor Laurie

 

 

 

Advent Reading Party: Moving Towards the Light

Monday, Nov. 16, 7PM by Zoom

What a joy it will be to receive the timeless gift of Christmas in this strange and troubling year.  With so many distractions, we are going to need to give careful attention to the things that matter; that nourish and restore our hearts and minds.

You are invited to a heart-warming Skyline online party.  No sermons, no lessons, no liturgy, no music. Just reading aloud to one another and chatting about the beautiful words of Old and New Testaments that have graced every Advent  and Christmas season….just because they are dear to us, and we love the sound of them. 

Bring a cup of tea and a Bible, and a heart ready to hear once again.

 

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Virtual Food Drive for Alameda County Community Food Bank

Results – November Food Drive
For the Alameda County Community Food Bank

Dear Skyline Church and Preschool,

With an initial goal of $800 surpassed, the goal was expanded to $1500. Our virtual food drive is over, and you’ve donated $1,751 to supply 3,502 meals to Alameda County residents! Well done!

Here’s a thank you from the Alameda County Community Food Bank:

Even though 2020 has been a challenging year, we still found some bright spots: YOU.

Your compassion, support, and dedication to ending hunger in our community is something all of us at ACCFB are grateful for. You’ve donated, volunteered, shared our messages, and so much more. 

You may not always get to see the impact you’ve had – but we want you to know just how important you are to our community. We made this short video to say thank you.

From all of us at Alameda County Community Food Bank, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

Gratefully,
The ACCFB Team

 

While our food drive is over, if you’re inspired to give on your own, you can learn more on ways to give here.  And, here’s the direct link to the donation page – https://donate.accfb.org/

Thank you for your huge generosity and love!

Contact:  Nancy Montier (510-531-8212  office@skylineucc.org)

The Fierce Urgency of Now with the Climate Crisis; We are in Kairos Time

“The Fierce Urgency of Now” is a phrase that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. deployed in his address at New York’s Riverside Church when he articulated his opposition to the Vietnam War:

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The ‘tide in the affairs of men’ does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.”

 

Kairos:  Jesus’s Understanding of Time

Jesus’ ministry begins in a time of turmoil following the arrest of John the Baptist. In the first chapter of Mark, Jesus declares, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Theologians such as Paul Tillich have unpacked the nuance and significance of the Greek word for “time” in these opening words of Jesus.

Unlike English, Greek has two distinctly different words for “time”: chronos and kairos. Chronos is time that is measured and definite, as of a ticking clock. Kairos, by contrast, signifies the fulfillment of the right action at the right moment. In the New Testament, the coming of Jesus is what the apostle Paul describes as the fullness of time.
 
Tillich elaborated an understanding of kairos by situating it within moments of profound catastrophe which are paradoxically also moments of unique opportunity. For Tillich, such moments are charged with God as “the eternal breaks into the temporal, shaking and transforming it.”
 
I recently recalled a quote from the Russian author, Dostoyevsky, that moves me deeply about our climate crisis, “in the end perhaps it is the beauty of nature that will compel us to save it.” I also came across a poem that I fell in love with in my early 20’s, written by English poet and Jesuit Priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins, entitled Pied Beauty, which speaks of this sense of wonder about the glorious diversity of the earth: 
Pied Beauty
Glory be to God for dappled things —
For skies of couple-color as a brindled cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscapes plotted and pieced-fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
 
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.
    With gratitude for the beauty and the preciousness of this Earth! Love, Pastor Laurie 
 

Blessings

I’m writing this on Tuesday, the last day of voting in the 2020 election, and the health of American democracy is in crisis ( NTY Times opinion- “End Our National Crisis“). 

At the same time, in the midst of this  crisis, the strength of democracy also is on display. As Martin Luther King Jr. said in his final speech, “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”

This week, I wish to offer you a prescription for happiness; a Greek word that can be translated as “blessed”, “fortunate”’ “greatly honored”’ or even “happy.”  Bear with me as a I nerd out a bit here with some different translations. In fact, there are two Hebrew words for blessing. First, A’shar means blessing but it can also translate as “to find the right road”. And, Barak – yes, it’s the same spelling – which also means blessing but translated literally means “to stoop or bow down”. Consider what these translations open up when we return to these familiar words from Jesus. “You are on the right road” when you are poor in spirit, or when you are merciful.

And forget for a moment about “happy” or even “blessed” are those who mourn, or “happy” are those who are persecuted.  Consider instead this far more poignant offering:

God bows down before those who mourn.
The Lord stoops before those who are meek.
God bends the knee to peacemakers and to those who are persecuted!

What a blessing, especially for this week. Join us for worship on Sunday as we explore more deeply these blessings from Matthew’s gospel.

Speaking of Blessing, I encourage you, if you weren’t able to join us Monday night, Nov 2, to enjoy our recording of  our interfaith vespers service, Calm in the Storm

My deepest thanks to our talented musicians: Gabrielle Lochard, Benjamin Mertz, Ken Medema and to you for joining us!  

Shelter-in-Place Virtual Worship 3-22-20

IMPORTANT MESSAGE:

Out of an abundance of caution and care for our more vulnerable members, SKYLINE WILL NOT HAVE IN-PERSON WORSHIP SERVICES until further notice.

 Services are broadcast live on zoom , Sundays at 10 am

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

links to our worship team!

Gabrielle Lochard, https://www.groupmuse.com/musicians/6295-gabrielle-lochard

Pastor Laurie Manning https://skylineucc.org/staff/ 

If you’ve never zoomed before, try logging in at 9:50 am.  

 

Gratitude for Awakening: Remembering the 400th Anniversary of Plymouth Thanksgiving

Sunday, Nov 22, Benjamin Mertz, Guest Preacher in worship    

Discussion after the service with Benjamin

This year, Nov 22, 2020, marks the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth MA. We remember in fact, this was the Pilgrims’ invasion of the Wampanoag people which led to the enslavement of Indigenous Peoples on the East Coast and the removal of and genocide against Indigenous peoples across the continent;  we remember that many Christian churches have uncritically traced their origins to the Pilgrims’ “Free Church” tradition – a mythos that sanctifies white supremacy and depends upon erasure of Indigenous peoples. Benjamin Mertz, our former music director at Skyline, is also a composer, singer, songwriter, choir director, and social racial justice activist who builds interfaith and interracial alliances. 

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