Oakland church

Archive for Advent

“Let Us Walk in the Light of Our God”

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In this season of Advent, may you walk in the light of peace! God bless you and thank you, for the privilege of serving as your minister.

An Advent Reading

Some day,

the Lord’s house will be there,

on that highest mountain.

And people will climb the mountain

and learn, from the Lord, how to live.

And they will spread the word to others,

so that everyone will know

how to act in the right way.

No nation shall invade another nation.

No, never again shall anyone be trained for war.

Swords shall be hammered into plows for the farm,

and spears recycled into tools for the garden.

Come,

let us all walk in the light of the Lord. 

                             adapted from Isaiah 2:1-5

Isaiah reminds us that Advent is about creating a new world in which there will be only one center, one people, one Light and one reason to be. “The mountain of God’s house shall be established as the highest mountain . . . and all nations shall stream toward it…O house of Jacob, come,” Isaiah pleads. “Let us walk in the light of our God.” 

In this season of advent, let us look up, to the mountaintop, let us walk together in the light of God. 

With love, Pastor Laurie

God’s Time

On this first Sunday of Advent, we begin to prepare for the story of Jesus’ birth with the strangest of readings, near the end of Luke, and just a few lines before the story of his death. 

“When you hear of war and insurrections, do not be terrified, for these things must take place first. But the end will not follow immediately. ‘Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes and famines and plagues, and dreadful portents and great signs from heaven…’” 

He predicts persecution for the disciples. He says “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days.”  Woe is right!  As in whoa! Ease up, man! We haven’t even digested our Thanksgiving leftovers!

So much for ‘little baby Jesus.’  Instead, we’ve got super serious, super stern sounding, adult Jesus.  What’s more, he goes all kinds of end-timey on us, here!  What does it all mean, especially now in the troubling times we are living in?

This Advent season, we are called to see these troubled times not just as our time, but as God’s time as well. That long view of time which spans millennia and generations, a time which encompasses memory and hope, with God as our mercy and our judge. The season is about God’s coming to us, to be sure, but it’s also about our coming to God,  about our coming to Jesus, returning year after year, and perhaps especially this year, to his prophetic voice of hope, to his way of radically inclusive love, to the long view of human history and with it the long view of our human redemption.  May we heed his call to be on guard, and to be not afraid. May we draw near to that already and not yet day of God, even as it draws near to us. Amen.

     peace, Pastor Laurie 

Advent Bible Studies

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The Spiritual Life Team invites you to join us for Bible Studies in honor of Advent.  And we’ll treat you to coffee, tea, and pastries.
We will meet  9-11am on the first three Saturdays of December.  On Dec. 1 and 8, gather with us at the home of Paula and David Byrens, 2359 Manzanita Drive, Oakland; then we will switch to the Fellowship Hall at church for the Dec. 15 session.

The studies will give us time to reflect on the reasons that the birth and life of Jesus reminded his first followers of Jewish stories and prophecies that they had loved first in Hebrew scripture.  The old and new embraced each other in the Christmas Story. If you want to get a head start on the readings, check out the three topics below. We will focus on the New Revised Standard Version for reading together. Several copies of NRSV and NIV Bibles (popular modern translations) will be available. Bring your other favorites if you would like—so that we can add their voices to the conversation.
     
Dec. 1…IMMANUEL IS THE ANSWER TO A QUESTION
ISAIAH 7-9
MATTHEW 1:22-23

Dec. 8…MRS. M AND THE CLOUD OF SMOKE
JUDGES 13  A WOMAN’S WOMB AND THE STATE OF THE NATION
LUKE 1:5-25,  The barren one, the father, and the virgin
LUKE 2:6-38 Thomas Moore’s commentary has a beautiful translation

Dec. 15…ELIJAH AND ELIJAH RETURNING
1 Kings 16:29- chapter 17
Malachi 4:1-5
Matthew 16:13-16, and 17:1-4, 10-13

Advent-2nd Sunday: Isaiah “…the glory of the Lord shall be revealed”

This week our Advent themes continue, echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“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.”.

On Saturday, December 9th from 4-5 pm, we remember all those killed and injured in mass shootings in this country in the 5 years since the Newtown, Connecticut school tragedy.  

On Sunday, Dec 10th, following worship Mirtha Ninayahuar will present highlights from her trip to the Arizona/Mexico border. She will share with us about the growing humanitarian crisis happening at our southern border.  More information is included below! 

Childcare is provided for both events, and all are welcome!

Blessings in this season of finding our way through the wilderness, to be reunited in love. 

Darkness, Blessings, & Miracles

Marilynne Robinson is an American novelist and essayist. She has received several awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005 and the 2012 National Humanities Medal. I recently heard a recorded interview between President Obama and Marilynne Robinson, (here on itunes or transcript) on the subject of faith and democracy. It was conversation relevant for us all, particularly in these times of deep darkness, and in this season of advent. In her book, “Gilead“, she writes: 

“Now that I look back, it seems to me that in all that deep darkness a miracle was preparing. So I am right to remember it as a blessed time, and myself as waiting in confidence, even if I had no idea what I was waiting for.” 

“There is a reality in blessing….It doesn’t enhance sacredness, but it acknowledges it, and there is a power in that.”

Peace and Blessings, Pastor Laurie

“Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room”

Dear Ones,

 In this season, God is inviting us to make room in our hearts and in our lives.

 Whatever outward expression Advent takes for us, Christ calls us to open our heart to welcome him anew.

“Let every heart prepare him room” we hear in the lines of one Christmas hymn.450x299xAway-in-a-Manger.jpg.pagespeed.ic.DzbaKxVhch

 “God will speak peace to the people…to those who turn to God in their hearts” one of the Advent psalms tells us.

But what does it mean for us to do this? What does it look like to prepare our heart to welcome the God who comes to us? Are we certain we want this in the first place? Jesus, after all, is hardly a tidy guest. When he arrives, he is always turning things upside down. He sees more than we sometimes wish he would see, knows us more thoroughly than is comfortable, embraces us as he finds us but does not leave us there.

Prepare him room!  Blessings, Pastor Laurie

God’s Time

Gods_ClockAdvent begins. A season where, in  patience, we dwell in God’s time; that is to say, the time beyond this world, this solar system, this galaxy, this universe, beyond all imagining.

There we find peace that passes all understanding. In Hinduism, patience is one of the thousand names of God.

When I say God I don’t mean an old white man with a beard up in the sky. I mean something ultimate and mysterious that defies definition and description, but which represents the deepest and truest and holiest things we know or dream or wish for. In that sense and that spirit I’d like to offer  a prayer by a man named Ted Loder, a prayer of waiting:

O God of all seasons and senses,
Grant me your sense of timing
To submit gracefully
And rejoice quietly
In the turn of the seasons.
In this season of short days and long nights,
Of grey and white and cold,
Teach me the lessons of waiting:
Of the snow joining the mystery
Of the hunkered-down seeds
Growing in their sleep
Watched over by gnarled-limbed, grandparent trees
Resting from autumn’s staggering energy;
Of the silent, whirling earth
Circling to race back home to the sun.
O God, grant me your sense of timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,sun and snow
Of grey and white and cold,
Teach me the lessons of endings:
Children growing,
Friends leaving,
Jobs concluding,
Stages finishing,
Grieving over,
Grudges over,
Blaming over,
Excuses over.
O God, grant me your sense of timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,
Of grey and white and cold,
Teach me the lessons of beginnings:
That such waitings and endings
May be a starting place,
A planting of seeds
Which bring to birth
What is ready to be born—
Something right and just and different,
A new song,
A deeper relationship,
A fuller love—
In the fullness of your time.
O God, grant me your sense of timing.

Blessings, Pastor Laurie