Oakland church

Archive for Advent

Care of Your Soul in these Trying Times

How ARE you? 
 
Increasingly we are all experiencing the fatigue not only of this emotional time of year, but of the pandemic. 
 
The SIP ( shelter in place) orders we’ve been living with have gotten more restrictive. It’s in our best health interests collectively to switch to more restrictive rules. And at the same time, the changing of the rules, the unknown future, and the general stress and worry of the pandemic is exhausting.
 
In the midst of the darkness, self-care is important. Diet and exercise are important. Paying attention to what you’re feeling is important. Finding a spiritual practice that feeds your soul is important.
 
One of the chronic ongoing impacts of the pandemic on mental health has been an increase in feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety. If you’re feeling any of these, I know it can be really hard to reach out and ask for help. Still, I encourage you to do so. It is honestly the only way your family and friends can know that you need extra attention. It is the only way your pastor and your beloved community can know that you need some pastoral care.
 
If you need something new to feed your soul, you might want to consider these:
  • Even though Advent has already started, it’s not too late to make a daily practice of sitting in reflection and prayer. You can download this free Advent Devotional for your personal use. It was written by members of the Sequoia Association of the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ.
  • Join us on Fridays at 1 pm for our prayer and care check ins. It’s a time to be present to our souls. 
And, please, remember that we have a special service on Monday, December 21, at 7 pm  This Longest Night Service” is simple, meditative, and healing. 
 
peace, 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

Gifts For The Children

ANNOUNCEMENT:
December Gift Giving!
Gifts for the Unhoused Children of East Oakland Community Project

Once again, Skyline Church and Preschool have an opportunity for gift-giving to the homeless children of the East Oakland Community Project.

In 2019, Alameda County reported the biggest increase of 43% since its last tally in 2017, with a total of 8,022 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people counted during a single day.  Deaths in Alameda County’s unhoused communities increased 40% during the first nine months of 2020, compared to the same period the previous year. 

We are grateful for our planned generosity to EOCP.

This year, because of COVID, we will be signing up to give gift cards rather than wrapped presents. The Church is taking 27 names and the Preschool is taking 26 names of the total 53 children in the EOCP programs.

Because we don’t have the list of children’s names yet, we ask that you sign up anyhow – with a name to be assigned later.

We’re recommending that you purchase a gift card with a value of $30 from either Target or Walmart, and place the card inside an envelope with a Christmas card, with the child’s name on the outside of the envelope (if we get names by 12/15), signed with your name(s) on the inside.  Please do not seal the envelope.  We haven’t received a date to deliver the cards yet; but please plan on dropping these off at the Preschool, no later than December 15.  A box will be provided at the bottom of the stairs during school hours for this purpose. As an alternative, feel free to drop at Nancy Taylor’s: 4207 Knoll Ave., Oakland 94619.  Finally, if you are unable to go out and purchase a gift card, you may write a check made out to Skyline Church with “EOCP” in the note field, mail it to the church.  Nancy T will use the funds to purchase gift cards and Christmas cards and sign for you.

To sign up, please email Nancy Montier 510-531-8212  office@skylineucc.org

Photo by olia danilevich from Pexels

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   

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

Advent: “Wait Without Hope” is not Pessimistic

In the midst of this advent season of waiting, I invite you to set aside the distractions of the busy-ness of this season to to take a moment of mindfulness.  I invite you to realize the radical transformation that comes from setting aside preconceived ideas. 

This Sunday, we will explore questions raised by T.S. Eliot and other great thinkers to move towards a direct, experiential understanding of what it means to live an awakened life, and to contemplate the meaning of waiting in the words of the poet, TS Elliott:

Wait Without Hope

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

https://dailypoetry.me/t-s-eliot/wait-without-hope/

We may not be ready for thought unless we’ve trained our minds in mindfulness. Our love may be tainted by selfish attachment.  Let us begin —be still, even if for a moment. And now, “wait without hope.” Isn’t that pessimistic? I venture to say, no, it is not pessimistic. Optimism is good, hope can get in the way.

Is it better to acknowledge our desire, to understand its context, and to wait without hope? Yes, I think so. Then we can watch the spectacle unfold with pleasure and equanimity. If we cling to hope, we make ourselves vulnerable to disappointment, anger, and frustration.

 

What are you waiting for?

The words “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit” are used interchangeably to remind us that God is always coming to us.  Become aware of your breath. Notice how breathing more deeply calms you. Notice how long you can hold your breath to remember how essential it is for your life. The Living God, or the God of Life, seeks to come to dwell within us and to give new life to us and through us. 

 Advent calls us to pay attention and to anticipate what “the God who comes to us” wants to do within us and through us. So, we wait in hope of what yet may be.  This process of waiting in hope, is active, not passive. 

 
Join us this Sunday as we continue to awaken to the new life full of hope, peace, joy, and love that God is calling each one of us, by name, into. 
 
What are you waiting for? 

Blessings,  Pastor Laurie 

 

“Let Us Walk in the Light of Our God”

copyright nathan mcbride 2018 unsplash

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