Fresh from the rains of these past weeks into this new year, water reminds us of life itself and the promises of new life symbolized in baptism.

Yet water is full of paradox, of life and death, of beauty and terror and transformation.

“I am haunted by waters.” These are the last words of Norman Maclean’s novella, A River Runs Through It. Waters haunt all of us.

 The human imagination is consumed with images of water, and rightly so. Our bodies are made up of water. If we fail to drink or if we are prevented from drinking, we will expire. Drought means the possibility of death for both land and humans—too little rainfall and life as we know it is threatened.

Water is also dangerous, chaotic, and devastating. In the ancient world the primeval disorder takes shape in the form of a watery chaos or monsters from the deep. An abundance of rain can lead to the land’s fertility, but too much water will drown the crops. Hurricanes and tsunamis remind us that water can be an agent of death. The watery depths of the sea are a great unknown. We know that we cannot tame or master them and that, as generations come and go, the water remains.

Water will play a central role in the coming decades or centuries. Will the waters bring death or life?  Humanity has a tremendous role in answering that question.

Let us recall our baptism, reaching back to hear the voice that speaks to us out of the waters—the voice that proclaims to a world of conflict that we are all “very good” and claims us all as “beloved.” The Spirit moves in and out of our busy lives, and there are times when I recognize the Spirit’s hovering presence beckoning all to a different order, to a new creation. As I reach for the water, whether in a font or on the ocean’s edge, I find myself trying to connect to the chaotic, life-giving and mysterious power that resides in its depths. One day I hope that I can say along with Langston Hughes: “I’ve known rivers: ancient, dusky rivers. My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”

gay marriage 2 guysThe Advocate.com wrote a year in review series and included an article about religious people who gave hope in 2014 to the LGBT community for inclusion in religion.  The UCC’s General Synod is listed as #11.  Read the article here.

Here’s a link to UCC’s page about our LGBT ministry.

Skyline Community Church voted many years ago to be an open and affirming church – welcoming all peoples.

 

starHappy New Year!

What does that expression bring up for you?

In a sense, New Year’s Day is no different than any other day.  After all, the calendar we live by is a human construction.  Yet in another way the new year always brings with it the sense of a fresh start, “another chance to get it right” as Oprah would say.  So it begs the question, why not start every day with that attitude?

The journey of the magi and the feast of the Epiphany offer an opportunity for us to consider our own journey – to gaze up to the heavens and to consider what star it is that we are following. May we be guided by the Light from above to expose the darkness that stalks our souls; and to show us the way, every step of the journey, and every day of our lives.

searchThe rains and the dark storm clouds continue this week. For some of us this is a sad and stressful time of year. Even more so, to those of us who take in the wounds of the world through the news and through our own personal lives. Our experience of the world’s brokenness can shake us to our foundations. Grief, violence, sorrow, depression can stuff out the light for us, and threaten our capacity to dream, to envision, and to find creative ways to respond to the wounds we encounter in the world and in ourselves.

In the face of this we must sing, or draw, or dance, or write. We must find whatever replenishes our imaginations and restores our ability to envision and dream anew.

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

- From the hymn “How Can I Keep from Singing?”

May we all consciously seek to follow the Divine Light, rejoicing in the love which leads us home.

Blessings,

Pastor Laurie

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

sunbeams sunsetWe enter the season when the light begins to fade.

It is a season that for many of us brings about a sense of sadness and turning in.

For some, it’s as if  just as the light is fading, so too is life.
During such times it’s important to kindle the light within ourselves.

All the world’s religions speak of kindling this light and seeking wisdom.

Here are some readings to reflect upon in seeking light, insight, and wisdom.

Blessings and peace, Pastor Laurie

“O Lord, Lead me from the unreal to the real.
Lead me from darkness to light.
Lead me from death to immortality.
May there be peace, peace, and perfect peace”.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28.

“Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.”

Tao Te Ching, 33, tr. S. Mitchell

Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20
The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction,
and concern for instruction is love of her,
and love of her is the keeping of her laws,
and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality,
and immortality brings one near to God;
so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom.

Dear Ones,

October 26th is a busy Sunday as we join together in worship to hear what it’s like for a family working full time and living on the current minimum wage.

Children are invited of course, to wear their Halloween costumes the next 2 Sundays!  Our curriculum will focus on the masks that we all wear.   (Please remember that on Sunday, November 2nd, as part of All Saints and All Soul’s Day the children will have a Halloween costume procession with music like “Because I’m Happy”! )

On Sunday, October 26th, we are also joining  together to support one of our local food pantries of Alameda County by preparing and serving a meal at St Mary’s Center between 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM. Contact Catherine  or Michael.

Some of the younger families are off to the Oakland Museum to celebrate the Dias de las Muertes exhibit.

Later that evening of the 26th some of us are attending the annual fundraiser for the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant group. (Contact Mirtha )

So I leave you with a poem by the poet Mary Oliver whom I consider a saint, that is fitting for this season of fall, and of the peace and quietude that our souls yearn for:

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

~ Mary Oliver ~

We had a lovely turnout with horses, goats, a cat, and of course many dogs and photos of beloved pets.  Rhea and Pastor Laurie blessed the animals and owners – a happy scene!

ABC News channel 7 did a story on the blessing; we posted the videos on our facebook page.  If the links don’t work, like our page!

Intro/Teaser 

ABC News Story

Take a look at photos from Nila Oakes and Sanosi Osman from Oakland North paper.

 

IMG_2329 IMG_2299 IMG_2240 IMG_2303 IMG_2281 Rhea speaking from side rhea and Laurie people in chairs 3 Rhea and guy; altar foreground Mirtha dog and St Francis dog heart dress 4 owner and black white dog Juliette laying down daschhund 4 little dogs 2 Lee and ponies Rhea blessing pony IMG_8152

Dear Ones,

The seasons change, fall begins, and with it, a new year.

A happy, healthy, challenging and rewarding new year!

Rosh Hashanah is a time for reflection, reform, renewal and hope.

The holiday is celebrated this year, from Wednesday- Friday, September 24th- 26th.

Rosh means, in Hebrew, “beginning,”  the root of the Hebrew word for Genesis (בראשית), which is the first word in the Bible. Just like The Creation, so should the New Year and our own actions be a thoughtful – not a hasty – process. Rosh Hashanah underlines human fallibility, humility, soul-searching, responsibility (as a precondition to the realization of opportunity), renewal/rebirth, memory (lessons of history) and the need for systematic education.

I leave you with a prayer for new beginnings:

Step into the dawn.light and trees

Cut the cord.
Pull the plug.
Break the chains
that tie and bind.

Walk free
like Nelson Mandela released from prison
into the possibility
of a new path
where enemies are surprised by grace.

Life, in its misery and delight,
has led you here.
All is learning.
Let go the past.
Awaken to signs and wonders.
Become aware of wise guides and rock cairns
pointing and reassuring the way.

Find your Anam Cara, your Caol Ait*:
the people and places who feed your soul.
Hold them close.

Recognize the hope of resurrection in each new day.
Begin again
and go forth into life yet unlived.
Make peace,
be pure of spirit,
walk humbly,
love mercy and kindness,
and do the good you know to do.

See with new eyes
the path that has always been,
that leads to where we belong –
that leads us home.

* Anam Cara is a Celtic word meaning “soul friend.” Caol Ait is a Celtic word meaning “thin place” where the distance between the Divine and the human is so thin it facilitates a spiritual encounter.

Copyright 2014 © Christina Caine. All rights reserved.

This Sunday marks the Autumnal Equinox. A time of balance. A time to remember the changing seasons, a time of endings and beginnings, a time to remember impermanence. A time to embrace the gift of life and to give thanks for the harvest and for this day!

Here are some words of wisdom from Chief Seattle as we consider our relationship with the earth and with the changing seasons..

Blessings, Pastor Laurie

Teach youFall-Thanksgiving-Maple-Leaf-sun-orange-300x235r children what we have taught our children—that the Earth is our mother.  Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.  If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.

This we know.  The earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth.

This we know.  All things are connected like the blood which unites one family.

All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.

We did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it.

Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.

                                    Chief Seattle

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Skyline UCC
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12540 Skyline Boulevard
Oakland, CA 94619
(510) 531-8212

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