kid-drawingSpring is here! Finally, after months of waiting living waters fell from the heavens to nourish the dry parched earth here in the Bay area.

We are experiencing that amazing re-Creation that God provides each year at this time. New grass, buds on the trees, and flowers in abundance. Also, spiritually each of us has the chance to be reborn or recreated into new life and new opportunity at the time of Passover and Easter when we reflect on future possibilities.

It is also Earth Day.hand hold earth painting

I grew up in Northern New England where the seasons spoke to us. I remember as a child playing in grass when it was dry and the ground was hard and cold. Then, after the rain it was soft and new life appeared. The Creation is reborn in the spring.

In this season of new beginning let us join together in hope to bring all of Creation back to full health, and to recover from the wounds of climate change. Join us in this movement, as we begin by teaching our children about the recreation of our relationship with the Earth and with one another.

With love and hope,

Pastor Laurie

It is one thing to talk about looking for the presence of God in the midst of our daily lives, in the babie_031e2d150midst of beauty and grace, in the midst of the simple and mundane, and in the midst of the frightening, challenging and overwhelming aspects of life.

But how do we do this? How do we keep our eyes open for the God who is everywhere?

How do we approach seeing as a practice? What supports our seeing; how do we cultivate the courage, wisdom, patience, and discernment that will help us see what we need to see, and respond to it? How will we allow our seeing to be challenged — and ourselves to be changed by what we see?

These are just a few of the questions I carry as I move through this world that holds such deep brokenness and such stunning beauty. May this be a week of seeing wonders.

with love, Pastor Laurie

Blessing for Seeing
- by Jan Richardson

It seems it should
be simple enough
to bless your eyes –
first the left, perhaps,
then the right –
but there is so much else
you will need
for the seeing.

You will need courage
to open your eyes
where it would be easier
to let them
remain closed.

You will need wisdom
to question what it is
that you see.

You will need to know
when to look more closely,
that you may see
beneath what you see
and between what you see
and behind what you see.

Likewise you will need to know
when to still your eyes
just for a space
so that the seeing
that pierces your heart
will not paralyze it.

Patience will come in handy,
that you will let yourself
learn all over again
what it means to look.

And imagination,
so that you can see
what is not yet there:
what is possible
in that dreaming-place
where seeing becomes

You will need wonder
to let yourself be dazzled
and grace
to ward off despair;
to see clearly
and intuition
to see in the dark.

Mercy, but all this
is quite a lot
and it will take
a lifetime
at least
for the learning.

So perhaps
we should simply
begin here
and say:

Let a blessing
be upon
your left eye.

Let a blessing
be upon
your right eye.

May you see.
May you see.
May you see.

In this age of discord and division the earnest words of Jesus’ farewell prayer on behalf of his followers could not feel more relevant or more urgent. With his beloved disciples during the Last Supper Jesus prays for connection and unity, locally and globally. Perhaps he knew that understanding our oneness would be one of our greatest challenges as human beings, and that is why one of his very last acts was to pray for unity. “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23). When we understand that we are of God, created by none other than the Creator of all creation, and that we are thus beloved, we reconnect to ourselves, to one another, and to our Divine Parent.

For almost seven decades now nine denominations in the U.S., united as one, have together been connecting people through the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. Sisters and brothers living in poverty who would have been otherwise overlooked or outright forgotten have been empowered by our gifts to the offering. The woman who has been a victim of war attempting on her own to raise her family without any access to long-term food security, education, or health care is now self-sufficient because of assistance from One Great Hour of Sharing. Families across North America, still struggling to survive after a devastating storm took everything in its path are accompanied for the long haul, thanks to funds from One Great Hour of Sharing. Each time a gift is given a connection is made. Every single offering builds another bridge and tears down another wall. Each donation to One Great Hour of Sharing, no matter how large or small, reveals our unity that in Christ Jesus we are one family. When one of us—anywhere on earth—hurts, we all hurt. As long as there is need, we are all in need. One Great Hour of Sharing enables us to fulfill those needs, for they are our needs.

We are the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the homeless, the hurting. We are one with our sisters and brothers, and we will answer Christ’s call until we all are fed. Until all are fed. Through this ecumenical effort, One Great Hour of Sharing, we connect visibly, effectively, efficiently, and powerfully to answer those needs. Together, we are much stronger. Together, we have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to assist and to connect with those whose lives have now been forever changed.

The legacy lives on. Give generously to this great connector of our churches and our shared faith, work, and witness in the world. Give generously, for as long as a sister or a brother is in need, we are all in need.  Give generously at the March 30th service or online.  Thank you for your leadership.

Gratefully, Pastor Laurie

I arise today, on March 17th. I am reminded of a stanza from St Patrick’s breastplate:
Through the strength of heaven,14_thirsty
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock…..

The sun is indeed bright in the days approaching equinox. The moon was stunningly radiant in its fullness Saturday night, and the wind has been swift.

This week’s lectionary delves into the meaning of “living water”. Water holds great meaning throughout the sacred scriptures of the world, including ours.  Water bathes the newborn, and is used to minister to the bodies of the sick and dying.  Our bodies are made mostly of water. Our green blue planet has life because of the living waters. So much meaning is attached to this simple combination of hydrogen and oxygen, so imbued with meanings and metaphors.

What’s bubbling up to the surface as you consider, what it is you are thirsting for. What is your deepest thirst? What sustenance and refreshment are you finding on your journey–or longing to find? What are you thirsting for?

Pastor Laurie

Skyline Let It Shine Logo 2014 Stewardship

You and I are called to be light. Jesus said so! As Eugene Peterson translates Matthew 5:14-16:

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous God in heaven.

Jesus said these words in Matthew’s gospel as the conclusion to his Sermon on the Mount (the Beatitudes).  To me, this means that we are blessed as we boldly live our faith in the world.  To me, this means that the light that shines is one that comes from a life of vulnerable compassion and solidarity with all people, especially those who are poor, meek, merciful, those who mourn, are pure, are peacemakers, who hunger and thirst for justice.

Much like our denomination, the United Church of Christ , the Skyline Community Church story is one of being guided by the light of that amazing and radiant God, who lifts us from the night and awakens us to each new day.  For fifty years, much like our denomination, ours has been a story of seeking to live in the light and truth that the “still speaking” God is revealing in this time and place.

God’s Light has led us to become the first denomination to ordain an African American, a woman, and an openly gay man. God’s light has led this faith community to serve as a beacon of light, as a progressive, inclusive, multi-racial, open and affirming, peace and justice community, locally here in Oakland, and globally, as far as Sierra Leone.

God’s light has led us to offer inspiring worship, education and children’s programs to a diverse and wide community; people hungry for a faith that speaks to their minds as well as their hearts in this changing pluralistic world. God’s light has led us to improve the quality of our preschool and our wedding programs to serve the wider community.

During this season of Lent, I invite you to join us on the journey of deepening your faith and considering the light, the gifts, the calling that God has blessed you with, so that truly, your light will shine!

With Love,
Pastor Laurie

Transformation & Rebirth: The Wisdom of the Mystics

“When you realize that eternity is right here now, that it is within your possibility to experience the eternity of your own truth and being, then you grasp the following: That which you are was never born and will never die” 
― Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor

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Dear Friends,

Transfiguration …the indescribable mystery and beauty of standing upon the mountaintop, in radiant glory and seeing for one brief moment the place where heaven meets earth, God incarnate.  Savor the words of Pulitzer prize winning poet Mary Oliver, that speaks of our desire to behold Jesus, in the flesh.
Blessings upon your week,

Pastor Laurie

The Vast Ocean Begins Just Outside Our Church: The Eucharist – by Mary Oliver

Something has happened
To the bread
And the wine.

They have been blessed.
What now?
The body leans forward

To receive the gift
From the priest’s hand,
Then the chalice.

They are something else now
From what they were
Before this began.

I want
To see Jesus,
Maybe in the clouds

Or on the shore,
Just walking,
Beautiful man

And clearly
Someone else

On the hard days
I ask myself
If I ever will.

Also there are times
My body whispers to me
That I have.

This Sunday we have a another wonderful service of moving music and drama as we explore the journey of our lives. 

In a sense, we are moved like sailors on the ocean of life by the real but invisible presence of the winds and guided by the heavenly lights of the sun, moon and stars,  as we travel to new and distant shores.

We are on the journey together as individuals, together as families, and together as a faith community.

I encourage you all to come together for our retreat this Sunday after worship! Lunch and childcare is provided.

In thinking about the journey, I am reminded of  how often Jesus repeated to his followers, “Fear not, I am with you always”. I am also reminded of this  beautiful reflection on the importance of cultivating peace on the sometimes perilous journey. It is by Buddhist monk, Thich Naht Hanh, written during the Vietnam war:

The Three Gems

Many of us worry about the situation of the world. We don’t know when the bombs will explode. We feel that we are on the edge of time. As individuals, we feel helpless, despairing. The situation is so dangerous, injustice is so widespread, the danger is close. In this kind of a situation, if we panic, things will only become worse. We need to remain calm, to see clearly. Meditation is to be aware, and to try to help.

I like to use the example of a small boat crossing the Gulf of Siam. In Vietnam, there are many people, called boat people, who leave the country in small boats. Often the boats are caught in rough seas or storms, the people may panic, and boats may sink. But if even one person aboard can remain calm, lucid, knowing what to do and what not to do, he or she can help the boat survive. His or her expression – face, voice – communicates clarity and calmness, and people have trust in that person. They will listen to what he or she says. One such person can save the lives of many.

Our world is something like a small boat. Compared with the cosmos, our planet is a very small boat. We are about to panic because our situation is no better than the situation of the small boat in the sea. You know that we have more than 50,000 nuclear weapons. Humankind has become a very dangerous species. We need people who can sit still and be able to smile, who can walk peacefully. We need people like that in order to save us. Mahayana Buddhism says that you are that person, that each of you is that person. (p. 11-12)

Greetings from chilly New England!
The day after snowstorm Hercules blanketed us with over a foot of snow, we were greeted with clear blue skies.  Sunshine sparkled on the pristine snow and shimmering waters of Narragansett Bay, as we drove to my beloved Aunt’s funeral service at the monastery in my home town.

It reminded me of the promise of the new year, of baptism and of new life, for her and for us all.

May it be so with each one of us,
Blessings, Pastor Laurie

Psalm 29
Ascribe to God, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to God glory and strength.
Ascribe to God the glory of God’s name;
worship God in holy splendor.
The voice of God is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
God, over mighty waters.
The voice of God is powerful;
the voice of God is full of majesty.
The voice of God breaks the cedars;
God breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
God makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of God flashes forth
in flames of fire.
The voice of God shakes the wilderness;
God shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of God causes the oaks to whirl,
and strips the forest bare;
and in God’s temple all say, ‘Glory!’
God sits enthroned over the flood;
God sits enthroned as ruler forever.
May God give strength to the people!
May God bless the people with peace!

  by Lord Alfred Tennyson 

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

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Skyline UCC
A United Church of Christ
12540 Skyline Boulevard
Oakland, CA 94619
(510) 531-8212

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