Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2014
The 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.
Posted: Wednesday, December 10, 2014
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.
“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
Posted: Wednesday, November 5, 2014
We 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.
Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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 ~
Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2014
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.
Cut the cord.
Pull the plug.
Break the chains
that tie and bind.
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.
and go forth into life yet unlived.
be pure of spirit,
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.
Posted: Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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 your 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.
Posted: Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Here are a few lovely quotes to reflect upon.
Blessings upon your journey this week!
Love, Pastor Laurie
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 20th century
“Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
Bruce Epperly, Christian Century 1-26-10
“When author Madeleine L’Engle was asked, ‘Do you believe in God without any doubts?’ she replied, ‘I believe in God with all my doubts.'”
Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. 20th century
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
M. Scott Peck, 20th century
“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”
Madeleine L’Engle, 20th century
“Some things have to be believed to be seen.”
Posted: Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Here are some beautiful thoughts for all of us to reflect upon in our lives, in our relationships with one another, and in the world.
Martin Luther King Jr., 20th century
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, 20th century
“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”
Abraham Lincoln, 19th century
“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
Dr Fred Kuskin, Stanford University, the Forgiveness project
“People don’t understand what strength and courage it takes [to forgive]. It’s an assertive statement that this awful event is not going to mar my whole life — that there’s more to me than that.”
Posted: Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Who’s welcome here? You are! You know the tagline… let’s say it together… “No matter who you are, where you are on your life’s journey, you are welcome here..”! Part of the family!
Many UCC members suffer from a chronic identity crisis. People ask us, what do United Church of Christ members believe? And—we freeze! We don’t know what to say, because we UCC’ers believe so many things, so many different things. We are priests of paradox, apostles of ambiguity, nattering nabobs of nuance.
And so the UCC produces the “God is still speaking campaign”, including our legacy of firsts, our taglines, with countless videos, pamphlets and little wallet cards all to remind us what we kinda sorta believe. We are exhorted to compose elevator speeches, summations of UCC’ers so pithy they might be recited on an elevator in its fleeting passage between floors.
Do we believe in God? Question—simple. Answer—impossible.
Define “God.” Define “believe.” Define “we.” Define “in.”
Whatever God is or is not, I don’t think God cares what we believe. I don’t think Jesus cares what we believe. I don’t think the Buddha doesn’t care what we believe.
The important question is not what we believe, it’s where we stand.
I want to be extremists for love… where all are welcome.Of course when I say “standing” I’m not talking about a physical posture. Rosa Parks stood on the side of love by remaining seated.I’m talking about a moral stance not just assumed privately in our hearts but witnessed boldly in our families and schools and workplaces and communities, at the State House, in the halls of Congress. I’m talking about faith in action.I’m not talking about sanctimony. I’m talking about intentionality. Understanding that our practice will be imperfect as each of us is imperfect, what is our purpose? What is our aspiration? What is our commitment?
Extremists for love. No matter who you are, you are welcome here.
- When UCC minister Samuel Sewell challenged the institution of slavery in the UC, writing the first anti slavery pamphlet in America, in 1700, “The selling of Joseph, he laid the foundation for the abolitionist movement a century later, he was an extremist for love.
- When the UCC, in 1785, ordained Lemuel Haynes, the first African American pastor ordained by a protestant denomination, we were extremists for love -All are welcome here!
- When the UCC ordained Antoinette Brown in 1854, as the first woman since New Testament times to serve as a Christian minister, and perhaps the first woman in history elected to serve as a Christian pastor to a congregation, we were extremists for love. All are welcome!
- When the UCC, Golden Gate Association in 1972, ordained Bill Johnson as the first openly gay minister in an historical protestant denomination, and went on for the next three decades as a national synod urging the equal rights for homosexual citizens, and to become the first denomination to support equal marriage rights for same sex couples, we were extremists for love. All are welcome!
- When on July 4, 2005 the UCC overwhelming voted as a denomination to support same gender marriage equality,
- when, in 2008, at the height of the debate over same-sex marriage in California during Prop 8 this congregation hung a banner in front of the church entrance, proclaiming to every passerby “Support Marriage Equality. We do.”
- And when your pastor blessed same sex couples, for many years before it was a legal right, and urged all heterosexual couples she married to stand in solidarity with them, until the day, that this became a legal right for all people, we were extremists for love. All are welcome here!
By the way, did you hear that the states that allow same sex marriage have lower divorce rates?In states where same-sex marriages are legally recognized, the divorce rate is 20 percent lower than in states that only allow marriages between a man and a woman. Rachel Maddow says “It turns out gay marriage is a Defense of Marriage Act.” Who knew?
Extremists for love doesn’t require power. It requires courage. Because courage is power.When a child on a playground sticks up for another who is teased or bullied or left out because they’re different, that child is an extremist for love.
Let’s celebrate the blessed uniqueness, within, and among us all! Our true colors, the full spectrum of beautiful differences.
Together, we stand, as As MLK wrote, as Jesus lived, together we stand on the side of love, a still speaking God calling us to confront exclusion and violence based on identity, be it sexual orientation, gender presentation, immigration status, race, class, religions, nationality, physical ability, or any other excuse for harassment.
Our denomination is working for full equality—across the board—for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
Extremists for love means treating each other well, whether ally or adversary. “Love is patient;” wrote the Apostle Paul, “love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.”
Extremists for love means being more committed to being reconciled than to being right. Love “does not insist on its own way…. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
A religious person, Rabbi Abraham Heschel taught us, is one “whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.”His friend Martin Luther King Jr. added, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
So when someone asks us what UCC members believe, or why we’re speaking out on gay rights or immigrant rights or disability rights or human rights, or why we bother to drag our sorry selves down to Skyline Community Church on a Sunday morning, let’s tell ‘em: no matter who you are, where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!
We are extremists for love… no matter who you are, or where you are on your life’s journey, you are welcome here!
Amen and Blessed Be.