Archive for Pastor’s Weekly Message

Dear Friends

Mighty God,
in whom we know the power of redemption,
you stand among us in the shadows of our time.

As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,
uphold us with knowledge of the final morning
when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,
we will share in his resurrection,
redeemed and restored to the fullness of life
and forever freed to be your people. Amen.

Please join us for worship this week and for the congregational conversation afterwards.

In my sermon we’ll look in Luke 24:13-48 at how Jesus steadied the faith of the people in his community in the midst of change. Our country is going through changes; our church is changing. Yet one thing remains – the love of Christ and the capacity for new beginnings and ongoing resurrections.

We hope you’ll join us.

In faith,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Grant, we pray, O God,
that we, who share in the paschal celebrations,
may, through your goodness,
hold fast to them
in the way we live our lives;
through Jesus Christ
who is alive with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
(from New Zealand Prayer Book)

Easter is a season of resurrections – fifty full days, an extra ten days to compensate for the seriousness of Lent. It’s also a season of change. This week at church I noticed the calla lilies and the wisteria in bloom. It just breathed new life! new life! everywhere I looked, even though it was still a little brisk outside.

This week I’ll reflect on “Faithful Thomas” as I invite us to think of him this year, as told in John 20:19-31.

This will also be Rev. Elisabeth’s last Sunday with us as interim associate minister. We will have the opportunity to thank her and appreciate her for her faithfulness in ministry among us over the last few years. Plan in advance what you might want to say, or email me something you might want me to read at [email protected].

I look forward to seeing you.

With love,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light:
Look favorably on your whole Church,
that wonderful and sacred mystery;
by the effectual working of your providence,
carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation;
let the whole world see and know that things
which were cast down are being raised up,
and things which had grown old are being made new,
and that all things are being brought to their perfection
by the one through whom all things were made,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Easter IS Coming! We’re almost there. It is a holy time of year for many of our friends and neighbors as well. We are still in Passover time. My editorial from last week’s San Mateo Daily Journal was reprinted this week in the Jewish Weekly. I have heard from many of our Jewish friends how important it is that we Christians recognize that this can be a sensitive and difficult time for them https://www.jweekly.com/2021/03/26/christian-pastor-this-holy-week-im-giving-up-antisemitism/  Our friends from the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition remind us it is a holy time for Hindus too https://youtu.be/a0HGV8Ark44.

This is still the week of Christ’s Passion, his great suffering and his great love for us, love that is stronger than death. As I write this, I have been watching the trial of Derek Chauvin, and the painful and unseemly spectacle of children testifying to what they witnessed, the death of one man at the hands of another, empowered by the state. A reminder that crucifixions continue, and a challenge for us to make sure they don’t.  George Floyd did not have to die. Before we get to Easter, we still have to grapple with Good Friday.

I was so moved on Tuesday when the current members of the reading group read the final chapter of our latest read, Know My Name by Chanel Miller. It was divided into eight voices, and they took turns reading it aloud. It was like a modern day reading of the Passion, a powerful narrative that took place locally, a story that many women experience and that does not always get told. Thank you, readers, for sharing this story out loud and for your willingness to share it with us. You don’t have to have read the book to appreciate the testimony. If you want to deepen your spiritual life during Holy Week, listen to these women read this testimony. Note: There is graphic material in this testimony. https://youtu.be/lN7NYdcl-q0

I am raising these instances because they are our reality. Also because I believe Resurrection is and can and will be our reality. After a year of sheltering in place I know we are ready for resurrection. This year we are looking at Mark’s version of the Easter story, 16:1-8.  It’s a simple and direct version, reminding us that we will find the Risen One “in Galilee” – in our lives just as we are living them. Between now and Sunday, look around for signs of resurrection. Start now. Don’t wait until then, and don’t stop after Easter. As always at Island United Church, come as you are on Easter Sunday – in Easter finery with hats, or in your bunny slippers and bathrobe. Be part of our resurrection celebration. Bring bread and cup for communion. Be prepared for trumpets and alleluias and new beginnings.

With love,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Assist us mercifully with your help, O God of our liberation, that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality, through Jesus Christ, Amen. (Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer)

This Sunday begins Holy Week, a week full of passion, excitement, action, drama, emotion, betrayal, and suffering. It is also a story of Jesus showing his love for humanity, then and now, using his body to show solidarity and his spirit to demonstrate eternal life.

Stick with the story every step of the way, which begins this Sunday with Mark 11:1-11. Stick with the journey as it unfolds throughout the events with which we are so familiar: the Last Supper, Crucifixion, and the period of waiting. These last few weeks we are hearing about widespread suffering, continuing acts of prejudice, horrific gun violence – all real. We have an acute need for the imminent Season of Resurrections. But for now, stick with the Lenten journey a little longer.

Yours in faith,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Please join us Sunday as we welcome the Rev. Roberto Ochoa from the national offices of the United Church of Christ as our preacher. Roberto has many responsibilities as a national officer, including shepherding Congregations of Color in the UCC. I have known him for many years, and he is the consummate pastor. I know his presence will be a blessing for us as he preaches on John 12:20-33.

Please keep Asian and Asian-American members of our communities in your prayers during a time of increased and documented violence. I know we are especially horrified by what has happened in Atlanta, which we are still learning about as I write this. Nine of us are reading Know My Name by Chanel Miller right now, which describes her experience of sexual violence as an Asian-American woman in this area. This is a time for solidarity. Here is one statement by communities most immediately affected in Atlanta. Stay tuned for further responses as we learn more. In the meantime, please pray and reach out to the Asian and Asian-American people in your life and in our community to say, “We notice, we care.”

Hope to see you Sunday.
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

This week’s gospel lesson (John 3:14-21) is about the Love that is at the heart of Lent. It contains the verse that is sometimes famously quoted: “For God so loved the world….” The lesson follows the story of Nicodemus and Jesus’s teaching on spiritual rebirth, but it isn’t really attached to it or any particular story. It can be applied to all of our stories. The whole Lenten journey is one of sacrificial love on the part of Jesus. In our lives we engage in and often benefit from this love toward and from others. And we all experience God’s unconditional love.

Join us as we look at Love in the context of Lent, anticipating what we will testify to on Easter when we sing “Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!” in our most famous Easter hymn.

On the Lenten journey together,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. Have you signed up for this Tuesday’s Passover Seder yet? Do so today! Remember to register for both our special social time with Peninsula Temple Beth El AND for the main Seder; there are two separate registration links.

ALSO – Urgent:
I need someone to meet Ken from PTBE at church – preferably tomorrow (Friday) – to put our Passover bags indoors. We have to figure out how to get them to you before Tuesday. Maybe they can be left outdoors by the office door and we can deliver some. Because of the registration process, I don’t know who signed up.

Let me know if you can help with this ASAP at [email protected] or text/call me at 323-578-4454.

Dear Friends

I know there has been a lot of notice in the news about the changing levels of quarantine and safety surrounding Covid-19, especially as people are beginning to get vaccinated. Thankfully, a number of people in our own congregation have been vaccinated.

It has been almost a year exactly since we moved to Zoom community while continuing to maintain the fabric of our community both on Sundays and on weekdays. Thank you for your faithfulness in participation and financial support. It has and will make a difference as we begin to enter what I am calling re-entry or maybe more properly re-emergence over the next 6 months. Your presence is especially vital in this phase about which I’ll be saying more in the weeks to come. For now, we are not resuming in-person worship, even if our friends at neighboring churches do so. Plan on a fully scheduled week of liturgical celebrations for Palm Sunday, Maundy/Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and of course Easter, all via Zoom.

I hope you will register NOW for the upcoming Freedom Seder and for this special social/reception/breakout time in advance with our friends from Peninsula Temple Beth El. We need to have a head count in advance because they are preparing special “Seder bags” for us that you will be able to pick up at church or that we will get to you in advance. We plan to welcome in true Island “United” fashion some of the Sisters from the Mercy Center (mercy-center.org) as part of our group that night. You are also welcome to bring friends and family members. It is a great way to prepare spiritually for the events of Holy Week.

We welcome a truly talented preacher this Sunday, Rev. Jakob Hero-Shaw, one of the best students I ever worked with and now pastor of his own church for 10 years in Tampa, Florida. Hope to see you in Zoom church this week.

Faithfully,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. At this past week’s meeting of the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition, Rabbi Corey from Foster City’s own temple – Peninsula Sinai Congregation – did an “introduction to what a Seder is in 15 minutes.” Here’s a link to the engaging presentation. He’s an amazing teacher, which really comes through in this. He also recommended this resource article if you want to read about what is a Passover Seder: Passover 2021 – My Jewish Learning

Dear Friends

This week we conclude our celebration of Black History/Black Futures Month. I was proud to be able to represent the church along with Alexis Lewis at the County Board of Supervisors meeting this week to make a presentation on Black History Month for the over 100 people who were present via Zoom, along with other members of the NAACP, and to be able to say that we observe as sacred the time they were recognizing with the proclamation (see pictures below). I was able to remind them that some states still choose to honor Confederate Memorial Day in place of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

My sermon will take us deeper into Lent as we look at Mark 8:31-38. You still have time to join us in our weekly Lenten Prayer Group on Tuesdays from 6 to 6:45 pm. Though small, our group prayed powerfully together this past week about what kind of resurrection we are looking for on Easter.

You can also join our current Tuesday book discussion if you read chapters 1-5 of Know My Name by Chanel Miller for next week. For our first session there were ten of us from all over the country (including two from Texas!). One of the members shared this video by the author describing an art exhibition she did at the Asian Art Museum:  https://exhibitions.asianart.org/exhibitions/chanel-miller-i-was-i-am-i-will-be/

Spirit is moving at Island United Church. Be sure to be part of it! Hope to see you in Zoom church this week.

Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

This is an early “Mardi Gras” edition of the eweekly to remind you of our Ash Wednesday service tomorrow, Wednesday, February 17, at 7 pm. We are coming together with 5 churches to have an experience we wouldn’t have had in our individual groups. Lent is better together!

I’m also doing a special Lenten prayer group on Tuesdays at 6 to 6:45 pm, starting February 23. A time to check in and a time for prayer, focusing on our prayer lives and these questions: What resurrections are you preparing for? What new life do you seek? This is especially for people who are using the daily Lent of Liberation prayer booklets. I mailed them directly to people who requested them, and Amazon promised a Thursday delivery to you. I also ordered some directly to my house, which I will bring to church. Please let me know if you want one.

Let’s begin this Lenten journey together tomorrow night. Just as joy comes in the morning, so Easter (and the promise of a new beginning) is right around the corner. Let’s prepare as a community! Enjoy a treat today (pancakes? I’m doing keto waffles with sugar-free syrup) on this last day before Lent begins.

Happy Mardi Gras!
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

We continue this week with our observance of Black History Month. We have a guest preacher from Alameda, Amos White, and more special music history from Rev. Dr. D. Mark Wilson.

We also want to celebrate with all our friends who observe Chinese New Year. Our world is so diverse, a reminder to us of the infinite creativity of the God in whose image we are all created. Join with us this Sunday, and plan to be with us on Ash Wednesday as Lent begins.

Take care,
Rev. Jim Mitulski