Archive for Pastor’s Weekly Message

The Wilderness of Being Human

The “tempter,” the “deceiver,” ha-satan in Hebrew, from whence we get Satan … gets, I think, a bad rap. Tempting and deceiving are aspects of being human. These are the shadow, or wilderness, sides of ourselves where we are susceptible. Perhaps, most critically, the story of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness tells us he is human. The gospels are deliberate. In all three synoptic accounts we read: Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness… (Matthew and Luke) or even …the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. (Mark). What could be clearer? God, the Spirit, draws Jesus into intentional encounter with his humanity, the pain and trials of being human. This is scripture’s way of telling us that whatever we believe Jesus to be, however we experience him, however he ministered, healed, changed lives or spoke for justice – he did it living in a human skin. He knew what it was to be a man. Of course, there are things about Jesus’ divine nature none of us understand. All of the names – Christ, messiah, Son of God, Son of Man, the Risen Lord – are attempts to explain the part of his nature that defies our understanding, to explain experiences people had of him. However, the gospels confirm that he knew what it was to be human. Take comfort in the idea that Jesus knew what it was like to be you.

Peace and grace   – Pastor Carol

What You See Depends on Where You Stand

The disciples got a new view of Jesus when they all hiked up Mt. Horeb. Scripture says Jesus “was transfigured” before them, became luminous, and was accompanied by Moses and Elijah. There were clouds and a Voice, and Peter wanted to build dwellings so they could all just stay in that wonder forever. And then, poof. It all vanished. But they had seen something unexpected, or at least different from what they had been used to in Jesus as their rabbi. They were shaken. Their perspective changed.

And we heard and reflected on Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot,” a startling and beautiful reflection on the place of humanity in the context of the immensity of the cosmos. Try to imagine your own life in a completely different framework from what you are used to – economically, racially, linguistically, socially, and a hundred other ways. It’s hard to shift your position like that, isn’t it? It changes how you live, relate, and make decisions. What you see truly does depend on where you stand. We listened well to one another in retreat last week and I know at least one person had their perspective changed by paying holy attention. Yes, a change of perspective might be revealing and clarifying, or it might be a sickening lurch. But be ready to shift perspective. Maybe stand somewhere else.  God is in there.

Peace and grace — Pastor Carol

“Be Thou My Vision …”

What a beautiful hymn we sang together!  And what a wonderful retreat experience we shared.  Gratitude to all those who helped to plan, set up, and clean up from our Sunday retreat.  Most of all, gratitude to the 25 people who signed up and gave their hearts and their time to think about who we are as a church and what our calling might be going forward.  Mark Moulton gave us great leadership and we were so happy for the presence and participation of Mort Frank, who has also given unstintingly of his time to advise our Property Team.  It was a joy to sit, listen and absorb.  Did we come to “THE answer” for what we are to do with our property?  Probably to the frustration of some – no.  But we understand what our realities are going forward, we have a plan, and one of our commitments was not to look backward or continue ruminating.  We embraced who we are as church-and-school.  We called ourselves “family” which is loving, caring and wonderful but does not address how we are to be invitational to a wider community.  But we’ll get there, I am confident.  The beauty of the retreat was that we were honest and unafraid with each other.  The Spirit was, and surely is, in our midst.

Keep visioning  — Pastor Carol

It’s All About Making Music

I know there are a few folks in our midst who would claim they can’t carry a tune in a bucket.  But I’m here to declare that God loves your voice – because it’s yours.  There are also more than a few who are really good, instinctive singers.  You can’t hide!  I can hear you! (and I delight in it).  I hope that we all experienced a different and uplifting form of worship on Sunday.  It was all music, interwoven with scriptures read expertly by Maritza, plus background stories about the various songs and hymns.  Do you believe it – we sang all or part of 20 different songs!?  That’s a lot of making a joyful noise unto God.  God hears the music in the souls of all creatures (we are not the only ones who sing).  Do you sing when you are alone – working, cooking, walking, exercising, driving, in the shower?  Do you sing out loud, or in your mind?  You sing what you need to hear or share, whether it is joyous, silly, sad or reflective.  You sing unconsciously in time with your footsteps, your breathing, or your heartbeat, so music is your prayer.  Better yet – do you dance, clap your hands?  Move your body however awkwardly in time to music?  Let these prayers keep moving through you.  They change the world because they change you.

Keep singing   — Pastor Carol  

Drop Those Nets. Take a Chance

This week we read Mark’s story (1:14-20) of the call of the first disciples.  Everyone in this story takes a chance.  The fishermen drop their nets and walk away from family and livelihood to follow Jesus, to “fish for people,” whatever that means.  Jesus embarks on his pattern of inviting random strangers to journey with him – people who might be unreliable or dangerous, perhaps not ideal followers.  We thought about the chances we have all taken in our lives – relationships, moving into the unknown, a job, coming out, getting sober.  Whether the chances we take work out according to some ideal or not, we are forever changed.

We are surrounded by the steadfast and loving presence of God who is always taking a chance on us becoming our best, unique selves.  “Best” is not measured in accomplishment but in inner fulfillment and peace, and the cultivation of loving relationships.  “Best” is not a superlative which denies the existence of frailty or failure.  “Best” is living authentically and truthfully, with integrity; maybe even a little wildly.  God’s hope is that we will take chances on people and experiences we don’t fully understand but which we know in our hearts will bring us joy, and make us more fully the persons we were created to be.  We only have so long in this life to teach, or preach, to travel, garden, crunch numbers, fish, or whatever before we die.  Poet Mary Oliver asks in her poem “A Summer Day:”  Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? I think that is God’s question to us.  Let’s take a chance, drop our nets and follow the Spirit’s leading into our future as a church.

Blessings for the journey 
— Pastor Carol


On Monday, January 15, over 400 volunteers from 22 member congregations of the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition, joined in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.  We breakfasted and fellowshipped together and broke into groups for more than 15 projects – from sewing, to gardening, to singing, cooking, book shelving, building, and assembling hygiene kits.  It was an important and empowering day, making lives better in our communities.  The best way to share it is with some pictures of Islanders at work!  Please reflect this week on the work and messages of Dr. King, and what they mean for your life … especially, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”

Blessings as we serve together  — Pastor Carol

What’s your light?

In hearing the story of the magi, visitors from afar who sought out Jesus, we asked what was leading or guiding them – and what leads or guides us?  Like travelers, we must navigate and find what we can trust, our North Star, even though that North Star wobbles a bit in the sky.  We have, and will, make mistakes, as individuals and as communities.  We will sometimes claim to find light in a path which is ultimately destructive or unrewarding.

What leads us on is Christ’s promise of the inbreaking reign of God.  When in darkness, each of us must seek our light, that which keeps us following Jesus.  And communities, even when they have differences, need to sing, pray, work, discuss and reach out together.  When the world sees a community of individuals who practice love, who work and share together, even when their roads are bumpy, who feed each other, not just ritually, but in reality, they will see a very different kind of church than the one that has spent centuries in decline.

The magi knew they could not trust Herod and returned home “by another road.”  It took courage to choose an unfamiliar way.  The way of Jesus calls us into the unknown.  Are we courageous enough to follow; not to accept the familiar; not to accede to power just because it is power and sounds authoritative, and perhaps secure?  Can we look for something else – perhaps an unknown road, a new light.  Can we follow the pole star of our teacher and Christ even when it takes us on an untraveled, risky, bumpy road?

Blessings and light on your path  — Pastor Carol 

Happy New Year! Feliz Ano Nuevo! Bonne Annee!

The secular calendar reminds us of that which we already know in our hearts – our God is a loving God of new starts and new beginnings.  Welcome to 2018!  What will be different in your heart, your home, and your church this year?  I invite you to imagine, and imagine BIG.  We are pointing toward a Sunday of worship and retreat with Mark Moulton on February 4 and need your participation.  In many ways the new year is like a blank book and you hold the pen.  Help us to write a great story.

Just because the year is new and the calendar turns a page we don’t discard all that has happened or all that we have learned.  We are richer for everyone we have known, all that has happened to us and through us, and all the ways we have wondered and grown.  Thanks be to God.

Peace and grace to you in the New Year
Pastor Carol


Love is Stronger than Fear

So many of the characters and stories surrounding Christmas – both in scripture and in our day – center on courage.  What courage it took Mary and Joseph to make a dangerous journey into an unknown future.  What courage it takes today’s immigrants and refugees to leave the familiar and venture into the unknown.  What courage it took, and takes, to resist oppression and follow the call of God to take chances and create a just world.  What courage it takes to trust that God will indeed be present through our communities and dear ones and, yes, even strangers – when we are in need.

What undergirds that courage is LOVE – love that we give and the love that we receive.  Love is courageous.  Once I heard that the opposite of love is not hatred, or indifference.  It is fear.  Do not be fearful.  Know God’s love born anew in the Spirit of Christ in our midst, and go with courage into the future that opens before us.

Beloveds, we have shared a full and wonderful year together.  You have touched me deeply with your love, support, and good humor, and I am very, very grateful.  I pray for you all and hope this season has been, and will be, full of blessing for you, your friends and families.  Let us anticipate and expect together the world of hope and justice that Jesus brings.

Peace and grace to you in the New Year — Pastor Carol 

Finding God’s Joy

God is joyful.  God is not only joyful, God is joy.  It is in God’s nature.  As an exercise in finding God’s joy we reflected on the wonderful picture of the
Laughing Jesus (below) by Willis Wheatley.

Jesus had a remarkable quality of transparency.  Truth be told, most of us are not very transparent.  We tote around masks, lenses, and agendas through which we see the world and disguise ourselves.  It’s human habit.  We do this because we have fears (often unconscious) about how we appear.  We want to look good, smart, acceptable and most of all, in control.  Unfortunately, these “faces” we show the world also cover the spark of the Divine, the Holy Spirit, in each of us.  It’s there; it’s just smoked over.  As Paul would say, it is like “looking through a glass darkly,” so others may not regularly get to see God in most of us.  Jesus was so transparent that the Spirit of God was visible in him, which was why some people thought he was God.  So if Jesus was transparent, if God could be seen through him, then that joy on his face was God’s joy.  That laughter was God’s laughter.

The real title of the Laughing Jesus was Jesus Christ, Liberator.  If this is Jesus Christ, our Liberator, then the expression on his face must be God’s unmitigated joy whenever people anywhere are freed from oppressions of body or spirit.  Let us be joyful liberators.

Blessings — Pastor Carol