Dear Friends

Please join us this Sunday as we continue our celebration of Black History Month. We will explore one of the most famous teachings of Jesus, as found in Luke 6:17-25, commonly called the Beatitudes. We will also look at one particular episode of Black History, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and how it embodies Christian values in regard to social change. Hope to see you – Jim

 

Upcoming

February Black History Month
Feb 17   Rev. Jim, Black History theme
Feb 24   Rev. Jim, Black History theme

March Lent Begins
Mar 3    The Feast of the Transfiguration, Communion
Mar 6    Ash Wednesday
Mar 10  The First Sunday in Lent, Rev. Sandhya Jha, Disciples Minister and Executive Director Oakland Peace Center

The Life of The Church

Celebrating Epiphany

Last Sunday we continued our celebration of the Epiphany season with the passage that contains the first sermon Jesus preached, in his home town synagogue, in the presence of his parents. He lays out his platform, his own state of the union, if you will. This was Part One–the easier part.

In the liturgy we used some poetry by the late, great, American poet Mary Oliver, who died recently https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/17/obituaries/mary-oliver-dead.html.  Many people have found her writing to be a spiritual portal. In the United Church of Christ we are fond of saying “God Is Still Speaking” and Mary Oliver through her writing reminds us that God sill speaks in nature.

Next week we’ll hear the second half of his sermon–the one where he goes “from preaching to meddling,” as we used to say in the South.

 

Upcoming

February Black History Month
Feb 10   Rev. Dr. Justin Tanis, Pacific School of Religion, transgender theologian
Feb 17   Rev. Jim, Black History theme
Feb 24   Rev. Jim, Black History theme

March Lent Begins
Mar 3    The Feast of the Transfiguration, Communion
Mar 6    Ash Wednesday
Mar 10  The First Sunday in Lent, Rev. Sandhya Jha, Disciples Minister and Executive Director Oakland Peace Center

Dear Friends

Join us this Sunday for the Feast of the Epiphany, the story in which Jesus, Mary and Joseph are visited by Wise ones from another culture, and are warned to flee to another country to find asylum there, to protect the life of young Jesus, as told in Matthew 2:1-15. We will hear contemporary songs and readings, including one by the eminent theologian at Pacific School of Religion, the Rev. R. Jay Johnson. We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper where we are pleased to welcome everyone- without exception- to the table. The word epiphany means “manifestation” and we are called to look and listen to where God is being manifest today. All throughout January we will be looking for Manifestation, revelations of God’s continuous and active presence in our lives. Our January Theme is “The Voice of God is Calling”. Join us! Jim

Upcoming
Sunday, January 13th – The Feast of the Baptism of Jesus Christ. We also include a ceremony devised and presided over by Todd Atkins-Whitley for the renewal of baptismal vows. If you have never been baptized and would like to be on this Sunday, or on another date, speak to Rev. Jim.

Sunday, January 20th -The Feast of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Our guest preacher is the Rev. Dr. D. Mark Wilson, who teaches at UC Berkeley where he conducts the Gospel choir, and at St. Mary ‘s College where he teaches diversity work. https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/d-mark-wilson
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Christmas isn’t over yet. More revelations await us. Join us this Sunday at 10 am as we revisit and continue the story.  We’ll look at John 1:1-14, a poetic interpretation of the Christmas story. Join us! – Rev Jim
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

We have two special services in the next week, and we hope to see you and your friends and family if possible. On Sunday morning we will conclude Advent by lighting the fourth candle representing Love. My sermon will focus on Mary and her song of joy, the Magnificat, as found in Luke 1:46-55. On Christmas Eve at 6 pm we will celebrate the mystery and the beauty of the incarnation. We will hear the ancient story and one rendered in the ancient story from Luke 2:1-20 as well as a contemporary version by Todd Atkins-Whitley that brings the old story into the present. Join us on this night when God comes to us in the form of a child and experience spiritual re-birth through the birth of Jesus. I hope to see you! Merry Christmas! Rev. Jim
Rev. Jim Mitulski

From Pastor Carol …

How do you thank people for incredibly loving and generous hearts? I am so grateful to all of you for your fond and affirming farewells, and wonderful gifts. So I offer a few words – first from Sunday’s message.

Remember in the days and weeks ahead to: Show Up… Pay Attention… Tell the Truth… and Be Open to the Outcome. (Thank you, Angeles Arrien.) This is a life-giving practice which I am sure will lead you as individuals and as a congregation into a wonderful future.

Secondly from poet, meditator, and yoga practitioner, Danna Faulds:

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear
fantasies, failures, and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, your practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.

May you continue to be blessed, and live as blessings to others –       Carol


Draw the Circle Wide

It’s always a special joy to worship on LGBTQ Pride weekend. This is a not just standing up for equality and justice for our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. It is also a reminder that ours is a God of love, without condemnation or fear, and that all are created in the image of God. ALL. These are our friends and our families. The United Church of Christ has taken a lead for over 40 years in championing LGBTQ rights and equality, but the effect is not even, or universal, and there is much work to be done. It starts – as so many things do – with one-on-one relationships, letting people know they are valued and safe; even revered for the gifts they bring to family and community. At the close of worship we sang “Draw the Circle Wide,” with the chorus:
          Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still;
          Let this be our song, no one stands alone,
          Standing side by side, draw the circle wide.
No one stands alone. Inspired by Jesus, who welcomed all, draw your circle wide and wider still, and imagine ways that Island United Church can be that welcoming circle for the LGBTQ community on the peninsula. After all, we have a sign over the front patio that says “Welcome Home!”
Blessings,   – Pastor Carol

What Is It?

Jesus keeps telling his disciples that the kin-dom of God (or realm, reign, etc.) is like a whole bunch of interesting things…a pearl, leaven, a sower, seed, yeast, treasure, a merchant, a net, a landowner … huh? Now we are all thoroughly confused. What is it?? It is a place where all people are fed in body and spirit….a place where all people are free and respected….a place where compassion reigns over competition and negativism….a place where forgiveness and grace count for more than accomplishments and winning….a place that belongs to children and the young….a place where there are no weapons of destruction….a place where attributes like skin color, sexual orientation, gender expression, language or dress are interesting, but do not define people. Rather, it is the quality of their hearts. Maybe it’s even a place where the diverse, the wild, and the puzzling are valued as just more manifestations of the images of God.

Of course, the realm of God is not a “place.”  It is to be built and cultivated inside of ourselves individually and communally.  The realm of God – which is a world changed by daring compassion and justice – is not a thing for which we can create blueprints, cost estimates, and then go out and build it. Frankly, anybody can do that. What we are called to do as God’s people, as brothers and sisters, is to continue and expand the work to heal a hurting world. If we are not doing that, then we are not working on the realm of God.

Blessings,   – Pastor Carol


Always Room for Gratitude

Scripture and other wisdom literature remind us to be grateful; to be thankful. Gratitude is one of the core values of every religious tradition. We even have medical evidence that adopting gratitude as a life practice is good for our health. If it’s so good for body and soul, why is it so difficult to do? We came up with a few reasons: (1) We are just so darn busy, programmed with tasks and worries, that we don’t feel like we can take “time out” – even for a minute. (2) Complaining is contagious and when we are around complaining people, it’s hard to be grateful. We need to extricate ourselves from whine-fests. (3) We really are ungrateful, or acting that way – but most likely we are unhappy rather than ungrateful. Try breaking a seemingly insurmountable problem down into manageable pieces and likely there is room for gratitude. (4) We get complacent. Everything is going well for us. Besides, we work so hard and deserve all this goodness we have. Try reclaiming the awesomeness of the universe. It’s not all about you! (5) We have been spared true disaster and loss in life, and the accompanying experience of just being grateful for life, breath, a small keepsake, and those we love.
Remember to begin and end each day with a grateful heart.

Blessings,   – Pastor Carol


Rule-Breaking

Jesus was perpetually involved in controversy.  He knew the letter of the Law as well as the Pharisees, but he had the spirit part down, too. He grasped the meaning and intention with which God had infused the “rules.”  That understanding permitted him to heal people on the sabbath, eat with tax collectors and other offensive sorts, and rescue women being stoned for adultery.  He was freed up to show love in action. By contrast, others appeared to care only for rules, and nothing about an ethic of humane justice.  Too often faith leaders mistake human interpretations of God’s hopes and intentions for our living to be, in fact, the iron-clad word of God.  Maybe the Pharisees thought they were faithfully upholding God’s commandment to keep the Sabbath holy, but it is easy to see how values can turn oppressive.

Sometimes rules must be ignored in the interest of preserving life – physical and spiritual. What does it mean when Jesus breaks rules? Is this blanket permission for all people of faith to get disobedient? I’ve marched; I’ve protested; I’ve lain down in a street. But no, it’s not wild justification or a blank check for whatever view or action we choose.  When Jesus broke the rules as he did with the sabbath healings, he did so to lift up God’s priorities:  Do good. Save and enhance life. Marginalization, discrimination, violence, hatred, and so forth, even dressed up with righteousness and legalities, still show that holy priorities are being undercut by personal or collective human interests.  When Jesus broke rules, he did so for others, not for his own personal gain.  Convoluted justifications for the unjust rules some so passionately defend are of no interest to God. God only desires that we “do good” and “save life,” even if it means breaking rules.

                                          – Pastor Carol