Posts Tagged ‘God’s presence’

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Palm Sunday Poem

May 6, 2014

TessTaylor2Tess Taylor has been serving as Poet Laureate at First Church Berkeley since the summer of 2013. She has composed several poems based on the liturgical seasons which are read in worship and shared on the First Church website.

This is the poem that Tess wrote for Palm Sunday 2014, which she read in worship on April 13.

AFTER PALMS

And now the holy week begins
again in parade turned prison march.
In the fickle world abandoning.

The news: this year again
evildoers keep the upper hand,
a fashionable cure-all reveals itself as poison,

the blatherers jockey for position.
Absurd politicians parrot hate.
We find we’ve come too early or too late—

we predictably deny you
or linger on in some mean-spirited spot.
When called, we do not recognize you:

You come: We spend your visit cleaning house.

And still you march towards trial.
And still we stay trapped in empty tombs.
And still we do not reconcile.

And when we look to find you, you
point elsewhere, first  from the unearthly back to earth,
first to death, then baffled, back to life:

Because you are the transformed, transforming sign:
The parade, also the penitent,
the riddle, also the riddler.

Storyteller: you become the parable.
You enfold the death inside the rose
and also hold the rose within  the ash

and now appear as worm, as bone, as flesh
as gaping holes within the winding sheet.
And of these you are none & all:

because again you are the blooming plant—

…………….

Find out more about how First Church Berkeley uses the arts in worship and other aspects of community life…

Photo of Tess by Lisa Beth Anderson

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Mother’s Day

May 6, 2014

by Senior Minister Patricia de Jong

As Mother’s Day approaches, I walk by the card aisle at the drugstore and contemplate the card I will not buy this year. Since my own mother has been dead for many years, I am tempted to skip this day altogether, but there are many women in this community and in my life who embody the best of what I believe it means to be a mother, sister, daughter and woman and friend. I am thankful for them all.

Mother’s Day has become for me, a time of quiet celebration of what it means to be a good and courageous human being in whatever life circumstance we find ourselves. The original idea for Mother’s Day emerged out of the Civil War, with a group of grieving mothers resolving to work together to abolish war. The idea of a day for mothers was in response to the heavy toll that war had extracted from their lives. Later, as it became more commercial, people lost sight of the desire for peace and justice that originally grounded a day for mothers.

The origins of this day were centered around the need of women to create a better world for their children rather than becoming the focus of attention and adulation. Perhaps we can reclaim an important aspect of the legacy of those brave women who came before us by intentionally lifting up peace and justice this Mother’s Day.

redcarnationI’d rather not give this day away to Hallmark or Flowers.com or even a great place to have brunch. Instead, I’d like to lift up a prayer for the mothers and fathers of those 270 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped from their school three weeks ago. They still don’t know what happened to the girls or if they will see their children again. And not so far from us, in the Ukraine, the madness of war has once again threatened to destroy the lives of children and families and a whole nation. And our own Mother Earth is ravaged by our lack of conscious attention to the ways we have ignored and abused her.

Every time I baptize a baby, child or adult, I say “Mother of us all,” to remind us that we are held by a powerful and gentle God who broods and frets over us like a mother hen. Yet she also calls forth from us the best of what is means to be a child of God—courage, steadiness of commitment to the common good, lovingkindness and a willingness to act for justice and peace.

However you celebrate this day, may the Mother of Us All shine in you and give you courage and strength for your life work.

Find out more about First Church Berkeley…

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Families of All Shapes & Sizes

June 15, 2012

by Rachel Bauman, First Church’s Minister of Community Life

What is family? Who comes to mind when you hear that word?

There was a time in U.S. popular culture when family was always portrayed like that famous Norman Rockwell image in the Saturday Evening Post: mom, dad, children and grandparents happily enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner. The First Church family gathers at Camp CazaderoWhen it was printed in the 1940’s, this was the prevailing assumption among many about just who made up the American family.

But now most of us have a more expansive, or at least more complicated, view of what constitutes family: blended families, single-parent or same-sex headed households; families created through open adoption; transracial and transnational families; middle-aged adults making tough decisions in caring for aging parents; couples with no kids, former couples faithfully navigating the hard work of co-parenting; grandparents raising grand kids; and families of choice created because one’s family of origin may be far away, passed on, or are perhaps emotionally estranged and unavailable. So we become aunties and uncles, sisters and brothers, children or parents to those with whom we have no biological ties but feel deeply accountable and connected to them just the same.

At First Church Berkeley we celebrate and honor all types and possibilities of family. This is one of the reasons I am so happy to be serving as your Minister of Community Life. This community understands that family matters.  It matters to have a place where we are seen, supported and loved fully for who we are.

This unconditional love is the fertile soil from which we grow into who we are created to be. Belonging to a community that reminds us that our identity and value comes from our relationship to a living, loving God is the bedrock upon which we are each able to withstand the inevitable ups and downs of life.  Some of us are blessed to have this type of family surrounding us in our daily life and for others this type of family is hard come by. But the beauty and the challenge of Christian community is the opportunity to be that family for each other.

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Places for Grace

December 22, 2011

Throughout the Advent Season, we have been looking for “Places for Grace”—in our lives, in the world and in the stories of the season leading up to the birth of Jesus. Each Sunday we have explored Grace in a variety of ways using personal stories, scripture, music and preaching. Here are some videos from the fourth Sunday of Advent.

Angela Arnold and Matt Reed share ways in which they find grace in their lives as they light the fourth Advent candle.

The First Church Flute Choir plays “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”.

Phil Porter tells the story of the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary from the Book of Luke.

Patricia de Jong preaches the sermon “Full of Grace”.

First Church Berkeley is a progressive Christian church with two services on Christmas Eve—a Family Service at 5 pm and a Candlelight Service at 10 pm. Both are full of sights, sounds and inspiration.

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Tampering With Dreams

August 30, 2011

In her sermon “Tampering with Dreams”, Senior Minister Patricia de Jong weaves together the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the March on Washington with the story of Moses and the burning bush. Below are some excerpts from her sermon.

Watch a video of the whole sermon.

Watch Phil Porter’s telling of the story of Moses and the burning bush.

Rev. Patricia de JongWe need, this morning to be awed and yet cautious, just as Moses was when he saw the burning bush. We stand in awe; so much has been pursued in the cause for justice since that day. Following the March on Washington, people got to work and began to carve a way out of no way for American Blacks in the South. The Southern Leadership Conference got busy and so did all the people around Dr King. Racial injustice was challenged at every turn and broken open through the courageous acts of hundreds and thousands of people who refused to tolerate hatred and violence.

Dr. King’ lasting legacy and dream is not only for Americans, but for all people who have had to fight their way out of fear, violence and inequality.  We see his image today in the eyes of those freedom fighters in Egypt, Libya and Syria and in the hearts of people everywhere who understand what it means for the human heart and spirit to be trampled upon and held down because of repressive regimes, hostile dictators, and those who promote hatred instead of love and war instead of peace. And we see him in those who have dedicated their lives to creating justice, compassion and freedom throughout the world.

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We as Progressive Christians are called to continue to press for love, justice and compassion in a culture that is threatened at its most vulnerable points. In our times, the burning bush is the call of an awesome and holy God who demands active and lively partners in the quest for a better and more just nation.

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Many Americans are out of work and unemployment stands in the double digits. While the weathier are getting wealthier, the poor staying poor, those we are in between are disappearing.  Our prisons are filled with young men who cannot find their way in this society, who end up making a way to prison. Our universities are training people for jobs that may not exist upon graduation for some men and women. We have an African American president, but that does not mean that we have achieved racial equality or that he is free from attacks which have occasionally been about his race rather than his record. We are living in a time when some Americans are less tolerant of the differences between us rather than more tolerant, caring and forgiving.  Someone has been tampering with the dream that all of us in this nation have the chance for a just and equal existence.

Watch a video of the whole sermon.

Watch Phil Porter’s telling of the story of Moses and the burning bush.

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Feeding the 5000 in Somalia

August 15, 2011

FCCB member Liz McBride has been paying close attention to the famine and refugee situation in Somalia. She encourages us to contribute financially:

FCCB says “Imagine another world is possible.” Imagine it.

Refugees in SomaliaI had recently donated to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees for Somali refugees. Then on Sunday, July 31, I saw Phil Porter’s video of the “Loaves and Fishes” story at First Church. It told the old story of Jesus feeding  the 5000 in pictures and words. I was so inspired, and I felt the need in Somalia so deeply that I  decided to give $365 to this every pay day for the rest of the year, because I can. If we each do what we can the hungry will have food, and clean water.

A video version of the story of Jesus feeding the 5000.In one week, UNHCR moved 5000 refugees to safety and is supplying food. Feeding the 5000! I chose UNHCR because they are already mobilized, already committed, and large enough to reach so many quickly.

So when I imagine another world is possible, I know it can be. Let’s get a million to give. Spread the word and we can make it happen!

Read more about the situation in Somalia.

Contribute here.

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Walk On Water

August 8, 2011

Here are the words to “Walk on Water” a song by Phil Porter and Elaine Kirkland that was sung during the Sunday service on August 7, 2011. Phil also preached a sermon called “That Sinking Feeling.” You can read a condensed version on this blog or view the video of the service.

Walk on Water
By Phil Porter & Elaine Kirkland

Chorus:
It might be nice to walk on water,
To cross a lake without a boat,
To take a stroll among the otters,
But now I’m lucky just to float.

1. It seems my cares and troubles
might make my life capsize.
I look around for sunshine
But rainclouds fill the skies.

2. My life is topsy-turvy
a boat in heaving seas.
I clutch the oars in panic
And terror clutches me.

Chorus

3. Just when I think I’m done for,
the waves have reached new highs,
I come to a conclusion
That’s right before my eyes.

4. I’ve navigated solo,
no compass and no crew,
Alone, I’d conquer oceans,
And part the waters, too.

Chorus

5. But now I see my folly.
I’m trying much too hard.
I wanted to astound folks,
And earn God’s high regard

6. To try to walk on water,
why pick a task so tough?
God knows that sometimes floating
Is miracle enough.

Chorus

© 1990, Phil Porter & Elaine Kirkland. All rights reserved.