Pastor’s Weekly Message: 10.23.13

Grace Waves

Friends:

A person has no alternative but to respond to the real setting in which one finds oneself, with a result that one’s prayer is necessarily fabricated from the various inner and outward components of one’s life.  Prayer grows out of life.  It is not an isolated department of life, it is the realization of the God-ward potential inherent in every life. (Michael Casey)

This week I am on my Prayer Retreat deep in the heart of the old growth Sanctuary Redwood Forest in northern California.  “When the trees say nothing”….the commotion of our lives may be distilled and we can hear what is truly significant.  Please keep me in your prayers along with Margaret Bender, Lance Pierovich, Lars, Ari, Fidel and Spoon, friends diagnosed with cancer, the wounds and struggles each of us wrestles with, our children and grandchildren and children without homes or families.

This Sunday we will celebrate the Reformation—which is an ongoing work!  I will preach on Cosmology, Evolution and Faith.  The original accusation against Lutherans was that they were radical “Free Thinkers”!  Join me Sunday—I hope we are still worthy of such honorable accusations!

“Sing Out!”—what a marvelous evening of creativity and joy was shared by the participants with Clairdee and Ken French in the new recording of our Jazz Church West theme song.  You will get to hear it soon!

Here is a wonderful background article that Bill Carmel wrote for our current Art Exhibit by Shokoor KhusrawiThe Art of an Afghan Refugee.

It was a beautiful Fall evening in October 2012 when I walked down the staircase of a building on Main Street in Pleasanton and turned left. I saw a kiosk, normally filled with fresh picked flowers, filled with paintings instead.  Sprinkled among many paintings that looked like they belonged in a Ghirardelli Square tourist gallery (nothing wrong with that!), were some canvases that I liked very much.  A skilled hand (brush in the older ones and palate knife in the more recent ones) using desert colors in a bold and sophisticated impressionistic style was evident.  Lots of tribal and folk portraits of daily Afghan life, some of them rendered in a kind of naturalism that is direct, honest and compelling. His art is filled with compassion and a non-judgmental simplicity, which seemed such a contrast from Shokoor’s life experiences.

Over the next few months I got to know Shokoor and his brother Jelani, both refugees from the wars in Afghanistan. Jelani has been a resident for more than 15 years and succeeded in getting Shokoor here 2 years ago.  Their Muslim faith is strong within them and I enjoy discussing the sacred words and phrases contained in the calligraphy.

Shokoor’s art documents everything—moments of sublime beauty stolen from life in a country torn by war including the horrors that come from the collateral damage of a hundred years of terror. His body was crippled as a child.  Shokoor’s biography tells the story of his family—filled with the tragedies and sorrows that are all too common in that part of the world.  What is astonishing to me about Shokoor’s character is that he carries those insults and wounds without blame or malice.  The impossible thread that comes through the art, expressed with great skill and beauty, is joy.

It is an honor to present this body of work by Shokoor to the Peace Lutheran Congregation and our Interfaith community.  These are profound and intimate studies that, taken as a whole, represent the life of an artist who walks the path of devotion to God and speaks in a voice of love and beauty.  This is an exhibit you have to see to believe!

Blessings,  Pr. Steve

 

Pastor’s Weekly Message: 10.17.13

Grace Waves

Friends:

Jesus, I praise you a thousand times, Because you were rebellious, struggling day and night, against the injustice of humanity. (Nicaraguan Campesino/Peasant Mass)

 

Jesus understood nothing of finances, and there’s no evidence that he had a library.  (“Freedom” by Fernando Pessoa)

This will be Seminarian John Brett’s final official Sunday with us.  Come and bid him farewell as well as share your gratitude for the gifts he’s given us at Peace.

“Sing Out!”/Sing Along—this Sunday at 5:00 pm:  It’s finally here—come share a great evening of music, singing and joy.  Folks from Beth Chaim, the Jazz at Peace community, the Coelis Ensemble and Pacific Choir are all joining in.  Come sing your heart out!

It was a special gift to receive Shokoor’s music, chanting of Rumi, drumming and art work this past Sunday. The richness of being a House of Prayer for All People keeps getting richer.

The Partnership Committee enjoyed a marvelous evening’s Presentation by the Nicaraguan Delegation and Dinner. Gary’s video gave us a real feel for life in the community of Laurel Galan.  John and Libby’s experiences and comments helped convey the power and joy of this 20 year relationship of faith and friendship.  Peace has numerous faces/connections—Nicaragua, Lwamondo Parish, jazz community, intellectual expressions, art, justice involvements—but it is the gospel which permeates and prompts all of them.

From Seminarian Brock Klobe:  So, a seminarian walks into a building, not literally of course, because a seminarian should never believe in walls.  When a space is beautiful, it wants to be shared both inside and out.  That is what I have noticed about Peace.  Yet I still have not figured out who “belongs” to the space or not.  Whether I ever know in the duration of my stay,  does not matter much.  What does matter is the relationships that grow and the wisdom that is poured into my gullet.  Concerning the FCI Prison in Dublin, the seminarian has to use the Door on the way out.  The space is not so beautiful and free, but the rest of what was said above is identical.

My hope is to find out more about your roles in what some call the “secular world” and how you see your calling in the “outside” relationships and experiences.

My question: How does faith remain healthy enough to travel?

Keep in  your prayers:  Margaret Bender, Joan, Lance, Ari, Shokoor and his family in Afghanistan and refugees in India, Chris and Toby who have given birth to Twyla, John Brett, Brock Klobe, those with addictions, those who pray for us.

Barb and John Kline met with our Council to initiate a joint Pilot Project between Peace and Thrivent.  It will focus on creating and sustaining a long-term strategy for Peace.

An Organ Concert and Fundraiser and Sing Along is coming our way on November 17.  Details to come.  This should be great fun.

The Women of Peace will be assisting Nette with the packaging for the Shoe Box Ministry early in November.  Additional folks may be able to assist as well.

Blessings, Pr. Steve

Pastor’s Weekly Message: 10.10.13

Grace Waves

Friends:

You did what you could until you knew better, and when you knew better, you did better.  Maya Angelou

The Animal Blessing & Pet Festival was pure delight!  The spirit of the day, the presence of so many beautiful creatures, the commitment by many to care for wounded animals was matched by those who are diligently training animals to serve the blind, the lonely and those with Alzheimer’s.  A family came from Davis, a PLTS Seminary professor came with her basset hound, and Duke the Great Dane/Therapy Pet attended.  The music in the Courtyard was outstanding:  dueling pianos, tuba, brass and flutes, the matching dalmatian Hounds of Heaven and John and Toni Baker. Great burgers.  Wonderful auction items and special interactions with those whose pets were blessed.  Such a wonderful gift this St. Francis Day is to us and for the community!  (Be sure to check out the photos on our website and on Facebook.)  Our thanks to Maili and Kersti Malvre who inspired the Pet Festival years ago, to Greg Grebe and Pam and Chuck Fisher for oversight and organizing the event and to all the Peace Members who ‘made it happen’:  Pr. Elizabeth, Charlene McPherson, Marlene Garrity, Libby Flynn, …….and all the other nameless saints who contributed.

The Partnership Committee invites you to join them for Dinner and Conversation this Sunday, October 13 from 4–6 pm at Peace.  This is an opportunity to learn more about the needs and contexts of our Partners in Nicaragua and South Africa.

The Women of Peace have met and enjoyed a time of relaxation and conversation about the various ministries of Peace.  We continue to meet on the 2nd Wednesday of each month.

The Internship Committee held its first meeting with Seminarian Brock Klobe this week.  Those serving on the Committee include:  Ken Budesa, Nancy Carlston, Ron Elsdon, Tom Hall and Gun Johnston.  They will meet monthly with Brock for reflection about his work among us and at the prison until his work concludes in June.

Congratulations to Jack O’Neil on receiving his Eagle Scout Award!   An amazing accomplishment.  Jack shared his thanks with the members of Peace this past Sunday and also with the Church and his friends in Lwamondo Parish, South Africa who inspired his major project.  Way to go, Jack!

In our prayers:  Lars and Margit, Luis Garcia, Ari, the vulnerable children in our world, those who have dedicated their lives to working for peace, those searching for work, artists on the edge, medical and spiritual healers, those living with depression, for an appreciation of the vastness and wildness of God’s Creation.

Shokoor’s Exhibit:  Art of an Afghani Refugee.  Shokoor Khusrawi’s Art Exhibit will continue at Peace for the next 2 months.  Our thanks to Bill Carmel for mounting this engaging exhibit.  Encourage your friends to see and absorb this creative work.  The paintings and calligraphy are available for sale and some have already been sold!

Sunday’s Forum–Website:  Vehicle for Community, Communication and Outreach!   Join us as our Webmaster Dabbie Bowron and the Connections Committee lead us through all the possibilities our new website is offering us for increasing awareness and connectivity with our ministries, educational gems and goals.

Spoon Jackson has sent us a letter of gratitude for making appeals to Gov. Brown for Spoon’s release after 35 years in prison.  Please keep Spoon in your prayers.

“Sing Out!” – Jazz at Peace Theme Song:  New Recording on Sunday, October 20 at 5:00 pm.  Community Chorus participants desired!

Nette has prepared an outline of the Shoe Box Ministry for your review below.  Items for the Shoe Boxes (but no more shoe boxes) are needed.  Focus Date: Nov. 18–25.

The Power of a Simple Gift—step up, step in!  Make a difference! Donations must be delivered to Peace Lutheran Church by November 9th.

Since 1993, Samaritans Purse – Operation Christmas Child has delivered more than 100million shoe boxes filled with books, toys and treats to children in more than 130 countries all over the world. The receiving children have often been displaced by war, persecution, or genocide. Take your pick, whenever really poor decisions are made, children are at the receiving end of a situation they didn’t create and have no power to control.  They often live on city dumps or in shanty towns, sewers, or refugee camps, trapped in poverty, illness and hopelessness.

The idea is so very simple:  grab an empty shoe box, fill it with books, school supplies, toys, toiletries and treats—in short, anything you think a child should be blessed with.   Finally, please include a check for $7 or more to cover the transport of the box to its final destination:  a laughing child who, very often for the first time, receives a gift of any kind!

If you prefer to participate with donations other than packed shoe boxes, please feel free to bring the following items to church:

  • Board books suitable for toddlers   (Half-Price books is a good resource)
  • New or as-new stuffed toys
  • Crayons or big markers
  • Toddler tooth brushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Hard candy (Please – no chocolate as it might melt during transport)
  • Small miscellaneous toys

The donated items will be packed into shoe boxes for toddlers and will be delivered at an official pickup location during the week of November 18–25.

Never has reaching so many children, with so little effort, been so easy!  Step up, step in – make a difference!

Blessings,  Pr. Steve

Pastor’s Weekly Message: 10.04.13

Grace Waves

Friends:

God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder—the source of which is beyond all reason. (Markings, Dag Hammarkjhold)

St. Francis Animal Blessing and Pet Festival:  Everything is set to go!  Excellent organizing arrangements have again been accomplished.  All you need do is spread the word:  invite your friends – the two-leggeds, 4 leggeds, furry, feathery and scaly.  Such a joy this Affirmation of Life and Creation celebrates.  Aren’t you glad we live in ‘San Francisco’s’ neighborhood!

The Youth Group will be meeting with Intern Brock Klobe after worship and they intend to assist at the Pet Festival.

Brock’s Internship Committee will have their initial session this next Tuesday, October 8.  Please keep them and this important work with Brock in your prayers.

9th Season–Jazz Church West:  Sunday concludes with singer Ed Reed opening our next season.  Ed is only 84 years old and his new CD “I’m a Shy Guy” (a collection of Nat King Cole songs) has received the Editor’s Choice Award from Downbeat Magazine.  Not bad.

Women of Peace:   It is time to reconvene for the Fall!  We will meet on Wednesday, October 9 from 10—Noon at Peace.   Gleanings from our Summer Journeys and all the Wonderful Fall Plans will be shared.

The Partnership Committee invites you to join them for a Dinner and Conversation at Peace on Sunday, October 13 from 4–6 pm.   This is an opportunity to both learn more about the needs and contexts of our Partners in Nicaragua and South Africa and discover how our ongoing work can support them.

It was wonderful to have our former seminarian Brenda Bos with us for a day last week.  Brenda assisted in the shooting of several videos for our new website and doing some teaching about the editing process.  Brenda completed her seminary education with the completion of her Internship.  She is now awaiting a Call in Southern California.  She and her partner Janis are most pleased to have officially signed the adoption placement papers for their son Josh (a teenager!) this past week.  Congratulations and many more blessings.  Brenda sends her love to all her friends at Peace.

Our congratulations to Joan and Jim Strawn who celebrated their 61st Wedding Anniversary last week!  Continued blessings, joy and grace!

Organ Donations:  Jeanie Locklear made us aware of 2 Organ Donations!  She celebrated another anniversary after receiving a new kidney 27 years ago. What a blessing.  All of us are encouraged to become organ donors ourselves.  And, the fundraising effort to purchase the complementary speakers for our sanctuary organ has already received a gift of $1,000—half of the funds needed!   A Concert to raise the other half will be presented on Sunday, November 10.  Thanks for the generosity of so many at Peace!

First Friday Films:  See WALL-E this Friday at 6.30 pm…..the first animated film (2008) to be nominated for 6 Academy Awards.  A delightful spiritual film that may help teach us how to save the planet!

Inspiring Generosity:  Our thanks to Barb and John Kline of Thrivent Financial for their Forum Presentation and Dialogue last Sunday.  There are so many ways to stir generosity and caring for each other and beyond.  (Of course we are also appreciative that Barb and John are willing to bring their horses to our Pet Festival.  They add magic!)

Michele Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness will speak at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco on October 17 at  7:00pm.  Interested?  Perhaps we could carpool.

Thanks to all who have contributed to our Food Barrel.  Your contributions of tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, whole wheat pasta and whatever you wish to contribute are deeply appreciated by the hungry of our county.

Keep in your prayers:  Joan, Bob, Spoon, Ari, loved ones living with illnesses, those searching for work, our Peace ministries, the hungry, the children, those without healthcare, our earth, those who pray for us.

Homilies are recorded every week and are now available on our website. They will also soon be playing on a radio station which our friend Clifford Brown manages.  Details to come.  Keep encouraging new friends and old to check out our website and Facebook.  (Did you know that our Weekly Total Reach on Facebook increased by 4,550%!…..thankfully statistics always tell the truth.)

Sing Along / “Sing Out!” – the Theme Song for the Jazz Church West: will be rehearsed and recorded with Clairdee on Sunday, October 22 at 4:00 pm.  You are invited to join this Community Chorus – for the pure pleasure of it.  This is our first Sing Along Event and you will delight in the joy of it all!

“After the Gluten Diagnosis:  What do you eat, how do you heal?”  Dr. Vikki Petersen presents this free workshop at Peace on Monday, October 14 from 6:30–8:30 pm.  All are invited.

Isn’t it wonderful to now have Harp Music in worship!  To pray and breathe the Psalms in such a contemplative fashion—what a gift.  Our thanks to Dabbie and Jeanie for their continuing musical gifts.

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships—so we may live deep within our hearts.  St. Francis of Assisi

Blessings,  Pr. Steve