Pastor’s Weekly Message: 11.28.13

Grace Waves


In the middle of the forest there is an Unexpected Glen; it can only be found by the ones who have lost their Way. —Tomas Transtromer

Pure Delight!  Continue to spread the Invitation for our incredible Christmas Concert on December 8 at 5:00 pm.  Both Elizabeth and Hyunjung are artists of the highest caliber.  You will be immersed in the finest music of the season and our tradition.  From the heights of joy to the spiritual depths—these are your first Advent Gifts.  Rejoice!

For the Hungry:  This year, Thanksgiving weekend also marks the beginning of Advent, the season of anticipation of Christ’s coming. During Advent we will again hear the story of a young girl whom God chose for an extraordinary purpose. Rereading that story in Luke’s Gospel, I am struck that Mary begins her song with praise for a God who “filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” It is this God who will become incarnate in her son, who too will fill the hungry with good things.  As a follower of Jesus, I don’t understand the actions of the current Congress, which is considering cutting about 4 million people from SNAP. Reversing God’s priorities, Congress seems determined to fill the rich with good things and send the hungry away empty.  We can’t let that happen. The cuts of $36/family which began in November are already devastating families and food banks.  As you gather with family and friends around your Thanksgiving table, I urge you to pray a simple prayer with me and other Bread members: God, empower us and inspire our leaders to fill the hungry with good things. I also invite you to join an international stream of prayers that will happen on Dec. 10. Pope Francis will call on people around the world to pray on this day for an end to hunger.  (Rev. David Beckman, President of Bread for the World). Go to our Resources page for a link to Bread for the World.

Ornament Choices – Giving Tree for Advent

With Brock’s Internship at Peace and the Federal Prison in Dublin we have a unique request this year.  His Internship was neither anticipated nor budgeted for this year.

He, we and the Seminary stepped out on faith—trusting we would “discover” the way to fund it during the year.

$8,000 has been raised by Rev. Donna Duensing through channels beyond Peace.  Additional efforts and requests are still being pursued.  Peace is asked to raise $10 – 12,000.  We are under no “obligation” or consequences if it cannot be accomplished. The request is presented here as part of our Giving Tree and year end donation possibilities.  While ‘hands on’ gifts make tangible the love in our hearts, your financial support of Brock’s Internship will make ‘tangible’ the gift of God’s presence in the lives of those who—whether guilty or innocent—experience what it is to be “the least”.  Thanks for your prayers and making the gospel real through Brock’ s training and future ministry.

Additional Ornaments:  Shelter, Inc. families; (CCIH families—these gifts were needed before Thanksgiving); Partnership Projects in Nicaragua and South Africa; and Scholarships for Peace Counseling Center families who cannot afford our sliding scale fees.

Happy Thanksgiving and Blessed Advent, Pr. Steve



Pastor’s Weekly Message: 11.20.13

Grace Waves


God is not a concept.  A god whose existence or nonexistence you can argue is a thing, a concept for approval or rejection.  God is not an idea but the living wholeness of reality, seen not by the physical eye of the scientist but by the gaze of the mystic, the inner eye of love. —Paul Tillich

Pure Delight – A Christmas Concert on December 8 at 5:00 pm:    Peace is preparing to host a community-wide Christmas Concert.  The featured artists will be our own Elizabeth Hunter–Ashley, a lyric coloratura soprano and Organist and Pacific Choir Director Hyunjung Choi.  In addition, the Coelis Ensemble will sing accompanied by guest musicians.  Classical works for voice and organ will be performed, the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s “Messiah” will be celebrated, Christmas Carols and seasonal favorites will be enjoyed throughout the concert.  General admission will be $15; Student admission will be $10; and Ages 10 and Under are FREE.  This could be the start of a great tradition and a wonderful classical concert series.  Please invite and encourage your friends to attend with you.

Forum, November 24:  Spiritual Nurture for Children: Come learn and converse this week with Charlene McPherson about the spiritual nurture of our children through Sunday School education and Children’s Time.  This is a critical time in their lives for spiritual formation.

Our Thanksgiving Sing Along was a joyful and refreshing occasion.  Thanks to Gary for his leadership, the collage of images and videos and to all who sang for the love of music!  It was unanimously agreed that we will go Christmas Caroling in December.  Date to be decided.

Pilot Project—Thrivent and Peace:  Thanks to those who participated in the Stewarding Conversation this past Sunday.  (Pledge Cards can be returned at worship this Sunday.)  We began moving towards concrete ideas/suggestions for how to create and support mutual ministry projects.  The sub-Committee will be meeting in early December.  We will keep the Council and Congregation in the know with our ideas.

Only this Congress would take away food from struggling families as they gather to celebrate Thanksgiving.  This is the wrong time for Congress to prevent families from putting food on the table.  Cuts to the SNAP Program have meant 200 million meals have already been eliminated this month! Think of it this way: that’s like every child in America going without food for three and a half straight days. As you plan your Thanksgiving keep offering this prayer: God, empower us and inspire our leaders to fill the hungry with good things.

Pre-Holiday Clothing/White Elephant Swap—Sunday, November 24 After Hospitality: Have a closet full of clothing you don’t wear anymore? How about some items you don’t want or need which could be re-gifted? Bring any clothing/accessories or white elephant items you are ready to say good-bye to; drop them off on your way into church. Volunteers will sort them onto tabletops; there will be designated areas to try on clothing/shoes, etc. No stains, rips, etc., only good wearable clothing (pants, shirts, blouses, vests, jackets, skirts, dresses, coats, hats, shoes, boots, sandals, sneakers, handbags, gloves, scarves, jewelry, etc.) and items new enough to be re-gifted. Questions? Contact [email protected]

November 22—The 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of President Kennedy:   No one alive on November 22, 1963 forgets where they were when they received the news of President Kennedy’s murder.  For an in-depth read of all the events surrounding his death you may wish to read “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why he Died and Why it Matters” by James Douglass.  This is an exhaustive, well written and documented examination of those times and the spiritual risks that were at stake.

Our Interfaith Thanksgiving Eve Celebration is on Wednesday, November 27 at 7:00 pm at Beth Chaim.  Click here for a fascinating article by Rabbi Dan that you will enjoy.

This Sunday is the final Sunday of this Church Year called Christ the Vulnerable Sunday.  What are the gifts for which you are thankful from this past year?

With gratitude for a rich year together,  Pr. Steve

Pastor’s Weekly Message: 11.14.13

Grace Waves

Make us worthy, Lord, to serve all persons throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger.  Give them through our hands this their daily bread and by our understanding give love and peace and joy.  —Mother Teresa

Dear Members of Peace,

It was a delight to worship with you last Sunday and have the opportunity to celebrate the internship partnership between PLTS and Peace. It was my personal joy to connect with many of you who knew the late Chaplain Norman Behrmann and supported his ministry in a variety of ways. His memory is honored through Brock’s unique internship at Peace and the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin. 

As I reported on Sunday, we have already received $8,000 in grants, with additional funds coming through the Norman Behrmann Memorial Fund at PTLS.  My heart was warmed as many of you were asking how to contribute to this internship.  Checks made out to Peace with “Internship” on the memo line will make it possible for this venture to be fully funded.  The ministry at Peace is a wonderful setting for Brock’s vocational growth. I witnessed this first hand last Sunday, both in the Sunday worship and the personal interactions after services.

Thank you, Pr. Steve, for your supervision.  Thank you, members of the Intern’s Lay Committee, for your investment of time. Thank you, members of Peace, for opening your ministry and your lives as a place of learning and serving for our seminarians. 

Every blessing on your ministry, 

The Rev. Donna DuensingRetired Director of Contextual EducationPacific Lutheran Theological Seminary

Inequality–Why is there a Wolf at the Door:  Our thanks to Ron Elsdon for his presentation in worship and at our Forum.  It is valuable to receive such a clear and cohesive view of the inequitable crises facing our nation and world.  It is also empowering as people of faith to learn how we might engage in creative, compassionate and committed ways.  And appreciation to Linda Elsdon for her presentation on the Realities of Hunger in our community and country.  Our Wake Up time is long overdue.  Cuts by Congress to the SNAP program which impact the most vulnerable are cruel and irresponsible.  We will continue to act in solidarity with Bread for the World / [email protected] with whom we have been a Covenant Church for decades.  Thanks to all of you signed letters on behalf of the hungry this past Sunday.

Thanksgiving Sing Along:  This Sunday, November 17 at 4:30 pm all are invited to join Gary in the Gathering Hall for a joyful, seasonal sing along.  Bring edible goodies with you too!

November Forums:

  • November 17 –  Stewarding our Gifts.
  • November 24 –  Spiritual Nurture for Children: Come learn and converse this week with Charlene McPherson about the spiritual nurture of our children through Sunday School education and Children’s Time.  This is a critical time in their lives for spiritual formation.

Veterans Day:  In the eight years since the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom until the end of 2011, 4,480 US troops died in Iraq.  This is a figure commonly cited in the US media.  A figure we might not have heard is the following:  4, 471 Iraqi civilians died as a result of ongoing violence in 2012 alone.The Veterans Holiday is one of mixed emotions:  gratitude for those who have risked their lives and yet we know over 2/3 of the deaths in war zones today are of civilians; the treatment vets receive on their return home is despicable (lack of medical care, homelessness, depression and despair – read ‘Thank You for Your Service’ by Frankel; and most troubling is the reality that veteran suicide totals back home in the US are greater than the number of those who died in combat.   After 12 years of working with Vets organizing the Stand Downs (a resource rich 4 day temporary Camp for Veterans), I have personally witnessed the destruction of so many men who are praised as heroes and discarded as worthless.  War making (the Pentagon now outsources 69% of its business) and Arms Sales not only make extravagant profits but are creating what some analysts see as a permanent war economy.  Meanwhile the destruction of the poor continues as President Eisenhower made clear more than 50 years ago, “every bomb produced deprives the hungry of food”.  The terrible suffering of war never discourages people from participating when they believe they are serving a noble cause.  WWI was “the war to end all wars” — now we look back and see that war as quaint compared with our destructive capacities today.  Perhaps it is time to utilize the ‘weapons of the Spirit’ as our scriptures began encouraging us a long time ago.

Clothing Exchange—A Holiday Event for the Women of Peace:  Nette and Elana have proposed a Clothes Exchange at Peace on Sunday, November 24.  It is designed quite simply:  Bring a couple nice items to church and spend the Hospitality Hour swapping clothes and jewelry you no longer wear.  That way, we could all bring something home that would be new for us in time for the Holiday Season—without spending any cash.  It’s  like shopping without a card…!

Keep in your prayers:  the people of the Philippines, Margaret Bender, Lance, Ari, Annie, friends with dementia, the people of Syria, Egypt and Afghanistan.

Shoe Box Ministry:  Several women met at Nette’s home this past Wednesday to pack all the shoe boxes for shipment and enjoy each other’s company.  Thanks to all who have contributed and remember all the children whose earthly possessions can fit in one shoe box.

Be sure to check out these new articles by Peace Members on our website:

Hunger is a Cold Fire
Let us sit down soon to eat with all those who haven’t eaten

Let us spread great tablecloths

Put salt in the lakes of the world

Set up planetary bakeries

Tables with strawberries in snow

And a plate like the moon itself

From which we can all eat –

For now I ask no more than the justice of eating.

—Pablo Neruda

Blessings,  Pr. Steve

Pastor’s Weekly Message: 11.07.13

Grace Waves


We were fashioned to behold the wonders all around us—to experience the liturgies of rain and autumn and dawn.

This Sunday Ron Elsdon will present further insights as to how Inequality is functioning and dominating our society.  Linda Elsdon will join him at the Forum to speak about hunger issues in our country and world.  Here are a few background comments from Bread for the World (to which we belong) to prepare you for Sunday:

Despite tremendous progress in recent decades, nearly 16,000 children die every day from hunger-related causes.  That’s one child every 5 seconds.  One in five children still live in a family that struggles to put food on the table in our richly blessed country.  Yet hunger is a fixable problem.  Many Americans believe that churches and charities alone should be the ones feeding our nation’s hungry people.  But tens of millions of people need food assistance every year in the US, and just a tiny percentage of this assistance is provided by charity.

Charity alone is simply not a realistic solution.  Instead, federal programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) and WIC (Nutrition for Women, Infants and Children) must be protected and improved.  These programs are our country’s true first line of defense against hunger.  The nations’ decision makers must be persuaded to lead in changing policies and allocating resources to end hunger.

At worship you will be invited to Sign a Letter to our representatives in Congress to advocate for the hungry among us.  The Bread of Life desires to feed us all.  Hopefully we will get to see the new film “A Place at the Table” together and soon.

Here is a very fine article that Bill Carmel prompted John Barry, journalist for the Contra Costa Express, to write about Shokoor’s Art and the Exhibit at Peace.

Women of Peace/Shoebox Ministry:  The Women of Peace are set up to assist Nette this next Wednesday.  Lois, Martha and Nancy have offered to drive.  If you need transportation please call one of them or the church office at 648-7000.

Thanksgiving Sing Along:  Join  us for a relaxed and informal sing along on Sunday, November 17 at 4:30 at Peace.  Gary will lead the way, you get to request your favorites, and if folks bring some goodies with them we’ll have a small reception afterwards.

Special Event at Beth Chaim:  On Monday, November 25 at 7:00 pm Jewish and Palestinian Peace Activists will speak about the current situation.  Some of you have met Eliyahu McLean before and know what a gift he is.  In addition there will be two bands—one Israeli and the other Jordanian—who will provide great music for the evening.  Please join in!

Our Interfaith Thanksgiving Eve will be celebrated on Wednesday, November 27 at 7:00 pm at Beth Chaim.   It happen to fall on the first night of Hanukkah so Rabbi Dan is interweaving the two celebrations.  If you miss it, don’t worry because the next time this happens will only be 77,000 years from now.

“Pure Delight!”  Peace will host a community wide Christmas Concert on Sunday, December 8 at 5:00 pm.  The featured artists will be our own Elizabeth Hunter Ashley and Organist and Pacific Choir Director Hyunjung Choi.  In addition the Coelis Ensemble will sing and guest musicians will accompany the evening.   Classical works will be performed for voice and organ, portions of the Messiah will be shared, Christmas Carols and seasonal favorites will be enjoyed throughout the concert.  Fliers and postcards are being prepared for distribution now.  This will be a high-quality, Pure Delight and you need to invite your best friends to this joyful event.

Keep in your prayers:  Lance, Veronique, Ari, Dave, hungry children and families, those seeking employment, those with Parkinson’s and dementia, those who are overwhelmed, lost and alone.

Have you seen all the new material on our Website?  Keep checking out this great resource and inviting friends to see what’s happening at Peace.

In light of All Saints I trust you can handle this one:  A clergy friend of mine from the East Coast called and said he had made the decision to add to his tombstone (after his name and dates of existence) this phrase, “I knew this was going to happen!”

Of what avail is an open eye, if the heart is blind?

—Solomon Ibn-Gabirol)

Blessings,  Pr. Steve


Pastor’s Weekly Message: 10.31.13

Grace Waves


What I ask for is absurd:  that life shall have a meaning.  What I strive for is impossible; that my life shall acquire a meaning.  Therefore, pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for. —Dag Hammarskjold

This Sunday is All Saints at which time we will remember those saints who have died during this past year.  Always a service of deep power and reflection.  We will use a liturgy with texts from the Spiritual Journal of Dag Hammarskjold, former UN Secretary General.

Wasn’t Gary’s Prelude—an improvisation on Cosmic Themes—beautiful this past Sunday?  And I gave him all of 5 minutes advance request.  How he makes the church organ sing!

Hope you got your Iris(es).  Thanks to Pam and Chuck Fisher for these.  Remember you are the Growing Tip of Human Consciousness.  You are invited to act wisely on behalf of the whole interconnected universe.  Your choices, prayers and connections make a difference!

First Friday Films—this Friday night at 6:30 pm:  “The Cunning Little Vixen” is a lavish animation of Janacek’s famous Czech opera featuring the lovable and flirtatious fox, Sharpears.  It is a delightful exploration of what it means to be a “free spirit”.  Invite friends to join you.

Jazz Church West—this Sunday at 5:00 pm you get to hear Mary D’Orazi and Grupo Brasiliando.  It will move your soul with the sweetest lusciousness!

Upcoming Calendar Dates for the Holiday Season:

November 17—Thanksgiving Sing Along at Peace.  Gary will accompany us as we enjoy songs and music close to our heart.  We will share a little holiday cheer afterwards.

November 27—Interfaith Thanksgiving Eve Service at Beth Chaim:  Join in this wonderful annual tradition at 7:00 pm.

December 8—Christmas Concert Celebration at Peace:   Enjoy our own Elizabeth Hunter, vocalist and Hyunjung Choi, organist with a wondrous evening of classical music and carols!

Congratulations to our Chaplain Dwane Michael who will be retiring as the Chaplain at John Muir Hospital in early December!  We will do some celebrating with him and hope to have he and Feli in our midst a little more often.

Reforming blessings,  Pr. Steve