April 2019

As we move toward Holy Week, we continue to reflect on what it means to life a full life; and how, in the midst of "ashes to ashes and dust to dust", we are able to find resurrection and new life.

One of my favorite pieces to reflect on during Lent is entitled "Life" (from Fredrick Buechner's book Wishful Thinking).

He writes:

"After lecturing learnedly on miracles, a great theologian was asked to give a specific example of one. 'There is only one miracle,' he answered. 'It is life.'

-Have you wept at anything during the past year?

-Has your heart beat faster at the sight of young beauty?

-Have you thought seriously about the fact that someday you are going to die?

-More often than not, do you really listen when people are speaking to you instead of just waiting for your turn
to speak?

-Is there anybody you know in whose place, if one of your had to suffer great pain, you would volunteer yourself?

If your answer to all or most of these questions is 'No',
the chances are that you're dead."


As we move toward Holy Week, I find it important to remind us that our scriptures will lead us through times where Jesus experienced great darkness to get to the place of Easter Morning light. We will cling to the hope that God is with us in the midst of betrayal, sadness, despair, loss, and death. We are Easter people, believing that renewal and resurrection can come on the heels of our darkest days. We are people called to move from death to life.

During the course of the next month, our church family will grieve the passing of members and former members of our community. We will cry, laugh, mourn, and celebrate the lives that have touched members of our community, and the greater world.

Whenever I am charged with leading a funeral, I am struck by all the work that I have yet to do, and the beauty of a life well lived. As I hear stories of kindnesses and simple gestures, of fun pranks and generous moments,
I am reminded of what brings life meaning.


As we look to the many events and opportunities ahead of us in the next weeks, and this month, might we seek to let God continue to work within and through us, bringing life and healing to ourselves, and the world.

In Other News...

If you have interest in participating in the service trip to Biloxi, MS, and a chance to work with the Back Bay Mission of the United Church of Christ, please contact Rev. Jim ASAP. We will leave in the morning on Sunday, June 9, and return on Sunday, June 16. If you would like
to stay longer, that is an option.

And if you have interest in going to Yosemite with the church, and staying in the Housekeeping Cabins from May 17-19, be in touch ASAP. We have a deadline that has arrived, and we need a final count. Friends and neighbors are welcome to participate.

The Rev. Elizabeth Robinson will be arriving on May 1, 2019 to begin her work with us as Associate Minister (1/2 time). Special prayers for her and her husband as they go about the process of saying good-bye to friends, family, and a faith community. We are so excited to have her join the Orinda Community Church family.

The Fellowship Hall has been received a major update these past weeks, and new flooring goes in this week. We look forward to celebrating all the updates with a sort of Open House on Sunday, April 7, following worship. The library has also been receiving a great deal of attention, and we offer special thanks to Gail Mead for all the work she has been putting in to update this space.

The money for these projects have come from the Endowment Board, individual donations, and a gift on behalf of Sally Chappell. We offer deep gratitude to those who have made this possible.

Lastly...

This week marks the 5-year anniversary of my arrival at Orinda Community Church. If is unfathomable that this amount of time has already passed. I am so grateful for the chance to minister with you, and all that you have taught me as I seek to serve this community.

The clergy life is a somewhat strange one, and in order to keep one's spirit fresh and invigorated, there is a tradition in most churches to offer yearly study leave, and pastoral sabbatical after a few years of service to a congregation. The months ahead will see me utilizing this great gift that the congregation has offered me.

For two weeks in early May, I will be traveling through parts of Israel/Palestine as part of a study trip with a larger group. I had chance to do this several years ago, but it was during winter, when Israel had a bizarre blanket of snow. I look forward to hearing a different perspective, as one of my leaders is from the Middle East, as well as experiencing different weather and more sites.

For my sabbatical, I will seek to answer some of my God questions, and wrestle with the question of "what is the call on the church in the 21st century?". My hope is to interview many thinkers, philosophers, artists, activists, and theologians, in order to see how they answer the bigger God questions. I am in process of applying for a couple grants, in hopes that I might be able to do some travel, and meet face-to-face with people I admire. Whether I will be gone for a 3-month chunk, or spread out the time over the year, will be determined in conversation with Rev. Elizabeth after her arrival, and the Church Council.

I wish you a blessed April, and look forward to being with you as we move toward Easter Sunday.

Jim