From the Pastor 5.21.19

For this upcoming Sunday, we have two lectionary readings that focus on the power of the holy spirit. It is timely that these two readings should be placed here considering that we are now in the Easter season. Jesus has been crucified and resurrected but not with us in the same way that he was
before his crucifixion. The role of the Holy Spirit then, becomes much more prominent as it is Jesus’ presence continually with us. 

Those of us who have attended church for any significant amount of time in our lives knows that the Holy Spirit is always with us and ready to guide us whenever we need her (or even when we don’t call out for her!). But how much do we actually sense her presence and try to connect with her? How often do we consult with her on major life decisions, broken hearts, or just in mundane everyday life moments? I confess that I don’t seek her out very much and I need to remind myself continually of her presence and readiness to help me in my life. I also admit that when I do seek her out, her help is unbelievable. 

Come out this Sunday to reflect upon together how we can invite the Holy Spirit to participate in our lives more and more. 

In This Together, 
Rev. Lydia 

From the Pastor 5.15.19

“When youth departs, may wisdom be enough.”  —Winston Churchill

“Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state….The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.”

—David Whyte

Vulnerability has a high profile right now, largely thanks to the probing work of social scientist Brené Brown, who now has a very popular special on Netflix.  There are so many trendy lifestyle concepts and buzzwords that circulate these days, it is tempting to include “vulnerability” among them.  I think the word may grow or decline in popularity, in both general usage and among management consultants—so many words and phrases become part of consultant-speak and then fade away.

Whatever happens to use or understanding of the word, vulnerability has always been and will always be “the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state,” as David Whyte says.  As Christians, our project of moving toward perfection does not mean refining our ideas and options.  It means more-fully inhabiting our essential, vulnerable selves.

Our culture is biased against vulnerability, which is seen as a weakness.  It is not okay to show vulnerability except in specific circumstances, such as right after a loved one has died, or when the news is covering tragic killings or a natural disaster.  In cases like this, some outward vulnerability is sanctioned for a short while and then our expectation becomes stoicism, healing, and redemption. 

Megan Devine says something about grief in “It’s OK That You’re Not OK” that also applies to vulnerability:  “We’ve got this idea that there are only two options in grief: you’re either going to be stuck in your pain, doomed to spend the rest of your life rocking in a corner in your basement wearing sackcloth, or you’re going to triumph over grief, be transformed, and come back even better than before.”

If these are our only two options, it’s understandable that we see vulnerability as the exception and not the rule of our lives.  Instead of enriching our lives by working to inhabit our vulnerability, we continue to inhabit the comfortable home we’ve built among our ideas and opinions.  But there is another way.

See you in church!

Craig

From the Pastor 5-7-19

Happy Mother’s Day week. 

Now, I am very aware that not everybody has the best association with Mother’s Day. Some of us have great relationships with and good memories of our mothers. Some of us do not.

This upcoming Sunday, while I will be sharing a little bit of my experiences with my own mother and as a mother myself, I will mostly be sharing about how my relationship with God transformed once I experienced God as my
ultimate mother. 

While we mostly refer to God as he and male figures such as father, King, etc., it’s crazy to learn about the countless feminine descriptions of God in the Bible. As we explore those, it will change how you relate to God and that change will bring you so much closer to our loving, Mother God.

I hope to celebrate with you this Sunday. 

Much love,

Rev. Lydia

From the Pastor 4.30.19

This has been an extraordinary season in California.  Last fall and winter, so much of our state got so much rain—in some areas it was the most in 20 years.  There were floods in some places, and some people lost their homes or sustained significant damage to their property.  It was tragic to witness this.

In March it was announced that we are officially free of drought, after more than seven consecutive years of not enough water.  It’s been so dry for so long, it’s a little hard to adjust.  I still have the buckets I bought to capture water from our very short showers so I could water plants.  And I remember flushing the toilets every third time we used them.  I can’t seem to escape that memory!

A few weeks ago I was in central California driving through the Santa Lucia Mountains near the coast.  I stopped at a turnout that was about 2,500 feet above sea level.  It’s hard to describe the view west from that spot on that day.  It was clear, and there were miles of bright-green mountain ridges and canyons leading down to the sea.  It looked liked pictures I’ve seen of Ireland.  So many shades of green.  And there were blooms in waves everywhere I looked—yellow, orange, and some purple.

I had seen these mountains before from this same spot, and it had never looked like this before.  The normal colors are variants of brown.  Pretty much for months and years on end.

It was a startling change, which sticks with me.  For so long I was used to seeing brown or (in the spring) greenish-brown, it’s almost like I was in a different place.  But I was reminded that there is so much new life in what looks almost dead.  All it needs is some water.

One of the biggest challenges of this life is to accept the reality that, if you have love in your life, you will also have grief.  It’s not a problem to be solved or a disease to be healed.  It is part of the package when we love someone.  Whether we like it or not, or know it or not, all of us who seek love in our lives will face grief.

For three weeks starting Monday, May 6, I’ll be leading a conversation based on Megan Devine’s book It’s OK That You’re Not OK.  In it she says, “The reality of grief is far different from what others see from the outside.  There is pain in this world you can’t be cheered out of….  Some things cannot be fixed.  They can only be carried.”

When someone you love is grieving, how can you help them?  If I am grieving, how can I understand the help I need?  As I ask myself these questions, I find that in addition to coming up with ways to help others and myself, I find that life becomes a little richer and more-fulfilled.  It’s only natural, because if I’m more attentive to my grief I am likewise more attentive to the love in my life.

By the way, the Monday conversations will be from 1 to 2:15 p.m. in the New Room.  All are invited.  Books are available through the office, or directly from Amazon.  For the first meeting, please read the introduction and part one of the book.

See you in church!

Craig

From the Pastor 4.23.19

Dear Friends,

Welcome to Easter Season.  It has been a long Season of Lent and now we give thanks to God for the resurrection our Lord, Jesus Christ, who with the Holy Spirit resurrects our spirits.  I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who participated in all the events of Holy Week.  Some shared palm fronds, and others rehearsed music. Some folded bulletins, while some made and shared soup.  Some stuffed Easter eggs, and some did a little of this and a bunch of that.  There was a lot going on and the body of Christ found an event they could do and hopped on board to get it done.  Thank You!

Great as this week was, we are not done.  We are now moving into a new season in the church with something for everyone.  First up, this Saturday, April 27 you have two opportunities to participate with St. Mark’s.  At 8 AM, you are invited to lace up your walking shoes and join the CCSA Hunger Walk on Crown Point in Mission Bay.  This annual event helps to support the life-giving work of CCSA as they provide food and other resources for people in need.  There is more information on this event in our church office or online at http://www.ccsasandiego.org/

And if walking at 8 AM isn’t your style, at 10 AM is St. Mark’s Preschool Annual Carnival.  This year we celebrate their Golden Jubilee – 50 Years of Growing Together. The Carnival offers games and activities for people of all ages, a Silent Auction, and lots of yummy food.  Proceeds from the Carnival help to support childcare scholarships for families in need and upgrades to playground and learning equipment.  More information can be found in the office or online at http://stmarksnurseryschool.com/.

In addition to these events, beginning in May, there is an opportunity for people who are experiencing grief or know someone who is, to come together for three weeks to share sacred time with Rev. Craig on Mondays, as he leads the class It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand based on the book by Counseling Psychologist Megan Divine.  These classes begin Monday, May 6 from 1 – 2:15 PM in the New Room.  Sign-ups can be done in the office.  Books are available in the office for  $13 or your online bookstore.

Also, Lindsey VanGorder, Clinical Social Worker with Scripps HealthCare will lead the 13-week course GriefShare beginning Tuesday, May 7 at 6:30 PM in the New Room.  This group is for people who have experienced the death of a loved one and face the challenges that come with moving forward and rebuilding your life.  Sign-ups can be done in the church office and more information can be found online at https://www.griefshare.org/.

These events and more can always be found on our website www.stmarksumcsd.org.

We are so glad you are taking the time to keep current with St. Mark’s through our newsletter and events. We look forward to seeing you in church!

Happy Easter!

Jeri

CHRIST IS RISEN! 

CHRIST IS RISEN INDEED!

From the Pastor 4.17.19

What do Holy Week and Easter mean?

During Holy Week and Easter, we hear about dying to the old and being raised to new life.  But what is this “new life”?  And is the old life really all that bad?  It’s easy enough to come up with earnest, spiritualized answers to these questions on Easter, but what is the everyday reality? 

In reality, to live a new life, we need to understand what is not working with the old life.  This takes work, and is based on self-awareness born of deep, extended and honest reflection.  If moving into the reality of new life was easy, Lent could be 10 minutes long, instead of 40 days.

It may be that we confuse new life with old.  A couple of weeks ago someone was describing their understanding of new life, and it sounded as if life was pretty much the same as earlier in Holy Week, with some of the dust knocked off.  And maybe one less disciple.

In truth, there is nothing more radical in Christianity than the resurrection, because it frees us from unhealthy dependence on things that don’t meet our needs.

Thomas Merton was the best-known Christian contemplative of the 20th Century.  He said this:

“The secular and sacred reflect two kinds of dependence. The secular world depends upon the things it needs to divert itself and escape from its own nothingness. It depends on the creation and multiplication of artificial needs, which it then pretends to satisfy.

“Hence the secular world is a world that pretends to exalt man’s liberty, but in which man is in fact enslaved by the things on which he depends.

“In secular society man himself is alienated and becomes a thing rather than a person, because he is subject to his ever-increasing needs, to his restlessness, his dissatisfaction, his anxiety, and his fear, but above all to the guilt which reproaches him for infidelity to his own inner truth. To escape this guilt, he plunges further into falsity.

“In the sacred society, on the other hand, man admits no dependence on anything lower than himself, or even outside himself in a spatial sense.  His only master is God. Only when God is our master can we be free, for God is within ourselves as well as above us.”

At Easter, when we talk about new life, we are talking about a very real, day-to-day life.  The ultimate day-to-day life, in fact.

So it’s time to be open to the joy of new life!  Let’s celebrate!  See you in church Thursday and Friday at 6:30 p.m., and Sunday at 8:00 and 9:30 a.m.

Craig

From the Pastor 4.9.19

Dear St. Mark’s, 

This upcoming Sunday marks the beginning of the end of the Lenten Season, launching us into Holy Week. 

I hope you’ve seen by now the numerous Holy Week events taking place at St. Mark’s. Easter, like Christmas, is a busy season and it’s easy to get swept up in the business of it all. Join us for our services to slow down the week and make it more meaningful and sacred.

While it has been tradition for the Rolling Hills Church to join us for Palm Sunday, this year will be different as they have to get on the road to arrive at the border by a certain time. As such, we will be holding a special early morning blessing service for them at 8:15 a.m. All are
invited to join. 

Pancake Sunday will still go on but it will begin a bit later, at 8 a.m. and run until its usual 9:15 a.m. 

And finally, I will be preaching on a message close to my heart this Sunday. Palm Sunday is typically a celebratory Sunday but it has a dark overcast to it. Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly, with people waving palms as in a royal procession. But we readers, as well as Jesus, know the dramatic irony of this scene as Jesus is marching towards his eventual death. 

He knows what is coming but he presses on with intention and commitment. He openly asks God to “take this cup of suffering away” but surrenders to the natural outcome of events.

How many of us face difficulties in our lives and long to run away, resist or distract ourselves? What would it look like for us to surrender in the same way Jesus did, willing to be changed? Could we also, like Jesus, be transformed? Could the darkness be turned into light as we go through the darkness?

As Easter people, the answer is an obvious yes. And yet…and yet…we still resist. Come out on Sunday to explore this idea and invitation together.

In this together,

Rev. Lydia

From the Pastor 4.2.19

Dear Friends,

Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”   We are in the middle of Lent and I know for some this paradox of joy and despair is real.  How can so many emotions be tangled up into one season, one week, one day, one hour? I’d like to say our Scripture this coming week from the Gospel of John will answer your questions, but I suspect it may leave you with even more, and perhaps that is a good place to start – being open to asking questions and seeking answers.

This past week my husband Tom and I shared in the joy of our guest, Humu, regarding her asylum seeking process.  The Dept. of Justice and the judge accepted her petition and will hear her case in court in February 2020.  This was the outcome we all were hoping for.  Within minutes of sending the news to Rev. Bill Jenkins, at Safe Harbors, he contacted me about a student at UCSD who was at Christ Ministry Center needing assistance because she is now homeless and needed food.  He was sending her to St. Mark’s to meet with me because we were closer to her school and ultimate ‘home base’.  When the young woman arrived, dragging her suitcase with all her belongings, I fed her a hot bowl of soup and some crackers.  I also gave her some fresh fruit and other items from CCSA to tide her over until she could meet with Connie to get additional resources.  In just a few hours, the joy of one woman seeking her home was overshadowed with the sorrow of another woman doing the same.

This week’s Gospel of John passage begins with Jesus at the home of Lazarus, who has been raised from the dead.  What a celebration! Friends, food, and the homecoming of one who was dead.  However, within minutes the conversation changes as Jesus defends the act of generosity by Mary to Judas, his betrayer.  Judas is thinking about his expectations of Jesus’ ministry.   Jesus is thinking of her holy and extravagant act of grace.

With the constant streaming of news, sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the worst of times and lose focus on the best of times.  It can be easy to forget the large and small acts of grace that each of us do.  Whether you donate food or shoes for others, sit or walk with someone in crisis, or hear the varied stories of people in our church and surrounding community, these are all holy and extravagant act of grace.  I am grateful for the people of St. Mark’s as they continue to share acts of grace, in big and small ways, to help people find the season of Light and the spring of hope.  

See you in church,

Jeri

From the Pastor 3-36-19

Lots of goings-on here at St. Mark’s!  There was a delightful celebration of the church’s 65th anniversary after church on Sunday March 17.  Ella
DiProfio captured some great pictures, a few of which are below.

Kris Nieder is just finishing up a successful class on money management for teens and tweens. Parents from the community have now requested a class on healthy relationships, and she and Rev. Lydia will lead one early next month.  Kris says, “I was saddened to find that statistically one in three teens in the US will experience a form of abuse—physical, sexual, emotional or verbal—from a partner. I’m grateful for a forum where we can discuss these issues with local students.”

Our monthly social events for parents and young adults continue with lots of fun, and there will be opportunities (likely including food!) for families to get together during these last weeks of Lent.

The San Diego Symphony is hosting two community concerts here at St. Mark’s this Saturday, March 30 at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.  Included in both concerts are works by Mozart, Grieg, Bartók, and Haydn.  The concerts are free and open to the public—if you’re interested in coming, reserve your free tickets on the San Diego Symphony website which you can access through the St. Mark’s site or the electronic Messenger from the past few weeks.

The St. Mark’s Concert Series continues on Sunday, April 7 with the wonderful Fauré Requiem.  What a terrific way to move into Holy Week!

Palm Sunday is April 14 and that weekend the 275-person mission team to Mexico from Rolling Hills Christian Church in El Dorado Hills will again be staying overnight with us.  Changes at the border means the wait to cross takes longer, especially for their supply trucks.  This means the team will need to leave St. Mark’s earlier on Sunday morning, so we will be having a brief, early blessing service for them at 8:15 a.m. rather than have them in church.  Please feel free to come join in.  You will be hearing more about contributing cookies for them, too!

We will have services at 6:30 p.m. on Maundy Thursday, April 18, and Good Friday, April 19, and two services on Easter morning, at 8 and 9:30 a.m.  Maundy Thursday will be a crockpot supper service in the Social Hall.

At St. Mark’s, all are always invited!  See you in church!

Craig

From the Pastor 3.19.19

O God, you are my God, I seek you,

my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land

where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1

“‘God’ is the worst nickname ever.”

David James Duncan

We’re a few weeks into Lent and we’re really thirsty.  We’ve been in the wilderness awhile, and it’s a dry and weary land where there’s no water.  It never fails.  Give us a few weeks on our own, away from all the usual distractions, and we begin to recognize our need for something much more.  We look for long-term, life-giving sustenance such as a fresh, flowing stream.

Our tradition has a name for this sustenance.  Our culture has other names for it.  Sometimes, as with David James Duncan, “God” is not a good name for it.  He is active in Alcoholics Anonymous and understands and embraces the long-term spiritual principles that make it work.  But the name “God” triggers negative memories of church and religion.

For those of us with positive memories of love and acceptance in our church experience, Duncan’s statement can be very hard to understand.  We may think that it’s simply a matter of throwing a switch and just accepting the name “God.”  For us, perhaps it is.  For others, perhaps it’s not.

I guess, ultimately, it comes down to which we value more—the reality that we call God, or the name God. When I listen to how religion is talked about and debated in our culture, I hear almost exclusively about the latter.  

It’s ironic, really.  For many practicing Jews, saying or writing God’s name is considered blasphemy because it limits God.  It’s been understood for centuries that focusing on God’s name leads to respecting the name more than the reality that is God.

Lent is the season when we go deep into ourselves so that we can begin to see our need for God, or whatever else you want to call it.  

In his book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, writer Nicholas Carr says, “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on Jet Skis.”

He is pointing out the shift in how our minds work that has happened over the last generation.  It is not necessarily a bad thing, but we are spending most of our time jumping from link to link, reading headlines and paragraphs rather than books or lengthy articles.  This means we are exposed to a wider variety of perspectives but with less understanding of where any one perspective comes from.

Lent runs counter to this shift.  It asks us to strip away all the links, headlines, and clutter that prevent us from going deeply into ourselves, so that we may see clearly how thirsty we are for the reality that is God.  Whatever we call it.

We’ll be talking about Carr’s book and much more in the four-week study “Google, TV and Twitter are Everywhere—where is God?” which begins on Monday March 25, from 1 to 2:15 in the New Room. All are invited to come by, for one session or all. 

See you in church!