Archive for Pastor’s Weekly Message – Page 2

“An Expansive Life”

People of the Resurrection –

We have come through a six-week journey in Lent. Rather than contracting and giving up in penitence, we have sought God’s expansive love that names us holy and beautiful. We have looked at what it means to be “Full to the Brim.”  We can only give from that which overflows.

Tonight (Maundy Thursday at Congregational Church of Belmont) and tomorrow (Good Friday at Congregational Church of San Mateo), we expand our congregation by sharing worship with a total of ten other congregations over the two days. I hope that you will be able to join in person or via Zoom. Both services are integral toward our first in-person Easter Sunday in two years.

We have proven to be a resilient people of resurrection. I am so glad and honored to be with you.

With love,
Rev. Michael Cronin

“Even the Stones Cry Out”

Greetings, Travelers on the Journey –

Many of us know how it feels when an oppressive power tries to silence us and deny our existence, and the importance of documentation of our lives and history. This documentation can be through the census, art, books, and other artifacts. We are witnessing it in Ukraine as they try to save art and cultural pieces from destruction by Russian troops, the oppression of Uighur Muslims in China, the banning of books and the teaching of Critical Race Theory, the criminalization of bodily autonomy, and the constant attempt to roll back other equality issues.

And we say, “We were and are here. We will not be silenced nor erased.”

As we enter into Palm Sunday and Holy Week, let us think about what must be said, what can’t be silenced. In the Gospel of Luke 19:39-40, the Pharisees, who are in collusion with the Roman Empire, attempt to get Jesus to stop his followers from shouting joyfully and celebrating in the midst of oppression. And Jesus responds if they were silenced, the rocks would still sing. You can’t stop creation. 

I look forward to singing loud hosannas with you in person or on Zoom.

With love,
Rev. Michael Cronin

“Brazen Acts of Beauty”

Dear Ones,

Last Sunday night was the 94th Annual Academy Awards. It is a night where Hollywood pays homage to itself and heightens the aspirations of those watching. For years, the “Red Carpet” has been one of the highlights. Who is wearing what made by whom? Setting an aesthetic to which none of us could never live up to.

I have friends who watch every film, follow the trends, and social media post “play-by-play” commentaries on the event. In the past, I was one of these people who was entranced and enthralled by the “glitz and glamour,” the aspirations of working in film, and hobnobbing. These days it holds not so much interest. In fact, we didn’t even tune in. When five o’clock Sunday evening came, I was already in my jammies with my head propped up by pillows while I app-skipped through my tablet.

Said tablet also displays pop-ups of “Breaking News: so-and-so wore this, so-and-so won this, so-and-so said this, so-and-so did that….” Of course, the unfortunate Rock-Smith incident blew up the internet and has been part of the social discourse throughout this week. Others, trying not to let that steal the night, focused and created memes about another sweet occurrence, Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli presenting the Best Picture Award together. With Liza in a wheelchair, Gaga whispered, “I got you” to which Liza responded, “I know.” Indeed, a lovely moment. However, one of the most beautiful moments was Jessica Chastain’s acceptance speech for Best Actress for her portrayal of Tammy Faye Bakker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Rso0yrwO2s. Here is a transcript excerpt:

“Right now we are coming out of some difficult times that have been filled with a lot of trauma and isolation. So many people out there feel hopelessness and they feel alone. Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. It’s touched many families. It’s touched mine and especially members of the LGBTQ community who oftentimes feel out of place with their peers. We’re faced with discriminatory and bigoted legislation that is sweeping our country with the only goal of further dividing us. There’s violence and hate crimes being perpetuated on innocent civilians all over the world.”

“In times like this, I think of Tammy, and I’m inspired by her radical acts of love. We’ve talked about love a lot tonight. I’m inspired by her compassion. I see it as a guiding principle that leads us forward. It connects us all and the desire that we want to be accepted for who we are, accepted for who we love, and to live a life without the fear of violence or terror.”

“For any of you out there who do in fact feel hopeless or alone, I just want you to know that you are unconditionally loved for the uniqueness that is you.”

Truly a beautiful message and commentary. With all that has gone on and continues to go on, we are invited to be inspired by radical acts of love, to witness brazen acts of beauty. This week, as we move closer to the cross, I will reflect upon John 12:1-8 “The Anointing of Jesus.” This moment also includes the kerfuffle, a conflict between Judas and Jesus, interestingly enough over expensive perfume applied with Mary of Bethany’s hair. Mary has shown an extravagant and intimate love for Jesus. Judas will have none of it. Jesus tells him to chill out.

Where in our lives do we live and commit brazen acts of beauty, and where are we miserly and stingy – withholding grace and love? Something to think about.

I look forward to seeing you in person or in the Zoom room.

Love,
Rev. Michael Cronin

P.S. Thank you, Rev. Michael Vincent and Janet Hollingshead, for being with us last week. Truly a gift!

“Prodigal Grace”

Gentlepeople, 

In last week’s reflection on the barren fig tree, I mentioned my discomfort with the use of “there but for the grace of God go I.” Because it is used to convey humility in the light of someone else’s bad fortune, it begs the question, “Do you think God’s grace was not with that person?” God’s grace freely given.

By now, you’ve probably figured out that I like to look words up in the dictionary. So I did. From https://www.etymonline.com/word/prodigal:

prodigal (adj.)
c. 1500, of persons, “given to extravagant expenditure, lavish, wasteful,” a back-formation from prodigality, or else from French prodigal and directly from Late Latin prodigalis, from Latin prodigus “wasteful,” from prodigere “drive away, waste,” from pro “forth” (from PIE root *per- (1) “forward”) + agere “to set in motion, drive; to do, perform” (from PIE root *ag- “to drive, draw out or forth, move”).

God is the prodigal. Extravagant and lavish in grace and love. I also mentioned that God does not call us a waste of soil, space, time, energy. We are called worthy, even if we do wonder. God ‘s grace and love is with us in our wanderings, our doubts and fears, questions of faith, and returns.

Speaking of a return, I invite you to join us this Sunday at 10 am in person or on Zoom, as we welcome retired former pastor of Island United, Michael Hollingshead, as he shares his reflection “The Prodigal in All of Us.” I look forward to seeing you. Tell a friend!

Peace,
Rev. Michael Cronin

“You are Worthy”

Companions on the Journey,

From the day we are born to the day we die, there are hopes and dreams which often become expectations and measurements by which we live. Whether they be magazines and advertising, social interactions, we can internalize these things as worthiness or being of value.

Research professor and author Brené Brown writes, “The important thing to know about worthiness is that it doesn’t have prerequisites. Most of us, on the other hand, have a long list of worthiness prerequisites—qualifiers that we’ve inherited, learned, and unknowingly picked up along the way. Most of these prerequisites fall in the categories of accomplishments, acquisitions, and external acceptance. It’s the if/when problem (“I’ll be worthy when …” or “I’ll be worthy if …”).”

And then, of course, this sense of being worthy can bleed into our beliefs regarding the Love of God. Some “God fearing” people will support this notion, treating others as less than. Giving up on their own. Bless their hearts.

This week we will be looking at “The Parable of the Fig Tree”, the story in which Jesus dispels this notion. We ought not let others determine our value or worthiness in God’s heart. Rather than cutting people down, we ought to be a part of God’s unconditional heart of Love. A love that nurtures toward flourishing and thriving.

Whether in person or on Zoom, I hope to see you at 10 am Sunday.

With love,
Rev. Michael Cronin

“Full to the Brim – Under God ’s Wing”

Lenten Travelers,

As we enter our second week in Lent, we are invited into the truth that we are “under God’s wing.” Again, we are told this. 

The authors of our “Full to the Brim” Lenten/Easter series tell us:

“God is our refuge. There is nothing that can separate you from God, or could keep God from gathering you in, protecting you fiercely.”

“You are a precious child of God. God longs for you. God will gather you in. No matter how much we try to separate ourselves from God, God will run to protect us. God’s love for us is fuller than we can imagine.”

Do we really believe it? Let’s look at it together this Sunday.

All Love,
Rev. Michael Cronin

“Full to the Brim, an Expansive Lent”

We are officially in Lent. The scriptures for this Lenten season (in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C) are filled with parables and promises of God’s abundant and expansive grace. Jesus as a mother hen, a prodigal son welcomed home, a fig tree nurtured with care and hope, precious oil poured out lovingly and freely, stones shouting out with praise—these sacred texts are brimming with a gospel of grace. This grace, like water, spills over, given freely. Full to the Brim is an invitation—into a radically different Lent, into a full life. It’s an invitation to be authentically who you are, to counter scarcity and injustice at every turn, to pour out even more grace wherever it is needed. It disrupts the scarcity mentality that capitalism, oppression, or hierarchy can plant inside of us. When we allow ourselves to be filled to the brim with God’s lavish love, that love spills over. It reaches beyond ourselves. Like water, it rushes and flows, touching everything in its path.

We recognize that traditional iterations of Lent often emphasize restraint, confession, and piety. The origins of Lent were that one was to leave their old life behind to fast and prepare to be baptized into a new way of living. In essence, this was a practice of stepping away from the rat race, corrupt power, scarcity mentality, and empty rituals in order to live a more expansive and full life of faith. And so, Full to the Brim trusts the promise of our baptisms—God has already claimed us as God’s own and nothing we can do will ever change or erase that.

Full to the Brim doesn’t ignore or deny sin and suffering. It doesn’t absolve accountability for wrongdoing. Instead, it contextualizes our faith. We can examine our faith with the devotional, available in print at church or online, or the Reflective Assessment Tool.

If love is our beginning, how can we live our lives led by love’s promises? It reminds us to live fully—as we pursue justice and hope, or express grief and gratitude. And so, this Lent, let us trust – fully – that we belong to God. Let us increase our capacity to receive and give grace. Let us discover the expansive life God dreams for us.

Peace,
Rev. Michael Cronin

“Blessed By Transformation”

People of God’s Justice & Joy,

By this time next week, we shall have entered into Lent and returned to the sanctuary. On Wednesday, there will be a service and imposition of ashes at 6:00 pm. I look forward to our series “Full to the Brim – An Expansive Lent” as we contemplate and prepare for the Easter Resurrection (more next week).  

I pray that you have been enriched by “Blessed By – A Celebration of Black History Month 2022” as much as I have been. I am so grateful to the many series collaborators from my MCC pastoral cohort and the Island United team, our esteemed guest reflections – Rev. Lorrie Owens (President of NAACP/San Mateo, Rev. Gwynn Fuqua (Associate Pastor, First Christian Church of Alameda DOC), and Rev. Angela Brown, J.D. (Minister of Community Engagement, Advocacy, and Social Justice, serving the nine United Methodist Churches in San Francisco) –  and for you, Island United Church of Foster City, who have wholeheartedly engaged and shared in this message.

We have been…

“Blessed By Learning”
“Blessed By Seeing”
“Blessed By Listening”

On this Transfiguration Sunday, as we conclude Black History Month, I pray that we will be “Blessed By Transformation”. I will be reflecting upon the Transfiguration with a special word from the Unofficial Mayor of Foster City, Mr. Bill Stewart. I had the pleasure of a couple of phone conversations with Mr. Stewart, and his sharing of lived experience is a treasure to behold. He has been and continues “moving and shaking” toward justice and equity. I am excited to have him with us.

Zoom in, tune in, and join us in celebration!

Rev. Michael Cronin

“Blessed By Listening”

Beloved People of God,

We have been blessed by the words of our pastoral friends, Rev. Lorrie Owens – President of NAACP/San Mateo and Assistant Pastor of His Gospel Christian Fellowship – and Rev. Gwynn Fuqua – Associate Pastor of First Church Alameda (Disciples of Christ). Respectively, they have spoken to us about being “Blessed By Learning” and “Blessed By Seeing”.

This week, we will be blessed by Rev. Angela Brown, J.D., as she shares her reflection “Blessed By Listening” on Luke 6:27-38. Please see her bio below. As with our other prophets, you will not want to miss Rev. Angela’s share.

WHY?

After last week’s worship, Alexis and I attended the 40th Birthday Vigil of Chinedu Okobi, who on October 3, 2018, was killed by officers of the San Mateo County Police Department (CA). He was tased seven times, sat on, and at some point he went into cardiac arrest and died. This tragic story reminds us that we need to listen. LISTEN. 

Do we really hear the experience of our Black siblings?

Let Island United be a broadcast channel of the experience toward God’s justice and joy.

Love,
Rev. Michael Cronin

Blessed by Seeing

Beloveds,

Last week we entered into our “Blessed By” series celebration of Black History Month. Rev. Lorrie Owens – President of NAACP/San Mateo and Assistant Pastor of His Gospel Christian Fellowship in Oakland – opened the eyes of our hearts (see last week’s service link). We need to be open to hearing/learning something we might not want to hear. Umm, “Hello!?!”

This week, we welcome Rev. Gwynn Fuqua as she shares a reflection on Luke 6:17-26. We are looking at visibility. What do you see…or not?

Here’s a timestamp. En Vogue sang in the song Free Your Mind: “Before you can read me / You got to learn how to see me!”

What are our “blind” spots? What aren’t we seeing?

Let’s find out.

Peace,
Rev. Michael Cronin