Archive for September, 2009

Resistance Reading as an Act of Faith

// September 30th, 2009 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

 Resistance Reading

How do we make meaning out of scripture?  How do we listen for a Word of Wisdom in this ancient library of manuscripts we call the Bible? This week we transition from the book of James into a three week series drawing from the gospel of Mark and dive headfirst into a challenging passage served up by the revised common lectionary.  

Mark 10:2-16
Some Pharisees approached Jesus and, as a test, asked, “Is it permissible for husbands to divorce wives?’ In reply Jesus asked, “What command did Moses give?” They answered, “Moses permitted a husband to write a decree of divorce and to put her away.” But Jesus told them, “Moses wrote the commandment because of your hardness of heart. From the beginning of creation,
‘God made them male and female.
This is why one person leaves home
And cleaves to another,
And the two become one flesh.’
They are no longer two, but one flesh. What God has united, therefore, let no one divide.”
Back in the house again, the disciples questioned Jesus once more about this. He told them, “If a man divorces his wife and marries another, he commits adultery against her; and if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
People were bringing their children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples scolded them for this.
When Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not stop them. It is to just such as these that the kindom of God belongs. The truth is, whoever doesn’t welcome the kindom of God as a little child won’t enter it.” And Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
Let’s just be clear: this passage has the potential to be hurtful to people in our community. People who are separated, divorced, remarried, as well as to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in the congregation. 
So what do we do with passages of scripture that are hard? Part of the beauty and challenge of our entering into a relationship with the lectionary is an opportunity to reflect thoughtfully on passages we would normally avoid.
This week I would like to suggest the strategy of ‘resistance reading’ as one means of approaching this and other difficult texts. This approach takes seriously the role of the reader in determining the meaning of the text.  A text does not come to us wearing its meaning, like a campaign button, on its lapel. Rather we co-create meaning in the act of taking our lives and questions to scripture.
In addition, there are moments in our lives where it can be a faithful act to read with resistance, rather than assent. Some of the noblest moments in Jewish and Christian history are moments of resistance to officially approved oppression, injustice or traditions gone sterile. Resistance reading is practiced therefor by all kinds of people struggling for new relevance for their old traditions.
So let us turn to Mark with these eyes in the coming weeks and invite a ripening of our approach to scripture. And pray for the Holy Spirit, bearer of Wisdom, to show up in our conversations and to show us the Way.
Community Dinner tonight at 6:30 at Michael and Donovan’s. There will be fried fish, sausage, hominy, portabella mushrooms and asparagus.  We could use dessert, drinks and salad. 108 S. Briscoe Blvd, Dallas, TX 75211.  Call 214. 233-4605 if need directions or more info. 
“Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.” (James 3:13)

Feminist Reclaiming of Churching Rite

// September 24th, 2009 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

This week we conclude with the final verses of James, the lone Wisdom book in the New Testament (Chapter 5: 13-20)
Join us this Sunday as we breathe new life into a  Christian rite from the Middle Ages — The Churching of Women — and celebrate Teresha and Mandy and their recent birth into motherhood.

Starting in the 11th century the Book of Common Prayer and later the first American Prayer Book of the 17th century include a rite for the reintroduction of a woman who has given birth into church life and society. Commonly called ‘The Churching of Women’ this service was an important social occasion: the mother and her midwife, surrounded by the woman’s friends would wait at the door of the church and participate in a liturgical processional re-entering the church, led by the priest and celebrating the healthy passage for mother and child through the challenges of the birth process. Although mainly a female occasion of thanksgiving and solidarity, the rite was designed to be performed during worship with the whole congregation.

This week we dust off this centuries old practice to acknowledge the journey that Mandy and Chris and Teresha and Damon have travelled through pregnancy, birth and the first tender weeks of new parenthood.  The Churching liturgy dovetails beautifully with the lectionary passage from James which talks about the importance of ministering to each other in through our tender spots, moments of deep joy or suffering, such as the birth of a baby, losing a parent, illness etc. In fact, James suggests that such simple acts of compassion are really sacred work-a kind of living body prayer for the body of Christ. Join us tonight and Sunday as we explore the means through which we create our life together as a community.



“Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.” (James 3:13)

A Guide in the Desert

// September 16th, 2009 // 2 Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

We welcome Evelyn Pope, lover of our community and spiritual director, to lead the Wed. night and Sunday 10am discussion.  (drawing also from lectionary text, James 3:13-4:4, 7-8a.)
At times, we all need a guide: Someone who listens to our life story with an ear for the movement of the Holy. Spiritual direction as a practice in the Christian tradition flourished during the time of the Desert Fathers and Mothers (between 300-600 CE). Something about being alone out there in the desert, looking to a) survive and b) grow as a Jesus- follower really foregrounded the need for some wise companionship. Someone to help you trust in the process and to say again and again “you are not alone” and “God meets  you in this very moment.”
I have felt alone in the desert before. Thirsty for some sweet water. Spiritual direction is one gift from our tradition that we can turn to for  solace and to center in God. Evelyn as a practitioner of this craft is characterized by warmth and a lightness of touch.  She is extending an invitation to lead a spiritual direction small group or to meet with individuals from our community one on one. Join us tonight and Sunday at 10am to hear more of her story and to learn more about this powerful practice of resting in God.
Community Dinner tonight at 6:30 atJen Mauldin’s home. Join us for barbecue brisket, pasta salad, and birthday cake for Jiri.  2732 Ivandell Ave Dallas 75211. Jen’s # 214.914.5222 Folks are invited to bring drinks/dinero to chip in.
“Spiritual direction is, in reality, nothing more than a way of leading us to see the real Director — the Holy Spirit hidden in the depths of our soul.” (Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, USA).

The Christian Practice of Right Speech

// September 9th, 2009 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

James is the lone book of Wisdom literature in the New Testament. According to this author, being Wise is all about learning to think carefully and act virtuously in complex situations. Specifically three things mark the Way of Jesus: taking care in how we speak,  giving care to those in distress, and being careful about what we let into our lives (1:26-27). At times sounding more like a linguist or contemporary philosopher than an ancient theologian, James meditates on the power and dangers of language. Talking about more than gossip and the occasional F word, James points to a potential toxicity of speech that can contaminate whole communities of people. It is cosmic and intense stuff.

So to be truly faithful should we adopt a vow of silence? I don’t think that is the only option. Rather, we are called to be thoughtful and compassionate speech practioners.  To listen deeply and to speak with care.  According to James, there is no way out of this practice. It is part of being on the Way. For whether we mean to or not, we construct worlds with speech. And sometimes we mistake our construction for the whole world. Making meaning of what we see, we conflate this with God’s meaning. Then we behave according to the world we have constructed with our speech, even when that causes us to dismiss or harm those who construe the world differently.  
Join us tonight and Sunday as we reflect on what makes language so powerful. And meditate on the word of God in scripture, among us, and within us.


Feast on the Word: Savoring Scripture in a Twitter World

// September 2nd, 2009 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

We are launching a new paradigm for worship and study at Church in the Cliff this week. Come tonight and Sunday to learn more! As part of this new practice we will be drawing our scriptural lesson from the revised common lectionary (which provides four lessons for each Sunday). The worship team commits to engaging the scripture and seeing what speaks to the life of our church and all are invited to join in the conversation!
This Sunday we will be reading
James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17 and talking about
Welcoming Visitors.
As we say goodbye to Amy, Ed, and Penelope and bless them for their journey we will prayerfully consider how we can welcome newcomers the way that we hope this special family is recieved by others in DC.
Join us for a soulful practice of resting in scripture and listening to and learning from each other’s lives.
Tonight Richie and I are hosting.
304 Archer Ave Dallas TX 75211.
Join us, call if you get lost 214 233-4605
“The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived.” — Thomas Merton

This week I have been thinking about how to best care for one another. Community care and social justice are really two sides of the same coin. We embody radical love for neighbor both through our volunteering/donations out in the world and in the way we attend to those within our congregation who are facing challenging times. Things like bringing food to a family that just had a baby, or taking someone who has lost their job or gone through a recent divorce out to lunch to check on them and see how we could help. Offering your truck to move a friend, reaching out to a new member or someone you haven’t seen in a while.
So many of these things are happening organically in our church which I take to be an indicator of its health and vitality. There are times, however, where I would like to have a group of folks to work with in supporting a particular family or community member going through a rough patch. Something like a community care team to hold confidential concerns and brainstorm supportive options. We have several chaplains and others in our midst who could give additional training to this team of people in how to offer a ministry of accompaniment. Life is bumpy. And I think here at Church in the Cliff we want to cultivate a space where it is ok, encouraged even, to ask for help. It can be a gift in a world where people live so isolated in their little boxes to share our vulnerability with one another. Loving the world back to life, starting with ourselves.
Interested in learning more about the team? Needing some support?  Talk to me, call the church number 214 233-4605 or email
thanks, Courtney