Archive for November, 2009

Sweet Baby Jesus with the Balled-up Fists

// November 25th, 2009 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Join us this week for the

First Sunday of Advent & 

Baptism of Marlie Simone Petite

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36  (Inclusive Text)
Jesus said to the disciples:
‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars;
on earth nations in agony, bewildered
by the clamour of the ocean and its waves;
people dying of fear as they await
what menaces the world,
for the powers of heaven will be shaken.
‘And then they will see the Promised One
coming in the cloud with power and great glory.
When these things begin to take place,
stand erect, hold your heads high,
because your liberation is near at hand…’
‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened
with dissipation and drunkenness and the cares of life,
and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap.
‘For it will come down on every living person
on the face of the earth.
‘Stay awake, praying at all times
for the strength to survive all that is going to happen,
and to stand with confidence before the Promised One.’

So it is a good thing we have sweet little baby Marlie to celebrate on Sunday because the Gospel reading for this week is intense, and there is no glimpse of the teeny, tiny Jesus with the balled-up fists who often gets celebrated this time of year. Nope, this passage is more reminiscent of the visions we wrestled with during the All Saints Service from the book of Revelation and revisited last week during Christ the King Sunday.


What, more apocalypse? But this is Christmas-time. As we prepare for Christ’s birth why not focus on hope and celebrate all things sweetness and light?


All I can say is that our tradition is smarter than that. The ancients knew that you could not fully celebrate light and life without first waiting in the darkness. And that darkness is not always tight and gloomy, but can instead be a place of God’s deepest work. It is into this darkness that we step on Sunday, the first day of the Christian Liturgical Year. We step into the deep, deep blue of the night sky just before dawn.  We step into the mystery-yearning to be taught again this year that it is somehow in the waiting that we encounter the mystery of God’s presence.

Join us for a luminous service as we welcome both the Advent season and Teresha and Damon’s extended family and friends, many in from out of town.  
Everyone is invited to gather to celebrate God’s love for Marlie and to wait, watch and pray for the in-breaking of Christ into this time and this place.
Peace to you all,
No Community Dinner Tonight. Enjoy Thanksgiving with your family and/or your chosen family! Also if you are feeling the need to connect, join Michael and the Breakfast at Cathedral of Hope ministry at 7am this Saturday to feed 200+ of our town’s vulnerable people.


One of the joys of pastoring a church such as Church in the Cliff is how engaged this community is in social investment of various forms.  We give money, we organize, we volunteer,  we enter into relationship with the poor, locally and globally,  and we help and love each other. 


Advent Conspiracy is a resource which helps reclaim Christmas. Many in our community find it inspiring, and I invite you to explore the site, watch the video, and share what you think (and do, or don’t do) in response. They suggest slowing down, simplifying, giving relationally, and opening up more space in our hearts for mystery and love. More from their site below…


The story of Christ’s birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love.
So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of
stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists.
And when it’s all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose. Is this what we really want out of Christmas?


What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?


Welcome to Advent Conspiracy.


Take the challenge and enter the story with us this season. 

Comfort Food

// November 18th, 2009 // 1 Comment » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized


Feast on the Word

Reign of Christ Sunday 

Wednesday  18 November 2009
Revelation 1:4b-8

I ate the last of my Granny’s pear preserves on a gluten free bagel today. I stood there at the counter and scraped every last bit out of the mason jar with my orange plastic kid’s knife from IKEA: every sliver of pear, every drop of that sweet syrup clinging to the walls. And I cried while I did it. Granny is ninety-six and says she is done with making pear preserves. She has been giving them away for Christmas for years – huge honey-colored jars sealed up tight. I can picture her cutting mounds of ripe pears and cooking them slowly in the big pot and steaming all those lids closed. A lot of love in a jar. And I cried because I love her fiercely and she is so beautiful and strong and at the same time so fragile. 

It is scary to eat the last bit of Granny’s pear preserves. Scary because it feels like taking one step closer to losing her. Scary because the thought of losing Granny hints at my own mortality and also because it points me to work that I might be invited to pick up (you all have heard me wax poetic about my desire to can.) Scary because it is my ultimate comfort food and now it is gone.
This week we celebrate the last Sunday of the Christian liturgical year, properly known as the Feast of the Reign of Christ, or Christ the King Sunday. Let’s admit it, Christ the King Sunday is kind of awkward. It is a relatively recent addition (1925) to the calendar when compared to the ancient practices of Eastertide and Epiphany. And if you just take it head on, it seems to elevate a lot of themes that many in our community do not find life-giving i.e. a sort of militaristic, uber-powerful Christ that will beat you up if you don’t get in line.
But the Feast of the Reign of Christ focuses our attention on one of the great paradoxes of the tradition:  that of the Servant King.  I think that labeling Christ with these two words which seem to be opposites may disrupt our normal dualistic categories in a good way and open us to a different appreciation of the Mystery.  This week is also a hinge point in the calendar drawing us out of ‘ordinary time’ where we have spent the last half of the year and positioning us to enter Advent and as such it is kind of like New Year’s Eve– a good moment to analize one’s life and reflect on lessons learned and hopes for the future.
So on this final week of the liturgical year I am taking stock:
Last jar of pear preseves. Gone
Transformative community in which to share this and other stories. Gained

There is more on my list of course, and each of you have your own lists of that which has been lost and found during the past year. Let’s share these lists with each other in the coming days so that we may enter the new year lighter and with more grace.
Peace of Christ to you all this day,
6:30 PM Community Dinner tonight at our place, 304 Archer Ave. Dallas TX 75211. call 214 233-4605 for directions. Paul is organizing the food- touch base with him if you can contribute. 469-951-7322

Granular Level God

// November 12th, 2009 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

As a new pastor I feel like I am learning things all the time: big things, beautiful things, humble things, things about the world, about people who love God and about God who loves people.
So here is what I learned today. Don’t go to a theological library on the morning you need to write a brief reflection about the book of Ruth. I was so excited getting my ‘clergy card’ at Bridwell Library at SMU that I came home with five new books on women in the Bible and on feminist biblical interpretation. And now I am not quite sure what to do with myself or how to digest these words and turn around and write words of my own that hopefully speak  to our community’s needs and desires. It turns out this little story of Ruth about an unconventional relationship between two women has caused some commotion in the tradition, and there are plenty of books to help us explore every nuance of the drama. 

Ruth is a story over 2000 years old yet it carries themes that seem to speak into the heart of contemporary culture: questions of how to treat resident aliens from another land, how women use limited resources, including their bodies and sexuality, to procure protection for themselves and their kin, and how God meets us in the mundane and the messy corners of our lives.
It is this dimension of Ruth that speaks to me the most. It is granular level stuff-a story that gets inside human experience and suggests that through relationships we sometimes are able to make a way where there seemed to be no way. Ruth reminds us that we can offer companionship even when that is all we have to offer. Her story also suggests that sometimes embracing our vulnerability and traveling into the unknown can birth new life. 
Last week we talked about cultivating a chosen family and loving each other  fiercely. We asserted that home is found in people, not a place. This week we travel further into the book of Ruth and see how her life with Naomi unfolded after she made her bold pledge of solidarity in the first chapter saying “your people will be my people, and your God my God.”
It turns out it is not so easy to be a foreigner, a woman, and a widow in ancient Palestine and that Ruth has to keep her wits about her. Join us Sunday as we read more of her story and ask each other where we hear God on the move and how Ruth speaks to our yearnings for the Divine in this time and this place.

Home is where your peoples are

// November 4th, 2009 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

 Home is not a place. Home is where your people are.
Ms. Maggie taught me this lesson last year as Richie, Coleman and I prepared to leave Boston after four years. Ms. Maggie was Coleman’s first teacher. She runs a home-based childcare in our former neighborhood, Jamaica Plain, and has been caring for children and families for over twenty years. (She also is a master dumpster diver and thrift store shopper —  capable of outfitting her entire gigantic play yard with tricycles, balls, sand-tables, and slides etc. which she salvaged from the curbs of wealthy Boston neighborhoods. But let us leave stories of freecycling for another day)
A month or so before we moved I talked to her about Coleman. I was worried about him- he was not yet two and we were about to move him away from everything that he knew and the relationships that gave his life meaning: all his little friends at Ms. Maggie’s, including Ian Patrick who was an older boy who had adopted him as a little brother. We would be leaving all of our friends from church and the neighborhood who loved on Coleman and spoiled him and would take him for walks and shower him with treats when Richie and I needed a break. And we would leave our lovely, highly walk-able neighborhood with green space and local coffee shops and the T stop just around the corner where Coleman could watch the trains everyday. I was sad about leaving too, but Richie and I were the ones with the power to make the decision and we felt good about going to Dallas. Coleman, however, did not really have a choice and I was worried that he would be seriously destabilized by all the changes.
And here is what Ms Maggie said. She told me “You and Richie are Coleman’s home.” She said that we should teach him that anytime the three of us were together, we were home. Home could be mobile. It was not a place; it was the love and protection we created together. And we didn’t even have to pack anything for us to be able to take home with us. All we had to do was acknowledge and name that we created home and show Coleman that our care for each other was enough.
So we left. And for one night home was in a hotel. And then home was with my parents for six weeks in north Dallas. And then finally, home moved into our current place, lost sheep lodge, here in oak cliff.
The story of Ruth from the Hebrew Scriptures takes this definition of home even further. Home, the story suggests, is relational. And not limited to your family of origin. We can create a chosen family and live and love within those boundaries. We can pitch a big tent over each other and love each other the way that God loves us. Maybe this message can speak intimately to our ears as a little church without a permanent home in a building. We, the community, are each other’s home. And for many in our midst this is a vitally important place-especially for those who always felt out of step growing up, or like a weirdo in their family, or whose family can’t deal with their sexual orientation, or  political beliefs, or consumption patterns. Or all of the above.
Church in the Cliff is a tent which provides shelter and meaning and love for many of us and for that I give thanks to Yahweh.                   


Home is where your people are. 

Peace, Courtney

6:30 pm Community Dinner Tonight at Casa Semrad 108 S. Rosemont Ave.

Peace, Courtney

6:30 pm Community Dinner Tonight at Casa Semrad 108 S. Rosemont Ave.