Archive for January, 2010

Haiti

// January 27th, 2010 // 3 Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Over the past two Sundays we collected over $900 for Partners in Health, an organization that provides community-based health care in Haiti and other developing countries around the world.  They have over twenty years of experience working on the ground in Haiti’s poorest communities and are well equipped both to respond to the crisis and help rebuild the health infrastructure over the long term. Thank you to Ron for his passionate appeal and for all that donated. We will also accept contributions tonight. I’m hoping to send in an even grand, thanks be to God!

Be Not Afraid

// January 27th, 2010 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

“Do not be afraid” — The most frequent commandment in scripture and one often spoken by angels. In Jeremiah 1:4-10 a young man has a direct encounter with Yahweh who calls him to assume the role of prophet. And God answers Jeremiah’s objections — saying “No-you’re not too young!” and “You don’t need to know how to speak, I am going to place my own words in your mouth.”
 
But Yahweh doesn’t stop there. He also speaks to the objection in Jeremiah’s heart, the one too tender to name. Yahweh, firmly and lovingly tells him “Do not be afraid, I am with you.”
 
What is the relationship between fear and responding to God’s call? I think the two may be more intertwined than we realize. When I review the past twelve months of pastoring this church, there have been many times when I tried to give it back to God. Sometimes this push-pull session lasted only for a day, other times it was longer. Usually it hit me in moments I felt overwhelmed–overwhelmed by the intensity of the role, or by the hurts and needs of folks in the church and the complex ways they play out in our intimate community.
 
But Jeremiah reminds me that I am not alone when I resist God’s invitation. In fact, in an upside-down, inside-out way, resistance is directly related to the experience of standing on holy ground. To feel unworthy or inadequate goes with the project of being called as God’s servant. And it may mean you are closer to saying yes with your whole heart and your whole self than you even realize.
 
Now clearly this applies not only to the Big Callings, to those like Jeremiah who are called to speak truth in the realm of international politics or other Big Places. And God’s call is not limited to prophets, priests and pastors. Much like we discussed in our conversation about spiritual gifts – the Spirit delivers the gifts, and we are all gifted. Not just the special people, the charismatic people, those who have talents we admire, those who can perform on a stage. Not just the smart people, or the pretty people, or the rich people– but everyone, everyone is gifted by the Spirit. And these gifts don’t belong to us, they belong to the community.
 
Likewise we are all called by God. And in an interesting twist, the power and will and love we need to do the work we are called to do is also provided by God. God exists on both sides of the equation.
 
I don’t think we ever outgrow being called. In fact, as the seasons of our life change, I think new directions to manifest our call can sprout up around us. Have you ever met a weary ex-idealist who has been hauled by God into a fresh place? I suspect our church may be full of them. I have known and loved people like this in other places, like a dear friend Bill who after years of serving the local church found in retirement he was called to serve a different kind of congregation. Rather than rural new Englanders, Bill was led through a series of relationships and activism to a community of displaced farmers on a mountain top in Honduras. They are the poorest of the poor and Bill loves them. He walks six hours up a mountainside to be with them. He goes with them to the office of the regional official who threatens to displace them again. He has worked with them to build and staff their own health clinic. And if you are lucky, you get to be a North American who goes with him on one of the immersion trips he leads, and see a prophet in action. 
 
Neither our achievements nor our confidence qualify us to answer the call of God. God qualifies us to answer the call of God. And God is so clearly still calling.
 
Join us tonight as we read scripture, discuss the beauty and intensity of God’s call and share some good food.
 
en paz,
 
Courtney
 
PS David Marquis is cooking the meal at Casa Semrad tonight and could use extra Nan bread and some dessert.  108 South Rosemont Ave, 6:30pm. All are welcome!  Call church number for more info 214. 233-4605.  We will end a little early so folks can catch the State of the Union address if they would like.

Church as body not building

// January 20th, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

I Corinthians 12:12-31a
The body is one, even though it has many parts; all the parts-many though they are-comprise a single body. And so it is with Christ. It was by one Spirit that all of us, whether we are Jews or Greeks, slaves or citizens, were baptized into one body. All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit. And that Body is not one part; it is many.  
If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” does that make it any less a part of the body? If the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the body were all eye, what would happen to our hearing? If the body were all ear, what would happen to our sense of smell? Instead of that, God put all the different parts into one body on purpose. If all the parts were alike, where would the body be?
 
They are, indeed, many different members but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” any more than the head can say to the fee, “I do not need you.” And even those members of the body which seem less important are in fact indispensable. We honor the members we consider less honorable by clothing them with greater care, thus bestowing on the less presentable a propriety which the more presentable do not need. God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to the lowly members, that there may be no dissension in the body, but that all the members may be concerned for one another. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members share its joy.
 
You then, are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of it. Furthermore, God has set up in the church, first apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then miracle works, healers, assistants, administrators and those who speak in tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles or have the gift o healing? Do all speak in tongues, or do all have the gift of interpretation of tongues? Set your hearts on the greater gifts. But now I will show you the way which surpasses all the others.

Paul outlines in his letter to the Corinthians a vision of a church which is not a building, but a body of people, caring for one another, sharing the work of God in the world. As a church without a building, I wonder how this description sounds to our community.  The past few months I have been reflecting a lot on our worship space and feel grateful for it. I love that we are nestled there in between a view of pond and ducks on one side and the sounds of basketball games on the other.  We worship between creation and community, with no where to hide except perhaps in the shadow of God’s wings.
 
I think that can make us feel a little exposed at times, but perhaps that also is a gift in that vulnerability can drive us deeper into authentic community. Many if not most of us have limited experience with this kind of community–  being more familiar instead with relationships that are functional, that exist in order to do or achieve something.
 
 But Paul reminds us that our relationships in Christ have no purpose beyond themselves. They exist as the visible expression of the love of God, a love that simply takes delight in the presence of the beloved — the embodied presence of the beloved. 
 
Now just to clarify we are not talking here about a forced uniformity.  There will always be differences within a congregation –differing opinions, experiences, priorities, needs and it is dangerous to try to play down those differences in the interest of cultivating a superficial harmony.  Instead, Paul reminds us, natural diversity strengthens the body as each member contributes a vital function.
 
Ultimately it is the Spirit of God which prepares us for this role as member of the body of Christ. We come to the waters of baptism as individuals, independent and self-contained and come out of the water changed. Our identity is no longer solitary; we are defined by our relationships and our common dependence on the Spirit, who is our lifeblood.

 

Join us tonight as we read and reflect more on Paul’s words and what they suggest to us as people on the Jesus Way in this time and this place. 

 

en paz
 
Courtney
 
PS Join us at Casa Semrad tonight for Pizza and conversation (bring some cash to contribute por favor). 108 South Rosemont Ave, 6:30pm. All are welcome!  Call church number for more info 214. 233-4605
PPS Today’s reflection represents a weaving of ideas drawn from the lectionary resource, Feasting on the Word, as Perl woke me up at 430 this morning because of her sick little body so my own capacity to generate thoughts is seriously limited.

 
On Sunday we collected almost $400 for Partners in Health, an organization that provides community-based health care in Haiti and other developing countries around the world.  They have over twenty years of experience working on the ground in Haiti’s poorest communities and are well equipped both to respond to the crisis and help rebuild the health infrastructure over the long term. Thank you to Ron for his passionate appeal and for all that donated. We will also accept contributions tonight and do a special collection and prayer for Haiti in the service on Sunday.

Partners in Health in Haiti

// January 13th, 2010 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Partners in Health is an organization which inspires me greatly. They build relationships with the global poor to improve health. I have a good friend in Boston who is their grant-writer/manager and several other friends who support their work, including Sandy who forwarded me an email today asking if our, and I quote “superfly church is interested in making a special donation this week.” I told her I would spread the word virally online. Check out the Parters in Health site and consider making a donation in response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, where they have worked for many years. Additional info from Partners in Health below:

A major earthquake centered just 10 miles from Port-au-Prince has devastated sections of the city and knocked out telephone communications throughout the country. Reached via email, Partners In Health staff at our facilities in the Central Plateau report that they experienced a strong shock but no major damage or injuries. We are still attempting to establish contact with other PIH facilities and to locate several staff members who were traveling in and around Port-au-Prince.
In an urgent email from Port-au-Prince, Louise Ivers, our clinical director in Haiti, appealed for assistance from her colleagues in the Central Plateau: “Port-au-Prince is devastated, lot of deaths. SOS. SOS… Temporary field hospital by us at UNDP needs supplies, pain meds, bandages. Please help us.”
The earthquake has destroyed much of the already fragile and overburdened infrastructure in the most densely populated part of the country. A massive and immediate international response is needed to provide food, water, shelter, and medical supplies for tens of thousands of people.
With our hospitals and our highly trained medical staff in place in Haiti, Partners In Health is already mobilizing resources and preparing plans to bring medical assistance and supplies to areas that have been hardest hit.

Gifts on the Green

// January 13th, 2010 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Spiritual gifts do not belong to an individual. They belong to the community. As people we do not possess spiritual gifts, they possess us. Actually, She, the Spirit, is the one who possesses us.
 
So often we compare and despair saying “I wish I had the gift of knowledge or leadership or –insert your desired gift here–.” Or we feel inflated in an unhealthy way saying “I am so prophetic in my critique of the institutional church, God must really love me to give me this wisdom.”
 
Spiritual gifts are not merit badges of holiness or signs of approval from a paternalistic Godhead. Rather they are God’s response to the needs of our communities. And as people on the Jesus Way, our job is to do our own inner work, to get out of our own way, to allow God’s gifts to manifest through us.
 
Often this work is one of deconstructing the ego that the world is so good at encouraging us to create. And I’m not saying it is easy. But I think at a certain point the release into God’s gifts in us can start to feel really, really good. As we align deeper with our true self, the beloved child of which Scott spoke last week, some strange things can start to happen. Rooted in the Spirit, our work and our rest can become more intertwined than the world ever tells you they can be. In fact, could it be possible that our true work actually kind of renews and invigorates us at the same time that it is a vehicle for us to gift the community?
 
I know our beloved community and world needs all the gifts God can provide. The list Paul provides in I Corinthians 12:1-13 was never meant to be exhaustive. It is a starting point, a celebration of the ways that God moves in the world: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, power to distinguish one spirit from another, tongues, interpretation, and Paul continues later with the more ordinary gifts of teaching, leading, and helping others.
 
I am excited by the thought that one of the things that could mark Church in the Cliff could be our willingness to name the gifts we see in each other. I think we all need places of deep affirmation, communities who give voice and warmth of body to God’s love for us. Communities of people who remind us that we don’t have to have it all together and that to the contrary, in our confusion and brokenness, they see the light of God cracking through.
 
Welcome to the second Sunday after Epiphany–the beginning of a little green patch of ‘ordinary time’ in the liturgical calendar. We have moved through the starry nights of Advent and the fireworks of Christmastide and Epiphany and now we find ourselves out on the pasture. With just enough green in the fields for us to munch our way through the next five weeks until we dip into the deep themes of Lent. Lets talk while we munch, and name and celebrate God’s gifting of this one small community and of the whole wide world.  
 

en paz,

 

Courtney

 

PS Join us at Casa Semrad tonight for some of Paul’s home cooking. 108 South Rosemont Ave, 6:30pm. All are welcome!  Call church number for more info 214. 233-4605
PPS Scott is hosting a Salon for
DART Stations of the Cross this Sunday after church with lunch. 221 S. Edgefield Ave. Everyone invited!