Archive for May, 2010

Spirit of Truth

// May 26th, 2010 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

John 16:12-15 (Inclusive text)
I have much more to tell you,
but you can’t bear to hear it now.
When the Spirit of truth comes,
she will guide you into all truth.
She won’t speak on her own initiative;
rather, she’ll speak only what she hears,
and she’ll announce to you
things that are yet to come.
In doing this, the Spirit will give glory to me,
for she will take what is mine
and reveal it to you.
Everything that Abba God has belongs to me.
This is why I said that
the Spirit will take what is mine
and reveal it to you.

About eight chapters before this week’s passage, Jesus says that “the truth will make you free.” I’m sure we’ve all heard this throughout our lives; I’m not even sure I knew it was from the Bible. A couple of chapters after this passage, Pilate asks Jesus: “What is truth?” This is a very academic and philosophical question, which means that it’s probably pointless to ask it. But taken together, these questions are crucial. What kind of truth sets us free?

I grew up a fundamentalist. I was very certain of what I knew about the world and I knew that everything I knew and needed to know about the world was in the Bible. If the 16-year-old me read today’s passage, it would confirm that notion, that God had delivered the singular truth to me in the Bible. All I had to do was believe.

Now I’m all growed up and my head is full of all kinds of book learnin’. Turns out, things are not so simple. There are some things in the Bible that should give reasonable people pause, such as talking snakes, but these are not very interesting to me. Either you believe things like that happened or you don’t. Discussion on the topic is not usually very productive.

I’m more interested in another common phrase: “the truth hurts.” This usually means that someone has told us something that we’d rather not hear, but it also works as a counter to John’s freeing truth and exposes the danger of reading John as I might have when I was younger. For many people in our community, truth is used as a weapon to harm them, a boundary line to keep them out. All the things I knew, the things of which I was certain, were a wall against other possibilities: maybe other religions have something valuable to say; maybe “those people” aren’t so bad after all; maybe being a Christian is not what I was led to believe.

If the truth sets us free, it must be something more than a set of factual propositions to which we give our assent. What freedom is it that locks all people into one answer for all time? What freedom is it that imprisons people in a world of middling expectations? What freedom is it that calls a person an abomination? If that is truth, then I cannot give my assent.

So maybe Pilate’s question isn’t so academic. What is this truth that the Spirit will guide us into? It’s an odd phrase: “guide you into all truth.” We might expect the Spirit to tell us the truth, but guide us into it like a place? Perhaps knowing the truth means that we move from one place to another; we move into the presence of God and God moves into us. It is a dislocation out of the everyday and into the life eternal, the life of God. This truth is dynamic; it is life lived. It makes claims on us every day. It is anything but simple. This truth reveals possibilities for us and the world around us.

Peace and Grace,

Scott

P.S. This Sunday is Trinity Sunday. I hope you’ll join us at Kidd Springs Rec Center at 11am as we talk about the truth of life lived in God and how we might understand the Trinity in that light.

LOVING THE WORLD BACK TO LIFE

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.

For a few years now, our church has committed to serving meals for the homeless and hungry at Oak Lawn UMC whenever there is a fifth Sunday. This Sunday is one of those days. We need about 6 people and, because of Memorial Day, we are missing some of our regulars. Volunteers would need to arrive at 3:30pm and we’ll be done by 6:30pm at the latest. Please contact Lisa Shirley (lisawhiteshirley@hotmail.com) if you can help out.

Spirit Freak

// May 22nd, 2010 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Acts 2:1-6  (Inclusive text)

When Pentecost day came around,
the apostles had all met in one room,
when suddenly they heard
what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven.
The noise filled the entire house where they were sitting.
And something appeared to them
that seemed like tongues of fire;
these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them.
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak foreign languages,
as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.
 
Now there were devout people living in Jerusalem
from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled.
But they were bewildered to hear their native languages being spoken.

What gives evidence to the wind?
 
Artists have a hard time capturing and portraying the movement of the air. It is much easier to simply allude to the wind by depicting the objects that it moves: stalks of wildflowers dancing on a breeze, ripples of waves on the surface of a pond, hair blown across the cheek of a beloved.
 
What gives evidence to the Spirit?
 
Likewise it is hard to describe the movements of God among and within us. Story tellers in scripture and throughout time have struggled to articulate the essence of the Holy Spirit- often relying on metaphors or poetic license to capture something of Her truth.
 
We are told that she is like the soft flutter of a dove’s wing, yet also as feisty and unpredictable in her movements as a flame. This week’s scripture from Luke-Acts, one of the most familiar of biblical passages, describes a mighty wind, not outdoors where you might expect one, but inside, filling a house where the whole community of Jesus-following folk were gathered, about one hundred and twenty people in all. And divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, one tongue resting on each individual. So the Spirit is present to all, unified in form, but also divided in such a way that she is accessible and intimate.
 
What gives evidence to the Spirit?
 
For a long time when people would talk about the Holy Spirit I would tend to get kind of uncomfortable. She was too convenient and seemed to function as a sort of a spiritual catch-all. If someone wanted to claim some authority for an action or opinion they could always say the Spirit had guided them there. And I wasn’t sure how to argue with that. Or even if I even should.
 
But I have to let everyone know that I have tipped over the edge on this one. I love me some Holy Spirit. (Sara Miles, author of the book we have just concluded, Take this Bread, has a new one out called JesusFreak. I have heard other progressive/emergent/funky Christian writers reclaiming religious language. Like when Anne Lamott calls herself a holy roller. So can I call myself a Spirit freak?)
 
Call her what you will: Pneuma, breath of God, Sophia, this feminine Spirit of God woven through Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, Flame, Wind, Advocate, Paraclete, Comforter. I’ll take them all. I also have a sneaking suspicion she may be what the Quaker’s call the inner teacher, the soul’s own wisdom.
 
It just makes sense to me that God is on the move and somehow accessible as an embodied experience. And I am thankful to the tradition for describing this phenomenon for me so I don’t think I’m crazy when I encounter Her presence.
 
And also, I am interested in what happens at Pentecost as it relates to language. Some commentators talk about this as a reversal of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). But that would seem to suggest the creation of one unifying language from disparate linguistic fragments. And that is not what happens. Rather today’s passage describes the diversifying of language so that Greek, the imperial language, ceased — at least for a moment — to be dominant. Instead, the first act of this new incarnation of spiritual community was to give immigrants gathered in Jerusalem from all over the Roman Empire the experience of coming home after a long absence. The church, filled with the Spirit, gifts foreigners with a return to the sounds they heard while floating in their mothers’ wombs.
 
This leaves us with another name for the Holy Spirit: the voice which welcomes us home. Join us tonight and Sunday as we talk about spirit, home, identity, love, beauty, truth, and anything else we can squeeze in.
 
Peace,
 
Courtney
Join the board this Sunday for an all church meeting and Pentecost Potluck after worship at Southwood UMC (3601 South Ravinia Drive Dallas, TX 75233-3238). Call 214.233.4605 with questions (see meeting agenda below)

LOVING THE WORLD BACK TO LIFE

 
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.   
 
Church in the Cliff is planning our first Mission Trip. Inspired by Chloe, a powerful 13 year old who has grown up in our community, we are headed to New Orleans to work with kiddos. Join us in a trip to the lower 9th ward as we partner with an Episcopal parish/community center that hosts a summer camp and music program. Dates: wed July 7- sun July 11th.
 
Chloe is going to be taking some pictures of folks who want to support the trip and making a collage of their faces to take with the group. She is also accepting donations for the trip fund. If you are interested we will have detailed info/forms available at the All Church Meeting this Sunday. The deadline for signing up is Sunday June 6. Check your calendars and join us.
Church in the Cliff Board 
 
Note from Kristin regarding agenda for All Church Meeting this Sunday

Hi Folks,
We have our Church in the Cliff business meeting and community lunch this coming Sunday, May 23rd at 1 p.m. at the Southwood United Methodist Church located at 3601 South Ravinia Drive Dallas, TX 75233. This is an opportunity for the community to spend some time in this space as we continue the discussion of location, identity and future.
During this business meeting and lunch, we have the opportunity to vote on several topics:
1) Beginning an affiliation with United Church of Christ
2) Renewing CitC’s affiliation with the Alliance of Baptists
3) Damon Petite as new board treasurer.
 
Also on the agenda is a reminder of the CitC mission trip to New Orleans lead Chloe Clark-Soles and a discussion of a potential new worship space at Southwood UMC.
For those of you who cannot attend the lunch this coming Sunday, you may e-mail your votes and statements to board clerk, Kristin Schutz, at
KristinL.schutz@gmail.com by 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 23. If you cannot attend and will be e-mailing your votes, please continue reading for more information.
 
The topics we will be voting on are as follows:
 
1) Beginning an affiliation with United Church of Christ. CitC is currently unaffiliated. This vote is to begin the process of affiliating with UCC. Vote yes or no to beginning this affiliation.
About UCC:
Intelligent dialogue and a strong independent streak sometimes cause the United Church of Christ (UCC) and its 1.2 million members to be called a “heady and exasperating mix.” The UCC tends to be a mostly progressive denomination that unabashedly engages heart and mind. And yet, the UCC somehow manages to balance congregational autonomy with a strong commitment to unity among its nearly 5,600 congregations-despite wide differences among many local congregations on a variety of issues.
Dual standing within UCC:
The Affiliating church must have written documentation from the mother church/denomination before applying for dual standing in the United Church of Christ and sometimes a letter or statement from the United Church of Christ Ecumenical Offer about the ecumenical relationship of that denomination with the United Church of Christ. Affiliating congregations must go through the process and complete all the necessary requirements for dual standing including the knowledge of United Church of Christ history and polity before the conference/association ministry committee votes for dual standing for the affiliating church.
More information about UCC:
http://www.facebook.com/l/a470b;www.ucc.org/
 
2) Renewing CitC’s affiliation with the Alliance of Baptists. CitC is currently affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists. Many of our community members are or have been part of the Alliance of Baptists. Vote yes or no to continuing our affiliation.
Levels of support:
Friend = $500 annually
Partner = 1% of annual budget.
Benefits of Affiliation:
· Subscription to connections, the monthly e-newsletter of the Alliance of Baptists
· Search & Call assistance to affiliated congregations, individual members, and theology schools
· Assistance in ordination of clergy
· Registry of ordained clergy to certify standing
· Endorsement of chaplains and pastoral counselors in specialized settings
· Access to retirement plans and insurance benefits for church staffs, chaplains, pastoral counselors, and other “wandering ministers.”
· World Wide mission partnerships
· Ecumencial relationships with the National Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and others.
· Interfaith dialogue
· Public witness to religious liberty, peace and justice
· Resources on a variety of relevant topics and issues
For more information bout the Alliance of Baptists:
http://www.facebook.com/l/a470b;www.allianceofbaptists.org/
 
3) Damon Petite as new board treasurer. CitC needs a committed and capable treasurer to steer the community to financial sustainability. Damon has graciously offered his time and talents to CitC. Vote yes or no to Damon as new CitC treasurer.
Please send your three votes to CitC board clerk, Kristin Schutz, at
KristinL.Schutz@gmail.com by 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 23.
Thanks for bearing with us during this long message!
In Peace,
CitC Board
 
 
Ross Prater, Moderator
Kristin Schutz, Clerk
James Fairchild, Trustee
Cara Stoneham, Trustee

 
Please contact Kristin Schutz, clerk at
kristinl.schutz@gmail.com or moderator Ross Prater, at pprate@verizon.net with any questions or feedback.
Also, a note from Cara:
 
Need something to do this summer?  In collaboration with the United Church of Christ, the Alliance of Baptists is launching the Summer Communities of Service program this summer. The Summer Communities of Service program is a mission-learning opportunity that will place young adults, ages 19-30, in host congregations across the country.  The young adults will live in intentional Christian community as they serve as volunteers four days a week in a hands-on capacity with a local ministry connected with a congregation, an existing domestic Alliance mission partner, or a community agency committed to social justice. They will engage in social justice issues, living in intentional spiritual community, and connecting with UCC and Alliance-affiliated churches across the country.  Participants will recieve a $1000 stipend, housing, health insurance, and a food/transportation allotment.  Orientation will be June 2-4 in Raleigh, NC and dates of service at their host sites will be from June 5 to August 14.  For more information and an application: 
www.allianceofbaptists.org/serve/missions/summercommunitiesofservice

Easter Kumbaya

// May 12th, 2010 // 1 Comment » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

 
John 17:20-21, 25-26  (inclusive)
 

Jesus is at prayer:
“I don’t pray for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all may be one, as you, Abba, are in me and I in you; I pray that they may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me.

Righteous One, the world hasn’t known you, but I have; and these people know that you sent me. To them I have revealed your Name, and I will continue to reveal it so that the love you have for me may live in them, just as I may live in them.”

 

“I hope that readers, whether or not they are religious, will be able to take away Jesus’ message: Don’t be afraid. That they’ll find ways to act; to feed others, to accept being fed by others; that they’ll be willing to open up to people very different from themselves.”  
Sara Miles, author Take this Bread
 
 
This week we conclude our book and celebrate the seventh or final Sunday of Eastertide. Honestly, maintaining a feast mindset and searching for the liberating message of the resurrected Christ in scripture, in life, in community for 50 days can start to feel like hard work. 
There are a lot of reasons for this. Often it is when we have time to rest, as we are invited to do during Easter, that the demons which we keep at bay by being busy make themselves known. So we can start to crave a distraction.
Also we live in a dominant culture with a weird relationship to food and feasting. As Sara so bluntly puts it “As a nation, we’re obsessed with food, afraid of it, and deeply out of touch with what it means to sit down and eat real food with other people. We’re surrounded by abundance, we’re fat, and we’re starving (288).” It is hard to develop a healthy relationship to feasting when we are bombarded by aggressive advertisements for cheap calories and surrounded by a national discourse that values cheap, quick words over deep engagement with complex issues.
In the face of this Easter-fatigue, I like the words for the journey with which we closed our worship on Sunday:  
 
‘Go into this world accompanied by the Spirit of God who both unsettles and inspires us. Go with the kiss of peace on your lips and venerate the Holy Spirit made manifest in the people and the new life unfolding around you.’
 
In Eastertide we tend to talk about these big themes of LOVE, and PEACE, and UNITY and it can feel sort of kumbaya if we aren’t careful. But God as both inspiring and unsettling, that resonates. 
 
In the closing chapters of Take this Bread, Sara struggles to tie it all together. And in the end, she kind of just admits that she can’t do it. Instead, the reader is left with a sense of the push-pull that has become Sara’s life as a practicing Christian. Her baptism she says, has done the total opposite of making her safe. Far from merely inducting her into a ‘like-minded club of believers,’ her baptism and her ongoing work to feed more and varied folk continue to feel dangerous. Her life as a Jesus follower is fraught with tension and complexities that remain unresolved– even in her own spirit.
 
Like when she tries to start a second food pantry in the congregation on Sunday and the original worshiping community at St. Gregory’s balks — not wanting to give up their sense of Sabbath spaciousness, time for art, music, and silence. She is devastated, but still called to be a part of and fed by her participation in St. Gregory’s. She comes to see the perspective of other community members, even as she feels so convicted that they should open themselves up to deeper encounters with people who are different than them. She is continually reminded, and so reminds her reader, that one doesn’t get to be a special believer by oneself, and that there are not hard and fast rules about how exactly to move forward and embody the Christ-mystery in the world. 
 
Yet Sara does leave us with a specific invitation: to start small, to engage, to do something rather than arguing over ideology or methodology. This small something can be volunteering at a pre-GED school, or going on a trip to New Orleans to make some music with poor kids, or just opening ourselves another level to the grace and complexity of life lived in community.
 
Because ultimately the Easter message is not kumbaya. Resurrection is not sentimental or simplistic. Instead it is a deep message of liberation from death, from fear, from being imprisoned in our own heads our own hurts. It is a message that all of us are hungry to receive, every day of our life. And it is a mystery that we never fully live into.
 
Tonight join us for tamales, home-made slaw, and ten bean soup. We are meeting at 6:30pm at Southwood UMC (3601 South Ravinia Drive Dallas, TX 75233-3238). Join us for this opportunity to check out their community kitchen and garden and to discern next steps regarding a potential collaboration/space sharing arrangement. Also on Pentecost, May 23rd, the Citc Board is organizing an all church meeting and potluck at Southwood after worship so that’s another opportunity to check it out. Call 214. 233. 4605 with any questions.
 
All Good Things,
Courtney

 

PS Last chance to hang with Alan and participate in his drop in book club, this Sunday at 10am.

 

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.

   

 
Church in the Cliff is planning our first Mission Trip. Inspired by Chloe, a powerful 13 year old who has grown up in our community, we are headed to New Orleans to work with kiddos. Join us in a trip to the lower 9th ward as we partner with an Episcopal parish/community center that hosts a summer camp and music program. Dates: wed July 7- sun July 11th.
 
Chloe is going to be taking some pictures of folks who want to support the trip and making a collage of their faces to take with the group. She is also accepting donations for the trip fund. More details to come… if you are interested we will have detailed info/forms available at the All Church Meeting on May 23rd. The Deadline for signing up is Sunday June 6. Check your calendars and ask if you have any questions!

 

 

 

LOVING THE WORLD BACK TO LIFE 

 

 

 

Divers and Anchors

// May 6th, 2010 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

John 14: 25-27  (Inclusive Version)  
 
This much have I said to you while still with you; but the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit whom Abba God will send in my name, will instruct you in everything and she will remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; but the kind of peace I give you is not like the world’s peace.
Don’t let your hearts be distressed; don’t be fearful.

“Together, at the pantry, we really were turning into a people. We were dying, sort of – Homer to his drug addiction, Steve to his idea of a successful career, me to my fantasies of independence and control. We were dying to our individual selves and becoming a body. 
It has sore places and unhealed scars;
 it wasn’t perfect, but it was beautiful.
It was Christ’s body or, as we said in church, a church.”
  
(Take This Bread, by Sara Miles p. 170)
 
So some of us gathered on Monday for a tour of the Southwood United Methodist Church to see if we might be interested in moving in there and becoming a cooperative parish or sharing space in some other way. (Southwood is a gay-friendly (indeed mostly gay) small congregation in Oak Cliff that hosts a community garden and is looking for ways to share their facility with other like-minded folks so we were invited to check it out.)
 
It has been a really interesting and provocative week to meditate on Sara’s words reminding us that the church is the body of Christ, wounded yet strong. And also on Jesus’ words from the Gospel of John, which leave us with peace and assurance that our hearts need not be troubled.
 
Any change, even good change, or just even conversation regarding potential change, is destabilizing. This left me wondering, where is the mystery of Christ in that sense of being off balance? Or in disrupting the norm?
 
I have had multiple conversations this week with folks from our community who represent a whole range of perspectives regarding this invitation from Southwood. Some say, ‘I am so ready to have more and permanent space, especially for hospitality and for our kids.’ Or, ‘I think it is such a sweet church, I love all the green space and I’m ready to move in tomorrow!’ Or ‘I’m so tempted to buy labyrinth books and start planning one in the meadow…’
And other folks in our community feel a dark cloud pass over their heart at the prospect of leaving Kidd Springs, of leaving this fresh and open and exposed and beautiful community space. They express sentiments like ‘I’m not sure the space would ever really feel like ours’ or ‘It is too far south’ or ‘I fear another collaboration that turns sour.’
 
But do you know what has come up in all of the conversations? Some version of “but of course, if that is what the church consensus is… then of course I will go and be there (or stay). That is clear.”
 
This sentiment is an expression of the love we talked about on Sunday. It is also an awareness that this little community has cultivated over all of its moves of the past decade – a deep sense that the church is a body, not a building. Indeed the church is our body: and our bodies have different temperaments and response systems to change.
 
There will always be those who revel in ‘trying on’ new situations, imagining possibilities, shaking the dust of what has been off their feet and diving head first into the new. And there are those who ground the community, who are the anchors, who keep us from moving too fast. These thoughtful people ask hard and deep questions, and require us to move with intentionality.
 
Both ends of spectrum (and all those people in between) are a gift to the church. Indeed the conversation between the two ends is itself a kind of holy ground, a rare gift in a dominant culture that values loud opinions and polarized points of view.
 
I don’t think a sign, a building, or even a location will ever define this church. If anything, the image of the wildflower labyrinth speaks to me about the soul of this community: beautiful and flourishing in one season, at other times cut down and composted and replanted until it grows anew. But always pointing a pathway into the center, the very heart of God. And always inviting people to rest there for a moment, and then to travel back out and take that sense of Divine intimacy into the world.
 
Everyone is invited to come and check out Southwood and to join in the conversation about where we see our church being church in the coming months and years. (3601 South Ravinia Drive Dallas, TX 75233-3238). We have a couple of opportunities to try out the space: next Wednesday, May 12th, we will host our community gathering at Southwood (which will give us a chance to check out their kitchen!) and then on Pentecost, May 23rd, the Citc Board is organizing an all church meeting and potluck at Southwood after worship.
 
In the mean time let us pray, listen deeply to each others’ wisdom, and for the sweet wind of the Spirit to direct us.
 
I trust that wherever we are, and wherever we go, the body of Christ is awake and alive within our midst: a powerful resurrection message to celebrate in this Easter season.
 
Peace and All Good Things,

Courtney

Join us tonight as we engage chapters 16-20 of Take this Break and enjoy a Cinco de Mayo-flavored meal, 6:30pm at Casa Semrad, 108 S. Rosemont. 214 233-4605. Desserts welcome!

LOVING THE WORLD BACK TO LIFE

 
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.   
 
Church in the Cliff is planning our first Mission Trip. Inspired by Chloe, a powerful 13 year old who has grown up in our community, we are headed to New Orleans to work with kiddos. Join us in a trip to the lower 9th ward as we partner with an Episcopal parish/community center that hosts a summer camp and music program. Current Dates: wed July 7- sun July 11th.
 
Come to an all church meeting this Monday at Beckley Brewhouse, 7:30pm. (1111 N. Beckley Ave.)Bring your questions and ideas. We will also discuss a possible date change to later in July to accommodate some members who want to go.
Also, a note from Stephanie about another justice opportunity and an available discount!
 
Dear Church in the Cliff,

Are you looking for an opportunity for some time away this summer that provides spiritual renewal and helps connect you to the wider world we live in?

The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America’s summer conference is this kind of opportunity.

This year’s theme is Light to Live In: The Biblical Call to Peace Rooted in Justice. It will take place July 12-17 at Keuka College, Keuka Park, New York.

I have attend the BPFNA’s summer conference twice before and can tell you that the people who come to this meeting every year are like-minded folk who desire a spiritual connection, crave a different kind of religious community, care about justice, who want to think deeply, and who will make you laugh. Meeting people from this group began to open my mind about the wide variety of Baptist expressions that exist and helped me find a new place of welcome in the church tradition of my birth.

Children’s programming and family accommodations are available. The BPFNA includes people of a variety of ages and places in life, including a vibrant group of young singles.

We have several vouchers for a $200 discount for those who are attending for the first time. Contact Stephanie Wyatt s.m.wyatt@tcu.edu for more information. Also check out BPFNA’s website: http://www.bpfna.org.