Archive for May, 2013

The Gift of Time

// May 31st, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

This series on time will certainly be an instance where I will learn more than I will teach.  If time and I had a facebook relationship status, it would be “it’s complicated.”  My waking and sleeping are at odd times and of irregular durations.  I question whether I can change that, mostly because I don’t really want to.  It works for me – it’s a creative space – until it doesn’t.  Exhaustion, lethargy, migraines.  I don’t really want to keep regular hours, but I also don’t want to let time slip by unnoticed, to miss the chance to meet God.  I’ve started reading the book we will be using – Dorothy Bass’s Receiving the Day – and there is wisdom there.  (Nice pick, Genny Rowley, Awesome Co-pastor!)  Bass is a gentle author that creates space for us to find ourselves.

She begins the book talking about datebooks, little blocks of time we endeavor to fill with productivity.  It turns time into a commodity to be used, managed, and consumed.  And, like all commodities, we think that if we can just have more we will be happy.  Like our study of Jubilee, Bass suggests that there must be a better way and, oddly enough, that way might be found in our great Christian tradition.

Over the course of this series we will look at the shape of the day, the week, and the year, but this week we start with the framework of time as a gift.  In the background of any consideration of time is the fact that we will someday run out.  Not for a day or a project, but completely.  We think that our task is to fill the time we have, to get things done, not to waste it.  But as we look at the rhythm of God’s time, we see that it is filled with feasts and fasts; work and rest; grief and laughter – and that every day sees God’s mercies given anew.  We need not justify our time; God has already done so.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we celebrate the gift of the time that we have.

Grace & Peace,
Scott

The Problem (and the Promise) of the Trinity

// May 24th, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

One week out of div school and I’m already digging back through my textbooks, trying to remember what it is I spent all that time learning.  This is that sort of Sunday – Trinity Sunday.  “Trinity” is probably a word that every Christian knows, but few understand and even fewer care to understand.  I might be a member of all three groups.  I have certainly heard it and, at various times and to varying degrees, I have understood it, but I have trouble caring, not even enough to remember what I have understood.  So here I sit, digging through a book I swore I would never read again.  Fortunately, it is a tremendous grace that, even in books we don’t care much about, people often write things worth reading.  William Rusch boils the problem of the Trinity down to this: “Through all the turmoil and tomes, there is one basic issue at the center of the debate: What is the relation of the divine in Christ to the divine in the Father?”

I think it is proper to call it the “problem” of the Trinity rather than the “doctrine” of the Trinity.  Truthfully, the question that Rusch identifies has never been adequately answered.  That is to say, even in the final iteration of the doctrine, the real meat of the explanation is consigned to mystery.  There is one God and three persons.  They have always existed together and will always exist together.  They are entirely distinct and entirely the same, not parts of a whole or different representations of a singular entity.  In the end, the Church Universal concedes that this makes no sense.  As the Catholic Encyclopedia says: “Indeed, of all revealed truths [the doctrine of the Trinity] is the most impenetrable to reason.”  Why then should we care?  Or should we?

Remember that anytime we talk about divine mystery, our speech is an approximation, tentative and incomplete.  We construct something, see how it works out and then try again. These mysteries, it turns out, provide a tremendous freedom to play like the vast fecund abyss that Hadewijch uses to talk about both the divine nature and the human soul.  And here, perhaps, is a clue: that in talking about the mysteries, in working them out as a community, we dive deep into the abyss of love and find that, as we do, we discover that the human soul and the divine reality are one and the same.  Perhaps, the answer to Rusch’s question is not in an analysis of persons and natures and contradictory propositions, but in the everyday experience of the great mystery of unity and difference.  What binds us together?  How do we experience that without losing ourselves?  Or should we?  Maybe the problem of the Trinity is really the problem of existence, of knowing that we are different – from each other and from God – but somehow the same – as each other and as God.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we swim in the mystery of the Trinity and celebrate our unity in difference.

Grace & Peace,
Scott

Next Series

Trinity Sunday affords a short interlude before beginning our next series, which will be based on the Dorothy Bass book, Receiving the Day.  Our Jubilee conversation focused primarily on economics, but it started with the idea of Sabbath and the reality is that we’re not so good at Sabbath.  As a culture, we are obsessed with use of time; it must be productive and it must be organized.  Dr. Bass asks us to instead think of time as a gift from God and suggests practices for living into that reality.  We will spend five weeks on the book.  We will construct our Sunday services around its wisdom and discuss it on Wednesdays as well.  We hope you will join us!

Beginnings

// May 17th, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

I will be brief.  This Sunday, Pentecost, Church in the Cliff will gather to ordain me as a Baptist minister.  It is thrilling.  I have worked toward this for the past four years and it is a delight and an honor to be affirmed by a group of people that I love so much.  It is also terrifying.  You must be crazy to ordain me.  There must be some mistake.  I must have made a horrible error in judgment to have chosen to walk this path.  But that is the beauty of it: to be who I truly am and still be chosen by this community, to risk loving and being loved.  It is a gift that I can never live up to.  So thank you to all those who have supported me and challenged me along the way.  I look forward to the visions and dreams that lie ahead.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center as we celebrate the beginning of the Church and the beginning of a life of service to those I am blessed to call friends.

Grace & Peace,
Scott

Jubilee: Release of the Captives

// May 9th, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Mother’s Day at Church in the Cliff
Ordination Thanks

This week, I am living the story of too much: Polishing off last minute dissertation edits and sending it off to the library system, completing annoying exit forms and surveys for institutional liability purposes, consulting with a suddenly booming list of people with complex counseling needs, picking up graduation regalia, writing thank–you notes to mentors and colleagues, and celebrieving the closing of a really important chapter of my life.  Graduation is Saturday.  6 years of creating a weird and wonderful hybrid professional identity that falls somewhere between counselor, pastor, and ecological activist are coming to a bittersweet close. Honestly, I am kind of relieved to be so busy, because in the moments when I’m not, I’m a little scared and sad to be moving out beyond the relative safety of studenthood.

Wednesday night at dinner and at other little moments throughout this week, you all have helped me remember the importance of “enough.” Cameron has reminded me to say no to people and to ask for help, because I am not good at that.  Scott took on book study after I’d already said I’d do it.  Jen is organizing things for my graduation fiesta so I don’t have to answer phone calls and try to make things pretty.  Mikal spoke up for the importance of leaning into abundance in our lives.  Sara sent me home with leftover stuffed bell peppers that made my lunchtime today glorious.  Maybe most importantly, when I said that I thought I needed to go home and prepare for the class I’m helping with at Brite next week, the table full of Wednesday eaters piped up with a “Go home and take care of yourself!” sentiment.

It is hard to change the hurting parts of ourselves and the world when we are trying to be and do everything.  I wonder sometimes if this is one of the reasons why the idea of grace is so important in the Christian story.  This Sunday, I’m hoping for some conversation and ritual space about reaching out and letting go: reaching out to each other with love and honesty, reaching out to the Mystery we call God, and letting go of the different fears and insecurities we have about not being enough.  I’m looking forward to being there with you.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center as we talk about freedom from the fear of not having enough to make up for our fear of not being enough and, instead, rest in the nurturing providence of the kin-dom of God.

Grace and Peace,
Genny

Mother’s Day at Church in the Cliff

Apparently, Mother’s Day is the third most attended church service of the year behind Easter and Christmas.  I have never noticed a surge in attendance at CitC, probably because we don’t usually do much for Mother’s Day.  This is not an accident.  Because we strive to be inclusive of all genders, sexual orientations, and family choices, singling out mothers for special recognition misses the mark.  (If you would like to understand more about this choice there are many, many, many people talking about it, which is great.)  However, part of including people is celebrating and grieving the wide range of choices and experiences that people have and, because we are a church, framing that in a theological context.  The way we choose to do that this year is to celebrate the nurturing, providing aspects of God and the kin-dom of God.  This is the Jubilee: nurturing and supporting one another as God nurtures and supports us, living into abundant life for all.

Ordination Thanks

I want to thank everyone at Church in the Cliff who has nurtured me over the last five years.  If you asked me five years ago what I would doing now, this is absolutely the last thing I would have said.  I couldn’t be happier.  It is a joy to be a part of a church that let’s me risk being myself, that celebrates the gifts that I can bring to ministry.  The church voted last Sunday to ordain me, an honor that I do not take lightly.  Wherever I go and whatever I do, I will carry the beauty and joy and complexity of Church in the Cliff with me.  The service will be 11am Sunday, May 19th at Kidd Springs.

Scott

Jubilee: Gwyneth and her goop

// May 4th, 2013 // 1 Comment » // Church in The Cliff

I was watching Bill Maher this week in tiny increments between paper writing as I nibbled on a sandwich.  One of his guests was Jimmy Kimmel, who I, if I may speak openly, do not care for too much.  Normally, Bill’s guests are asked questions about pressing issues of the day, but Kimmel was asked about television industry decisions and celebrity news.  In particular, Kimmel was asked about Gwyneth Paltrow and her more-fabulous-than-thou shopping blog, goop.  It seems that every week, Gwyneth tells her fans what to buy and make and do that will make their lives into hers – minus Chris Martin’s soothing, melancholy, triumphant piano ballads.  That costs extra.  I was not really aware of this fount of wisdom.  I knew that people loved to hate her, but I wasn’t entirely sure why.  So I’m looking at goop now and, I have to say, I do want her life.  I mean, I don’t have a lot of use for a grey (British spelling!  So sophisticated!) Corsica bikini or an exclusive eisha (I don’t know what that word means!  So sophisticated!)  kids romper and I am heartbroken that the extra large nest bowl in wasabi is out of stock, but I pop over to the recipe section my life feels back on track.  I now know what I should cook: parmesan polenta and grilled radicchio wedge, plus some lentil “meatballs” for Dixon.  I might be joking, but I’m not really.  Her life does seem fabulous.  And I love stuff.  I love my Dyson DC-17 Animal vacuum cleaner, bought with my first poker tournament winnings.  But now I see they have a DC41 Animal Complete, which sounds so much better and now I’m sad.  🙁  I love the Vitamix blender that Lisa bought despite my skepticism about green smoothies, which turn out to be delicious!  The Vitamix makes all the sauces that y’all devour on Wednesday nights, but I would make even if you weren’t there because it is so easy to throw food in the Vitamix and blend.  Stuff makes my life better.  It really does.  I’m sure of it.  Definitely sure.

So it is with some trepidation that I come into this week of Jubilee.  At the heart of the Jubilee ethic is a theology of enough, a trust that God has provided enough.  And it is only when we trust in God’s provision that we have the courage to share and ensure that everyone will have enough.  As I consistently demonstrate, that is easier said than done.

A couple of weeks ago, we considered what kind of people our economic system forms us into.  This week, we will come from the other side and think about who we are in our relationship with money and consumption and, well, stuff.  What is it that drives us to want?  Who do we think we will become when we acquire?  And what are the consequences?  What systems are created out of our fears, doubts, and desires?

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center as we discuss the role of personal sin – fears, doubts, and desires – in systems of power.

Grace & Peace,
Scott