Archive for September, 2013

St. Francis: To Walk in Jesus’ Footsteps

// September 29th, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Let me start by admitting that I know little about our selection for this week’s saint: St. Francis of Assisi.  I have an image of him, but I think I get him confused with Snow White.  But as I read the Wikipedia article on him, I found some bits of information tucked away in the recesses of my shabby memory.  Most notably, Francis was a reformer.

By the Middle Ages, the Church had acquired quite a bit of power and wealth.  It was a relatively prosperous time.  Because the Church was the gatekeeper for Heaven, the wealthy were generous.  And, although priests and monks could not technically own property, they had use of what the Church owned.  Beginning in the 12th century, this generated a reaction, not unlike we have seen in Pope Francis eschewing the luxurious trappings of the papacy.  A reformer named Valdes established a mendicant order committed to poverty.  There was some question about whether such an order could be truly Christian, but they were accepted when they acknowledged that not all rich people will go to hell.  However, they were not allowed to preach unless by permission of local clergy, the ones with all the land and money.  Conflict ensued and soon poverty was equivalent to heresy.

Francis followed in the tradition of Valdes, choosing to be poor.  This son of a nobleman humbled himself, gave up his birthright, and lived in poverty.  In so doing, he found an infinitely deepening compassion that extended to every part of creation.  He reportedly preached to the birds.  Another story has him acting as a peacemaker between a wolf and a village it was terrorizing.  He thought of the sun and moon as his brother and sister.  And he thought that this kind of experience, this solidarity with those are impoverished and those who suffer, was the key to reform.  He was a great preacher, but his real strategy was to simply live as Jesus lived.  If he could walk in Jesus’ footsteps, it might change the Church and change the world.

Today, Francis is the most popular saint.  I fear this is because we do get him confused with Snow White.  Who doesn’t like a man who is kind to animals?  But we shouldn’t forget why he was kind to animals.  For Francis, like Hildegard, all of creation is the arena in which we encounter God.  If we humble ourselves and forget, even for a moment, about the things made by human hands, we might notice God at work.  We might see ourselves and our neighbors more clearly.  We might understand that everything and everyone is an opportunity to know God.  Perhaps, the animals will talk back.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Park by the West picnic tables, as we celebrate St. Francis.  There will be a pet blessing, so please bring leashed pets or pictures of those who are unable to attend.  There is currently a 50% chance of rain.  If we’re on the wrong side of that 50% on Sunday morning, we will move back inside to the Rec Center, which means no pets.  In that case, bring pictures of your pets and they will be with us in spirit.  Also, the service will end with a potluck meal.  If you would like to bring something, please visit our VolunteerSpot page for the event.  See you there!

Grace & Peace,

The Decisive Moment

// September 14th, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Since this is the last in our mini-series on the cross, I might as well lay my cards on the table.  This view is offered not as a final answer, but as an opportunity for further questions.  Ultimately, I think the cross is just that – an opportunity for more questions.

The theologian Schubert Ogden describes Christ as the decisive re-presentation of God.  God has always been here – is always here – but Christ re-presents God to us.  Christ does so in such a way that it is decisive.  Not decisive in the sense of final or unique, but in a way that puts us to a decision.  And I think the decisive moment in the story of this decisive re-presentation of God is the cross.

As I see it, the reason the cross is the defining symbol for Christianity is that it is the moment of greatest uncertainty.  As we discovered in our study of Ecclesiastes, uncertainty is the heart of faith.  It is in the moment of the unknown, the moment of ultimate loss, that we must decide whether to continue living with faith, love, and hope.  The resurrection is beautiful and is our hope and promise, but it is the moment of victory; there is no decision to be made.  But the call of the disciple, the follower of Christ on the Way, is in the abyss of the unknown where all possibility lives.  Ours is to choose which reality will emerge from the shadows, to make the world anew.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we explore the “further questions.”  It will be a slightly different service, one of our interactive, choose-your-own-adventure services.  We will symbolically take on the wounds of Christ and then reflect on what those wounds mean in our lives as individuals and as the Body of Christ together. Is the cross the possibility of coming home?  Is it final victory over injustice? Is it strength to endure suffering?  Each of us will probably need it to be one of these (and so many more things) in the courses of our lives.  Come and discover what you might be saved from and what you might be saved for.  See you Sunday!

Grace & Peace,

Pet Blessing in Honor of St. Francis, Sep 29, Kidd Springs

It happens that the feast day of St. Francis occurs during our series on saints (Sep. 22 – Nov. 2).  To honor the patron saint of animals and the environment, our service on September 29th will be a special pet blessing in Kidd Springs Park.  Bring your pets or a picture of your pet to receive a blessing.  The service will be free-flowing and may flow right into a lazy  afternoon picnic.  Come and enjoy the outdoors and celebrate with us!

St. Francis, does God talk to you, too?