Archive for November, 2013

Stir Up, We Beseech Thee

// November 23rd, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

When I was semi-serious about marathon running, it was all-consuming. Running up to 70 miles in a week takes a lot of time. But it’s not just the running itself. Running told me what to eat. Running told me when to sleep and how much. Running told me what to do at night. Running organized my life; it was the lens through which I understood my world and made my choices.

We all have these things; Paul Tillich calls it our “ultimate concern,” the meaning which gives meaning to all our meanings. We construct these things. We decide what is ultimate for us. The trick, as we all eventually discover, is that some things are not worthy of being ultimate in our lives. In the end, running could not bear the weight. For a while, it gave me life. Really. On those long runs through the woods of Florida, I found God. Then, I found, it was a way of hiding from life. It was exhausting, draining.

I wonder if there is some sign of this in what the liturgical year brings us this Sunday. It is Christ the King Sunday, the day that Jesus returns in judgment and begins to rule the world. He rules with justice and love, but he still rules. I wonder if, ultimately, any system of power, even one with Jesus at the top, can live up to being ultimate. I wonder if it is enough to simply organize one’s life around something, to hold up a single image as the model for how we understand our world and live in it, especially when that image appears to be masking God with Caesar.

Maybe that’s why it is also Stir Up Sunday. Stir Up Sunday asks us to be stirred. It’s not merely organizing our lives, achieving order and certainty, a comfortable rhythm of life, but being moved, being messed up a little bit. Judgment is an ugly word, especially for this church. It threatens. It hurts. But maybe it also stirs. If the lens through which we view the world is worthy of being ultimate, it might ought to disorient us a little, shake us up, and stir us to engage, not only the world, but the lens through which we see it.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about our images of God and how they frame our understanding of ourselves and the world and what we are to do. How do we judge ourselves? For whom is that Good News? And what stirs us up? See you there!

Grace & Peace,

Signs of the Times

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

Those who know me know I love a good apocalypse.  That means this is my favorite time of the liturgical year.  As we slide into Advent, the lectionary turns to signs and warnings of the inevitable end.  Not really what we have come to expect as retailers have for weeks told us it is Christmas time.  As much as we anticipate the little baby Jesus, it is also the time of judgment.  It is as much an ending as a beginning and, in fact, they are one and the same.  We are always and forever living through beginnings and endings, often at the same time.  The liturgical calendar – and Advent in particular – allows us to rehearse this annually, both in our personal lives and in the wider world.

We rehearse because, from the center of it, the shape of the apocalypse is hard to discern.  We can be so destroyed by the ending that we miss the beginning.  Or so distracted by the beginning that we ignore the ending.  Thus, the apocalypse, which really means “revelation,” is missed.  We lose sight of the truth of our lives.  We lose the opportunity to live into the ongoing revelation of life in God.

But it is not yet the end; it is still a couple of weeks until Advent.  No, this is still the waiting, the living through.  According to Luke, this is the time of signs and portents: war, plague, famine.  It is the time of discernment.  Notice that Jesus does not promise that things will not fall apart, but asks, How will we account for ourselves in times of trouble?  He encourages us to have patience and endurance and promises that, in the end, we’ll be okay.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about warnings of the end, Paul’s exhortation to work, and whether we will really be okay in the end – or what that might mean.  Also, please bring some extra money as we will be taking up a special offering for the people of the Philippines hit by Typhoon Haiyan.

Grace & Peace,

Help Us Plan!

The leadership of Church in the Cliff is currently doing some strategic planning and we need your help!  If you could please take a couple of minutes (really, a couple of minutes) to complete a survey, we would really appreciate it.  You can take the survey online or we will have paper copies available on Sunday.

All Saints, All Souls

// November 1st, 2013 // 2 Comments » // Church in The Cliff

The fun and frolic of Halloween is over for the year, with empty candy wrappers and well-worn costumes set aside as evidence of the revelry. Our friend Stephanie Wyatt used to remind me that when changes are happening and people are scared, we like to throw parties.  It’s a way of trying to embrace the mystery rather than run from it or squash it down.  I think this time of year is a wonderful example of that bit of our humanity.

Hallowe’en is All Hallow’s Eve, the old vigil where people kept watch as all Saints Day approached. In Northern Europe, Christian celebrations of the dead began to happen near the same time as other pagan festivals, whether by design or by chance (there’s actually some debate about that, tempting as it is to blame medieval church for taking over all of pagan Europe’s customs). The Celtic festival of Samhain happened in early November to mark the start of winter, and featured faerie folk and mischief more than witches and ghouls (ghosts are actually probably an entirely Christian contribution, owed to the notion of praying for the departed in purgatory).  Closer to home, throughout Mexico and Texas Day of the Dead is widely celebrated, a Christianized veneration of the dead that emerged from an ancient Aztec festival. Veneration of the dead through ancestral altars and burying grounds is a global practice, spanning a variety of cultures and beliefs.

Sunday, we will live into our particular version of this.  All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls day are collectively known as Hallowmas, and with the set dates of October 31st– November 2nd dating back to the 8th century. We seek to hold the mystery of time together for this day – past, present and future colliding in our practices.  With a little thoughtfulness, we invoke a “thin place” where the sacred comes close to our ordinary lives.  Those who have gone before us come close to our hearts and minds, reminding us that we come from somewhere in a distant past, that our present lives have meaning and power, and that our future is part of a mysterious unknown that we entrust to God.

Join us Sunday as we honor those who have gone before us.  You can bring pictures or mementos or memories –  something meaningful to remember the dead.  We’ll place it on our altar.  You are welcome to honor those you’ve known personally and those who’ve shaped you in wider culture. There will be space for silence, space for speaking, and, we pray,  opportunity to come close to Holy Mystery.

Please join us Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center.