Archive for October, 2014

St. Molly Ivins

// October 24th, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

I confess, though I do not repent, that my study of, interest in, and presentation of saints is somewhat academic.  Book knowledge holds great power for me.  I’m affected by it.  There is also the fact that I could not have known Joe Strummer or Dorothy Day, much less Teresa, Francis, Sergius, or Bacchus.  So I gather and present information and I hope that it fills your imagination as it does mine, an imagination of who we might be and what the world might be if we live into lives like these.  But this week is different.

This week, we canonize Molly Ivins into our local sainthood.  Of course, I am familiar with her, though mostly through some entertaining quips.  I occasionally read her columns over the years and always enjoyed seeing her on television.  However, we are fortunate to have in our congregation Mr. David Marquis.  David is a longtime activist, writer, and performer in Dallas and was a personal friend of Molly before she passed in 2007.  Her life and her death were anything but academic to David.

When I talk to David about Molly Ivins and the other progressive movers and shakers with whom he has had the good fortune to associate over the years, I am filled with a sense of gratitude for the work they have done.  There are times as a progressive in Texas when things are frustrating, tiring, and just plain irksome.  Folks like Molly gave us a picture of how to go on fighting: with fire in our eyes and laughter in our throats.  She spoke truth to power and got everyone to laugh along.  Her friend E.J. Dionne wrote at the time of her passing: “Molly Ivins is the only person I can think of who, upon entering heaven, would start making jokes at God’s expense and get God to laugh with her.”  That’s our kind of people.

If you are a progressive in Texas, watching the early voting, anxiously awaiting justice in the land we call home, you should get down on your knees tonight, light a candle, and say a prayer to St. Molly.  God knows she’ll be doing the same for us.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we share a laugh and shed a tear for the great prophet, St. Molly Ivins, and welcome her into our communion of saints.

Grace & Peace,

St. Teresa of Avila

// October 18th, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Perhaps Teresa of Avila was destined to be a saint.  Her grandfather, Juanito de Hernandez, was a converso, a Jew who had converted to Christianity.  Conversos were always held in suspicion by a Spanish Catholic Church concerned with proper doctrine and busily developing notions of race to export to the New World.  It was thought that Jewish blood made it impossible to really be a Christian, so conversos were accused of being crypto-Jews, refusing to eat ham and secretly keeping a Saturday Sabbath.  Juanito was condemned by the Inquisition.  Such a condemnation was very effective, inspiring subsequent generations to become the most pious keepers of the faith.

Teresa’s father bought a Christian knighthood and her mother enforced a strict Christian piety and education on Teresa and her brother, Rodrigo.  It was so effective that, when she was seven, Teresa and Rodrigo ran away from home to be martyred in the ongoing wars against the Moors.  Her mother died when she was 14, so she adopted herself to the Virgin Mary as her spiritual mother.  But, as teenage girls will do, she also began to explore popular culture: romantic tales of knights and damsels in distress.  She soon found herself cloistered with Augustinian nuns in Avila.

Soon after her arrival in Avila, she became ill.  In her fevered dreams she began to have visions.  She cultivated these ecstasies through mystical disciplines found in spiritual manuals that were available at the time.  The exercises taught her to journey inwardly, to examine her conscience, and endure an ascetic life.  These visions continued throughout her life, sometimes uninterrupted for years at a time.

She began to write when she was in her fifties.  Her writings were autobiographical, but were intended as manuals for the contemplative life. She described her practices and the visions that resulted from them.  She advised aspiring mystics on the meaning of her experience.  Perhaps her greatest work was The Interior Castle.

In The Interior Castle, she describes the soul as a beautiful castle made of diamond.  God lives inside, in the deepest part of that castle, but God’s light shines out into the world through the crystalline walls.  However, in sin, the walls become dingy and clouded, covering the Divine Light.  Our task, as Christians, is to journey inside, to meet and know God’s presence in our own souls, to keep the windows clean, so that God’s light can shine out.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we invite St. Teresa into our local canon.  We will simulate some of her contemplative practice and talk about the possibility that religion can actually be transformational.

Grace & Peace,

SS. Sergius and Bacchus/AWAB Sunday

// October 11th, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

It has been wonderful the last few weeks watching court decisions roll in, toppling the state dominoes of bigotry.  Marriage equality is now the law of the land in 30 states, which accounts for 60% of the population of the U.S.  It’s a beautiful time for all who care about justice.  Even more for those who long for equality and those who love them.  The outcome seems inevitable, even for a state like Texas that will have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the future.  I think – I hope! – that within two years I will be able to legally perform weddings for two people of the same sex in my home state.  We did not get here by chance.

Obviously, cultural attitudes march along.  When young people in the 1950s suggested that blacks and whites should live together, it seemed radical.  Now it is commonplace.  That change happened because of demographic shifts, but also because people fought and died to make it happen.  There were protests, legislation, court cases, interventions of force, and even martyrs.  There were also people of faith speaking with prophetic voices for justice and peace.

The relationship between religion and culture is complex.  In some ways, religion adapts to culture.  As people’s attitudes change, religion as a cultural institution, as a keeper of the status quo, will change with it.  But it is also true that change in America is difficult if people can’t find a way to resolve their sense of the new and daring with their faith.  We have to find new ways of thinking about our faith that resonate with our sense of justice.  A clear articulation of faith can drive social change like no other force.

I am proud to be involved with people of faith who have always had the courage to articulate that vision of justice.  Church in the Cliff, since it’s beginning as City Church thirteen years ago, has accepted our LGBTQ brothers and sisters as full participants and leaders.  Our denomination, the Alliance of Baptists, solidly affirmed same-sex relationships in 1995 when we adopted a report of our Task Force on Human Sexuality.  Our views have continued to grow and evolve since that report, expanding our notions of human sexuality beyond simple labels of gender identity, sexual orientation, and family structure.  Part of that expansion is certainly due to the Alliance’s close relationship with the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB), of which Church in the Cliff is also a member.

This Sunday, we are proud to celebrate AWAB Sunday.  AWAB seeks to create and support a network of Baptist churches that are welcoming and affirming to all people, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.  So much of the dialog right now in churches is how to attract and welcome queer people, but the reality is that there are plenty of queer people in church already.  So this Sunday we will focus on the lessons and gifts brought to us by our LGBTQ friends in the Christian community.

We will also continue with our canonization of saints by welcoming and affirming SS. Sergius and Bacchus.  These paired saints were Roman soldiers with a “friendship” so close and so strong that it endures for eternity and has become an exemplar of same-sex unions in the Christian tradition.  We will place their relationship in its historical context and see what it can teach us about love, sex, family, and faith.  We hope you will join us, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center.

Grace & Peace,