Archive for January, 2015

Calling Again: An Apology

// January 22nd, 2015 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

I didn’t do a very good job last Sunday.  I’m sorry.  Ironically, the service was primarily about vocational call, so I spent a good bit of my opening proclaiming how pleased I am with my call and, by implication, how well-suited I am to it.  Then, as someone was speaking, I realized I was utterly unprepared to respond.

In my panicked babbling, I idealized a sense of calling.  I implied that a sense of call was better and we should pity the poor person who does not have it.  I implied that those with a sense of call are happier and more suited to their place in the world than those who are not.  I implied that finding one’s calling is, in some sense, a matter of properly preparing oneself for the epiphany, of truly examining oneself, which implies that those without a sense of call are not bothering to be introspective and serious.  It’s exactly the kind of thing I was trying to work against: the idea that God has a plan for each of our lives and our task is to discover it.  The problem, of course, is that those who don’t have that “Aha!” moment might conclude that they are doing something wrong or that God forgot to make a plan for them.  That is not what I wanted to say or suggest, so I apologize for saying and suggesting just that.

Fortunately, God has a sense of humor.  Or at least the planners of the lectionary do.  This week is also about calling, so I get another shot at it.  I will reflect further, but my initial impression is that this is the more challenging story of calling.  Last week, things went pretty well for those who were called, so maybe it was easier for me to wax poetic about the beauty of it all.  This week, not so much.  We’ll look at the story of Jonah’s calling, which goes really well.  We’ll visit the struggling and often confused church at Corinth.  And we’ll see the disciples uproot themselves from a perfectly decent vocation in the fishing industry to follow some homeless loon around the countryside.

Watch me try to do better this Sunday, 11am at Church in the Cliff.

Grace & Peace,
Scott

Carnival Cancelled! (Plus: Vote on the Budget!)

// January 17th, 2015 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

I was listening to a preacher on the excellent podcast, Working, and he talked about his preparations for Sunday.  Even though our contexts are quite different, his process was very familiar.  He said that you start with either a Scripture or an idea.  Once you figure out which one you have, you go get the other one.  That’s probably something that my Preaching professor said when I wasn’t listening, but it’s a very helpful way of thinking about it.

So I had an idea: Carnival!  For those who were not there last Sunday, Carnival is the time between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  It is not specifically religious.  It is more a secular, cultural response to the demands of the Church calendar.  Advent and Lent are both times of reflection and repentance, so people want to cut loose in between.  This is why we have Mardi Gras; it is the culmination of Carnival.

Carnival is a time of great reversal – anyone can become the king or queen and ride at the head of the parade.  Both religious and political leaders are skewered by the masses.  It is debauched at times, but its function is to critique the ways in which our mores become the levers of social and political power.  The outcasts and weirdoes get a chance to run things for a while.  That sounds like the Gospel to me.

Unfortunately, the lectionary is not helping with that theme of reversal.  It would find a great Scriptural tie-in with Luke, but this is the year of Mark.  I’d like to give Mark its full due.  And, truthfully, when I looked at what the lectionary has in store during this time, it’s some pretty good stuff.  In this case – and only this case! – the Word is better than my idea.

So Carnival is cancelled.  Well, not really.  I can promise that, wherever the Gospel is preached, it is a story of the turning over of the usual order of things.  I can also promise that Church in the Cliff will cling to those stories, no matter what the text.  This is who we are and that is who God is.

Ironically, this week’s stories do offer something of a reversal, but more than that they speak of calling.  A calling is inevitably a reversal.  In the story of Samuel, we see the young prophet pronouncing judgment on the old, corrupt, religious order (1Samuel 3.1-20).  In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he advises young Christians on what it means to overturn the law, to be called as a member of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 6.12-20).  And the Gospel of John bears witness to the calling of the first disciples, uprooting their lives to follow Jesus (John 1.43-51).

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Church in the Cliff, as we talk about call and purpose and the ways in which the old order – personal, political, social, religious – might be overturned.

Grace & Peace,
Scott

Community Meeting

After church, we will have a community meeting, the primary purpose of which is to vote on the budget that we presented before Christmas.  This budget will guide our activities over the coming year.  If you are not able to attend the community meeting, feel free to email your vote to board@churchinthecliff.org.

2015 Budget    (Monthly)

Rent 1375.00
Utilities 200.00
Pastor 1000.00
Internet & Phone 80.00
P.O. B ox 10.00
Affiliations: AWAB/Alliance/BPFNA 40.00
Social Justice 231.50
Yard 100.00
Pest Control 50.00
Cleaning 200.00
Education 50.00
 Insurance  100.00
Total 3436.50
Possible Tennant Revenue 800.00
Proposed 2015 Budget 2536.50
2014 Budget 2546.50
Carnival Cancelled! (Plus: Vote on the Budget!)

I was listening to a preacher on the excellent podcast, Working, and he talked about his preparations for Sunday.  Even though our contexts are quite different, his process was very familiar.  He said that you start with either a Scripture or an idea.  Once you figure out which one you have, you go get the other one.  That’s probably something that my Preaching professor said when I wasn’t listening, but it’s a very helpful way of thinking about it.

So I had an idea: Carnival!  For those who were not there last Sunday, Carnival is the time between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  It is not specifically religious.  It is more a secular, cultural response to the demands of the Church calendar.  Advent and Lent are both times of reflection and repentance, so people want to cut loose in between.  This is why we have Mardi Gras; it is the culmination of Carnival.

Carnival is a time of great reversal – anyone can become the king or queen and ride at the head of the parade.  Both religious and political leaders are skewered by the masses.  It is debauched at times, but its function is to critique the ways in which our mores become the levers of social and political power.  The outcasts and weirdoes get a chance to run things for a while.  That sounds like the Gospel to me.

Unfortunately, the lectionary is not helping with that theme of reversal.  It would find a great Scriptural tie-in with Luke, but this is the year of Mark.  I’d like to give Mark its full due.  And, truthfully, when I looked at what the lectionary has in store during this time, it’s some pretty good stuff.  In this case – and only this case! – the Word is better than my idea.

So Carnival is cancelled.  Well, not really.  I can promise that, wherever the Gospel is preached, it is a story of the turning over of the usual order of things.  I can also promise that Church in the Cliff will cling to those stories, no matter what the text.  This is who we are and that is who God is.

Ironically, this week’s stories do offer something of a reversal, but more than that they speak of calling.  A calling is inevitably a reversal.  In the story of Samuel, we see the young prophet pronouncing judgment on the old, corrupt, religious order (1Samuel 3.1-20).  In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he advises young Christians on what it means to overturn the law, to be called as a member of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 6.12-20).  And the Gospel of John bears witness to the calling of the first disciples, uprooting their lives to follow Jesus (John 1.43-51).

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Church in the Cliff, as we talk about call and purpose and the ways in which the old order – personal, political, social, religious – might be overturned.

Grace & Peace,
Scott

Community Meeting

After church, we will have a community meeting, the primary purpose of which is to vote on the budget that we presented before Christmas.  This budget will guide our activities over the coming year.  If you are not able to attend the community meeting, feel free to email your vote to board@churchinthecliff.org.

2015 Budget    (Monthly)

Rent 1375.00
Utilities 200.00
Pastor 1000.00
Internet & Phone 80.00
P.O. B ox 10.00
Affiliations: AWAB/Alliance/BPFNA 40.00
Social Justice 231.50
Yard 100.00
Pest Control 50.00
Cleaning 200.00
Education 50.00
 Insurance  100.00
Total 3436.50
Possible Tennant Revenue 800.00
Proposed 2015 Budget 2536.50
2014 Budget 2546.50

Tell Me a Story

// January 10th, 2015 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

I’ve been kind of stumped this week about what to say, both here in this message and on Sunday.  You would think it would be easy.  This week we celebrate the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptizer and remember our own baptisms.  For everything I love about Church in the Cliff, there is some ambivalence about the trappings of the Christian faith.  We all have different perspectives on that faith and different relationships to it, we are each a part of a slightly different story.  This creates rich conversation; it’s challenging and enlightening.  However, it does make it tricky to nail down the thing that makes us, us.  For most Christians, the short list of things that make them Christians will include baptism and communion.

Jesus’ story is, in some ways, bracketed by his baptism and his death.  Sure, there are the birth narratives, the Christmas stories, and a few odd stories of his childhood in Matthew and Luke, but the baptism by John at a relatively late age seemed to set off what he would become and do.  In many ways, that baptism put Jesus on a collision course with his grim destiny.  So it is fitting that baptism and communion are central ways in which we act out our faith.

Similarly, each of us who calls ourselves Christians was probably baptized.  Certainly, we will all, also, die and, hopefully, we will do so in a way that inspires everyone to drink and eat.  But that is a story for another season.  Right now we’re at the beginning.  While this beginning is something that most (all?) Christians have experienced, we have all experienced it in very different ways.  Some were baptized as infants, water poured onto the forehead, running cold down the back of the neck, inducing screaming and crying.  If there is any memory of it, it can’t be a good one.  Yet, many are happy they did it.  For those baptized so young, it marks a belonging, it names them as part of a community of support from the very beginning.  Despite the tears and wailing, it’s beautiful.

Some of us were baptized later in life.  I have to say, my memory of mine is probably not much better than if I had been an infant.  As much as Baptists talk about the beauty of making a conscious decision to become a Christian, they certainly put a lot of pressure on people to do it at a very young age.  I’m not sure how well informed I really was about the whole thing.  Having studied it quite a bit by now, I’m not sure I would have been helped if they had spent a lot of effort explaining it.  So I got dunked a million years ago and now I tell myself a story about what that means as if it had always meant that.

I suppose that’s what we always do with everything.  We tell stories over and over, changing and shifting as needed, to tell ourselves who we are in a given moment, or maybe who we need to be to get through that moment.  So I don’t know what story you might tell about your baptism, but I’d like to.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Church in the Cliff, as we tell stories of baptism: of the heavens and the deeps, of birth and death, and of rivers that keep flowing, washing everything away.

Grace & Peace,
Scott

And Now for Something Completely Different

// January 3rd, 2015 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Christmas, as I’m sure you know, is, for Christians, a celebration of the birth of Jesus.  He was born a helpless baby, in poverty, on the road, and threatened by an evil empire.  Next Tuesday we will celebrate Epiphany, the day when the Wise Ones arrived with gifts and named Jesus as King.  This is the story that we tell of the person, Jesus.  This is the origin story of our faith.  The story of Jesus, the man, is a story that might guide us, might provide a story by which we measure our own stories, a story to live into.  But there are other stories.  This week, the lectionary takes an interesting turn, interrupting the Christmas story of the little baby Jesus to tell us a couple of other stories.

The most familiar of these is the prologue to the Gospel of John (John 1.1-18).  It is frequently said that the Gospel of John is the “spiritual gospel” because of its lofty language.  It begins by locating the story of Jesus at the beginning of time.  It imagines Jesus as God’s Word, spoken into a void that becomes the world.  The prologue identifies the story of Jesus with the story of the beginning of the world found in Genesis 1.  This was not the first time that creation story had been carried forward into a new context with new characters.

The less familiar of our passages this week, Sirach 24.1-12 and Wisdom of Solomon 10.15-21, speak of another person in strikingly similar terms.  Wisdom, or Sophia, is both personified and spiritualized in these texts.  Like the Word, she comes forth from the mouth of God.  Like the Word, she existed before time, in the beginning.  Like the Word, she came to dwell with the people of God.  She is a way, a guide, a light in the dark.  However, unlike the Word, Wisdom took root in her people and they became great.

Each of these is a way of telling the story of God and the world.  Their differences are as notable as their similarities because each frames the ways that we understand what the world is, what ultimate reality is, and the ways that we relate to them.  Thus, each has its own promise and peril.  It is a blessing that all of these – and so many more! – are a part of our tradition, providing so many ways to navigate the seasons of our lives.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Church in the Cliff, as we talk about how we talk about God and what difference it really makes.

Grace & Peace,
Scott