Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

How is Lent Going?

// March 22nd, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

We often treat Lent like New Year’s: a set of resolutions that will make us better people in the end, the people that we always wanted to be. We start a new diet or give up desserts or determine to pray more. These become chores that drag us down in our already busy schedules. By this, the Third Sunday of Lent, we’re probably considering scrapping the whole thing if we haven’t already. But Lent calls us to so much more than that.

Maybe that makes it sound worse. Going without chocolate for forty days might make us unhappy, but it’s at least doable. A simple action, a small change as a hat tip to God, to Jesus, to the One who suffered and died. Should we fast every day? Should we self-flagellate? Should we rend our garments in woe? I can’t recommend these things any more than I can recommend guilt over Lenten practices.

Instead, I recommend paying attention. Whether we succeed or fail in our practices, the important thing is to reflect on what those successes and failures might mean. How do they make us feel? Who do we become in keeping a practice or forgoing it? Where is God in all this?

This Sunday, we’re talking about one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible: Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman in the fourth chapter of John. In this story, the Samaritan woman comes to the well to get water, probably a daily task. It is not notable, not worthy of any reflection at all. Instead, she meets Jesus, who promises to give her living water. He promises that she will never be thirsty again.

By the end of the conversation, a couple of things have happened. First, she knows that Jesus is the Anointed One of God. Second, she becomes the first evangelist, the first to bring the Good News. Jesus reveals himself for who he is and reveals to her who she truly is. In the process of this mutual self-revelation, she is transformed, not into the person she wanted to be, but into the person she never thought she could be. In the end, she forgets her task, she leaves her water jug behind, and begins a new life.

Lent is an opportunity. It is not about the task that we thought we had. It is not a daily chore to grind us down. It is not about success or failure. Lent is an opportunity to know ourselves and to know God. In the process we are transformed into the people we never thought we could be, but in fact always were.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we discuss the woman at the well. If you get a chance, please read John 4.5-42 ahead of time. This passage is such fertile ground for conversation. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Grace & Peace,
Scott

Ripped from the Headlines

// February 27th, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

The lectionary passage this week, Luke 13:1-9, begins with two cryptic news headlines.  The first, an apparent murder of Galileans worshiping in the Jerusalem Temple by Roman occupiers.  The second, a tragic accident that claimed the lives of eighteen people.  The question, then, is a question that we have run into a lot in Luke.  Perhaps that is because it bedevils human beings of all stripes: why is there suffering?  As I talk to my peers, fellow pastors, it seems dealing with this question constitutes 90% of ministry.  Why is my child addicted to drugs?  Why do I have cancer?  Why did a tornado destroy my home?  Or my neighbor’s home instead of mine?  In Jesus’ typical fashion, he provides an answer that only opens up more questions.

A common view, and perhaps the view that pervaded the culture of the elite and powerful and trickled down to the powerless, was that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.  Do good, get good; do bad, get bad.  Jesus disagrees, but qualifies his response in two ways.

First, although he says that those people did not die because of their sin, he also says that people should repent or they will also perish.  This seems confusing and contradictory.  If they did not die because of their sin, why repent?

Second, perhaps to explain the former, he tells a story about a fig tree that has failed to produce.  The owner of the vineyard tells the gardener to cut it down, but the gardener asks for a reprieve.  One more year.  One more year to treat it right, to clear out around the roots and add some fertilizer.  One more year to nurture it and give it what it needs.  Then we’ll see.

It would seem that asking why there is evil is beside the point.  Yes, certainly we must interrogate the sources of evil, dig around the roots a bit.  When Pilate murders people worshiping in the Temple, or a priest is shot by Salvadoran soldiers while serving communion, it should be rebuked.  When a tower falls or a bridge collapses or a tornado hits and ordinary people going about their daily routine suffer loss beyond compare, it should be mourned.  But the real question for those who survive is: what are you going to do with your reprieve?

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about the nature of evil, the dreams of God, and what we are to do in response.

Grace & Peace,
Scott

The Mountain Top and the Ever After

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

We have two stories from Luke this week: the Transfiguration and Jesus’ Lament for Jerusalem.  The Catholic Lectionary in the Second Sunday of Lent always has the story of the Transfiguration.  This year is Luke’s year, so we get 9:29-36.  Jesus takes Peter and James and John to a mountain top to pray.  The disciples just had a lot of information thrown at them: Peter named Jesus as the Anointed One of God; Jesus predicted his death and resurrection for the first time; and they are given a harsh understanding of discipleship, taking up one’s cross and losing one’s life.  Walking up a mountain has a tendency to put me in a contemplative mood, but I seldom start the journey with that kind of baggage.

When they get to the top, the disciples are very sleepy – “weighed down with sleep,” the NRSV tells us.  Through their half-closed eyelids, they glimpse the divine.  Jesus is transformed, flashing with light, and talks with Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets personified.  What do you do with that?  Peter suggests what many of us would: he wants to move in, stay on that mountain top and never leave.  Jesus has other ideas.

Jesus gets on with the mission, but the Transfiguration was a turning point.  Up to now, his ministry hovered around the Sea of Galilee, but now he is heading toward Jerusalem and his final destiny.  It is on that road that we come to our passage from the Revised Common Lectionary used by Protestants, Luke 13:31-35.

Jesus is teaching and preaching as he nears Jerusalem.  Some Pharisees tell him to move along because Herod is going to kill him.  Some say this is a warning, but others say it is a taunt.  In any case, Jesus responds, “Herod knows where to find me.  I have work to do.”  Or something like that.  Jesus has gone from the mountain top to the dark depths of the ocean, where the politics of power and the sting of loss and death hold sway.  This is the journey we all have to make at some point.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about the experience of the mountain top and what to do with it.

Grace & Peace,
Scott

Family Fun Night

This is a great opportunity for us to show our appreciation to Whitney and the other childcare providers. Also to support Janalee and Project Transformation.
Date: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Location: Elmwood Methodist Church
Time: Prep begins around 5:30 with food service at 6:30. We should be all done with clean up and out no later than 8:00
FAMILY FUN NIGHT- After-School Program Twice a semester, we invite the children and families of our programs to our after school sites for dinner. Volunteers always have a blast! We invite volunteer groups to provide the meals and participate in the fun.Dinner will be served buffet style at 6:30 pm at your assigned site location. Please arrive around 5:30 for sign-in and set-up.
Prepare dinner and drinks for the children and their families plus the number of volunteers that will be providing the meal. (50 people usually attend not counting volunteers. Many are children.

Volunteers are invited and encouraged to eat with the families to learn about their experiences in Project Transformation.
The interns at the site usually pick a theme for the night and decorate
and plan activities around the theme.

Please let me know if you are able to participate.Sara Kitto
Lafwithus@juno.com
214-543-4897

When Demons Attack

// February 24th, 2012 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

I struggle with sin. Not so much the doing of it, though I do my fair share, but the naming of it. I struggle with how to talk about sin or think about sin. Like many of us, I grew up in a church that used guilt and shame to win conversions. And, after the conversion, the guilt and shame never stopped, leading to many tearful walks down many aisles hoping that this time would finally work. Sin was an affliction and Jesus was the cure, but I never felt cured. Instead, I just gave up, decided to find my own way. There had to be a better way, a new way. Perhaps in this Lenten season, that new way can be found in a very old way.

A fourth century mystic named Evagrius Ponticus included in his instruction manual for monks advice for fighting demons. Yes, demons: Gluttony, Lust, Avarice, Sadness, Anger, Acedia (bored restlessness), Vainglory, and Pride. Evagrius probably believed that these were literal demons that were literally attacking him, but he also clearly had a sense that it was an internal struggle in the soul. We all have voices in our heads telling us that we’re not good enough, that there is not enough in the world to have justice. And, worst of all, that God made it this way, meaning there’s probably no way out. So we grasp and we hoard and we fight, all to stave off the inevitable reality that there is an end to things. All of our hoarding, all of our control, only pushes that end a little farther away from us – and probably closer to someone else. Sin is ceding control to those voices, living into the fears and injustice that they construct.

Evagrius’ instructions were intended to prepare the monk for divinization, union with God. I cannot promise that we will get there. However, Lent is a time of preparation for life in Christ-Sophia, God’s dream for the world. Salvation for us; salvation for the world. In order to live more fully into that dream, we must deal with sin. Salvation is quieting the voices in our heads that tempt us to doubt the person that God made us, true faithlessness. Salvation comes to the world when we speak the Word of God and the Wisdom of God with the voice that God gave each of us.

I hope you’ll join us during our six-week Lenten series as we travel home to the self that God made and find the voice that proclaims justice to the world.

Grace and Peace,
Scott

February 26: Our Demons, Our God, Ourselves
What does Jacob wrestle with?

March 4: Demons of Desire: Gluttony, Lust, and Avarice
How do we draw the world in and push God out?

March 11: Demons of Repulsion: Sadness, Anger, and Acedia
How do we push the world away God with it?

March 18: Demons of Reason: Pride (and Shame)
How do we lie to ourselves?

March 25: Fear
What is the source of the demons’ power?

April 1: Palm Sunday
What happens when we find the voice that God gave us?

Call for Artists and Poets – DART Stations 2011

// March 19th, 2011 // 5 Comments » // Church in The Cliff, DART Stations of the Cross

DART Stations of the Cross 2011

A letter from Scott Shirley and a call for writes, poets, artists, and whosoever feels called to participate in crafting an experience of the Stations of the Cross on the DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit). Follow the link to learn more http://ht.ly/4hOce.