This week we sit with Jonah in the belly of a whale. This prophet narrative is rich with irony, metaphor, and innuendo. Jonah is running from God on a ship bound to the ends of the earth and ultimately tossed overboard into the sea. He must have thought he was dying as the waves closed around his neck and he watched the ship sail on without him.
Then a big fish swallows him whole. For three days and nights he sat in the putrid darkness. Coleman has a children’s book that depicts Jonah in the belly. It looks like he is sitting in a red cave. His cheeks are smudged with grime. There is seaweed hanging from his arms and draped around the floor. And the whale’s ribs arch up around him—pointy and white against the meaty darkness of the belly walls. Jonah appears trapped and deeply uncertain as to his whereabouts or his future.
Some in our community, like Jonah, have had to wrestle with calls that were so big they warranted a run in the opposite direction. Jann Aldredge-Clanton is one of the first women ever to be ordained as a Baptist minister in the South. She is also a feminist author and an activist and a treasured member of our community. To meet Jann is to encounter a “Spirit-person”—one who has loved the church and her people enough to demand it to be more whole.
In her memoir, Breaking Free, she details her journey. (As an aside, I am not alone in thinking that Jann rocks. Ann Richards, former Texas governor says of Breaking Free: “This is a compelling story of a brave woman. She is everything you always hoped for in a minister.”)
I think Jann knows something of what it is to travel the boundary waters with Jonah and to carry the burning voice of a prophet within. She likely also knows something about sitting in the belly of the whale— in my experience people with spiritual depth have spent some time there. When little arms get tired of swimming God swallows us whole and keeps us safe. In the belly we are gifted with time to listen deeply and to discern a new direction.
Join us Sunday as we meditate on Jonah’s story. Also, all are invited to bring a dish and join in a potluck and community conversation about ordination facilitated by Jann after worship.
Peace to you this week,
Heifer International Project
Church in the Cliff wants to encircle the tender voices of our young people and help listen to the world they want to create. Then we want to leverage all that we have as a community to help make it so. Iris is an animal lover. She also cares deeply about people and wants to learn more about the challenging living conditions in the developing world. In honor of Iris we are spearheading a Heifer Project to try to buy an ark. Price tag: $5,000. An ark includes two of every animal that Heifer relies on to help lift families out of poverty: from bees and chickens up to camels and water buffalo!
Tonight Iris and Emma are taking their fund raising efforts to the streets for Bishop Art’s monthly “First Thursday” event of live music, shopping, mingling and fun! They have crafted adorable gifts for people who make donations: from crocheted hearts to a pack of gift cards depicting Iris’ original sketches of Heifer animals.
We are fund raising guerrilla-style, so will be commandeering one of the parallel parking spots near Espumosa or Hunkey’s. Come on down to support the girls and have a special evening. We plan on fund raising also at Oak Cliff’s Earth Day celebration on April 17th and next month’s First Thursday event, May 5th.
Readings and Discussions at 10 AM in the lounge. Facilitated by Stephanie Wyatt & Adam DJ Brett
April 10-Why the Old Testament and Jesus’ Jewish identity really matter according to Amy-Jill Levine
April 17-Prayers and meditations from our own Jann Aldredge-Clanton as we go into Holy Week
We will have copies of the articles for the upcoming week with us each week, or save us printing costs and receive the whole packet by emailing Adam (email@example.com).