Posts Tagged ‘beginning’

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,


// January 4th, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

This coming week marks the end of Christmastide, which culminates in Epiphany on Monday. In Advent, we anticipated the coming of the Incarnation, the Anointed One of God, who will make everything new and set everything right. There is a great mystery in Advent, wonder and awe at what might be. Then the baby is born. As many new parents have probably experienced, it changes a lot of things. More than that, it changes constantly. I’ve observed a lot of parents and there is still a lot of wonder and mystery: What does she want? Why is she doing that? Who is this child? Who will she become? What is my part in this? A babe has been born to the world; now comes the real work.

I’m sure all parents – and all people doing new things, really – hope that there will come a time when it all makes sense. Some days are better than others. You might be pretty sure she’s hungry, but that doesn’t always work. Maybe she has an earache. You hope nothing is really wrong. Even with all the books out now, every child is a special, crying snowflake. And then you hand her a shoe and she’s happy as a clam. It’s a small victory, but it’s an epiphany. You had it right, just that once. Maybe you do know something, after all.

An epiphany doesn’t tell us everything. And the things it tells us probably feel more certain than they actually are. After all, there is living to be done. This is just the beginning: of revelation, of what we know, of work, of life, of love. Epiphany tells us who this child is and it feels like a victory. We should celebrate! But it is just the beginning. Who will this child become? What will the world be for his presence? What is our part?

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about what it means to have God with us and what we might know about it. Remember, we also have our monthly community meeting at the end of the service where we will vote on the operating budget that was presented at our last community meeting in December. Hope to see you!

Grace and 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.

Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully (in which the author takes issue, as is his way)

// November 30th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

This year Church in the Cliff is participating in Advent Conspiracy, which seeks to turn Christmas upside down, to remind us of the meaning of God coming into the world.  Advent Conspiracy asks us to reconsider the consumerism of the Christmas season, to avoid the stress of malls, the debt of buying things we can’t afford, and the downright silliness of buying a bunch of stuff that people don’t need and probably don’t even want.  Instead, we should spend our time and attention on the people that we love and direct our money to people who really need it.  Above all, we should take seriously the in-breaking of the Divine into our lives and what that means for how we live with one another.  These are all great things that I support without reservation.  However, because I seem to be constitutionally incapable of playing nicely with others, I have to say that something is bugging me about Advent Conspiracy.

On the Advent Conspiracy website, there’s not a lot of pixels spent on Advent.  It’s all about Christmas.  I know that evangelicals like think they finally cracked the code on Christianity, but Advent has been around a long, long, long time.  And it’s not about Christmas, at least, not entirely.  But the really odd thing to me is that, if we pay attention to what Advent has always been, it gets right at what Advent Conspiracy is trying to do.

Though it passed without remark – my fault – last week was what is traditionally known as “Christ the King Sunday,” the Sunday before Advent.  The patriarchal, hierarchical language gives me the willies, but what it signifies is, well, significant.  Every year, the liturgical calendar rehearses the cycle of life.  There is birth and there is death and there is re-birth.  Beginnings always hurtle us towards ends and ends always lead to new beginnings.  Advent is the fulcrum of that calendar.  To use traditional language, Christ returns as the King to judge the world and to remake it.  It is the end, the apocalypse, where all are held to account.  This sounds scary and weird and I don’t believe a word of it.  However, I do believe we need to take stock, to look at what we have done and who we have become, to see what is real so that we can understand the hope and promise of new life signified by the birth of Jesus in a few short weeks.  Just as we can’t have Easter without Lent, we can’t really have Christmas without Advent.

I know it’s a downer.  We want Christmas stories and carols and lights.  We want wise men and angels and the little baby Jesus.  We want Luke’s fabulous musical numbers.  And we will have all that.  We will.  But we must wait, just a little bit.  Judgment will yield to proclamation, proclamation will turn to anticipation, anticipation will turn to hope, and hope will turn to joy.  Advent Conspiracy asks us to rethink Christmas: to Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All.  Advent, in the long, long, long Christian tradition, makes it impossible to do otherwise.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about what it might mean to “Worship Fully.”  Heck, since we’re not really a praise chorus kind of church or a robe and stole kind of church, perhaps we can talk about what it means to worship at all, and inch up to “fully” as best we can.  Remember, we will take up a special offering every Sunday during Advent to give to people who could really use it.

Grace and Peace,

Advent Craft Days

In an effort to help you spend less, we will be doing crafts at Kidd Springs Rec Center for the first three Saturdays in December from 10am to noon.  We will make cards, lip balm, and soap to give as gifts to family and friends.  Hope to see you there!

Chestnut Farms

Chestnut Farms is a non-profit organic farm in Deep Ellum that CitC friend David Cole is involved in.  They are growing on a quarter-acre that used to be a parking lot.  As I understand it, they are still working out the details on how to serve the community and who to sell to, but right now they are harvesting a bunch of bok choy.  David will be out there most Saturdays and would love some company.  Looks like Saturday will be beautiful out.  If you’d like to join David (after crafting, of course) shoot him an email at

Also, Chestnut Farms is having a benefit concert, Dec. 21 at 8pm, featuring Folk Angel, Robbie Seay, and Lauren Chandler.  Proceeds go to Grow Us, a partnership between Chestnut Farms and Champions of Hope.

Mark: The Beginning Again

// November 23rd, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

It is a pretty well accepted fact among scholars that Mark’s original gospel ended at verse 16:8.  Verses 9-20 were added quite a bit later, possibly in an attempt to harmonize it with the other gospel stories.  Or perhaps the original ending did not test well with focus groups.  Some find it to be a bit of a downer, full of uncertainty and lacking closure, like the final episode of the Sopranos.  But this unexpected ending should not be unexpected if one has been paying attention through the rest of the book.  Fortunately, we have been paying attention, so we’re going to be looking at the director’s cut this Sunday.

Verse 16:8 says this: “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”  That’s it.  No meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus.  No Thomas touching the wounds.  No fish and toast on the beach.  Just an empty tomb and the promise that Jesus is going ahead to Galilee – the place it all began – and the disciples will see him there.

Surely Mark knew stories of Jesus’ resurrection.  Maybe he knew that everyone else knew those stories, too, so why bother writing them down?  But everyone knew the story he’s telling, everything he has written so far; that didn’t stop him from telling it.  He could have included something – something critical to the Christian story – but didn’t.  Instead, he leaves us hanging, wondering what happened next.  I suspect it is that wonder that inspired someone to add to Mark’s gospel, to finish what might appear unfinished.  It’s understandable, but maybe there’s a better way to honor Mark’s vision of the good news.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about beginning again, continuing the story of God’s ongoing presence in the world.

Grace and Peace,

Advent Conspiracy

Just as we did last year, we will be participating in Advent Conspiracy this year.  Advent Conspiracy seeks to recover the meaning of Christmas as the in-breaking of God into the world.  As such, it turns a critical eye toward the rampant consumerism that Christmas has become and asks us to spend less money and more time and attention on the ones we love.  To help with that, Church in the Cliff will be hosting craft days to make handmade cards and gifts on three Saturdays during Advent, Dec. 1, 8, and 15, from 10am to noon at Kidd Springs Rec Center.  Come join in the crafty fun!

Here’s the schedule for Sunday services:

Dec. 2 – Worship Fully
Dec. 9 – Spend Less
Dec. 16 – Give More
Dec. 23 – Love All

Since we’ll all be spending less, we will be taking up a special offering every Sunday during Advent to donate to people who are really in need.  Please give what you can.

Mark: The Beginning (Program and Sermon Outline

// November 8th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff


Sermon Outline (loosely followed)

I.        Background

a.       Author

1.      Traditionally Mark, associated with Peter

2.      Unknown

b.      Occasion

1.      Fall of Temple

2.      Sack of Jerusalem

3.      Resolving relationship to two communities

a)      Jews

(1)   Rejection by priests and scribes
(2)   New temple

b)      Rome

c.       Community

1.      Greek speaking

2.      Gentile

3.      Persecuted

d.      Style

1.      Crude

2.      Clumsy

3.      Sense of immediacy

II.     What is the beginning?

III.   What is the good news?

a.       Challenge to dominant culture

1.      Religious authorities

2.      Government

3.      Social mores

b.      Alternative vision

IV.  Who is Jesus?

a.       Titles

1.      Son of God

2.      Son of Man

3.      Son of David

4.      Messiah

5.      Christ

6.      Anointed One

7.      Son of the Beloved One

b.      One having authority

c.       Messianic Secret

1.      Disciples

2.      Outsiders

Mark: The Beginning

// November 3rd, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

For churches that follow the lectionary, this is the year of Mark.  The lectionary years are designated A, B, and C, which correspond to following the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, respectively.  So this is Year B, the year to read Mark.  The purpose of the lectionary is to give people a complete view of the Bible every three years.  (”Where’s John?!?” I’m sure you are exclaiming in confused frustration.  Good question, I say!)  Since we don’t follow the lectionary, I would at least like to give people a chance to encounter this year’s gospel on its own terms.

That’s the real trick.  It is very hard to read anything in the Bible without interjecting all the things we know from other parts of the Bible.  Even if we have never studied the Bible intensively or if we came from a tradition that was not as focused on Scripture, it is hard not to import all the cultural baggage.  For example, as we hurtle toward the Christmas season, it is hard to imagine the story of Jesus without a birth narrative.  Prepare to be disappointed.

This week, we will look at the beginning of the Gospel According to Mark.  As my professor, Dr. Heller, says, “The first thing is the most important thing.”  Or something like that.  I didn’t take a lot of notes.  I’m not a “note” guy.  Anyway, the important thing is that the way that someone starts a text will tell you a lot about what they are attempting to do.  Think of the great novels you have read.  (Full disclosure: I don’t read a lot of novels, but looking at this list makes me want to read a lot of novels, just to see what happens after those first delicious sentences.)  Anyway, Mark starts boldly, not with a genealogy or birth narrative, but with a statement of purpose: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we unpack that auspicious beginning.

Grace and Peace,

Series Outline

Nov. 4 – The Beginning
Nov. 11 – Jesus’ Ministry
Nov. 18 – Jesus’ Death
Nov. 25 – Ressurection?

Bible Study!

I was hoping to do a four week study of Mark.  Since this last week was filled with gumbo and candy and the last week of November is Thanksgiving, I think it is best to condense to three weeks.  Granted, this is a criminally short time to study anything, but we do what we can.  So here’s the schedule:

Nov. 7 – Chapters 1-8 (Ministry in Galilee)
Nov. 14 – Chapter 9-13 (The Road to Jerusalem)
Nov. 21 – Chapters 14-16 (The Passion)

The format will be to discuss whatever issues people want to discuss.  Take about an hour to read through the whole book and then read each section carefully before the discussion.  The goal is to dig a little deeper than we can on Sundays.

The study will take place during Wednesday night dinners starting at 8pm after everyone has gotten something to eat.  We will be at Sara Kitto’s throughout November.  Hope to see you there!