Posts Tagged ‘cross’


// September 12th, 2015 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

A Note from the Board: Co-Pastor

The first time you came to Church in the Cliff, you probably heard some things you had never heard in church before.  I’m not talking about our foul-mouthed taco vendor, our secret Enneagram code words, or the occasional obscure philosopher.  I’m talking about Sophia.  You’ll hear this term in our welcome and in many of our hymns.  You might have read the footnote on the program that briefly explains it.  (Yes, we’re nerds; our program has footnotes.) You might have gone home and googled Christ-Sophia and found something that might be a cult.  (We have no connection to them, FTR.)  Perhaps it seems a little weird and disorienting.  Some hear that language and never return.  Nevertheless, we are committed to it.

I’ll explain in more detail what (or who) Sophia is on Sunday, but I’ll provide something brief here, just so we’re on the same page.  Sophia is the Greek word for wisdom.  It is used frequently, sometimes in reference to Jesus.  At times, such as in Proverbs 1-9, in Sirach, and in the Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom (Sophia) is personified as a woman.  Even more important, she is understood to have some intrinsic relationship to God, coeternal, coessential, and co-creative with God.  One could fairly say that she is a person within the Godhead, as one would speak of Christ or the Holy Spirit.  But all of that is kind of abstract.  In my experience, most Christians don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Trinitarian doctrine or the essential nature of the Godhead.  So, while these things are important to consider, our real commitment is something more pragmatic.

As Mary Daly pointed out more than forty years ago, “If God is male, then male is God.”  If God is a man, then God is for men, concerned with the things of men.  I’m not using the term “men” to refer to humankind; I mean the gender.  Most people would admit that God does not have a gender, but might insist that we should speak of God in masculine terms because that is how the Bible often refers to God.  However, as Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”  If we don’t speak of God in feminine terms, then women are excluded from the life of God.  We automatically construct a hierarchy that diminishes the lives of women.  Women do not hear their presence in the life of the Church.

Fortunately, the Bible provides many ways of speaking of God. God is bread, water, breath, a shepherd, a gate – and God is a woman.  God is a mother hen gathering her brood.  God is a mother bird hovering over her nest.  God has a womb.  And God, as Sophia, stands on the street corner trying to coax people to her way – to the Way.  If God is All in All, then that must include some notion of the divine feminine.  If that is the case, then we must speak of God in all that God is.  Women must hear their lives reflected in the life of the Church and the life of God if our God-talk is to be the Good News.

It does seem strange at first.  When I first came to Church in the Cliff, inclusive language hit my ear wrong.  I didn’t understand.  It was disorienting.  That’s good!  In my experience and in my study, God is in the business of undoing us, pushing us out of our comfort zone so that we see the world anew.  It didn’t take long to adjust.  After about six months at Church in the Cliff, I had trouble attending churches that use exclusively male language for God.  It now hits my ear wrong in the exact same way that inclusive language did before.  Even more, really; I wince when I hear it.

I am blessed by the strong and brilliant women that began this church so many years ago and sustained it for so long.  I am blessed by the strong and brilliant women who continue to assert that they have a place in the life of God.  I am blessed by the strong and brilliant women that are Bible scholars and theologians and who continue to consider the weightier issues of the Christian faith.  All of these continue to make God present in my life and in the life of the Church by showing a fuller picture of what divinity looks like.  Our church and the Church are blessed by the full participation of women in the living of the Gospel.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Church in the Cliff, as we discuss the feminine divine, the cross, and the relationship between wisdom and salvation.

Grace & Peace,

A Note from the Board: Co-Pastor

The Board would like to invite the congregation into a period of discernment about hiring Annette Thornberg Owen as a part-time co-pastor.  Annette has her Masters of Divinity from University of Chicago and was formerly a Pastoral Resident at Wilshire Baptist Church.  She has also worked as a chaplain and in non-profit through AmeriCorps.  We are thrilled to have Annette and her partner David in our congregation!

So that you can get to know Annette better in a pastoral context, she will help lead services in the coming weeks.  Also, we will have a couple of Q&A sessions coming up.  We’ll get you time and place as soon as we nail it down.  We will also provide details about pay, budget, and responsibilities over the next couple of weeks.  Our goal is to have a vote October 11.

Taking Up the Cross

// March 5th, 2015 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Sorry about the cold last Sunday.  Still learning about the building’s reaction to crazy Texas weather.  So our conversation was brief, but good.

I shared a little (maybe a lot) about the context of Romans.  Paul is often read through the eyes of previous interpreters and, in our contemporary context, Romans is often the source of our ideas about what it means to be “saved,” the how and the why.  Every time I read Romans, I encounter one of those verses that would seem to tell us that Jesus died because I am awful, because of something I did or said, because I’m just rotten to the core.  I read Romans and see that Jesus was a sacrifice made for my rottenness, that Jesus stood in my place for what I deserved.  Even after all the study I have done, I still fall into that reading.  However, there are other readings.

The Jewish Christians who started the Roman church had been exiled and now returned to find a church filled with Gentile Christians.  As you might imagine, there is tension.  Paul is writing to address that tension, to unify the church so that they might also unite with him in his proposed mission to Spain.  Thus, it is not a treatise on how and why we might be saved.  Rather, Paul cites the faithfulness that both groups have, the trust in God’s promise that is more foundational than law or conversion or ethnicity or history. Specifically, it is trust in God’s promise that life can come out of death, which was revealed in the death and resurrection of Christ.  Most importantly, the Roman Christians have the opportunity to make that promise come true by being new life for one another.  The struggle and suffering of exile and persecution can be redeemed if they choose to live into that promise, to hold fast to one another in a difficult time.

It is the same in the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus tells us that following him means to take up one’s cross.  If the cross of Jesus was the one cross, if the death of Jesus was the singular event to set things right, why follow him at all?  What is left to be done?  Why are there still crosses to bear?  While Paul uses the language of sacrificial atonement, he does not develop the idea, but instead returns over and over again to the idea of participation, of unity in Christ.  We live into the suffering and death of Christ so that we and our world might be transformed into a new life of love, peace, and justice.  Jesus did not carry that cross so that we wouldn’t have to; he carried it so that we would know the Way.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Church in the Cliff, as we continue to discuss the meaning of the suffering and death of Jesus in this Lenten season.  This week, we will discuss the foolish ways of the world and the wisdom of the cross (1 Corinthians 1.18-25) informed by Jesus’ cleansing of the temple as depicted in John 2.13-22.  I figured out how to use the heater.

Grace & Peace,

Progress Report

The workday didn’t happen because it was freezing in the building.  My bad.  However, Mikal Beth got some more painting done this week (thank you!) and I did some odds and ends.  If you’d like to do some work on the building, check out our Google doc task list.  It is fully editable, so feel free to add on if you see something that needs to be done.  No shenanigans!

Fred and Ashley got a lot of stuff for the kitchen (big thanks!), but we still need some stuff from our registry.  We welcome any contributions!

Finally, we have studios to rent.  If you know someone who wants a small studio or office, send them our way.  They are small, about 80sf, but enough room for a desk or wall space for painting.  We’ll try to accommodate people as best we can.  We’re looking for $200/mo in rent.

The Decisive Moment

// September 14th, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Since this is the last in our mini-series on the cross, I might as well lay my cards on the table.  This view is offered not as a final answer, but as an opportunity for further questions.  Ultimately, I think the cross is just that – an opportunity for more questions.

The theologian Schubert Ogden describes Christ as the decisive re-presentation of God.  God has always been here – is always here – but Christ re-presents God to us.  Christ does so in such a way that it is decisive.  Not decisive in the sense of final or unique, but in a way that puts us to a decision.  And I think the decisive moment in the story of this decisive re-presentation of God is the cross.

As I see it, the reason the cross is the defining symbol for Christianity is that it is the moment of greatest uncertainty.  As we discovered in our study of Ecclesiastes, uncertainty is the heart of faith.  It is in the moment of the unknown, the moment of ultimate loss, that we must decide whether to continue living with faith, love, and hope.  The resurrection is beautiful and is our hope and promise, but it is the moment of victory; there is no decision to be made.  But the call of the disciple, the follower of Christ on the Way, is in the abyss of the unknown where all possibility lives.  Ours is to choose which reality will emerge from the shadows, to make the world anew.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we explore the “further questions.”  It will be a slightly different service, one of our interactive, choose-your-own-adventure services.  We will symbolically take on the wounds of Christ and then reflect on what those wounds mean in our lives as individuals and as the Body of Christ together. Is the cross the possibility of coming home?  Is it final victory over injustice? Is it strength to endure suffering?  Each of us will probably need it to be one of these (and so many more things) in the courses of our lives.  Come and discover what you might be saved from and what you might be saved for.  See you Sunday!

Grace & Peace,

Pet Blessing in Honor of St. Francis, Sep 29, Kidd Springs

It happens that the feast day of St. Francis occurs during our series on saints (Sep. 22 – Nov. 2).  To honor the patron saint of animals and the environment, our service on September 29th will be a special pet blessing in Kidd Springs Park.  Bring your pets or a picture of your pet to receive a blessing.  The service will be free-flowing and may flow right into a lazy  afternoon picnic.  Come and enjoy the outdoors and celebrate with us!

St. Francis, does God talk to you, too?

The Scandal of the Cross

// August 31st, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

It seems that the people of the Jesus Movement expected something else.  Maybe a violent overthrow of their Roman oppressors.  Maybe just a living wage and single-payer health care.  A chicken in every pot.  Maybe they just wanted someone, one of their own, to say that he understood and to speak for them and fight for them.  But it didn’t work out that way.  Their Yeshua, their rescuer, their deliverer, was arrested and killed.  Not just killed, but executed in a way that was reserved for enemies of the state – terrorists and traitors.  It seems somewhat ironic that the cross has become the central symbol of the Christian faith, the means of execution of the one who was to be our rescuer.

Among biblical scholars, this is known as “the scandal of the cross.”  The execution of Jesus had its intended effect: no one wanted to be connected to Jesus.  When you hang the leader of the movement on a piece of wood for public viewing, the movement tends to fragment.  It is not merely fear, but shame.  Your savior is utterly defeated.  All his followers hid or went back to their day jobs.

But it seemed there was life in this movement, yet.  The women didn’t go home.  Instead, they went to the tomb and what they saw shocked them.  It was empty.  Then it got weird.  People started seeing Jesus all over place.  As it turned out, there were rescuers everywhere people needed rescuing.  Salvation was a present reality, not a dashed hope.

One could take a cynical view.  Resurrection stories could be a marketing move or a mass delusion.  It is a fact that the followers of Jesus needed some way to deal with the scandal.  If the movement was to continue, there was certainly a public relations angle to consider.  However, there was also massive personal grief.  Jesus asked his followers to give up their lives – their families, their jobs, their status in their communities – to follow him.  They did that.  For years.  And this is how it ends?  There must be something else.  Or there must be a reason it ended this way.  If not, then what have we been doing?  And how do we go on?

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center as we talk about hope defeated and how we go on with purpose.

Grace & Peace,

Series Schedule

September 1: The Scandal of the Cross
How do we move forward from grief and loss?  How do we remain hopeful?

September 8: Atonement Theology
Did Jesus have to die?  If so, why?

September 15: Saved from what?
If Jesus died so that we could be saved, from what are we saved?  Should everyone have the same answer?

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