Posts Tagged ‘scripture’

I Don’t Know What to Say

// May 30th, 2015 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

The high liturgical seasons are behind us and now we enter “ordinary time.”  No fancy name, like “Eastertide;” it is just called “the Season after Pentecost.”  I like ordinary time, though.  We get to spread out a bit, immerse ourselves in the stories of Jesus’ ministry, this year from the Gospel of Mark.  Maybe pick up some of Paul’s writings, or maybe even read the old texts about Samuel and Saul and David. This week is a wealth of great material, so much so that I’m having trouble pulling it together.

The devisers of the lectionary like to fill ordinary time with some special days, and this is one of them.  Well, two of them, actually.  This is Trinity Sunday, the day when we celebrate the mystery of the Trinity.  Since the Trinity is never explicitly stated in Scripture, it seems like they just picked some stuff at random: Isaiah eating a hot coal and Jesus talking to Nicodemus about rebirth.  Great texts!

It is also, inexplicably, the day some traditions celebrate the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth in the Gospel of Luke.  They pair that with the song of Hannah on which the Magnificat is based.  Three great female characters of the Bible singing songs of justice and hope.  I can’t pass that up.

And there’s a little bit of Paul in there, too, exhorting us to love one another.

I’m not yet sure what I will say tomorrow.  I may not say anything at all, just let y’all do all the talking.  In any case, I trust the Spirit of God to be present, as we say each week, in Scripture, within us, and among us so that the word of God will be proclaimed.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Church in the Cliff, as we celebrate the rich tradition of our sacred texts.  We’ll talk about the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation and musicals and justice.  Bring your Bibles.  Really.

Grace & Peace,
Collection for Flood Victims

Remember, this Sunday we will be collecting items for flood victims in Wimberley. A friend of CitC will be traveling there next Friday, June 5, to hand deliver the donations. We’re collecting clothes, toys, non-perishable food, gift cards to grocery stores/Wal-Mart, and other items to help people get back on their feet.

Biblical Authority as Subjective Encounter

// October 16th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

For my family and sexuality in the Bible class, I was asked to reflect on how I viewed biblical authority.  In the spirit of laying my cards on the table and to cap the How to Read the Bible series, I thought I might post it.  Sorry it’s so long.  — Scott


Certainly, my current understanding of the authority of Scripture is shaped in reaction to my upbringing in a fundamentalist church.  Scripture was thought to be inerrant and God-breathed.  Further, the Bible was thought be a monolithic text with a clear narrative arc and consistent theological view.  Most importantly, the Bible was the center of our faith.  In spite of the problems I saw, I was assured and comforted that it all really made sense if I could just see how, if I could just read it with the Holy Spirit.  College ended that.  Not only did the factual problems I had noticed gain credibility from real scholars, but I started to see how my worldview centered on Scripture actually excluded and harmed a lot of people.  In trying to find a church to attend during college, I discovered that my questions were unwelcome.  I gave up on the whole thing – not just church, but Christianity as a whole.  The journey back lasted twenty years and travelled through the writing of Elaine Pagels and Marcus Borg.  I discovered that I still loved the Bible after all that time and those authors gave me a glimpse of other possibilities, other ways to read that revealed the God that I never stopped seeking.  They set me on the path back to church and on to seminary where my views on the Bible have coalesced.  Today, I view the Bible as a valuable dialog partner with whom I engage in mutual self-revelation to be transformed toward the presence of God.

In order to get to an understanding of the Bible as a dialog partner, we must first understand the Bible as symbolic.  I do not mean “merely” symbolic, but a very specific and rich definition of symbol drawn from Ricoeur and masterfully articulated by Sandra M. Schneiders.  She defines a symbol as “a sensible reality which renders present to and involves a person subjectively in a transforming experience of transcendent mystery.”[1]  According to this view, a symbol mediates between sensible, embodied reality and the transcendent.  It does so by rendering that mystery present, but only as an instantiation of a relationship between subjects.  Thus, the Bible, when engaged subjectively, can be the very presence of God as a subject.

The Bible as subject opens itself, reveals itself, bares itself.  It is the precise opposite of the Bible as an object of study.  Objects are necessarily bounded.  They can be examined, measured, explained, and quantified, but they never speak.  They provide information, but not revelation.  This information can be useful, but it does not matter in an ultimate sense.  One’s being is not at risk when experiencing an object.  But a subject opens onto the vast mystery of the Other.  One risks destruction in the presence of the Divine, but finds truth.  The possible points of connection between two subjects are almost limitless.  As Schneiders points out, a symbol does not merely point to a single reality in a one-to-one correspondence, but to a multiplicity of interpretive possibilities.[2]  She goes further, saying that this plethora of possibilities necessarily keeps the encounter open-ended.[3]  The Bible does not provide information, a narrow meaning to be grasped and held.  It is an ongoing encounter of revelation.  It can never be closed down.  If it can be entirely accounted for, it bears no relation to the Divine.  The Divine does not simply deliver answers to waiting, receptive minds.

No, an encounter with the Divine is a dialog.  God confronts a person, calls out, and awaits a response.  Similarly, we call out constantly for God and await a response.  Intrinsic to true dialog is openness to the other.  The Bible, as encounter with the Divine, speaks to me and I speak to the Bible.  We may view each other skeptically because there is something at risk.  We must take care of each other in this vulnerable space.  Someone could get hurt. But if we give ourselves to the encounter, we are both revealed.  We both become who we truly are.

Thus, reading the Bible is an ongoing process of mutual self-revelation.  A great deal of the dialog is discovering the difference between the embodied and the transcendent.  This is not to break down the symbol into some hypothetical “essential” reality.  Nor is it to reject that which is temporal and finite.  No, it is to understand it as a whole, to be open to all that it is, in all its truth and beauty and brokenness.  I want to know the collective fears and hopes that produced the text.  I want to live in them because I already do.  The Bible asks me right back: What do you hope for?  What do you fear?  Who do you love?  Who do you turn away from?  Who do you destroy?  As an object, an artifact of centuries of human effort, we can study these things, learn these things, but as a subject we can encounter the Divine, we can know our fears, our sin, and be transformed.  This, for me, is the ethical authority of the Bible.

This authority cannot be regarded so trivially as an object.  It must be interrogated, viewed critically, asked to understand itself.  When the Bible understands God to destroy every living thing in a worldwide flood, what anguish and despair and frustration is revealed?  What is hoped for?  Most importantly, are these things mine?  When the Bible speaks of the gendering of humanity, whose interests are furthered?  Probably mine.  Who is harmed?  Probably someone I care about.  Probably someone who calls out in anguish and despair and frustration.  When I encounter that person, my ethical obligation is to make present the God who rebukes evil to bring forth life.

Because this is not an objective process, it is not easy.  Growing up, I was told that the Bible had all the answers.  Now, I think it has a lot of really great questions.  Maybe it has a few really big, really important answers that help us work on the rest.  But, ultimately, the essence of ethics is making decisions as a real, embodied being.  No one has ever been precisely where I am right now.  No one has ever had the collection of experiences I have.  But if I open myself up to the address of the other, we can render God present.  We can find that space between that is both and neither and so much more.  That is the space in which we can be transformed into people equipped for every good work.  Rather than considering our options, weighing the costs and benefits, appealing to an abstract principle of the good, we can simply spend time with one another in God and act with love, justice, and compassion.  That is the Scripture that is written out in our lives.  That is the authority.  That is God’s presence.

The Bible then, is one of the ways we might render God present, to engage in an encounter of ongoing, mutual self-revelation and transformation toward the Good.  I no longer see it as a guidebook, filled with answers about how to live my life today.  Instead, I understand it as a symbol that I must approach as a subject.  We give ourselves to each other and see who we truly are.  We share our fears and our hopes and meet God.  In so doing, we are transformed.

[1] Sandra M. Schneiders, Written That You May Believe: Encountering Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (New York: Crossroad, 2003), 66.

[2] Schneiders, 67.

[3] Schneiders, 67.

How to Read the Bible: The Allegorical (Program and Sermon)

// September 27th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff


Sermon Outline (roughly followed)

I.        Back up

a.       Scripture as revelation

1.      How does God intervene in writing Scripture?

2.      How does God intervene in the world?

b.      Review series

1.      Literal

a)      Plain reading

b)      Modern rationalist, truth-seeking tendencies

2.      Allegorical

3.      Moral

4.      Anagogical

II.     What is allegory?

a.       Lisa is a fox

b.      Bernie Madoff is a fox

III.   Classical

a.       Allegory of Christ

1.      Suffering servant

IV.  Modern

a.       Archetypes

The suffering servant could be understood as a typical hero’s quest, suffering for those who rejected the hero.

b.      Making meaning

V.     Post-modern strategies

a.       Reader-response

The reader completes the meaning of the text through interpretation.  He or she does so from a particular social location.  This entails certain connections making more sense than others, which means that allegorical readings can shift meaning quite a bit.

b.      Hidden transcript

A hidden transcript is when a message is conveyed to those inside a particular community, but is hidden from those outside that community.  For example, Revelation is filled with hidden transcripts; the author is talking about the Roman Empire through symbolism that is well-known to insiders, but obscure to outsiders.  The problem with reading hidden transcripts is that we are rarely in the insider group.

c.       Intertextuality

Readers interpret a text in relation to other texts.  Sometimes this is unconscious, such as reading the Bible through the lens of Paradise Lost.  Sometimes is purposeful, such as Marcella Althaus-Reid connecting the writings of the Marquis de Sade to biblical and traditional understandings of God.

d.      Allegory of Christ reconsidered

1.      Cyrus

2.      Prophet

3.      Israel or remnant

How to Read the Bible: The Allegorical

// September 21st, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

If you spend enough time on Internet message boards, you will see a lot of bad analogies.  In the course of a discussion (pronounced “argument”) someone will try to make a point by referencing something that is presumably a point of common interest and common understanding between the two dialog partners (pronounced “combatants”), say, football.  One might compare a political candidate to a quarterback, for example.  Then, of course, the conversation turns to each person’s assessment of both the quarterback and the candidate.  As an analogy, the whole thing fails because there is no common ground, no point of agreement from which to expand.  This is the trouble with any kind speech that attempts to draw a comparison: everyone has to agree about the meaning of the things being compared and how they relate to one another.

This week, we continue our series on how to read the Bible by looking at the classical category of allegory.  In the Four Senses of Scripture, which is the framework for our study, the ltieral meaning is maintained, but there is always a layer of allegory on top of that. That is, every bit of Scripture points toward something beyond its literal meaning.  For these early scholars, that something was always Christ.  For them, Jesus is the answer.  Adam in Genesis points to the new Adam: Jesus.  Moses the liberator points to Jesus the liberator from sin.  As Noah was the one good person to save humanity, so is Jesus.  David was the anointed one of God; Jesus is the Anointed One of God.

But even if we could agree that every bit of Scripture points to Jesus – 2 Kings 2:23-24 might be problematic – what exactly would that mean?  In what way is Jesus the new Adam?  It depends on what we think the story of Adam is about.  And what we think the story of Jesus is about.  Perhaps Christians are more united on that than on candidates and quarterbacks, but not much.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about how to read the Bible allegorically to speak into our own lives.

Grace and Peace,


We don’t normally do movie previews in the church email, but there is something special premiering tonight at Grapevine Mills: Hellbound.  This documentary features interviews with scholars on the doctrine of hell, including my friend and teacher, our own Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles.  On Saturday, after the 6:10pm showing of the film, there will be a Q&A at the Cozymel’s at Grapevine Mills with Jaime, the producers of the film, and Sharon Baker, the author of Razing Hell, who is also featured in the film.  This is a terrific opportunity to pick the brains of some brilliant people on a longstanding, perhaps questionable, doctrine of the faith.  Hope to see you there!


Last night I had the opportunity to preview the third installment of the I AM A TEACHER series of plays, written and performed by my friend and long-time CitCer, David Marquis.  It made me sad that I have not seen the other two.  The play traces a year in the life of a teacher, Ben James, at the end of his career.  Mr. James is a fierce advocate for kids, who is determined to teach them in spite of all the obstacles in his way.  It is inspiring and thought-provoking, highlighting the challenges we face in treating kids in our schools as human beings that matter instead of cogs in a machine.  For anyone who is a teacher, knows a teacher, or just cares about the next generation and the future we are leaving them, this play is a must-see.  It will be at Stage West in Fort Worth October 18-21.

How to Read the Bible: The Literal (Program and Sermon)

// September 21st, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff


Sermon Outline

I.        Classical

a.       Descriptive

b.      Just the facts

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.” – Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis

c.       Naïve?

II.     Modern

a.       Enlightenment

1.      Jefferson Bible

b.      Fundamentalism

c.       Historical-critical

1.      Jesus Seminar

d.      Problems

1.      Transmission

2.      Translation

3.      Social location

4.      Inconsistency in the text

III.   Post-modern strategies

a.       Redeeming the text

b.      Reading against the text

c.       Second naiveté

IV.  Discussion Questions

a.       Does it matter what the Bible says?

b.      How does the Bible speak?

c.       What is the promise of a literal approach?

d.      What is the peril of a literal approach?

V.     Closing

a.       Luke 23:55-24:9

How to Read the Bible: The Literal

// September 12th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

When I was in 8th grade, I was placed in the advanced reading class, as I had been since the 2nd grade.  Yes, this is a brag.  But wait.  It’s all downhill from here.  One day we were learning vocabulary and the teacher asked for someone to give the definition of “literally.”  Since my mom used that word literally all the time, I confidently raised my hand.  I explained that it meant that whatever was being said could not be taken seriously, that it was exaggerated.  The second semester, I was transferred to the regular class.

As Yale Bible scholar Dale Martin points out, words mean what they mean to the people using them.  If my mom meant, as many, many people do, that the literally true was an exaggeration that couldn’t possibly be true, that’s what it means.  I claim victory, victory in post-modernism.

This week, we move properly into our discussion of the classical four senses of scripture, which begins with the literal sense.  In the classical understanding, this meant what we might call a “plain reading” of the text.  It says what it says.  Whatever facts the text reports can be trusted.  But as the tragic tale of my demotion to regular Reading classes illustrates, this is not always a simple matter.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center as we discuss the promise and the peril of simply reading “what the Bible says.”

Grace and Peace,

How to Read the Bible Schedule

We will be following the classical understanding of the four senses of Scripture: literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical.  We will look at how each of these was originally understood, how that has changed, and how we might use them today.  There will be an introductory week, a week dedicated to each sense, and a “practicum” in the sixth week where we will try this out on a passage in small groups.

September 9 – Introduction
September 16 – Literal
September 23 – Allegorical
September 30 – Moral
October 7 – Anagogical
October 14 – Practicum

We hope you’ll join us.

How to Read the Bible: Introduction (Program and Sermon)

// September 10th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff


Sermon Outline (loosely followed)

I.                               Questions

a.       How do you view the Bible?

b.      How do you use Bible?

c.       Do know the Bible?

d.      Do you want to know the Bible?

II.                            Classical understanding

a.       Literal

b.      Allegorical

c.       Moral

d.      Anagogical

III.                         Post-modern twist

IV.                          Why read it?  Why does it matter?

a.       Cultural defense

1.      Literary tradition

a)      Universal stories

b)      Authors steeped in tradition

2.      American culture

3.      Used against us

b.      Sacred trust

1.      Tradition: the dead get a vote

2.      Collection of human experience

3.      Wrestles with issues of ultimate concern

4.      Means by which God calls to us

Scripture is one of the primary means by which God calls to us.  If we listen to that call instead of sin and fear and desire, we become more holy, take one more step on the path to the Divine.  Because Scripture is

5.      Not so much informative as transformative

You can read Scripture to learn something.  You can read it to argue with people, to defend your beliefs.  Blah, blah, blah.  Noisy gong.  Clanging cymbal.  But if you read it and aren’t transformed into the person God would have you be, you are missing the point.  Reading to be transformed means reading critically, reading actively, letting the word of God speak to our deepest selves, the Divine within.  Read that way, Scripture can give us strength, encouragement, comfort, correction.  We can block out sin and ego and fear.  As someone pretending to be Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 3:17, in reading Scripture we become the person that God would have us be, equipped for every good work.  If we believe, as I think many people in this church do, that being a Christian means bringing into being God’s dreams for the world, Pseudo-Paul says we better be reading Scripture.  Not just to learn, but to become the kinds of people who do God’s work, the kinds of people who are faithful, loving, and hopeful.

How to Read the Bible: Introduction

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

Growing up in a Southern Baptist church, the Bible was at the center of most of what we did.  We were Protestants, which meant that we believed in the power of the Bible alone to guide our lives.  And, because we were Baptists, we might yell at you if you disagreed.  Looking back, I often think we worshipped the Bible more than we worshipped God.

We had one pastor who would regularly challenge us.  I don’t mean challenge us like “really make us think.”  I mean he would read a passage in the course of his sermon, verse by verse, connect it to other parts of the Bible and then, at some point say, “You don’t believe me?  Look it up!”  Why would we need to look it up?  Why would we disagree with something so plainly presented, so clearly and confidently stated?  After all, he was simply telling us what the Bible says.  Who could argue?

Having now spent quite a few years playing poker (bad Baptist!), I can say that this is what is known as a “bluff.”  He could say whatever he wanted.  We would believe the story he was telling and we would fold.  We would fold because he was speaking about and from the Bible, the Word of God.  Who could argue?

Well, it turns out people argue all the time about the Bible.  Christians argue with non-Christians.  Protestants argue with Catholics.  Baptists argue with Methodists.  Lutherans argue with Lutherans.  We argue about homosexuality and the role of women in marriage and the church.  We argue about war.  We argue about the origins of the earth.  We argue about poverty.  And all of these positions are as confidently presented as my old preacher’s.  Everyone is right and dares us to say otherwise.

I’ll admit it: I love to argue about the Bible.  However, I’m not sure it’s a very fruitful exercise.  It is unusual for people to change their minds, which means that the fight is mostly about the fight.

Fortunately, in seminary they teach us to do a lot of other things with the Bible.  It turns out there are a lot of ways to read the Bible.  In addition to a variety of ways of interpreting it, there are many different reasons one might bother.  Each of those ways might be a means by which God calls out to us and a means by which we might respond.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we begin our six-week series on how to read the Bible.

Grace and Peace,

How to Read the Bible

We will be following the classical understanding of the four senses of Scripture: literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical.  We will look at how each of these was originally understood, how that has changed, and how we might use them today.  There will be an introductory week, a week dedicated to each sense, and a “practicum” in the sixth week where we will try this out on a passage in small groups.

September 9 – Introduction
September 16 – Literal
September 23 – Allegorical
September 30 – Moral
October 7 – Anagogical
October 14 – Practicum

We hope you’ll join us.

Sunday School

We will not have Sunday School this Sunday.  I hoped we could put something together, but it’s just not going to happen right now.  I would like to explain why I think this is important and the challenges we face.

I grew up in Sunday School.  I probably did not love it.  I remember badly drawn pictures of Jesus holding a sheep or talking to children.  Occasionally, we heard about Noah.  I also remember being with my friends discussing the Bible and what truths, what guidance it might provide us.  It made me consider the world and my relationship to it in a deeper way than I would have if I were at home watching TV.  It made me consider that things actually mattered: the way I treat people, what I do with my money, how I experience sorrow and joy.  As a kid, I didn’t pay much attention to the sermons.  But in Sunday School, I worked through my faith in fear and trembling with a community of friends that endures to this day.  I want that for all of us, but especially for our kids.  Certainly, deep, enduring friendships can be built outside the church.  But there is something special about developing relationships in a context of ultimate concern.

That said, we are a small church.  This often presents problems.  We think it is feasible to divide the children and youth into three groups, which means that we need six adult volunteers. We want to ensure stability for our kids, so we need people who can commit to being there at 10am every Sunday.  There are many more issues to work out, such as safety, so we will keep working on it.  If you are interested in helping out, please contact Scott Shirley, Janalee Shadburn-Wiles, or Sara Kitto.

It’s a joy having so many young faces.  I hope that we can make learning about their faith a cherished memory for them.

Be Not Afraid

// January 27th, 2010 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

“Do not be afraid” — The most frequent commandment in scripture and one often spoken by angels. In Jeremiah 1:4-10 a young man has a direct encounter with Yahweh who calls him to assume the role of prophet. And God answers Jeremiah’s objections — saying “No-you’re not too young!” and “You don’t need to know how to speak, I am going to place my own words in your mouth.”
But Yahweh doesn’t stop there. He also speaks to the objection in Jeremiah’s heart, the one too tender to name. Yahweh, firmly and lovingly tells him “Do not be afraid, I am with you.”
What is the relationship between fear and responding to God’s call? I think the two may be more intertwined than we realize. When I review the past twelve months of pastoring this church, there have been many times when I tried to give it back to God. Sometimes this push-pull session lasted only for a day, other times it was longer. Usually it hit me in moments I felt overwhelmed–overwhelmed by the intensity of the role, or by the hurts and needs of folks in the church and the complex ways they play out in our intimate community.
But Jeremiah reminds me that I am not alone when I resist God’s invitation. In fact, in an upside-down, inside-out way, resistance is directly related to the experience of standing on holy ground. To feel unworthy or inadequate goes with the project of being called as God’s servant. And it may mean you are closer to saying yes with your whole heart and your whole self than you even realize.
Now clearly this applies not only to the Big Callings, to those like Jeremiah who are called to speak truth in the realm of international politics or other Big Places. And God’s call is not limited to prophets, priests and pastors. Much like we discussed in our conversation about spiritual gifts – the Spirit delivers the gifts, and we are all gifted. Not just the special people, the charismatic people, those who have talents we admire, those who can perform on a stage. Not just the smart people, or the pretty people, or the rich people– but everyone, everyone is gifted by the Spirit. And these gifts don’t belong to us, they belong to the community.
Likewise we are all called by God. And in an interesting twist, the power and will and love we need to do the work we are called to do is also provided by God. God exists on both sides of the equation.
I don’t think we ever outgrow being called. In fact, as the seasons of our life change, I think new directions to manifest our call can sprout up around us. Have you ever met a weary ex-idealist who has been hauled by God into a fresh place? I suspect our church may be full of them. I have known and loved people like this in other places, like a dear friend Bill who after years of serving the local church found in retirement he was called to serve a different kind of congregation. Rather than rural new Englanders, Bill was led through a series of relationships and activism to a community of displaced farmers on a mountain top in Honduras. They are the poorest of the poor and Bill loves them. He walks six hours up a mountainside to be with them. He goes with them to the office of the regional official who threatens to displace them again. He has worked with them to build and staff their own health clinic. And if you are lucky, you get to be a North American who goes with him on one of the immersion trips he leads, and see a prophet in action. 
Neither our achievements nor our confidence qualify us to answer the call of God. God qualifies us to answer the call of God. And God is so clearly still calling.
Join us tonight as we read scripture, discuss the beauty and intensity of God’s call and share some good food.
en paz,
PS David Marquis is cooking the meal at Casa Semrad tonight and could use extra Nan bread and some dessert.  108 South Rosemont Ave, 6:30pm. All are welcome!  Call church number for more info 214. 233-4605.  We will end a little early so folks can catch the State of the Union address if they would like.

Resistance Reading as an Act of Faith

// September 30th, 2009 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

 Resistance Reading

How do we make meaning out of scripture?  How do we listen for a Word of Wisdom in this ancient library of manuscripts we call the Bible? This week we transition from the book of James into a three week series drawing from the gospel of Mark and dive headfirst into a challenging passage served up by the revised common lectionary.  

Mark 10:2-16
Some Pharisees approached Jesus and, as a test, asked, “Is it permissible for husbands to divorce wives?’ In reply Jesus asked, “What command did Moses give?” They answered, “Moses permitted a husband to write a decree of divorce and to put her away.” But Jesus told them, “Moses wrote the commandment because of your hardness of heart. From the beginning of creation,
‘God made them male and female.
This is why one person leaves home
And cleaves to another,
And the two become one flesh.’
They are no longer two, but one flesh. What God has united, therefore, let no one divide.”
Back in the house again, the disciples questioned Jesus once more about this. He told them, “If a man divorces his wife and marries another, he commits adultery against her; and if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
People were bringing their children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples scolded them for this.
When Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not stop them. It is to just such as these that the kindom of God belongs. The truth is, whoever doesn’t welcome the kindom of God as a little child won’t enter it.” And Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
Let’s just be clear: this passage has the potential to be hurtful to people in our community. People who are separated, divorced, remarried, as well as to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in the congregation. 
So what do we do with passages of scripture that are hard? Part of the beauty and challenge of our entering into a relationship with the lectionary is an opportunity to reflect thoughtfully on passages we would normally avoid.
This week I would like to suggest the strategy of ‘resistance reading’ as one means of approaching this and other difficult texts. This approach takes seriously the role of the reader in determining the meaning of the text.  A text does not come to us wearing its meaning, like a campaign button, on its lapel. Rather we co-create meaning in the act of taking our lives and questions to scripture.
In addition, there are moments in our lives where it can be a faithful act to read with resistance, rather than assent. Some of the noblest moments in Jewish and Christian history are moments of resistance to officially approved oppression, injustice or traditions gone sterile. Resistance reading is practiced therefor by all kinds of people struggling for new relevance for their old traditions.
So let us turn to Mark with these eyes in the coming weeks and invite a ripening of our approach to scripture. And pray for the Holy Spirit, bearer of Wisdom, to show up in our conversations and to show us the Way.
Community Dinner tonight at 6:30 at Michael and Donovan’s. There will be fried fish, sausage, hominy, portabella mushrooms and asparagus.  We could use dessert, drinks and salad. 108 S. Briscoe Blvd, Dallas, TX 75211.  Call 214. 233-4605 if need directions or more info. 
“Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.” (James 3:13)