This week we celebrate Palm Sunday: a liturgical moment which contains so much of the complexity of life on the Jesus Way. We shout hosanna like the sisters and brothers who gathered around Jesus on his journey into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11). We too yearn for a glimpse of a different way of life. Can you picture it? The children swept up in excitement, cutting palm fronds and running alongside a donkey. The crowd pressing in—hungry for liberation, yearning for healing, hoping for a leader to show them the way home. Jesus and the disciples all playing a part in street theater which subversively mocked Caesar and revealed the limits of an oppressive imperial power.
Palm Sunday is a liminal zone. The hosannas don’t hold. The crowd, like most, is vulnerable to changes in the wind. Yet I think they called out with full hearts in that moment, and their hosannas reveal a deeper truth. It reminds me of a documentary, “the Congregation” I saw several years ago which details the story of Rev. Beth Stroud, a gay pastor in the United Methodist Church. Supported by her local church leaders Beth courageously “came out” from the pulpit. She acknowledged in her sermon that she did not know what the future would hold. She saw with clear eyes that her existence as on ordained UMC Elder in full standing and a gay woman in a committed relationship were likely not tenable due to the broken policies of the church. But then she squared her shoulders and took a breath and explained that she was not afraid: “After all, here I am, for this Sunday at least, and perhaps for many months to come, your openly lesbian, fully credentialed, United Methodist pastor. I am excited to be able to give you the gift of my whole self in the fullest expression of my ministry, for however much time we may have.”
I encourage you to read the full sermon. Beth clearly has transcended a dualistic mind. She is not the victim, and she makes very clear that the Bishop and religious hierarchy is not the enemy. She challenges her progressive congregation to love each other well and to deliver casseroles and to pray, so that they can nourish each other for the journey together. She received a standing ovation. A year and a half later she was stripped of her ministry credentials.
What does it take to be a guide in the in-between moments? How can one ride through the heat of the crowds yet stay connected to God’s wisdom? How to work for justice and not create enemies? How can one communicate peace and calm in the midst of the storm of our human longings and fears?
If you watch the excerpt from Beth’s sermon, I think you will see her drawing from an inner chamber of calm: a reservoir of the soul which grants ready access to God’s presence. This is what the desert mothers and fathers called our cell or nest. It is the Christ consciousness. I wonder if that is what we have been trying to cultivate during our time in the cave.
Jesus is drinking deeply from this interior well of wisdom as he rides into Jerusalem. How else might it have been possible? Through his pilgrimage into the city center he cracked open a different way of living. Even as people clung to him, he was showing them and all of us a way forward through a dead end. He modeled a practice which releases us from the voices within and the voices of the crowd thereby enabling us to engage with the big projects of life: loving each other and transcending the labels of insider and outsider, mine and theirs, friend and enemy.
We need two things to cultivate the cave within: an ear to what the Quaker’s call ‘the inner teacher’ and a community to help us fall deeper into a trusting relationship with that voice. This is series work. Work worthy of a Hosanna.
Join us Sunday as we round out our Lenten series and wave some Fair Trade palms.
Peace of Christ this day,
PS Much is brewing at Church in the Cliff. I encourage you to read the many invitations (in many voices) below.
Celebrate Earth Day and Help Buy an Ark
“Hello everyone – As most of know , the youth are planning a trip this summer to Heifer International Global Village to learn first hand what it is like to live in a 3rd world environment. Part of their plan is to raise $5,000 to purchase an “ark” of animals that will go to support communities in the developing world. This Sunday, Palm Sunday, Church in the Cliff will have a booth at Lake Cliff Park for the Earth Day celebration that is from noon – 5 PM. The goal is to raise money for the ark and spread the word about our community. We could use some help from folks to work the booth. If you are able to participate, please let me know or post on FB. Thanks for the support!” Sara Kitto – proud momma of Emma Kitto.
“Hello All –
We had a great first rehearsal last week! Right now we have seven people signed up to sing on Easter, and I’d love a few more voices to round out the sound (and remember – the more voices there are, the less your individual voice can be heard, so don’t be nervous).
We are having a second rehearsal this Sunday night, April 17 at 5 p.m. at the Kessler Theater at 1230 W. Davis Street. We are singing three songs; I’ll be handing out lyrics sheets and CDs with music tracks on it so you can practice on your own, if you like. If we want to, we may have one last rehearsal the night of Thursday, April 21. Please invite anyone who is interested!” Janie
Support Huma-Faith and Enjoy a Meal Out
As you all know, we are in great need of your support and this time you can help us by simply going out to eat at Chili’s (Cedar Hill) on this Sunday, April 17, 2011.
Present the flyer to your server at the time of payment for your meal and Chili’s will return 20% of your total check back to Huma-Faith (email James firstname.lastname@example.org for digital copy of flyer.) So please mark your calenders, make time to eat at Chili’s in Cedar Hill (Lunch or Dinner) on April 17, 2011 to support our cause. Chili’s address 376 North Highway 67, Cedar Hill TX.
Thank you all for your support.
Peace & Blessings,”
Founder/Chief Administrator Huma-Faith, a transitional housing program for people in recovery.
James and Clint are organizing a crew to go. Interested in joining? Let James know!
Followup On Ordination Conversation
Jann Aldredge-Clanton was a wonderful guide for our community conversation on ordination after church last week. She shares her recap on the experience: “The conversation Sunday was energetic and helpful in clarifying the community’s thoughts and feelings on ordination. I heard a consensus that Church in the Cliff will continue to be an ordaining church, but that the community would like further discussion on the process toward ordination. People expressed the desire for ordination to be a meaningful, responsible, and sacred act.”
To that end we are forming an ordination team to clarify the process and requirements for ordination at Church in the Cliff. The team will be drawing from the Alliance of Baptist and United Church of Christ recommendations and also from our previous experience as an ordaining body. The team will put together a recommendation and present it to the full church. Interested? Questions? email email@example.com
Readings and Discussions at 10 AM in the lounge. Facilitated by Stephanie Wyatt & Adam DJ Brett
April 17-Prayers and meditations from our own Jann Aldredge-Clanton as we go into Holy Week. Email Adam for a copy. (firstname.lastname@example.org).