So far in our look at angels, we have identified one of their defining characteristics as bringers of the good news from God. For some, we’ve had to work a little harder to find the good news. News that our beloved has risen from the dead is, on the surface, easier to find joy in than end-times judgment. But Revelation hints at a more complex problem: in the good news, there is always an implied “for.”
This week we will look at the story of Hagar in Genesis 16. If you recall, Hagar was a slave of Sarai, wife of Abram. Sarai could not have children, so she suggested Abram have a go at Hagar. Like most men in the Bible, he does as he is told and Hagar becomes pregnant. Suddenly, in a culture where women’s value was predominantly seen in their ability to bear children, Hagar gets uppity. Or at least, that’s what Sarai thinks, so Hagar leaves. Hagar runs away into the wilderness where she runs into the angel of YHWH.
So, of course, God the Liberator brings a message of liberation, right? I mean, this is the God that takes a whole people out of Egypt and keeps them alive in the wilderness for forty years in order to affect their freedom from bondage. Certainly, God can take one woman and get her to her own Promised Land.
Not this time. Instead, the angel of God says, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” Be a slave, Hagar. I have no good news for you.
Please join us this Sunday, 11am at the Kessler, when we will talk about how we might read a text like this, how we might wrestle with it until it blesses us.
About Sunday’s Vote
On May 6, the church is being asked to vote on whether or not to call me as an intern. I spoke at the community meeting April 22 to explain the details and why I would like to intern at Church in the Cliff. In short, Church in the Cliff is my home and my family and I can’t see being anywhere else for the next year.
Four years ago, I stepped into Trinity Presbyterian for a meeting of a “new” church. I had been out of church for 20 years. Like many people, I still had an interest in religion and spirituality, “the big questions,” but I never felt at home anywhere. I wanted to really ask those questions and most churches don’t. From that first meeting I could see that Church in the Cliff had something. I did not completely understand it, but somehow knew I wanted to be a part of it. It didn’t take long to get to know people at Church in the Cliff. We spend a lot of time together and we become quite close.
Laura Arp, who was a student at Perkins School of Theology at the time, made me feel especially welcome. She finished school shortly after that meeting and was ordained by Church in the Cliff. At her ordination she knelt at the front of the church and everyone in attendance lined up to lay on hands and whisper a blessing. I saw that and I knew that I wanted that experience. More importantly, I saw that ministry was a space to guide people into those experiences, the moments when you know that your world has just shifted. I wanted to do that, to find new life for myself and to help others do the same.
Church in the Cliff, under the leadership of Laura Fregin and Courtney Pinkerton, and with the support of everyone who passed through in the intervening years, raised me into this new life. This church allows me to ask really hard questions and be creative and collaborative in answering them. I have learned how hard it is to do church well and how important it is to try. At this church, I have the luxury of failing and that bountiful grace has allowed me to succeed. But, because I am still young, I need that continued support. I don’t think I could thrive anywhere else right now.
As important as it is for me to feel the call for ministry, it is also important for the church to feel that call. I am not appointed by a church hierarchy or God or my own will to minister in this church. I don’t get to just go to seminary and come back to a job of any kind. Church in the Cliff has to decide how it can best develop its ministry. But I’ll make my case.
Church in the Cliff has been through some changes in the past year. Having been raised up in this church for the past four years, I’m familiar with change. I’m comfortable with change. But I feel like what the church most needs right now is a familiar face. I know our story since we’ve moved to Oak Cliff, both good and bad. I’ve struggled through it every step of the way and that has given me such a deep gratitude for every beautiful moment. I want more of those moments.
I have dreams for this church. I want this to be a place for people who have complicated relationships with God, the Church, and each other, a place where we can talk honestly about those relationships. I want a place for people to make music and art, to find God and to find a voice. I want a church that makes the world a better place. I have had all of that at Church in the Cliff and remember how it happened. I want everyone to have a home like that. I want to build on who we are and find out who we can become.
That said, I am fresh off the truck. In fact, I’m not really even off the truck yet. This is an internship. While I imagine great things, I’m sure there will be mistakes. There will be struggles. There will be trials and there will be errors. But I know that caring support, graceful accountability, and turning toward God every day will get us through.
So, brass tacks. The internship would begin August 14 when I have my two-day orientation. I am doing a concurrent, or part-time, internship, which requires me to work for the church 25 hours per week. Our current budget includes $250 per week for worship, which would be acceptable to me as a salary. In addition to a financial commitment, Church in the Cliff must provide a Lay Teaching Committee of 6-8 members to provide feedback as I work my way through. Perkins is providing a mentor pastor that I can lean on as well. The internship is a class and I expect to learn a lot.
Regardless of the vote on Sunday, I want to thank everyone who has ever been a part of CityChurch or Church in the Cliff. I was out of church for a long time and expected it to stay that way. That y’all were able to create and sustain something so beautiful for so long is a testament to you and to God. I hope you will vote this Sunday to allow me to work at Church in the Cliff in the coming year. I hope that we can continue to build on this strong tradition of creative ministry.
If you would like to vote, you may do so at the Community Meeting May 6, 10am at the Kessler or you may e-mail your vote to firstname.lastname@example.org.