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The Scourge of Gun Violence


Gun violence in America is a scourge.  Had an invader killed as many of our citizens, we would be demanding a declaration of war from our Congress. Instead, we hear the NRA talk about the “right to carry and conceal” and our Congress cowardly shirk before the Gun sellers.   Had a virus or plague killed as many, we would demand the CDC and other government agencies coordinate a multi-pronged effort to arrest the virus and find a vaccination.  Instead, we are subjected to lies and half-truths about the Second Amendment.

It is not patriotic to stand by as fellow citizens are murdered and wounded.

It is immoral, even if it be legal, to sell assault weapons.

Jesus told Peter to put up his sword.  Christians, stop supporting the blood soaked NRA.  Start asking your congresspersons to pass sensible laws that register and control what can be sold. Gun shop owners, stop selling assault weapons.  Put away your guns. We are reaping the whirlwind.


Genocide, Rwanda and the End of the Superstition Called Progress


God_Sleeps_RwandaSunday, June 26th, The Riverside Book Club hosts Dr. Joseph Sebarenzi as he talks with us about his acclaimed memoir God Sleeps in Rwanda. Dr. Sebarenzi experienced the tragedy of the Rwandan genocide and then rose to become the third most powerful man his country while pushing for greater democracy. Joseph will read excerpts from his book as well as take questions.  Join us in the Foster Room next Sunday after worship, approximately 11:15 a.m.

I will be preaching a sermon entitled, A Wreck of A World, in which I attempt to speak critically and theologically about evil and what this says not only about God but also about the last great superstition, as Christopher Lasch, referred to it, progress.  At Riverside, we are accustomed to using both our minds and our hearts in our struggle to understand God and ourselves.  We pose deep questions knowing that shallow questions only lead to shallow answers.

Please be sure to check out the Sermons tab where you can catch up on sermons you have missed or send a link to a friend or shut in or someone whom you think might like listening to a sermon online.  ~See you Sunday


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Orlando: We Mourn With Our GLBT Brothers and Sisters


120px-Gay_memory_flag.svg  Pastor Bledsoe’s pastoral prayer and remarks from Sunday, June 12th:   

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It’s okay not to have the words to speak your grief.  This grief will take a very long time to pour out of our lives in torrents of tears; to trickle out in beads of sweat; to bleed from us in what has been too bloody a wicked act already.

There is plenty of blame to pin on any number of persons from politicians to preachers to radio talk show hosts and the contemptible NRA and its brood of coward politicians.  For now, until we have prayed our goodbyes and pondered what we have lost by these who have been slain, we need not assign blame. But a Day of Reckoning is coming for those who insist on fanning flames of hatred and then legislate access to assault rifles, guns and ammunition so that millions of  Americans are turned into potential lone wolf terrorists.

It’s okay to be angry.  Our anger is our wound, turned inside out. But today, this week, let us pray for these families who bear the terrible burden of loss. We will touch our wounds and weep with those who weep.

Our hearts especially break for the GLBT communities across our country and particularly in Orlando.  Saturday I had the joy of participating in the Capital PRIDE march.  Last week, I blogged about why I, a pastor, march but I did not think to include the reason that a madman, fueled by religious hatred, would gun down scores of innocents.  After an ecstatic Saturday of marching in solidarity, I awakened on Sunday to this grievous news. Dearest GLBT individuals:  we stand with you and express our profoundest sympathy as you were viciously attacked simply for being who you are.  Beautiful.  Wonderfully human. Children of God.

We will not abandon you in this time but pray for you and say again, we at Riverside are a refuge of peace for all and will not accept any religion—Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, ANY—that refuses to accept you for the gift you are.  It is incumbent upon each religion and its practitioners and spokespersons to critically engage their religious teachings and stop persecuting Gay human beings.

We in the United States are living in a country that is terrorized by its own inhabitants. We are and have been perpetually at war now for more than fifteen years.  We are polluted by violence.

We pray in the words of the ancient Church:

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

~See you Sunday:: Pastor Bledsoe


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Why I March in PRIDE–A Pastor’s Perspective


“Hope will never be silent.”

Harvey Milk

 I have been marching in the PRIDE parade for a while now, since the mid or late 90s. I cannot remember the first march but I do recall that it wasn’t that big. Now the Washington DC Capitol PRIDE march is gigantic.  I don’t march because I’m Gay, I march because justice matters and human rights matter and sexual orientation should not be condemned any more than left-handed freckled people should be condemned.

I march in PRIDE because the Church has not only been silent through the centuries but it has been complicit in the deaths, torture and slow annihilation of GLBT human beings.  I march for the same reason I go to the Holocaust Museum each April and read names during the Days of Remembrance:  because Christians have some great atoning work to do for the sins they’ve committed in the name of the Savior.

Over two decades as a pastor, I’ve talked in my office to persons bearing the crushing weight of their family’s hatred; written letters and emails of support to individuals who desperately longed to serve God in a church that would authentically welcome them; I have buried persons abandoned by their families. I prayed at the Capitol with a colleague when Matthew Shepard was murdered…  I march because these scars do not go away any more than the scars were erased from the crucified Christ.  I march in PRIDE simply to humbly say, “I hear you.”  Not, “I know your pain,”  because I do not.  I can only imagine it. But I hear you and I’m willing to stand by you on a day when you declare to the world that you are not only out but you are, like Walt Whitman, willing to sing a song to yourself, love yourself and celebrate your humanity.

I also march for hope and joy.  I fondly remember when a group of us attended a showing of the film, MILK.  What an exciting moment to be together!  I have performed more “gay marriages” than straight marriages in the last three years.  I do not see LGBT persons threatening the institution of marriage but they are saving it by taking monogamous, loyal love seriously.  I have blessed children adopted by gay couples.  How joyful!  On this Saturday, I’ll be marching in another PRIDE parade. I am proud of you, GLBT brothers and sisters.  I hope for you, pray for you, advocate for and admire you.  I am fortunate to pastor a church that is inclusive.  Maybe some Sunday, you’ll walk into a worship service with us.  We won’t single you out as LGBT. We will simply embrace you as fully human and like all persons, as someone who bears the Image of God.

For the haters, the Christian homophobic self-righteous and those who insist on demonizing others who are different, I adjure you to repent.  Turn around from that hatred.  It only leads to hell.  To the scholars, the scribes who find a way to leverage the bible against the love of Christ, I adjure you, cease from this inhumane scholarship.   These, alas,  will pass away.  But faith, hope and love will abide.      And PRIDE.  ~See you Sunday

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Why I Don’t Go to Church … and why I do


I don’t attend church in order to find God. I attend church because God found me.

I do not enter the church to be entertained. Instead, my hope is that in telling the truth about my life, our world and measuring these beside the great Truth of God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ, I will be challenged to live an authentic life.

I don’t attend church to have my political ideas confirmed or the platform of the Republican, Democratic or Libertarian parties stapled into my bible.  I attend in order to hear about God’s rule, sometimes translated as “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven.”

I don’t attend church to “sow a seed” in order that I might become “prosperous.”  I worship God who has blessed me already, gifted me with life and is worthy of my praise and thanksgiving.

I do not enter a church to hear a preacher denounce and berate people, spew hatred or pick on persons who are already at risk in our culture at large. I enter the church to hear about faith, hope and love since, as the Apostle Paul wrote, these three endure when everything else passes away.

I do not enter a church to gossip, text, Facebook or check email.  I turn off those devices and turn my back on gossip in order to fellowship, deepen the bonds of love and friendship between myself and God’s people.

I step out of a mad world in love with violence, stoking revenge, fixated on guns and enter the church for peace, peacemaking and justice.

There is a place of peace. Go there. Be found.  Embrace truth. Be filled with joy.  Be girded in faith.  Hold your head up in hope.  The love of Christ sustain you.  ~See you Sunday


God’s Savage Country


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In my book of sermons, Sermons in War, there is a sermon that was preached as the third in a sequence of sermons immediately following 9/11 entitled, “God’s Savage Country.” By that I meant there were true believers and fundamentalist zealots in any number of religions who feel it their duty to maim, kill and destroy.  I suggested we as Christians should be led by another vision, the mercy and peace of our Lord.

As we pause this coming holiday week-end to remember those who have served and fallen in military service to the United States, let us ponder some words I preached September 30, 2001.

Beloved, there is another country that has no borders. You will not find it on any map traced in lines or crossed by coordinates of longitude and latitude.  It is the kingdom of love and light, mercy and kindness, generosity and benevolence.  It is a country that exists in the meadows of the heart, filled with light and the fragrance of a loving God.  Its citizens span the earth and include people from every nation, tribe and clan.  Those who dwell there seek nothing less than the healing of creation, the redemption of humanity from its battles and wars with the flesh and the peaceful co-existence of all God’s creation.  This country is the peaceable kingdom of God.  May God’s kingdom of peace and justice overcome hatred and the darkness of this hour in which we find ourselves. May his love rule in our hearts now and always.

We salute all who have served in the Armed Forces.  We pray for the peacemakers and noble opposition who by conscience could not participate in war.  And we pray for a day when nations will be led by persons committed above all to the security and peace of their citizenry, seeking dialogue and mutual benefit prior to waging war.  ~See you Sunday