Worship, Work, Play


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The Month of May saw us raise over $3 thousand for CROP Walk, led by Nadia and supported by so many of you. Well-done!  June sees us planning for PRIDE march on the 12th (see Del for more information) and we are working with our Riverside Social Events Team and the Choir to create a “parking lot concert” in July on  Saturday July 11th, 11-1.  We want to take music and food and fellowship outside, onto the parking lot and connect with our neighborhood.  Pastor is working with Cedric on ways we as a church might create opportunities to speak to police accountability and the impact  of violence on Black youth in our community. We want to be a safe place for at-risk young people while advocating policies, procedures and legislation that protect them. Cedric will share some ideas with us in June and in the Fall, we hope to invite other churches through our denominational affiliations for workshops and information gathering sessions.

These are a few of the things that are happening at church and we hope you’ll get involved.  As Memorial Day Week-end kicks off the summer, we encourage you to stay connected: when you go away, let the pastor or a deacon know so we don’t worry about you and by all means, let us come together for worship on Sunday for in that holy interstice between work and play, we find our purpose and energy for life.  This summer, let’s actually increase attendance on Sundays. See you Sunday~


The Dog-Eared Summer


BOOK

I wish Jesus had left a book–not necessarily one he himself had written, though that would be treasure indeed, but a book he liked and read over and again. Can you imagine finding that book or being able to see it through some plexiglass exhibit at the Library of Congress and with your own hands or eyes, seeing the dog-eared page of something he’d read?  Of course without this, we know he was well-read in the prophets.  Still, just a page with a scribble in the margin that might give us some clue…

All revelation is like this.  Revealed truth is a dog-eared page and it might be the book of nature or a novelist or a scripture text or a song.  Oh, yes, there is a canon of scripture, what the Orthodox and our predecessors have passed onto us as being in the bible and worthy of our time and more than that, necessary for our time and attention.  But even so, revelation is all fragment and tassel, ribbons and threads of knowledge that stand out from the larger garment of background knowledge and we wear this revelation at time like a prayer shawl.  A dog-eared page in a book is a place someone felt compelled to memorialize and remember.  It is not unlike the red print New Testaments and once you have put some print in red (Jesus’ words) then you have acknowledged that not all that is in that book is of equal weight.  Anyway, this gets me somewhat adrift…

I just finished two novels over two weeks in our vacation at a beach in the Caribbean.  I plan to read at least three other books this summer for no other reason than the sheer joy of reading and because for some reason, the summer offers a path off the main drag  away from the flea-bitten knowledge of the political candidates, the spin masters, the voracious salacious media hordes.  Why not join in worship this Sunday.  We dog-ear that day each week to remind us how we got here, who we are and where we’re going.  ~See you Sunday


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Collectivity versus Individuality


There was a time, say pre-Reformation when suddenly the printing press began to change how people read and illiteracy, while still quite high, was beginning to sway from the advance of universities and the  access to knowledge.  In those times people most often read together. They read in collectivity, that is, as a group with someone reading a text to them.  Speed forward to the present information age and all of the access via technology that we have and you find that most people read to themselves.  Is your identity a collectivity or are you some kind of rugged individual, an island in an archipelago of individuals? It certainly seems the latter best describes the experience of riding on a metro car.

People are squished together on those cars but for the most part, they are individuals either reading alone or plugged into a listening device and listening alone.  That is a collectivity.  It is not necessarily communion.

Perhaps you have discovered Google’s Art Project.  It is a fantastic site that gives you access to museums and their collections from around the world.  Here is a link to one of my favorite artists, Albrecht Dürer who lived in the 16th century and his etching, Melencolia. So you can visit a museum alone, by yourself at your computer or mobile device and study paintings and arts of all kinds without ever being in a group.  One might ask, is it possible to interpret art apart from a collectivity or communion of persons?

This brings me to church (of course I’m trying to make a point about what we do and who we are on Sunday).  If you show up in worship on Sunday then you are at this stage of the world, odd.  Instead of reading alone in a cafe or at home, browsing the Sunday paper, you’re sitting in the midst of others who are collectively listening to scripture being read to them and proclaimed to you.  Is it possible that you are onto something the rest of our culture is not privy to or ignoring? Indeed, I think you are.  Something transformative takes place in the midst of a collection of people, particularly a collectivity that is also a communion.  You can read the scriptures alone and privately (and should). But the melding of your life with the lives of others in that sacred moment–that is simply an ancient way of getting at the truth of yourself and the world.  Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, the scripture says.  One hour in the week, week in and week out, shoulder to shoulder with others who are reading, singing, praying and listening at the same time in the same holy space–you don’t have to grasp that so much as allow that to grasp you.


Baltimore and the threshold of violence


credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

We pray for the safety and well-being of everyone in Baltimore and  a restoration to order and détente.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  Calling all peacemakers!  We need calm and reasonable discourse.

This past Sunday, I preached a “pastoral” sermon on thresholds and alarms.  It was a sermon aimed at our day-to-day spiritual journey.  For those of you who heard it the following remarks will likely make more sense. For those of you who have not, you can hear it under the sermons tab.  In that sermon I offered a simple aphorism:  “be aware of thresholds and alarms [that go off at thresholds].”  So with that in mind let me make a remark or two about what is transpiring in Baltimore.

A riot is a threshold and an alarm.    Of course, at even a superficial level we understand this when we see stores looted and burned, cars burned and police officers hurt by debris thrown at them.  But I mean this statement at a deeper level. It is a commentary on our society at the moment.  A riot is a striking sign that something is wrong with us collectively.  I do not mean by that statement that those individuals who harm and destroy are not to be held responsible.  What I do mean is that a riot is a societal disruption along the lines of a stroke in an individual.  We can all grasp that of course because we have known someone who has had a stroke or heart attack and then must deal with what that event means across a continuum of any number of issues in their lives (diet, stress, exercise, genetic makeup so on and so forth).  It would be a foolish conclusion if we as a nation decided to read these events as mere morality plays.  A riot is a threshold and alarm and we need to find people of good will all along the continuum who can begin helping us sort out the factors and ingredients that led to this.

There are plenty of failures and yes, some of those failures are individual or familial ones. So we need to talk about the failure of parenting no doubt.  But there are large, looming failures of our national policies and rhetoric that dwarf those failures that play out in individuals.   One individual, for example, stealing a loaf of bread from a store is an example of theft but a system, like segregation, stole the educations and dignity of millions of persons. You can see the point.  We can and should talk about individual responsibility and failure, but a riot is a threshold that an entire community and nation crosses and the alarms are warning us to speak to those societal and national policies that deprive persons of hope and freedom.

Wars are violent, riots are violent and both should be avoided.  We will hear a lot of sanctimonious language about peace and civility in the coming days from talking heads who have given voice to wars and promoted preemptive attacks against people who did not attack us.  One must pause in such discourse and ask such persons why they are so comfortable with violence in one arena but so opposed to it in another. There are differences between wars and riots but America has glorified violence too often as a solution.  And rioters need to hear this as much as any right wing talking head:  violence is not a solution. In fact, as I already stated, it is a sign of failure of a people to find a common path toward mutual regard.  Let’s talk about those rioters but let’s spend some time on the threshold and ponder how repeated incidents of police beatings and killings of unarmed civilians, along with desperate economic contexts push people over a threshold into something as self-destructive and ineffective as a riot.  I’ll close with Dr. King’s words in Stride Toward Freedom:  “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself.”  We have crossed a threshold. An alarm is sounding for us to step up with courage and find a way toward one another.


What’s Going On


Emma Wright's Cherry Tree

A tree ascended there. O pure Transcendence!
~Rainer Maria Rilke

CROP Walk is coming up, we continue to collect non-perishable food items on the third Sunday each month for Martha’s Table since we have Koinonia Lunches on the third Sunday after worship and we have a dedicated group of volunteers who serve monthly at S.O.M.E. Choir practice is going to take place on Sunday mornings in the Foster Room from now on or into the foreseeable future, we’re working on an idea to have Parking Lot Concerts in the church parking lot at least once this summer, offering perhaps music and food and importantly a chance for our community to interact with our congregation outside the walls of the church, this will be coordinated with our RISET team as we plan more get-togethers as we had this past week-end; Book Club is going to return soon, Pastor is working on seminarians to supplement ministry here and at the same time offer them a chance for mentoring and field experience; speaking of books, our First Sunday Bible Study that began in January continues this Sunday (May 3) after worship and for ninety minutes we’ll study the book of Acts; development meetings and processes continue as we work hard to secure the legacy and future of our church in SW; worship is the cornerstone of all these efforts, as we gather as the People of God on Sunday mornings for prayer, scripture, praise and proclamation.  There are plenty of things to plug into and be part of.  You are the Church.  Let’s be the Church.

~ See you Sunday


The Time of Singing Has Come


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From the Song of Solomon, chapter two:

11for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.

Do not take for granted that you crossed the threshold of seasons.  You were able to move from Winter to Spring.  Perhaps you can hear Vivaldi’s Four Seasons playing in the background as blossoms (and pollen) fill the air.  Your world has changed.  You in turn are changed.

You had nothing to do with this.  It happens without consulting you. The earth warms and rains appeared and the properties imbedded within plants and trees of all kinds, the song encoded into birds, these things emerged and bloomed into the world and you witness it. But you did not make it happen. How then respond?  With thanks. Be grateful and if you can, add your song to the speech of birds.

You have the power, also gifted to you–you were endowed with these powers–to change. You can welcome it or hate it, play with it or try to kill it, wrestle with it, manage it, flow with it.  Every season brings loss. Every season offers new chances for growth and evolution to a higher plane.  So elevate. Evolve.  Grieve for what is past but do not try to live there.  It offers you no soil,  no water nor sun.  You have moved from Winter into Spring and with this, you can also change and deepen your life.  Stop.  Can you hear the turtle dove?

As you enter the sanctuary this Sunday, I am going to preach on what cannot be lost and talk somewhat about grief work but as well, the work of faith, hope and love and the blessed assurance that your soul in Christ is well.   ~See you Sunday.