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


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DC Bike Ride Will Block Streets Near Church Sunday the 22nd


Heads up:  Your trip to church on Sunday May 22nd will be more challenging than usual as 7th Street and Maine Avenue will be closed for the DC Bike Ride.  Our church is located at 7th and Maine Avenue and I St.   So you’ll need to come to the church via I (eye) St.  I would tell you how to do that but you have a GPS.  Go like you’d go to the Nats stadium and then come in on I toward the church.  Or maybe ride a bike in. That would be interesting.  I know this is painful but I’m working on a really good sermon for this Sunday.  Be safe.  Maybe we can raffle a bike  for those who show up on Sunday.  Just kidding.  Though I’m open to suggestions.  Below is a map of the bike event.

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Inoculated Against Fear


We live, as Augustine wrote, in a culture that is in love with death. Endless war. Unceasing, really. And yet, there is no sign that the American people are tired of pouring their wealth into the production of more and more weapons.  Endless violence.  Unceasing, actually.  Every day we have to read headlines (who reads articles in full now unless the acts of violence committed are so heinous and to such an outrageous degree that we’ll actually pause and ponder the magnitude of our gun-fixated culture?) and listen to news about people gunning one another down and children picking up guns and killing siblings and parents accidentally.  And don’t forget suicides.

Last week I trekked to New York to go to the wake and funeral of the radical priest and peacemaker, Father Daniel Berrigan.  I saw him in his shroud of white with red embroidered crosses, a small and nearly weightless man.   He wore simple, black shoes.  He owned little, if anything.  Except this:  his soul.  And as Christ taught, a person could gain all the wealth in the world and lose their own soul.  It is more than fair I would say to conclude that the heir apparent of the Republican Party is a soulless, wealthy man.  Anyway, seeing Father Berrigan reminded me of seeing the sculpture of John Donne in his death shroud there in a corner of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Except I was not looking at stone but a corpse and not merely the corpse of a once great and saintly man but the corpse of the 1960s when people sang songs about peace and wrote that word on large banners. All of that is blowin’ in the wind.

Back to now.  As you likely were, I was appalled by the auctioning of the murder gun of George Zimmerman who killed Treyvon Martin.  Not only appalled by the wickedness like puss oozing from this man, but the complicity of those involved in actually conducting an auction.  Shame, Shame, Shame!

Here’s the point I’m headed toward though.  In the narrative of the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, we are inoculated against fear, wickedness and death. All of these elements are at play in that narrative.  When we receive this pathogen, as it were, from the narrative of Christ’s life, we are inoculated from these pathogens in our present age.  Let me put it yet another way.  This month we dedicated a child who was adopted by his mothers, we baptized a special needs child dearly loved by his mother and father and we did all of that in a congregation and holy place that is so filled with hope and joy, that we are empowered to return to the world and heal it, repair it, and redeem it.  I’m not sure why folks do not step into a sanctuary of peace.  But some of us do and we invite you to join us.

In the world you have tribulation, Christ said.  But take courage, I have overcome the worldFearless.  Joyful.  ~See you Sunday


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All My Life’s a Circle and the Decemberists


The second day of May and I am on the Silver Line headed to a faculty meeting, listening to “June Hymn” by the Decemberists. That’s a lot of months in one sentence.  But it captures where I’m headed, not to Howard University School of Divinity, but into May, full throttle and “all my life’s a circle” rebounds to me in my little seat as the train operator’s voice crackles over the speaker, unspeakable and unhearable.  If that’s a word.

What is ahead is a dedication of an adopted son, Master Mason, by loving parents on Mother’s Day, the 8th of May. And the following Sunday, the baptism of a dear child, Wyatt Alexander, who has conquered my heart since his birth and whose parents I love dearly for their faith and their devotion to their special needs son. These young people are a gift from God to us. We have the blessed opportunity to receive them into our community and as well, to see them as God’s signs of grace to us.

The perspective of a long-time pastor is one of circles, concentric, widening in ever expansive rings of inclusion and rippled across the lakes of lives and church.  I’m nearing my stop at Van Ness, switched to the Red Line and switched to Macklemore’s newest album, listening to “Need to Know.” He raps, “we are what we run from.”  But at Riverside, we are what we run to. We run to each other and toward God, toward grace and mercy.  I hope you’ll worship with us this Sunday.  After all, “it’s the circle of life, and it moves us all, through despair and hope, through faith and love…”  

~See you Sunday


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Land of Plenty, Wasteland of Violence


The number and variety of grocery stores in our area astounds me.  I admit, I generally self-check-out over at a Safeway.  But occasionally I’ll go to Harris Teeter for some things.  And even less often I’ll stroll into Trader Joes.  And then there are those cathedrals of food, Whole Foods and Wegman’s, that are overwhelming by all they offer. I step in there amazed and with my hand firmly on my wallet.

So this week while pushing a cart in one of those stores I wondered how it is that in a land of plenty, of so very much, that we are at the same time a wasteland of violence.  We awaken to this each and every day.  Back about twenty, thirty years ago Marxism had nailed religion as the culprit. But look, we live in a hedonistic culture that is far from religious.  The sacred is a melting glacial island.  And yet, with our technology and supposed reliance on science, we are as alienated as any time in our history.  People can’t help resolving their slights by aggression and annihilation.  We’ve heard of micro-agrressions. We need a discussion about macro-aggressions when people react with a volume of anger and violence that far outdistances the perceived slight or problem.  An astute deacon asked me Sunday about how our country, our culture, might begin addressing anger. And she is correct.  We desperately need to do so.

There is a remarkable action you can take that will, on a weekly basis, set a straight measure to your steps; guide you beside still waters; set you in the midst of a meadow of green grass; fill your heart with both humility and joy.  What is that action?  Worship.  I know, I know, it sounds trite. But guess what? it is not.  It is profound.  Not “going to church” but worship. Stepping into a sacred space, joining with others in prayer and song and stopping long enough to ponder the mystery and gift of your life.  Enough violence and hatred.  More Communion. More Kindness.  More faith, hope and love.  ~See you Sunday


Book Sale and Give-Away


350px-reading-jester-q75-760x753A few of Pastor Bledsoe’s books are being given away free (online at Amazon) and at reduced price.  You can find these here.

We continue to sort through our church library material–you are welcome to any book you see other than those in the Jerry Davis Library shelf (enclosed).  There are some hymnals which are wonderful aids in devotion and prayer; keeping a hymnal on your nightstand allows you to pray (or sing of course!) in the night.