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Beyond the tweeted trifling nonsense: Now is the time to worship


It is storming and you’re outside in it.  Rain in sheets and at times metal pellets of water.  Lightening, thunder, flash flood threatening you. There is a small, warm shelter nearby. What do you do?
You enter that warm shelter.
The office, the train car, the world around you is toxic.  It’s hard to breathe.  It is hard to see.  Nearby is a transparent tent.  You can see the air inside is clear and clean.  The toxic vapors are repelled and flow past it, a vapor trail.  What do you do?
You enter the clean air of that tent.
 Weariness grips you in a bone-deep ache.  Despair like shadows descend.  You see people exiting a building who seem invigorated, empowered, full of courage and hope.  They point you to the building, saying that each week they enter it and are filled, their humanity and dignity repaired.  What do you do?
Every Sunday a group of us, approximately 70, sometimes ten more sometime ten less, enter a middle school auditorium in SW Washington DC. For an hour we make that space a sanctuary of peace and a refuge, a safe place free of toxicity and hatred, a place of empowerment to all who would work for justice and peace. We sing. We pray. We listen to scripture and the Word of God is proclaimed—a Word that endures beyond the tweeted trifling nonsense of our culture.  You can taste some of this by clicking on a sermon and listening to it. Try, for example, this past Sunday’s sermon, “The Joy Formidable.”
You know when and how to get out of a storm.  You know you prefer peace to toxic rhetoric.  So what’s keeping you?  Get out of the rain.  Come, now is the time to worship. ~See you Sunday

Augustus_Caesar

Lines to Deliver to Caesar & Other Princes at Advent


Never underestimate what one person inspired by the just God can do.  I can imagine that line being voiced by an actor of some gravitas, playing Moses, standing before the Pharaoh who enslaved his people.  The Hebrews, by the way, got free.

Do not confuse your election as a divine appointment. Instead, think of your election as an appointment with the Divine who has the only mandate worth considering and it is a mandate for justice and for the protection of the weak, the meek and the marginal.  I can imagine that line being voiced by a certain Galilean to a certain regional prince selected by his god, the Roman Emperor, a man named Pilate who coyly asked the Nazarene what was truth.  By the way, the Christ overcome hatred and the grave.  There’s a mandate for you.

We outnumber those who voted for you. We are legion. We also aren’t going anywhereI can imagine Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering those lines to Gov. Wallace who was delusional when he thought that by standing in front of the doors leading to the University of Alabama that he could block not only Black students but Black civil rights nationally.  The governor was mistaken.

Christ the Lord is born in your midst.  Be fearless.  The angel said this to shepherds one night out in  a field.  Caesar Augustus was called by his minions, Savior.  The angel said in so many words, actually the Savior is here, in Bethlehem.  And I can imagine that angel, on this First Advent Sunday, looking at us and telling us the same thing.

ADVENT is upon us. Be alert. And do not be confused or intimidated by the megalomaniacal princes of the earth or their tweeting band of sycophants nor their preachers of the State religion, wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Be fearless, beloved.    ~See you Sunday


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THANKS BE TO GOD


Thankful for the love and mercy of God sewn into the fabric of the universe, both in seen and unseen ways too complex and numerous to count;

Thankful for human love, the capacity and power to bless others, heal others, restore the world and repair and especially grateful for all those who step into the world each day to embrace it with human love and joy;

Thankful for animals who befriend us, provide us their comfort and love without condition when others have taken from us or sinned against us. For meows and barks, tweets and songs, even the silent but electric motion of creatures great and small who deepen our humanity;

Thanks be to God.  Wear this as a shield against all cynics and nihilists who though given up on the world still somehow expect more from the world and by so doing, rightly point to that which is greater than cynical or nihilist complaint. We are better than the worst in us, we can respond to the better angels of our nature. Thanks be to God for the ineffable, the immeasurable, the great depth and breadth of what it means to be human.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING.  ~See you Sunday


For Such A Time As This


Protective ShepherdThe first thing one must do when faced with risk is to be awake to the fact that one is at risk.  Then plan,  not how you will save yourself, for while that is a natural and human response it is not a humanist response and certainly not a Christian one.  You must plan to save others.

Read Esther chapters 3-4 in which Mordecai, understanding the threat to his people plotted by Haman, urges Esther to advocate for her people because she has the ear of King Xerxes, Haman’s boss.  Mordecai tells her, “you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”   This story illustrates my point:  you must plan to save others, not just yourself.

A Machiavellian prince has arisen in our land.  In this time, be alert to those around you who need protection, advocate for them and if necessary, hide them from brutality.  Work for justice and as you do, do so as a peacemaker. For such a time as this, you may have been appointed.


The Interim Journey: November 2016


A Stone from the Sea of Galilee, gifted to Riverside Baptist Church by Rabbi Daniel Zemel of Temple Micah.

A Stone from the Sea of Galilee, gifted to Riverside Baptist Church by Rabbi Daniel Zemel of Temple Micah.

For a while now those of you who have been attending worship have realized that I really like this text from the book of Numbers, the tenth chapter, in the Hebrew scriptures, that speaks to the wilderness wandering led by Moses after the people have been to Sinai and covenanted with God.

11 In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle of the testimony, 12 and the people of Israel set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai. . .

I love the texture of those verses, their concreteness, their particularity, striking into time itself the moment when they got up and began to journey.  So it is, that in November of 2016, Riverside Baptist Church is also on a journey.  We can call it our interim journey since we have an endpoint or goal to our “wandering.”  The old church building is about to be deconstructed, its stained glass saved for the new building and then in December it may come down.  The expectation is that we will enter our new church building by September 30, 2018.  We might want to enter on Reformation Sunday of 2018–that would be fitting and an inspiration all by itself!

We are carrying with us during this time a stone from the First Baptist Church in America gathered by Roger Williams in 1638 and we’ll place this stone near the date stone of our new building; we are carrying with us a stone from the Sea of Galilee where Christ ministered and first called disciples and we will place that at the threshold of the new sanctuary once we reach our destination.  And we carry with us the vision of this collective of radical Baptists who believe in soul freedom, the separation of Church and State, and the priesthood of believers, believing our voice raised for justice and peace is as vital now as ever.

Meanwhile, we worship in the auditorium of Jefferson Middle School Academy on Seventh Street at 10 a.m. Sundays.  We are vibrant. We are full of hope.  And we invite you to worship and travel with us.  ~See you Sunday


cherubim and seraphim

The Foundations Shook: A Sermonic Response to the Election of Donald Trump


Pastor Bledsoe will preach on Sunday, November 13th a sermon entitled, “The Foundations Shook,” based upon the scripture of Isaiah 6:1-8 when the prophet, confronted by the death of his king and an apparent darkness and foreboding faced by the people, was surprisingly confronted with the reality of God.  An excerpt from tomorrow’s sermon:  ”You and I are about to step off into a Machiavellian period that would make Orwellian politicians blush.”  What is to be our response?

Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, the writer of Hebrews wrote.  Come to worship, embrace one another and let us find a response worthy of God’s people for this time in which we live.   Remember, we worship now in our interim space at Jefferson Middle School Academy on Seventh Street, directly across from our church building.     ~See you Sunday

“I am an ally. I will stand for your right to be who you are. I am safe.” Join me in wearing a safety pin to declare to others at risk that we stand with them in these perilous times.

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