All posts by pstrbled

Prayer candles, Basilica of Notre Dame, Montreal, Advent 2017

Practice & The Spirit

This past week I had more than one conversation with some individuals who were seeking a way to deepen their spiritual lives.  As a pastor, these kinds of conversation are what I and other pastors long for–we want to lead our brothers and sisters to a well where they can drink deeply.  As it turns out–and it always seems to turn out like this in our spiritual journeys–a serendipitous discovery came across my footpath and is often the case in my life, I was guided to this discovery by my wife who was reading the 2018 updated version of What Color Is Your Parachute?   and she offered me a link to a site that the author had mentioned in the book. I went there. I found an ad for another site and it is this site I want to suggest to you as a tool for your daily practice of spirit and spirituality.

The site comes to us via the Jesuits who are trained in the discipline of Ignatius of Loyola.  They have created a marvelous site and a very practical and cool app that you can download called “Pray As You Go.”  If you are trying to find a way to kindle a spark in your faith or simply add sparkle to your walk in God, then go to the site.  You can listen to daily prayers on their web site (you don’t need the app to do that).  I have tried it and find it to be soothing, peaceful, and yet willing to confront questions about our spiritual lives that can get us unglued from the traps of a too-busy culture.

Finally, there is one practice you are urged to make part of your life by the scriptures. It is there from the moments of Creation. It is enshrined at Sinai.  And the Church insists that this practice is the work of the Church:  W O R S H I P.  Standing together as those called out by Christ; embracing one another fully as made in God’s Image; Rejoicing and Praying and Loving; this practice every week lends a rhythm and sense to our scattered activities and infuses us with hope.  Join us Sundays at 10 a.m. where, in the auditorium of Jefferson Academy Middle School, we become the People of God.  Practice makes perfect.  ~See you Sunday

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The Perversion of Our Republic

“For the human race is, more than any other species, at once social by nature and quarrelsome by perversion.”
 St. Augustine City of God

“If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

―Abraham Lincoln, 28 years old, speaking in Springfield, Illinois

One year of the presidency of Donald Trump, chaos has been sown into our institutions like weeds into a field of wheat.  The State Department has been stripped like bark torn from a tree.  The Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Departments run by men who despise the very mission of those institutions.  The Supreme Court undermined by the majority leader who refused to hold hearings on President Obama’s choice until Donald Trump could appoint a darling of the right wing.  The sins of commission and omission are simply too numerous to mention. As I type this, the Republicans are undermining the impartial investigation into the Russian subterfuge of our election of a president, preferring instead to protect an authoritarian whose incompetence bewilders even the most jaded of commentators.  Mr. Ryan, armed with the philosophy of Aynd Rand (who believed altruism is destructive), is dead set on shredding not only The Affordable Care Act but Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.  All but the 1% are at risk.

Our Republic is perverted. Its covenantal ties of citizenship severed, the talking heads spend their waking hours stoking hatred and division.  What do we do in the face of this perversion?

We live with dignity and justice. We covenant together in faith, hope and love and show up in worship to honor a Just God who expects justice. We take concrete steps like we will do next month as we dispense $25,000 in grants to agencies that heal, mend and work for justice (this will be the second time in two years that we have contributed such grants).  Next month, on President’s Day, several of us will join with seven other congregations of Jews, Muslims and Christians at Temple Micah to break bread together and worship together so we can state with courage and joy: E Pluribus Unum!

Be part of this.  Discover the power of worship in your life to set you free from fear. Step into courage and hope.   ~See you Sunday

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Budget Time: Fix Your Mind on These Things

Most of us are forced to work out a financial budget. We have only so many dollars and so, we sort out the obligations we have from food to rent to travel and medical and subtract that from what we have coming in.  My uncle used to say “so and so has a champagne taste but lives on a beer salary.”  This was his way of pointing out what is obvious: too many of us live beyond our means.

I’m writing this not in order to have a financial discussion with you but in order to have you take the discipline of your financial planning and apply it to your attention span this week and month.  And I’m doing so because what I see around me—not just in our church but in our community and country—are persons who spend nearly every dime of their time on the news, commentary and assorted media outlets.  When a person lives beyond their means long enough, they are at risk of losing everything.  When a person spends all of their time devoted to news and political information across a hundred platforms, it is little wonder that one day they wake up depressed, cynical, exhausted or all three.

Starting now, count out the time you have as change to be spent.  If you have ten hours of time away from your obligations, how will you “spend” the change?  Try not to spend all of it on the news or entertainment.  Where can you spend the hours of your life?  Here is how the Apostle Paul instructed the Philippians:  “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” [Philippians 4:8]

When you do that then the anger begins to dissipate and lessen, the bitterness is removed and in their place we receive joy and peace, wisdom and grace.  Meditate, contemplate, fix your mind on truth, honor, justice, integrity—all manner of things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

~I hope to see you Sunday clothed in our right minds.

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Epistle From a Birmingham Jail, Memo to Washington

This coming Sunday, January 14th, is Martin Luther King Sunday. Pastor Bledsoe will be preaching on:  ”Epistle From a Birmingham Jail, Memo to Washington.”  This Sunday has always been about more than remembering events in the past–we at Riverside take the opportunity to speak to issues of concern for our nation and world as we live up and through Dr. King’s vision of the Beloved Community.  Join us for an effervescent Sunday of music and proclamation.

If you’re going to give into something this year, give into hope.  If you’re going to throw up your hands and resign yourself to something, let it be love.  If you are indignant and angry (and if you’re not then you are not, as the saying goes, paying attention), then wage peace.  There is a world to heal, be a healer.  Enough with self-hate. Enough with ruining or being complicit in the ruin of the world. Let’s come together. Right now.  ~See you Sunday

Chartres Cathedral

Return

This coming Sunday, the first Sunday of 2018, we will return to Jefferson Middle School for our worship at 10 a.m.  Back to an auditorium that has served us well for over one year now.  And hopefully, prayerfully, we will walk into a new sanctuary sometime this Fall.  Return. Come back.

Though we were never truly apart. Our worship with Westminster Presbyterian Church on Christmas Eve was a delight.  How great it was to worship with our friends, our brothers and sisters there. They welcomed us and made us feel so at home in a true illustration of ecumenical life. We are better for having come together.  Thanks to Pastor Ruth and Pastor Brian and the entire congregation there. I will be working with SW clergy and especially Ruth to guide our congregations to more shared experiences and shared ministries in 2018.  Then this past Sunday on New Year’s Eve, Christ United Methodist welcomed us into their beautiful sanctuary. Their reception of us was as warm as it was warm inside on a cold day.  And again, we felt the strength and joy of being together with fellow believers.  Their new pastor, Monica Raines, is fresh out of Wesley Seminary and offers them (and our community) energy and vision.  We pray for your ministry and presence, Christ United.

Now it is time to return to our “church” such as it is and this we have learned:  while a building is wonderful (how wonderful it was to be inside those two churches!) we the people are the church.  Return and let us begin this year with renewed commitment and purpose. Be here as often as you possibly can.  Step up and support our ministry.  Reach out and embrace one another.  Let us be the Church.

And for any who have searched and longed for a church of peace, justice and Christ-centered joy, come with us this year.  Return. Come home.  Your spirituality and life in God can begin or continue here.  As we embark on this journey together, may Christ the Good Shepherd gather us, guide us and bring us to his Kingdom.  ~See you Sunday