All posts by pstrbled

Still Point, Worship, The Turning World

Time and the bell have buried the day,                                                               The black cloud carries the sun away.                                                                  Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis                                          Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray                                                   Clutch and cling?                                                                                                             Chill

Fingers of yew be curled                                                                                         Down on us?   After the kingfisher’s wing                                                       Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still                          At the still point of the turning world.

[T.S.Eliot, Four Quarters; Burnt Norton: IV]

stainedglasspews

When you find a room of light, enter it often.

If you turn a corner into silence and contemplative peace, do not abandon it but go there, be there, be. In silence.

There is a still point where, when all is chaos around you, stillness abides and the words of God lap like waves at the turning of the world.

This point, this refuge, this peace, is found in the repose of worship. Not always. But the probabilities are such that you might risk getting to that place.

For words of God are like pearls. Find these. String them together. Wear them around your wrist, your arm, your neck. For everything passes but the Word of God remains. Ever and always.

See you Sunday.

Bible Study Opportunity: Lent

5905656157_c176f34802-196x300How about an opportunity to study the scriptures together but at your individual convenience?  You could engage the insights and thoughts and questions of others but not have to drive into church or schedule another meeting.  You could read the bible at an appointed time each day or on the fly. And you could take advantage of discussions with your pastor about the selected bible passage, but not have to break through the greeting line after worship or schedule an appointment.  This will be available to us soon through our web site by way of the “Bible Blog” we are in the process of creating (top of the tool bar, far right).  Our launch is scheduled for Ash Wednesday, March 5th.  We will begin with a Lenten study that will take us to Easter.  I hope you will join us.  If interested, sign up by emailing the pastor or the church (go to the contact page or leadership page for those email addresses).  You will then be provided a password to access the blog (this is being done in order to guide and limit discussion to serious students).  Keep your eyes open for further announcements and information.
Grace & Peace    ~ Pastor Bledsoe

The Church is…

“Now, anywhere you hear or see [the Word of God] preached,

English: 500th day of birth of Martin Luther (...

believed, confessed, and acted upon, do not doubt that the true ecclesia sancta catholica, a ‘holy Christian people’ must be there, even though there are very few of them.”

I like this assertion and description of the Church by Martin Luther.  You’ll note that his definition of the Church is not institutionally based. That is, it is not dependent upon some fuzzy notion of apostolic chain of command nor it is relegated to the history of any one church (like say the Orthodox or Roman Catholic).  The definition rotates around the proclamation of God’s Word.  Hence the Reformation principle of sola scriptura.

I also like that he comments that such a true holy Christian people is not dependent upon some large number of folks.  In the United States, where bigger is better, Christians—and particularly Evangelicals—are inclined to believe that a bigger church is somehow more a church. This is nonsense, of course.  I’ve said for a long time that I’d prefer to be in the midst of a small number of devoted and authentic Christ-like persons than a horde of fools.

As this new year begins and we, Riverside Baptist Church, are faced with remarkable opportunities and solemn decisions that will configure our future for another generation, let’s keep Luther’s assertion in mind.  We are not an institution. We are not a building. We are not a creed.  We are the ecclesia sancta catholica, the holy Christian people who are formed at the point of God’s Gospel to us proclaimed.  I hope you will do your best this year to be in worship with us every Sunday, because the Word is proclaimed, believed, confessed and acted upon in that holy context.

Enhanced by Zemanta

75% Off

The Light of the World (Manchester Art Gallery)

The Light of the World (Manchester Art Gallery) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week I stepped into a local pharmacy which also stands in as a consumer- culture-consumed-with-consumables portal.  I was there to pick up a prescription and as I left, I noticed that there were some Santas sitting in chairs with large tags on them that said, “75% off.”  I wondered, is that the mark-up on these products then during season?

If your spirituality is pegged to a season like a Winter cold or Spring allergy then by all means, get yourself to a nunnery.  Well, that’s Hamlet.  You at least might consider that a spirituality marked up by 75% in season just might not be worth very much when the day arrives that you need something long-lasting and dependable in season and out.

 This is not to say that Christianity (or Judaism) is unaware of seasons.  Read Ecclesiastes chapter three.  Wise is the person who knows what season they reside in.  The sense of time in the bible that speaks to seasons, as in when the harvest is ready to be harvested, is replete throughout the scriptures.  The sense of a Santa on sale for 75% is similar to the prophetic annunciation that life is like the grass of a field.  It withers. Generations come and go.

 I stopped in a local café and ordered up a “skinny peppermint mocha” since I know the time is rapidly approaching when these won’t be served. The café will move onto other “seasonal merchandise.”  It’s okay to enjoy such seasons.  But for your life, for the journey into the sacred and holy, the season of God’s love that knows no end, that rock of Christ upon which the Church is built, that dear reader, is a far better thing.

 This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of 2014.  It is, however, thousands of Sundays recurring through millennia ever to remind us that Christ is the Light of the world.  Bring your little light into the sanctuary.  I’ll bring mine. Others will bring theirs and we shall begin this year illuminated and full of the joy of God’s everlasting kingdom.  Grace and Peace to you and all whom you love. ~PSTR

Enhanced by Zemanta

New Year, Old Year

This is apparently the actual ball which will ...The consumer-culture-hallmark-moment-next-cyle-in-the-market world of which you and I are a part moves rapidly from one event to the next.   That includes any birth of a Prince of Peace in a backwater town like Bethlehem or Nazareth.  But if you are wise, you will resist the inclination to move too fast from the epiphany of the Christ child to a pagan celebration of a “new year.”  By new, I assume it is meant another journey ’round the sun is beginning in a few days.  Get ready.  Put your seat belt on. The earth moves beneath our feet and yet, the new year will look amazing like the old year within a matter of hours.  If I could afford it, I’d rent a blimp over Times Square with a neon sign that would blink the words from Ecclesiastes 1:9

THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN

Depressing, eh?  Party pooper, jaded religious nut… Interesting how the self-described nihilists find New Year’s something to celebrate and in turn accuse those who find nothing new in the recycling of the recycled as somehow negative.  Rich irony there.  There are wars and rumors of wars without end.  Your country is preparing for these even as the lighted ball descends.  The current congress locked in absolute partisan gridlock, fueled by ideologies that would make a Maoist blush, is prepared for more of the same.  By the way, how are you treating the least among you?  the hungry? the naked? the imprisoned? the elderly? the orphan? the widow? the poor? the different?  You live in a nation that prefers to spend money on weapons than on the weak and the ill.  Happy old year.  It is sotted and wrecked before the ball falls and the new numbers are lit up. 2014. A digit’s difference and a dime’s worth of difference.

Here is a paradox for you:  by spending time on the ancient truths resident within Holy Scripture; by pondering the mystery of God-in-Christ; by assembling together in worship within the lighted sanctuary of God’s peace; we will be made new.  The bible is not completely oblivious to the new.  Isaiah preached, “Behold, I will do something new…” [43:19].  Jesus proclaims, “Behold, I make all things new” [Rev. 21:5].  May the Grace of God revealed in the Holy Child, the Prince of Peace, even Jesus the Christ, renew you and transform you in this year and the next and forevermore.  The world awaits persons who are truly dedicated to repairing the world, not ruining it.  Ready. Set. Let’s go. Into another year of months, armed with the Love of God.

Enhanced by Zemanta

If It Quacks: Duck Dynasty, Free Speech, Hate Speech and Love

English: A rubber duck. Français : Un canard e...The television show, “Duck Dynasty,” is unfamiliar to me. I do not subscribe to cable tv. So I am unfamiliar with the show’s premise and neither had I ever heard of its “patriarch.”  But I am more than familiar with the hate speech that Phil Robertson spewed forth concerning “homosexuals.”  Nothing he said is new to me. Indeed his vituperative comments are of the coarsest kind.  He appears to be a hack for hatred. I have met individuals like him and on occasion, even asked them to leave my office.  You would stand a better chance reasoning with a squirrel about why it insists on eating the seed in the bird-feeder than pointing out the obvious to a squirrelly muse of hatred who deludedly believes he is the patriarch of anything beyond the compound of his barbed wire ideology. In this case, efficient use of words coincides with a sufficient response:  your hate speech is shameful and has nothing in common with Christ.

There are some who, like the current governor of Louisiana and the former governor of Alaska, take such sufficient response as an attack on free speech, thereby revealing two things of importance in regard to their grasp of such issues.  They reveal first that they are clueless about free speech.  Phil the Patriarch said what he pleased and unlike other bigots, got lots of media coverage, for having said it.  But your freedom to spew hate speech does not oblige the rest of us to refrain from calling a duck a duck.  This is where the twin governors are misguided.  They believe a denunciation of hate speech is a denial of free speech when in fact, that denunciation is also free speech!  No one is saying you can’t say these vile things. We’re just pointing out how vile and bigoted that speech is and further, that it should not be rewarded with a tv show and the adulation of anyone, much less politicians who were presumably elected to protect the civil rights of all their people.  Which brings me to the second thing the governors revealed about themselves. They rushed to defend, not free speech, but hate speech.  See my remarks above with regard to reasoning with squirrels.  They rushed to defend hate speech, not free speech. The difference tells you all you need to know about their “core” values.  Now this segues nicely into the final issue I wish to freely speak to:  “biblical” religion or “biblical” values.

 One of the most astonishing (and trite) strategies for denouncing an entire race of people is to say the bible tells you to do it.  Apparently, Phil Robertson’s family asserted he is a “biblical” man. Again, let’s work for both an efficient and sufficient response.  There is no such thing as “biblical.” The reason there is not is that the bible is made up of sixty-six books over a bout 1500 years.  To use this term, biblical, is to suggest the bible speaks in one voice on all matters. It doesn’t.  Just for fun, try reading some passages about pork while you’re chomping on some bacon.  What these folks do is to naively assert (and at the same time, reveal how misguided they have been by clergy too afraid to challenge cultural constructs) that their bible is to be read a certain way. What does Patriarch Phil think of women voting, governing, speaking their minds, holding down jobs? what does he think of slavery?  concubines?  Sorry, but you just don’t get to use the bible as a weapon against people and ask the rest of us to pretend you don’t know what you’re doing.  When you go to the bible, measure its narratives and especially its “values” by the Christ. Hey, Phil, do this: read First Corinthians chapter 13.  It is very possible that you’ve only read it or heard it read at weddings. It is not about weddings. It is about God’s self-revelation as Love in Christ. Read it and then repent. Because Phil, the duck dynasty sounds like an awful, clanging cymbal.  Let me put it another way: you’re a quack when it comes to interpreting the message of Christ. Hate speech will one day end. But faith, hope and love—these will endure and yes, Patriarch, the greatest of these is Love.  

~Pastor Michael Bledsoe, Ph.D.

Enhanced by Zemanta