All posts by pstrbled

Repentance, Restitution, Respect and Righteousness


Imagine going through a democratic process in your church, offering persons opportunities to participate and speak to issues then passing whatever it is you’re faced with passing and you pass it with a significant majority but the minority who were in opposition decide to lock the doors to your church and dangle the pastor and other leaders over the ledge of the roof unless they change what was just voted on. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it?  It sounds like sacrilege.  It certainly is not how the democratic polity of a congregational church is supposed to work.  Were such a thing to happen, we would be outraged.

 This just happened to our country.  If you are feeling polluted and violated by these past few weeks, it is little wonder.  People took what is sacred and used it as an excuse to wreak havoc.  It is one thing to pollute, defile or violate something but to do it in the name of love of country or love of God is doubly repulsive.

 We are better than this.  What should be expected of persons who engage in this kind of behavior?  Often there is a misguided effort to “move on” and forgive.  Well, forgiveness is certainly a goal and mandate of the Christian life. But so are repentance and restitution.  There are plenty of ways to illustrate this principle in scripture but just think of the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector.  The bible says he was a chief tax collector and wealthy.  He invited Jesus to his home and to make the story short, he was converted. What did he do?  He gave half of all he had to the poor and he paid back four times what he cheated anyone. Now that is repentance and restitution.

 The State is not the Church.  I don’t expect its members to be Christians but they should live up to the principles of a democratic government and our constitution. Stop singing hymns in Congress and start governing with wisdom.  We don’t need a chaplain praying in the Senate, pray in your homes and places of worship.  Just show up and do your duty and govern with wisdom and compassion.  If you can’t find the courage to resign after having intentionally inflicted pain and suffering on millions of Americans, then at least repent and stop using these methods to subvert good governance.  And by all means, remember the poor. To balance the budget on the backs of the poor is many things but one thing it is not, righteous.  Practice justice as you proceed to your meetings and negotiations.

 As for the Church, take a look at how these congresspersons behaved and ask yourself how you conduct your own church business. Too often we resemble the world and not Christ’s church.  Respect and regard your leaders even as you express your disagreement or difference. President Obama has been called everything in the book. The office of the presidency has been disrespected and defiled by ideologues.  Church members are guilty of the same kind of behavior. You may dislike the pastor, but at the very least, a regard and respect for the pastoral office should always be evident.  Democracy is a wonderful polity but as we have just witnessed and experienced, it can be used for positively devilish ends.  Repentance, Restitution, Respect and Righteousness. These are words that come to my mind at the conclusion of the nation’s near default.


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WWJD: Open the Government, Pay Our Debts


Dear Christian politician:

  I am not your pastor but I am a pastor and a professor and a brother in Christ.  Your position in the Congress of the United States is a remarkable accomplishment, a high honor and a grave responsibility.  Though you may differ from me in my political philosophy, I commend you for your desire to be servants.

 But I appeal to you from within our shared theological circle and ask you to consider how you reduce the Gospel to pulp and shred the compassionate teachings of the compassionate Christ when you deny health care to people but find a way to purchase the most heinous weapons conceived by humanity and science; when you vote to take food stamps away from hungry children and single mothers; when you shut down the government out of a fanciful and misguided rage, affecting the lives of millions of your fellow citizens.

 Right now, at what is a most precarious moment in the life of our nation and world, I would ask you to take with utmost seriousness the acronym engraved on your bracelets and bibles: WWJD, remembering he was hungry and made feeding the hungry the center of the prayer he taught his disciples; recalling that his mother and father had no place to stay for the night as she entered labor and thus gave birth to our Savior in a cave; that he whom we follow, worship and adore, was led to death by citizens of another empire who believed him to be smitten of God because of his poverty and his radical call to compassion.

  Open the government so servants can return to their jobs and citizens can benefit by processes currently shut off to them.  Pay for the debt you have already incurred.  Twenty Christian politicians could turn this around before we all head over the cliff.  You should do that. Do it without hesitation and give no consideration to the petulant crowd that takes pleasure in suffering and death.  Open the government. Pay our bills.  Stop talking to the echo chamber. Listen to the still small voice. May God grant you wisdom and courage. May the idolatry of ideologies fall crashing to the ground so the people are raised up.

 Pax Christi,

Pastor Michael Bledsoe


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Death: A Christian Study

Melencolia I by Albrecht Dürer, the first appe...

Melencolia I by Albrecht Dürer, the first appearance of Dürer’s solid (1514). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunday, October 13th:

We will begin a five week study on “death.”  Importantly, we are going to use a resource we have used in the past, a periodical entitled, Christian Reflection: A Series in Faith and Ethics produced out of Baylor University.  One of the beautiful things about using this free resource is that it is easily accessed online where you can print out the entire issue (that would take a lot of paper) or read it online (easy). As well, there are five study guides available. So when you go to the web page and select the current issue on Death, I would suggest you print out the study guides and then proceed to read the issue online.  There are extra resources in their library on Death that I will also suggest to you as this study unfolds.  Feel free to give them a donation.

Here is the web site:  Christian Reflection.


Bible study is at 9 a.m. in the Foster Room.  Please join us and let’s study and discuss this very important issue in our lives that configures us so much by way of fear and faith.
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Hands to Work, Hearts to God

Riverside Church Washington, DC

Riverside Church Washington, DC

Hands to work, hearts to God

That headline is a Shaker motto that Melinda favors.  A great motto it is indeed.  There is a surging energy in our church that will, I pray, joyfully carry us along to the next great moment in our history.  We have wonderful young adults who are putting their shoulder to the wheel in an effort to expand our friendship opportunities.  If you haven’t seen Ri-Set (Riverside Social Events Team) listings, take a look at the calendar on our site.  Opportunities have come along side now to Koinonia monthly luncheons (3rd Sunday after worship), choir rehearsal (now moved to Monday evenings and ably led by Kevin and Lauren) and service opportunities like S.O.M.E. ( So Others Might Eat) and non-perishable goods given monthly to Martha’s Table.  We have a member who is seriously talking about engaging us both in growing food for the hungry and providing a spiritual retreat in the same effort.  We continue to provide study and reflection time on Sundays at 9 a.m. and of course, we worship which is the Opus Dei, the work of God.

Rippling through this is also an excitement that we are on an intentional path to secure our church financially for another generation, providing relief to our budget from constant maintenance issues and positioning our church for the future along Maine Avenue where a major renaissance of The Wharf is about to unfold.  This is an exciting time to be at Riverside.

Where are your hands in all of this?  Let us give our hearts to God and roll up our sleeves–everyone of us.  I like this verse from the Letter to the Hebrews (12:12-13):  “Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet…”

Join us this Sunday in worship.  Be part of this.  Step out of the wrecked world a while and replenish your spirit; turn away from the negative, energy-consuming  chatter of media talking heads and gossips and place your life before Christ in Word proclaimed and Communion shared.   Bring your hands and your hearts. ~PSTR

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Democracy, Division and Unity

United States Capitol

United States Capitol (Photo credit: Jack in DC)

A democracy can be painfully messy at times. Trying to gain a consensus around an issue or issues will try the souls of people.  We are standing on a precipice of a government shut-down. We have a divided congress whose gears are frozen in gridlock.  Democratic consensus then relies crucially upon persons not merely stating their opinion and advocating a position, but it requires persons to find a way toward each other for the sake and good of the entire country.


The Affordable Care Act was passed by a majority in both houses and signed into law.  It seems odd that now it is being attached to the negotiations for raising the debt ceiling and the continuing resolution for funding our government.  I am not a politician. I wish I had a solution to offer but I do have a pastoral encouragement to make to our Congress and to any who participate in democratic polity:  our unity is essential for accomplishing great things, therefore, put aside the arguments and argumentative behavior and do your best to help us start rowing in the same direction.  Otherwise, we will either float purposely at sea or drown.


The people have spoken.  Move on now and deal with these other issues in a mature and wise manner.  We are praying for those of you whose jobs will be adversely impacted.  God grant you strength and patience and shield you from harm.  ~ PSTR






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The Horror of Syria

Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...

Coat of arms of Syria — the “Hawk of Qureish” with shield of vertical tricolor of the national flag, holding a scroll with the words الجمهورية العربية السورية (Al-Jumhuriyah al-`Arabiyah as-Suriyah “The Syrian Arab Republic”). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The tragedies of Syria are multiple:  a gruesome civil war with over one hundred thousand killed, tens of thousands of refugees, shattered cities and towns and shattered psyches of children who will never know what it means to grow up in peace are just some we can name.  Now the world is faced with the morally reprehensible use of toxic gas against civilians, violating not only world covenants like the Geneva Protocol but the most rudimentary principles of just war.

The world finds itself paralyzed at the moment, incapable of arriving at any strategy for disciplining the heinous acts of Assad’s government while holding its nose as it offers support to rebel groups which have been cruel and inhumane in their conduct of war.  Even as the United States considers what, if any, action to take,we should be cognizant of the fact that our paralysis is due in some significant measure to the previous war in Iraq, itself an unjust invasion of a country that did not attack us based upon outright lies and deception.  We were marched into a war and for all intents, duped.  That war led to over four thousand American deaths and as many as 100,000 civilian deaths.  No wonder citizens in this country are wary of President Obama’s plea that we do something to counteract the war crime of gassing one’s populace.

No less a voice of conscience than the current Pope Francis has urged that violence not be the response to Syria.  What to do? While I protested and condemned the invasion of Iraq under George W. Bush (I supported with misgivings the attack on al Qaeda in Afghanistan after 9/11), I believe this issue of a nation using chemical weapons transcends the particularity of the Syrian conflict in two ways: first, the use of chemical weapons is universally condemned as a method of warfare and second, the possibility of an expansion of use of chemical and biological weapons in Syria is a concern for the entire world.  I am apprehensive to lend support to President Obama’s request for congressional approval to attack Syria, but I believe the world must needs act not only for Syria but the entire world.  Throughout history, peoples and nations have cried for help and those cries too often fell on deaf ears, the hearers citing all manner of reasons not to become involved.  From the issue of slavery to the holocaust of Jews, from Rwanda to Darfur, the world has often looked on without taking steps to intervene.  In hind sight, centuries or decades later, people shake their heads and wonder why the world did not act.  Failure to bring Assad to justice and exact a price for having used heinous chemical weapons will embolden not only him but many others.  Cautiously, even reluctantly, I am open to the President’s argument. We should be appalled by what has transpired and ask that the UN and leaders around the world act now before there is another ghastly genocide to write along side too many others.

For a counter Christian view, check out the ethicist, Stanley Hauerwas’ piece linked below.  For a brief view of the war and its toll, see the link below on the “agony of Aleppo” but be aware, it is difficult to watch.  With you, I am praying that wise and humane leaders will work hard to bring an end to the conflict in Syria. With you, I lament the horrors there and I remember that in our own New Testament we are told that in Antioch of Syria, we were first called Christians.  May God have mercy on us.  Reasonable people may disagree, of course. But all of us surely are praying for peace.  As the beautiful young boy featured in the video below says, May God comfort the people. Amen, brother.

~ Pastor Michael Bledsoe

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