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Pastoral Meanderings On Memorial Day


War is a sin.

Sometimes the greater sin is not to stand against evil.  We live in a fallen world.

The Nation State is idolatrous by nature.  Christians therefore should be very careful when the Nation State tries to convince them of what is evil and who must die for it.

Christ was murdered by and for an empire (the First Century Roman).  Those who fight for any empire need to be aware of the risks of executing Christs.

Those who refuse to fight evil on the principle of peace should be careful that peace does not become a shield for cowardice and at least seriously entertain the notion that a refusal to fight evil because of peace may in fact destroy peace.  No one less than Gandhi –that great soul who coined the term, satyagraha (soul force) and practiced non-violence–had at one time threatened to offer himself as a combatant soldier.  “And this because,” he said, “I see that my countrymen are not refraining from acts of physical violence because of love for their fellows, but from cowardice; and peace with cowardice is much worse than a battlefield with bravery.”

Christ led no army, did not participate in raids or battles.  He said, “blessed are the peacemakers.”

The United States is not a Christian nation.  Christians of all kinds should wake up and accept that as not only a fact but a necessity for pluralistic, peaceful government.  Muslims and others who assert the U.S. is a Christian country often do so in order to conjure up the ghosts of the Arabic Conquest and the aftermath of Crusades.

Seek peace and pursue it.  Wage Peace.

Violence as a strategy for resolution of conflict is innately self-contradictory.  America’s cities are awash in blood because we have accepted the lie of violence.

The world is awash in blood and war in large part because religions have embraced violence and corrupted their holy scriptures, using what is holy for what is most corrupt and horrific. Religion has for too long been and is “a refuge of human savagery” [Whitehead].  Beware then of religion.

The sons of the Enlightenment and science provided the world with efficient tools of mechanized death, poison gas, airplanes that became weapons, the nuclear bomb and many, many other hideous weapons.  Beware then of those who claim science and reason have made them superior.

For those who have given their service and sacrificed their bodies and minds and given the supreme sacrifice of their lives for freedom, we hallow your memory and thank you for your bravery and service.

Memorial Day is the day we remember these sacrifices.  It is also a day we pray that there will be no more wars and no more soldiers added to the list of the remembered because peace has overcome war.

Until that day, we are compelled to live in two realms.  One realm is our own country. The other realm is the kingdom of God.  One will end. The other will never end.  Let this instruct your navigation of these realms.


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A Church Is A Theater Is A Church Is A …


The Swiss architect, Mario Botta, who designed Évry Cathedral, spoke about churches and their design in an interview with Judith Dupre:

It’s a bit like theater. The theater is also for those who don’t go to the theater because it’s a place of collective imagination. It’s a place where people go to buy a ticket to Dream. People think, “My city is rich because it has a theater-even if I don’t go to the theater.”   A church is a rich addition to a city, even for those who don’t go to church. It becomes a human institution like a library, bank, stadium.

There is so much to appreciate in this statement!  Religion and the arts have always been hand-in-glove.  Indeed, the function of roles, art, performance and yes, that idea of “collective imagination” are all so spot on and insightful.  I also like his willingness to speak to the larger culture that does not “go to church,” suggesting–no, instructing–that a city is enriched by the presence of a church in its midst.  Frankly, this is something that percolates in conversations with Monty Hoffman when we talk about the design and construction of our new building, arriving in the Fall of 2018.  Charged with the development of the entire Wharf, he is a person who has both an historic regard for and appreciation for the presence of a church (indeed churches) within the matrix of what is being created along the Tidal Basin.  Whether or not you attend a church, a church can be a human institution that raises the quotient of humane and intellectual discourse in a community.  At least it should and one would hope churches and their architects would aspire to such. We at Riverside certainly do so and our architect, Philip Renfrow of GBR, has melded a rich theological appreciation with a keen modernist/post-modern vocabulary in the sanctuary his team has designed for us.

Arena Stage is a nearby marvel and beautiful landmark in our SW community.  It has been and continues to be a place where one “buys a ticket in order to dream a while.” We at Riverside are not so different.  We are about to provide a beautiful and evocative space of collective imagination where people enter for a station of rest and peace, to dream of justice and mercy in the light of God’s mercy and love.

Riverside Baptist Church, DC

Architectural rendering of Riverside Baptist Church, DC, arriving Fall 2018

~See you Sunday (meanwhile, we are in a middle school auditorium and very grateful to Jefferson and DCPS for allowing us to rent their space where, in an auditorium with a stage, we transform a theater into a church inside a school).


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An Administration of Bandits


The African Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine, writing in the dusk of the Roman empire in his book, The City of God:  “What are kingdoms without justice? They’re just gangs of bandits.”

Mr. Trump meet Bishop Augustine.  America, meet your Congress that is dedicated to obstruction and falsification and yes, burdening the poor while enriching the wealthy.  How does one live faithfully in a kingdom of bandits?  By refusing to sacrifice the assembling of one another in worship; by resisting evil by what is right and just; by rallying around those at risk and certainly, by all means, being willing to name the gansters and bandits, Diabolus.  The Congress could begin to redeem its soul by naming a Special Prosecutor to pursue Russia’s entanglement with the Trump campaign and our national election.  The judgement of God is not always swift. Sometimes it is a slow train coming around the bend (thanks to Dylan).  I can hear the click-clack rumble of that train.


DC Bike Ride Interferes With Sunday May 14


smack-self-in-the-headOnce again, we find ourselves being challenged with DC traffic on Sunday as yet another race closes down streets near us on May 14th, Mother’s Day Sunday.  DC Bike Ride may be the most challenging yet since the course comes up 7th St. There will be NO access to Jefferson Middle School on Sunday the 14th.   Those who are able may want to metro in.  SW residents will have no problem walking to the school for worship.  If you plan to drive in, we have permission to park at the Wharf from PNHoffman.  Be sure to download the map below so you can see how to access that parking lot.  You will have to enter SW via 4th St or 6th St. Once you are at 6th and Maine, you can loop around St. Augustine’s Church and enter the lot or you may continue on 7th and then U-turn at 7th and Maine (where our building stood) and then turn right into the lot. We will have someone stationed at that point to provide you a pass for parking and you can display it on your dashboard.  We are grateful for the generosity of PNHoffman in providing us this solution.

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Trump Order on Religious Liberty a Sham


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The premier Baptist body dedicated to religious liberty and separation of Church and State, the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, has provided a thorough analysis of President Trump’s Executive Order titled, “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.”  The Director, Amanda Tyler, speaks eloquently to the sham of this executive order.  You can find the complete analysis on the BJC web site.


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Remembering Who We Are


I’ve been thinking about name tags.  Like when I was five years old and my mother sent me off to school the first day or week.  Was the idea that I might forget my name?  Or was it verification of who I was for the teacher?

Hospitals of course are quite meticulous these days with those wrist bands.  From patients to visitors they want everyone identified.  We get this and it’s not hard to figure out why a name tag or identity badge is important.

It becomes especially important however for persons who no longer have a clear memory.  Anyone who has had a loved one enter some phase of dementia or suffered an accident and is unconscious wants their loved one to be identified and people to know with whom they are working.

So I have a simple suggestion.  In these days of madness when the White House is now tainted by the President of the United States having invited a murderer to visit him, the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, who delights in extrajudicial executions, let’s wear a name tag so we can remind ourselves who we are. And maybe we should write beneath our names, “I love justice.”  Alas, this may be so much jousting at windmills. But I do know a way to remind ourselves who we are each week and month after month.

Every Sunday in a middle school auditorium, we gather to create the beloved community. Frankly, there may be no greater counter sign to the madness of a world in love with death than to place oneself within the community of those who believe that God expects justice and righteousness and whose dream is to see these flow down like mighty streams. Worship as counter-cultural, non-violent resistance.   I invite you to remember who you are with us as we remember who we are in the presence of God, who loved the world so much… ~See you Sunday