The Gate Called Worship or, Three Things To Do Prior to Entering A Holy Place


English: Garden Gate All around Ballumbie Castle

Throughout the course of any given day in our lives, we find ourselves opening doors and following steps that will facilitate our movement through the labyrinth.  For example, think of how you prepare for something as routine as going to the store. Even if you do not make a list, you take a moment to consider why you’re entering the store and take steps to make sure you have cash or a credit card.  From the moment you exit your domicile or office to the moment you walk through the door of the store, how many doors have you opened? How many thresholds have you crossed?

When you cross the threshold into a holy place, like our church, you have opened doors, crossed boundaries, exited and entered a variety of doors.  Ponder this for a moment.  There is this experiential, bodily transition from one portal to another. We would do well to be mindful.  Be awake. Alert.  ”I am walking across the threshold into…”

Peace.  Translucency (blue stained glass, milky light powdered over walnut pews, symbol-adorned walls, table, glass). ” In the midst of others, I am positioning myself to…”

Come before the Holy, the Unutterable, the Fountain of Light.  What you have done is this: you have opened the gate called Worship. This is a series of actions from prayer to song to proclamation that weave you into a sacred tapestry of space and time and all in a singular effort to place one’s life before the Giver of Life.

There are secondary reasons we gather in the church and those reasons are fine as long as they remain secondary to the one great thing you do that day:  worship.  So we show up to socialize and network and accomplish some other secondary tasks.  What we want to do is show up in that holy place at least as mindful as we are when we enter the grocery store with our lists, our money and coupons.  Indeed, we enter sacred time with the small change of our lives seeking a treasure that far exceeds our expectations.

This is one reason I value so much the first gate we open on Sunday.  Have you noticed in your church bulletin that our order of service is a series of gates? And the first gate is “prayer.”  We begin our service without noise, practically in quiet and in prayerful repose. Think of that and how that might compare to your experiences in other churches.  We begin in quiet, contemplative prayer.  I don’t know how you experience that, but here is what I experience: the illusions of the world begin to crash like slags of ice into the sea; the noise of the world melts, dissipates and dissolves into quiet; I can feel my chest rise and fall to breath; eyes closed, I trade darkness for light. And I pray, Christe eleison, Christ have mercy.

Three things you might consider doing prior to entering a holy place:  be mindful of your thresholds; find the gate that opens into your heart, mind and soul; open that gate as you open the gate of worship.

I’ll end by quoting Augustine from Book XII of his Confessions:

O let the Light, the Truth, the Light of my heart, not mine own darkness, speak unto me. I fell off into that, and became darkened; but even thence, even thence I loved Thee. I went astray, and remembered Thee. I heard Thy voice behind me, calling to me to return, and scarcely heard it, through the tumultuousness of the enemies of peace. And now, behold, I return in distress and panting after Thy fountain.

There is a gate. Open it.  There is a fountain of light by which we see light.  See you Sunday.

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Pancakes & Sermons


 

Pancakes

Because of the devotion and skill of our bass player, we have some sermons back up for you to read and to listen to.  Our bass player also is I.T.  savvy.  So thanks for helping us out–you know who you are.  

I feel somewhat like the cook at a diner.  You know how you order your pancakes and while you wait you hear a bell ding? And you know the ding of the bell means “Order’s up!”    So imagine a bell dinging and me saying, “Sermon’s up!”  They’re ready for consumption.  Proceed to the buffet line on the “sermons” page.

Sermons are little emblems. They are snapshots of theology, praxis, philosophical and hermeneutical approaches to scripture and the world around us.  I hope you will take time to read and listen to some of these.  They are handcrafted.  I don’t just pull them out of a hat.  And more importantly, a sermon participates in the mystery of the Logos, the Word of God manifested to the world in Christ.  Through the poverty of our language we are ushered into the riches of God’s love.  Pancakes & Sermons. Get fed.

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MLK, A Chalice, The Cross


chalice_SalvadorOur “Gates of Praise” ended this past Sunday morning with our linking hands and singing that great Civil Rights song, “We Shall Overcome.”  Now it is fine for us to remember and affectionately recall those countless thousands–most of whom will forever be unnamed–who fought and overcame segregation, lynching, Jim Crow and the murderous context of racism in America. We sang for them, in honor of them and certainly in honor of the Preacher King.  But that is insufficient for realizing the Dream.  It is our turn to work for the actualization of that dream in our generation.

Rev. King drank from the chalice of Christ’s love and covenant of hope.  He carried the cross because as he himself stated it, the cross precedes our wearing of a crown.  This holiday, this holy-day, let us covenant again with one another to love God and neighbor, to pray for our persecutors and non-violently but courageously resist evil.

As I said today in my sermon, you and I have a remarkable opportunity to actualize the Beloved Community by our participation in this brave church.  You may wonder at times if there is progress; you might consider that your life has not amounted to enough; but beloved, there is nothing quite as important or exhilirating as being in this congregation of inclusion!  Let us not grow weary of well-doing.  This is YOUR church.  This is OUR time.  With King, let us drink from the chalice and carry the cross.

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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.

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