Knots


Sasha Kopf's Celtic knot ring

{The following excerpt is taken from the sermon, “Knots, Double Knots And A Cure,” preached by Pastor Bledsoe, July 13, 1997}

Before the advent of Velcro, one of the first things a child would learn to do was tie a knot on their shoes. So here is one of the first points… today:  you got to have knots.  Knots are good things.  They hold shoes onto your feet.  They tie a tent down so the wind won’t send it flying.  A knot on an end of a rope allows you to keep hanging on when you might otherwise slip off.
  I like Velcro though.  Because when it comes to getting double knots out of children’s shoes, I find it nearly impossible.  You know kids—they won’t untie those double knots either. Instead, they will push the heal of their shoe with the other foot and slip the shoe off still tied. So when it is time to put the shoes on you end up –if you’re like me anyway—spending twenty minutes trying to get a double knot untied.  Knots are good but some knots are a real pain.  Which brings us to another point in this sermon:  sometimes we have to get unknotted.
…One of things I want to pass along…is a quote from The Ashley Book of Knots.  Maybe some of the navy personnel in our congregation are familiar with this.  I came upon it as I began reading Annie Proulx’ novel, The Shipping News.   Here is the quote from the Book of Knots:
             In a knot of eight crossings, which is about the average-size knot, there are 256 different ‘over-and-under’ arrangements possible…Make only one change in this ‘over and under’ sequence and either an entirely different knot is made or no knot at all may result.
 I had to read that a few times before it sunk in as to why this passage is such a hopeful one.  Did you catch it?  “Make only one change …and either an entirely different knot is made or no knot at all may result.”  Keep this in mind as you meditate and think about your lives this week.
… A simple change in sequence might unravel the knot.  Maybe there is one action you can take—not a dozen actions, not five or even two—but one action, one change which can loosen the knot and let you go on to healing and health and a mind centered upon what is good, what is honorable, what is beautiful and noble.
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100: The Tipping Point


Cleaning up the ledge
Perhaps you read or have heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s book and idea called, “The Tipping Point.”  I want to bring it to your attention for one purpose:  to tip our worship community on Sundays over the 100 mark. For a church of about 125 souls, having 70 in worship is not a bad percentage.  But what would happen if we consistently had one hundred in worship?  Our experience singing would improve.  Our giving and sharing of financial burdens would improve.  Our collegiality and sense of being a congregation–improved.  The ability to build off one another’s efforts and extend our influence for the Gospel and Grace of our Lord, expanded.
Here is how Gladwell’s website describes the tipping point:
The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.
We experienced such a tipping point recently with my “Open Letter to White Christians in Florida.”  The first day it was posted, we had a little over one thousand views. The next day, five thousand views. By day three, 28,000 views. And now at this moment, 70,000 views.  Thus, a “little” but brave church spoke to an issue of justice to tens of thousands.  Let’s work together toward the tipping point of one hundred in worship, shall we?  Everyone now, Push.  Row.   Tip. Worship!
See you Sunday, because  The People of God gathered in worship is a beautiful and powerful experience.

 

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How Do I Live A Spiritual Life?


School Children on Field Trip

Remember those name tags that got pinned to your chest when you first showed up in school?  There was a simple reason for that:  we don’t want you lost.

When you head out the door or upon awakening from the murky depths of sleep, put a name tag on and this is what it should say:  Christ Jesus.  Because whether or not you get lost in the world at large or are knocked down by waves of circumstance, you’ll want to remember whose you are and be reassured that in Christ, you can never, ever be lost.

Remember AAA trip ticks?  Okay, if you’re actually too young to remember that then dial up your GPS and remember how you search for a location.  At some point, you ask for “directions to here.”

You need a map or a compass.  True North. The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.  Scriptures count as a map.  If you’re going out into the desert on your camel, you might want to take a map, a GPS or compass.  Why would you travel without that?  Why would you seek to live a spiritual life and not consult the scriptures?

Remember the school cafeteria? Whether it was elementary school, high school or college, you likely sought out some friends to share your meals with.

Fellowship, collegiality, traveling companions–you need these in order to live a spiritual life. Yes, you can and must make a decision about your soul and religious life by yourself. And yes, you can have a spiritual experience, standing alone on a beach or next to a towering tree in a forest.  But to live a spiritual life, it is crucial to be part of a band of brothers or sisters, a troupe, a group of like-minded and committed persons who, on occasion, can hug you and whom, on occasion, you reach a hand to and pull up.

A name tag, a compass, a fellowship.  That is how you live a spiritual life.  This Sunday, show up. We’ll be waiting and we need you as much as you need us. See you Sunday (by the way, any who would like to meet in the Foster Room at 9 a.m. to discuss this week’s bible blog scriptures, feel free to join me).  ~PSTR

 

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A Mission And A Mandate


 

Christ, woodcutter Steffan

Christ, woodcutter Steffan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Johannes Baptist Metz writes that becoming a human being is both a mission and a mandate.  We are not given our humanity or our destiny as other animals who simply live out of their “natures.” That’s what dogs do. That’s what cats do.  That’s what a lion does. And then of course the next statement is, that is what humans do.  To which Oscar Wilde responded that if a person says they were just acting like a human being you can pretty much count on their having just behaved as an animal.

 

Your mission and my mission is to be fully human. We want to live up to and through what is most noble about that.  This is also a mandate, a call and command to us to grow, expand, and reach for what is best in ourselves and others.  This Lenten season offers us a chance to be introspective about how we’re doing with that mandate.  We do so within the Christian religious context of Christ’s forty days temptation in the wilderness. There he struggled with his human poverty and limits, resisted the temptation to be something other than what God had called him to be and stepped into and through his destiny as the Savior of the world. When he finished those temptations, he came out of the wilderness preaching that God’s Kingdom was near.  What about us? What about you?  If you’re going to “give up something for Lent,” then how about this:  give up those less-than-noble calls that would diminish your humanity and dignity, your life in God. And embrace the mission and mandate to be like Christ. If we do that, we might awaken to that kingdom that Jesus proclaimed is very near.

 

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The Point Is NOT To Stay Here


Desert Oasis

Having grown up in a Southern Baptist context in the 1950s and 1960s, I recall being at church all day Sunday (well, we had a lunch break and then came back in the evening for “training union” and a warmed over sermon left on the back burner a little too long so it was crusty and well, . . .burnt. The saving grace of that was, the preacher was so tired by the time he entered the pulpit that he ended up preaching maybe 20 minutes instead of 45).

Anyway, we also had a midweek service. And once I became a teen/adult and served on a committee then I realized that when I signed up to love God and neighbor I had apparently also signed up to be at church as many days as possible.

This may come as  a shock to some but look, the point is not to stay here inside the church.  Some liken the church to an ark or ship that makes safe passage and I like that to some degree as long as you don’t press it so that we are literally stuck together at the church building more days than not and for hours at a time.  The point to the church, and I suppose I should capitalize it, so:  the point to the Church is actually to go out into the world and be salt and leaven.  By the way, you can look through the Gospels and will be hard pressed to find Jesus speak of the church more than once.  He did preach often about the Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God.

If that is a minimalist approach to the nature of the Church then so be it.  I think it a scriptural approach as well.  Don’t get me wrong, I want you here on Sunday and worshipping in the community of believers is essential.  But Riverside is an oasis.  Drive your camels in, park them, then sit under our shade tree, crank the bucket down into the cool-water-well we have, drink deeply and then fill your canteen and head back out there. Because you know what? The world needs healing and is in great need of people who love it and repair it.  See you Sunday.  If you don’t have a camel, just walk.  Either way, let’s be the Church.  ~PSTR

 

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The Destruction of Near Eastern Christianity


coptic-christians

I posted this a year ago in July but given the executions of 21 Egyptian Christians by ISIS in Libya and the current situation in Nigeria where Boko Haram is threatening 200,000 Christians, we would do well to remember these martyrs and demand that governments and the UN take steps to protect Christians from annihilation at the hands of radical Moslems.

update 8/7

Iraq’s Largest Christian Town Abandoned

As Hamas sent thousands of missiles into Israel and the Israeli government responded by invading Gaza to silence these missiles, our attention has focused upon the Middle East. What you may not be aware of is how horrific a price for their faith Christians are paying in the Middle East.  From Egypt to Iraq, Syria to Pakistan, Christians have been systematically singled out and beaten, killed and their churches set ablaze.

ISIS has declared a Caliphate–echoing seventh century imperialist oppression.  In Mosul, they told Christians to convert to Islam, leave the city or risk being put to death “by the sword.”  An 1800 year old church was burned in Mosul according to reports on Sunday, July 20.  Crosses are torn down and the black flag of ISIS put in their place.  These are not isolated instances in Mosul, however.  Copts in Egypt have similar stories and all of us witnessed how a pregnant woman, Mariam Yahya Ibrahim,  in Sudan was scheduled for execution by hanging because she refused to renounce her Christian faith.  She has since been released after international calls for her freedom but note, she and her family had to leave their home.  Christians have come under fierce persecution with atrocities piling up in Syria.  There is not enough space in this post for the myriad stories of intimidation, torture and execution of Christians.  The destruction of Near Eastern Christians is happening before our eyes. The West and the UN ignore their plight. At the very least, we should be praying for Christians there and finding ways to educate others about their plight.  May God have mercy on them and save them from annihilation.

You can find more information here at the The Week and an article by Professor Franck Salameh, Associate Professor for Near Eastern Studies at Boston College, entitled, “The Destruction of Near Eastern Christianity.” And this Vatican News report on atrocities in Syria.iraqChristianchurch