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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Pastor Publishes Debut Novel: Rooster’s Table

Pastor Bledsoe has self-published his first novel on iBooks for the iPad.

Entitled, Rooster’s Table: A Multi-Cultural Apocalypse, the novel is set in small town Virginia near Washington DC and grapples with our diverse and divided culture. The Book Club is sponsoring a reading of excerpts from the novel on Sunday, September 22nd after worship. The entire community is invited.  A sample of the book and the book itself can be found on iTunes/iBooks.

Rooster's Table: A Novel

Rooster’s Table: A Novel

The opportunity to explore in depth, through the life of characters, subplots, plots and themes is what compelled Bledsoe to write the novel. Having written sermons for decades, he welcomed the chance to get at some of these existential themes sideways, subtly and literarily–avenues not generally available to the homiletician. In Rooster’s Table , Robert Sherman Walker has navigated his way out of grief for the death of his grandmother, Kate Rock Walker, and along the way, he is guided by an unlikely cast of characters that includes not only a beginning professor of philosophy, but whittlers who sit on a corner of a dying, small world, Pentecostals who helped bury his mother and a Sikh neighbor dedicated to peace.  Andrew, a victim of familial violence, orbits the plot like a moon until that fateful day, when the depraved and the heroic face each other.  That unveiling is twined around characters like the African-American professor of philosophy, Jasmyn Parker, who happens into Robert’s life and provides a counter point to Hank Williams and Johannes Brahms with Thelonius Monk and Billie Holiday. They in turn are threaded into dualities of North/South, male/female, gay/straight, locals/immigrants, mentally challenged/right minded, and Black/White.  Their life world is chimed in religious tones from Baptist to Methodist, Episcopalian and Pentecostal with a strong note of Sikhism.  Then at an apocalyptic moment, the multicultural experiment of 1980s America erupts one ordinary Thursday at a restaurant called Rooster’s.

Join us on October 27 after worship (11:15 a.m.) as the Book Club discusses his novel (in the Jerry Davis Library).

Topical Bible Study Begins September 1st

5905656157_c176f34802Bible Study is every Sunday at 9 a.m. in the Foster Room. For over one year now, we have been guided by the lectionary.  September will provide us a break from that routine and we will spend the month studying the topic, Sabbath.

There are several crucial themes and concepts in the scriptures but not too many more important than the Sabbath.  Join us this Sunday and begin the Autumn by embracing fellow students of the scriptures and be engaged in both bible study and Christian fellowship. Your “homework” this week in preparation is to find the first reference to Sabbath in the bible.  Then Sunday we will take some time to speak to this topic.  See you in class!