Tag Archives: baptist inclusive church

500th Anniversary of the Reformation

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500 years ago,  an Augustinian monk and priest named Martin Luther ignited the Reformation with his 95 theses.  There have been, of course, a lot of events worldwide and locally to ponder this moment.  It really is difficult to exaggerate the importance of that moment in history.  I read a piece somewhere last week that quibbled over whether or not he had actually nailed these to the door at his Wittenberg church.  He could have sung them out the window for all I care.  He stood in front of a moving tank, that is what he did.

He was not the first reformer, of course.  Jan Huss of Prague met a fiery end for his efforts a century before Luther.  And certainly the mendicant orders, such as the one started by a man named Francis, were aimed at reforming the Church.  But Luther succeeded in ways these others had not. There are lots of reasons for that and a simple blog post cannot do such a discussion justice.

I traveled to Wittenberg more than ten years ago.  I ambled through the house run by Martin’s wife, Katharine von Bora; through Melanchton’s garden; and into the Castle Church where I lit a candle.  This  was and is the epicenter of the Reformation and perhaps modernity, if by modernity we mean the assertion of one’s conscience over the demands of the State or ecclesiastical authority.  With his emphasis upon justification by faith over a works theology; with his attack on corrupt popes and councils and in their place “the cradle of Christ,”  the Bible, and his emphasis upon the priesthood of believers, I could not help but be moved by being in that town where the drama of the Reformation unfolded.

There are, of course, unfortunate and terrible things about Luther.  His anti-Jewish rhetoric, his siding with the State against the peasants and his reluctance to forge a way with Zwingli were grave errors.  We should be aware of these shortcomings and as with any person of such a magnitude, be careful of idolizing him.

If you read the Bible in your own language and not Latin; if you believe you should be able to receive both the cup and the bread of the eucharist; if you believe in the priesthood of believers and by all means, if you rely on the grace of God in Christ and not a works theology, then you should celebrate this moment in history.  And if you are not religious but believe in the sanctity of one’s conscience and the critical engagement of one’s intellect with things religious then this moment also offers you something to celebrate.  The fact is, Luther would not have countenanced Baptists and I am a Baptist clergyperson whose movement emerged on the radical edge of the Reformation in the 17th century.  Still, he is the great Reformer and I walk my spiritual journey along his mile markers:

Sola scriptura  By scripture alone

Sola fide  By faith alone

Sola gratia  By grace alone

Sola Christus  Through Christ alone

Soli Deo gloria. To God alone the Glory. 

If you are so inclined, here is a link to the 95 theses of Dr Martin Luther.  And if you are so inclined, worship in our Protestant assembly held in Jefferson Middle School on Sundays at 10 a.m.  We practice a radical table fellowship that invites everyone to the Table of our Lord, denying no one access to his grace. Such worship is a protest and a counter-sign to a culture in love with death, bereft of any reasonable notion of truth.

~See you Sunday

Army Ten Miler, The Wharf, and Worship

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Coming in the Fall of 2018, our new sanctuary

This Sunday morning, October 8th, is the Army Ten Miler race.  Click here for a map so you can prepare your travel plans into the District.

This coming week, The Wharf has its formal opening and there will be multiple activities and opportunities to see and experience the new SW.  On Sunday October 15th at 4 pm Pastor Bledsoe will participate in a blessing of the Wharf along with other SW clergy.  Our own Lauren White will begin the service as she sings Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna’ Come.   Join us on the District Pier.

The center of our week is worship.  Please join us at 10 am each Sunday at Jefferson Middle School Academy in the school auditorium.  Pastor Bledsoe will be addressing our nation’s gun violence with reference to the assasination of President James Garfield.

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Las Vegas and the Hollow Center of a Very Sick Society

Las Vegas now has its name listed amongst the other cities of massacres carried out by lone gunmen who, with but one weapon and a lot of ammunition, destroy a multitude of lives.  I have written so often in blogs about this that I can see no point in repeating what I have said on those other occasions.  Our society is very sick.  We should be alarmed. We should be rational and logical about how we limit access to these hideous weapons.  But we aren’t and we won’t.  And at the center of that hollow problematic is a wicked disposition desperately in need of a remedy and redemption.  Let me state that last sentence more clearly: the problem is deeply spiritual.  The remedies are simply mechanical and legislative but there must be a will, an intention to do what must be done to safeguard our society.

As you cross the threshold to enter the world, do so with blessing on your lips. When you cross the threshold and re-enter your home, do with thanksgiving and gratitude in your heart.  In the various decisions you make in a day—from how you greet someone to how you carry out your work—consider doing no harm and expanding the circle of friendship and kindness.  Join a community of the Spirit so your and my life might be hallowed, not rendered hollow.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

We remember the perished and wounded in Las Vegas.

 

 

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Athletes, Anthems and Courage

There are not many White parents who, upon finding out that their Johnny or Jane has been unfairly treated or deprived of classroom resources, won’t speak up and ask the teacher or principal to rectify that situation.  I recall doing so myself when my youngest was in about third grade and late in the year she told me she finally had the chance to use the classroom computer.  I was shocked.  So for nearly the entire school year, the boys had used the computers.  No girls.  Did I march into the school and demand justice and equality?  You bet I did.

So why is it so difficult for White folks to understand that when an athlete respectfully takes a knee or bows out of pledging allegiance to the flag or paying homage to the national anthem, s/he is protesting the injustice and inequity of persons who supposedly are promised “liberty and justice for all” but in truth, are too often denied that promise?  That is not only an understandable protest, it is one that actually honors the principles of the flag and is far more patriotic than the hollow entertainment and spectacles that surround the flag at these events.  Consider  God Bless America at the 7th inning stretch–it may not be blasphemous but it’s close.

Christians especially are caught up in this drama when they should know better.  Church History is a complicated and long history but for the sake of this point, let me simplify and say that most scholars would agree that Constantine and his conversion to Christianity is a watershed moment.  So there is Church that is Pre-Constantinian and there is the Church that is Post-Constantinian.  The Pre-Constantinian Church was persecuted and martyred by the Roman Government.  Paul and Peter and the Lord they proclaimed were all killed by the State. And the reason so many Christians were persecuted and killed is that they would not bow to the images of Caesar and the State.  The Post-Constantinian Church eventually became intertwined with imperial power.  And yes, in America, churches will have the flag prominently displayed in their sanctuaries.  Some will pledge allegiance to it on a Sunday. That is a Constantinian Church, jeopardizing the very Gospel it proclaims.

Were a First Century or Second or Third Century Christian to show up by way of a time machine and see athletes refusing to honor the image of the State, they would quickly conclude that these must be Christians about to be fed to the lions in a large stadium.

Well, Pastor, what do you do?  When I am at a stadium and the anthem is sung, I stand and put my hand over my heart.  But I do not pledge allegiance.  My allegiance is to Christ.  I love my country and am grateful for all I have but here’s the deal—I know that my experience as a White male in this country is vastly different from African-Americans, Women, and GLBT persons.  I don’t blame them at all for opting out or taking a knee at the anthem. That in my opinion is remarkably similar to the early Christians and their passion for God.  And were I able, I’d link arms with those who choose to protest because, protest is not only Protest-ant, it is American through and through.  And I recognize this:  while a game, be it football or baseball, allows me to cheer on an athlete, it does not allow me to dictate their conscience.  They agreed to entertain us but they did not agree to prop up our political views or philosophical opinions.   When we can have a conversation about how justice in this country is predetermined and bends for some while oppressing others, then maybe we will have grown up.

So, no, Mr. President, you are wickedly wrong. These athletes are not “sons of bitches.” They are brave. They are true Americans.  You owe them and the country an apology for your vile speech.

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Balance: Turn Off the “News”

In Washington DC, the swirling currents of power and those who want it or those who attempt to live near it, threaten to overwhelm and diminish everything else.  It is difficult to maintain balance and perspective.

Reduce by half the time you spend watching the news.  I use “news” in its broadest terms as an entertainment product produced by a range of radio, print, and internet media.  Reduce the time you devote to that by half.

We have had illustrated for us in recent weeks how a hurricane can inundate every aspect of a person’s life.  The power, the devastation and ruin are so vast that persons living within that matrix are in danger of being swept away by the sheer number of issues and tasks they must undertake to regain their lives.  In such times, you must focus on the most immediate tasks that will insure your safety and health.  Find those few things that you must accomplish this week and then bracket out all of the other issues until such a time arrives that you can sort through them. And while weather reports are important (anyone who lives in a hurricane zone will have to keep an eye on the weather reports), watching those reports on the hour every hour will actually paralyze you.  Reduce your time watching reports to morning and evening and in between, get on with your life.

This is applicable to we who live in D.C.  There is an entire world that can be explored. There are other dimensions of your life that need and deserve attention.  The political vortex of “news” however can pull you in and deplete you of the joy of living in balance.

I pastor a church on the corner of 7th Street and Maine Avenue. Currently we are building a new sanctuary.  And as we do, we worship across the street at Jefferson Middle School.  Every Sunday, at 10 a.m., we dial down the noise and rhetoric and dial into the still, small voice of a merciful Shepherd. We sing, we pray, we live in the light of a greater Good.  Peace like petals from tree blossoms fall around us.  Dignity and blessing are handed out by hands and hugs.  If there is one thing in your routine that might immediately propel you out of the raging currents into a harbor of peace, worship is it.  ~See you Sunday, 10 a.m.

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Dignity in the midst of the storms

We pray for:

THOSE IN THE PATHWAY OF STORMS  We are especially mindful of all those who reside in Florida and Georgia and the Carolinas, the Bahamas and Caribbean who, at this moment on Friday,  seem to be in peril as Hurricane Irma makes its way closer to the United States.  And for those who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana.  Christ, have mercy.

THOSE IN MEXICO  We remember especially those in the state of Oaxaca and beyond who had family and homes destroyed.  Lord, have mercy.

DREAMERS  We pray for those children who have known only the United States and came here or were born here with families who had illegally entered the country but by no fault of their own were raised here and dared to dream they could be part of the American Dream.  This administration and the Congress seems prepared to do them great harm.  May it not be so.  Christ, have mercy.

FOR ALL OF US  We who toil day by day and attempt to do better by ourselves, our families and our communities are under great stress, carrying large burdens.  May these burdens be lifted and in their place may we receive courage and strength.  Lord, have mercy.

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Sunday I will be asking the following questions and I hope to give some guidance in my sermon entitled, “Superman’s Cape, A Clerical Collar and Clothed in Christ”:  How are you navigating this apocalyptic landscape?  How are you making sense of your lives as you daily wade through the swamp of political rhetoric, assorted hatreds, natural catastrophes, not to mention trying to find an affordable plumber on the week-end?  How are you living between sun up and sun down?  What strategy for maintaining your human dignity and the dignity of others do you have when the power goes out and the storm is raging around you?

Join us in worship Sunday at 10 a.m. at Jefferson Middle School.  Because there in that auditorium, we embrace each other as fully human. We carry one another’s burdens and share in each other’s joys.  ~See you Sunday