Tag Archives: black lives matter

shelter_rain

The Rhythm of Spirit, the Practice of Peace

On June 3rd, about 23 of us entered the sacred space of  Bon Secours Retreat Center in Maryland for a one day retreat devoted to the practice of prayer through the Divine Office and the Lectio Divina.  We were dialed into the rhythm and phases of the day and came to understand the vital practice of praying in the morning and evening as markers along the journey. Some of us will pray at noon and others may do so at the other offices of the day. But here’s the thing–we have kindled a practice of peace, turning and redirecting ourselves from the noise and belligerence of the world around us (and obviously by now we know that the media is belligerent or to put it more precisely, it is a platform for the belligerent). Turn away.  Center down. Breathe deeply.  Read a psalm. Pray a psalm.  Chant a psalm.  Practice silence.  There is a rhythm of the Spirit and a practice of peace and how much we need this in our lives!  Otherwise, what?  Otherwise we are tossed by every wave of news and events that erupt in a day, a week, a month.  Aren’t you exhausted by that?  Of course, we all are.  Practice this rhythm of the Spirit. If you want to discuss with me how you can implement this in your life, feel free to email me and set up a time.

Gathering for worship on Sundays is also a significant part of that rhythm of Spirit and practice of peace.  You get to feel a part of the continent, of the whole; you embrace that which is greater than your self but at the same time have your singularity and uniqueness affirmed. By Song and prayer and scripture and proclamation, we are placed at the center of the celebration of our common humanity and shared humanity; we commune with the Holy One; the Good Shepherd leads us to green valleys and still waters.  Why stay away from that? Why not be part of that? Come on.  You will be welcomed here and we need you as much as you need us.  There is a rhythm of Spirit and a Practice of Peace.   ~See you Sunday

magnetic pull

The Magnetic Pull of Hatred and the White House

How many noose incidents have we seen in the last two months?  How many incidents of racist assault and murder?  How many women jeered and made less safe?  From murders to assault and harassment, the uptick in violence and hatred is palpable. Include in this a xenophobia generated at a level perhaps unseen in this country since WWI and then try to keep up with a daily barrage of insult and banter from the twitterverse of the President; add to that hostile decisions aimed at the earth and its climate and one is left with feelings of exhaustion and fear.

When there are are so many separate events, how is a citizen to make sense of it all?  Patterns.  Patterns are those larger rubrics that are comprised of individual actions or particles. So you don’t have to be familiar with each single incident to know that there is a pattern at work.  And we see it vividly with this presidency of hatred.  I don’t know what else to call it–the President had an audience with Pope Francis who appealed to him not to abandon America’s commitment to the earth as articulated in the Paris accord and days later, Mr. Trump abandons the accord.  He has made of our country an outlier of civilization and science.  We are alone, willing to pollute the world and not own what damage we have done to our planet.  Curiously, many in the conservative Christian communities voted for him because of their single-issue obsession with abortion.  They voted to protect the life of the unborn but handed the presidency over to a man who is willing to abandon generations both living and unborn to a dying world, choking to death on pollution.

Think of these events from pollution of the earth and its exploitation to racist and anti-religious hatred as magnetic filings.  You know what happens when metal filings are poured onto a surface. They simply lie there with no pattern.  Place a magnet nearby and the filings move as though energized and they take shape in patterns dictated by that magnet.  The metal filings of hatred are moving and they are lining up and when you watch them, they are moving toward the White House.  The current Congress may not hold President Trump accountable for these hatreds, for hating our NATO allies while fawning over Russia, for its racist and misogynist overtones, but history will clearly show how these patterns of hatred flowed in direct reaction to a White House run by White Nationalist ideology and hatred of science.

But the Christian is called to a greater force than any magnetic pull of a spiteful megalomaniacal ruler and that greater force is Love. So when you step back and look at the larger picture, you will see churches and synagogues and mosques and temples and yes, humanists both religious and atheist, who are doing their dead-level best to treat the earth and one another with love and dignity.  That Love force has a magnetic pull greater than hate.  In these dangerous times, we must believe that and then act with hope and determination.  Nothing less than the fate of our earth and the fates of millions of persons demand this.  ~See you Sunday

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Life at Riverside:::Worship as Defiance

Life at Riverside Baptist Church this week includes:

Prayer Retreat   Nearly 30 of us are signed up for a full day retreat at Bon Secouers Conference Center where we will be led in ancient ways of prayer including the Liturgy of the Hours, the Prayer of the Heart, and the Lectio Divina.  A Baptist Church bringing congregants to a Roman Catholic Retreat center and being led by a Sister of the order of Bon Secouers and an Oblate of the order of St. Benedict is a vivid illustration of our church’s commitment to ecumenical cooperation.  We value one another and we benefit by the truths and disciplines of one another.  The goal of our retreat is twofold. First, we want to create a peaceful respite from the noise of the world. Thankfully, Bon Secouers has already accomplished that. Second, we want to begin creating contemplative disciplines that will take that peace with us as we leave and benefit our faith and practice for months and years to come.

Deacon Ordination   One aspect of Baptist polity is its congregational polity. That is, we believe in the autonomy of the local church –we do not believe the gifts of the Gospel and the Church reside only in some ecclesiastical hierarchy.  So we call persons out of the congregation to serve the church. Deacons are those who serve the church by extending pastoral care to the congregation. They oversee its two ordinances, Baptism and Holy Communion.  They provide wise counsel to the pastor. Therefore they are ordained to this office, this function, by the church.  We will ordain two new deacons on Sunday, June 4th, in our morning worship. The rite of “laying on of hands” and praying for their empowerment resides with the church and each individual believer.  A simple ritual, it is nonetheless powerful in its expression of local Baptist autonomy and the priesthood of believers. Finally, we ordain women as deacons (and pastors as far as that goes), believing in the egalitarian nature of the Church.  The Deacon Board is not a boy’s club, at least it should not be.  We also ordain LGBT believers as deacons, again believing there is no discrimination at the welcoming table of Christ.  A radically free and Christ-centric church—this is who we are.

Conclusion to Study of Job  Our seminary intern from Wesley Seminary and Aspirant, Tonetta, will conclude our First Sunday Bible Study series on Job on June 4th, following worship.  Tonetta, formerly an English teacher and in her final year at Wesley, brings literary and theological insights to bear on this study.

Worship is the “work” of the church.  It is the most important thing we do.  Worship is not entertainment though one would be hard pressed to conclude otherwise when looking at the religious landscape in our consumer society.  Worship is crossing a threshold into the presence of the Holy and finding oneself in a communion with other kindred souls.  Worship is also a primal act of defiance against idolatries that currently consume our country’s energy and time—idolatries of celebrity cults of personality that includes the current occupant of the White House; idolatries of political power aimed at hobbling the poor, the disadvantaged, the elderly, women and minorities.  In worship, we may enter as persons sorted out and tagged by the larger culture’s interest, but once we enter this space and sacred time, we are transformed into equals, fellow human beings made in the image of God.  I hope you will worship with us Sunday and resist the forces of darkness. Step into the light and peace of God. ~See You Sunday

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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.

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Christ: A Stranger in the United States

Christ is always coming toward us as a stranger.  Soon, we’ll read post-resurrection texts and included in those will be a  passage from John’s Gospel where Jesus stands upon the shore, peering out to the lake where his disciples –soon to be apostles—are fishing as some kind of cathartic exercise in response to despair.  They will see a figure on the shore but he is shrouded by fog and distance, unrecognizable until that distance is closed by their urgent race to the shore. They leave their boats again to run to him because while they cannot see him, they can hear him.

John’s Gospel begins by saying that Christ came into the world and the world, though made by him, did not know him.  He came as a stranger. He was perceived as a stranger both by his own family and neighbors and the Romans who killed him.  Christ is always coming toward us as a stranger.

That truth is likely why we end up with the admonishment from scripture to “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” since you might unaware end up entertaining angels …or the Christ. Certainly we see this in the famous story in Luke’s Gospel about two disciples on the road to Emmaus who have no idea that the person journeying with them is the Risen Christ. He remained a stranger to them for their entire journey until at table, he blessed bread and then their eyes were opened. That is, they recognized him.

Once you are recognized or known, you are a stranger no longer.  This should be the point, or at least a point, in any religious response to the world and its residents:  close the distance, recognize one another as brothers and sisters.  The stranger who arrives in your midst may be the Christ coming toward you.  You should treat him or her as such.  Yet the early Church lived as strangers in the world—perhaps this is why the Gospels depict Jesus as a stranger and why the scriptures encourage kindness toward the stranger.  Hebrews 11 says that these people of faith “confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth..”  That word “foreigner” gets variously translated as “alien” and “exile.” But it has the sense of illegal aliens, persons who arrived in a foreign country and sojourned there.

Many Christians –not all of course—feel especially alienated in the United States at this moment in history.  The Senate is about to have its remaining leg of bipartisanship removed by a man who single-handedly obstructed the Constitution and stole a Supreme Court seat; the Attorney General is about to roll back civil rights by obstructing reform of police departments across the country, this despite the fact that extrajudicial killings of African-Americans is a travesty in this nation and Gov Scott of Florida is reprising the role of Pontius Pilate with a vengeance; laws to protect the water and air are being rolled back despite the facts of and danger of climate change and a renewed effort to deny healthcare to the elderly and poor and sick is under way.  For Christians who believe in the Prince of Peace, who extol justice and protection of the stranger and immigrants, who believe the bible teaches stewardship of the earth and “creation care,” who know that the stranger Christ was brought into line by the police and soldiers of Pilate, this is madness that resembles the horrifying world of early Christianity.  Christ is a stranger in the United States.

My encouragement to you as we move toward Palm Sunday and Holy Week is to recall what Jesus told his disciples, “In the world you have tribulation but take courage.  I have overcome the world.”  This Sunday, close the distance and cross the threshold of recognition so that we may no longer be strangers to one another and so in the coming days, we might work together to shelter as many as we can from the coming storm.  ~ See you Sunday.

 

shelter_rain

Beyond the tweeted trifling nonsense: Now is the time to worship

It is storming and you’re outside in it.  Rain in sheets and at times metal pellets of water.  Lightening, thunder, flash flood threatening you. There is a small, warm shelter nearby. What do you do?
You enter that warm shelter.
The office, the train car, the world around you is toxic.  It’s hard to breathe.  It is hard to see.  Nearby is a transparent tent.  You can see the air inside is clear and clean.  The toxic vapors are repelled and flow past it, a vapor trail.  What do you do?
You enter the clean air of that tent.
 Weariness grips you in a bone-deep ache.  Despair like shadows descend.  You see people exiting a building who seem invigorated, empowered, full of courage and hope.  They point you to the building, saying that each week they enter it and are filled, their humanity and dignity repaired.  What do you do?
Every Sunday a group of us, approximately 70, sometimes ten more sometime ten less, enter a middle school auditorium in SW Washington DC. For an hour we make that space a sanctuary of peace and a refuge, a safe place free of toxicity and hatred, a place of empowerment to all who would work for justice and peace. We sing. We pray. We listen to scripture and the Word of God is proclaimed—a Word that endures beyond the tweeted trifling nonsense of our culture.  You can taste some of this by clicking on a sermon and listening to it. Try, for example, this past Sunday’s sermon, “The Joy Formidable.”
You know when and how to get out of a storm.  You know you prefer peace to toxic rhetoric.  So what’s keeping you?  Get out of the rain.  Come, now is the time to worship. ~See you Sunday