Tag Archives: churches in SW DC

Stage Left, Our Town, Our Church

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All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts, . . .
[As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII]

One can forgive a playwright for casting all of life as a stage.  Indeed, Shakespeare by so doing ended up revealing a psychology of human social interaction that is informative and helpful.  What role did you play today? What lines were you given? What improvisation did you make when interrupted by an audience member or by a misplaced prop? What kind of entrance did you make this morning, grand?  Quiet?

Every Sunday we of  Riverside Baptist Church worship in an auditorium at a local middle school.  It has a stage with a beautiful burgundy curtain. The chairs squeak.  The sound reverberates against hard walls, making the speaking and singing parts at times difficult to hear. But you recall middle school and plays don’t you?  How exciting it was to work for the first time on a theater crew, arranging the moving parts of scenery and stage; how tense for actors to remember their lines and for singers to sing in tune; and how delightful to play one’s role before parents and family and friends.  To say that each Sunday we “play” at church is not flippant, but is as profound as Shakespeare’s keen insight into our daily lives that unfold into Acts, scenes and exits.

Like the Pulitzer Prize winning play, Our Town, we begin with the Stage Manager making announcements and orienting people to the surroundings, helping the audience to transition from “audience” to the role of “congregation” and this occurs just after the stage crew has covered a simple plastic table with a cloth, placed  flameless battery-operated candles on it, along with a chalice that was made by a local potter in our last service in the building that used to stand on the corner of 7th & Maine.   As Thorton Wilder has the Stage Manager say, this is Maine Street (our Maine is named after the state) and this is Our Town.  And our “sanctuary” now is a middle school auditorium and the props include school paraphernalia collected in corners, school signs and wide hallways with their shiny floors.  As with any play, whether or not you can see the world through the thinly constructed scenery depends on your own imagination and willingness to look into and through your own life.  Charles Isher, writing for the New York Times wrote about Thornton’s play, “Wilder sought to make sacraments of simple things. In Our Town he cautioned us to recognize that life is both precious and ordinary, and that these two fundamental truths are intimately connected. “

This he could have written about Our Church.  When you drive down Maine Avenue in SW these days, you’re likely to be distracted by cranes, large trucks, unfinished buildings being pieced together and flagmen.  But along that avenue is a rippled roofline of Arena Stage, a beautiful and provocative building that dominates the skyline and by its transparency invites any and everyone in to view a stage, a play, and their life.   But it’s not the only stage in town.  Just down the road in a brick middle school, an audience gathers weekly to learn lines, sing interludes, make gentle entrances  and courageous exits.  Indeed, we “make sacraments of simple things.”  Every week, each Sunday, 10 a.m. just off of Maine.   ~Ladies and Gentlemen, See you Sunday ~

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It’s Sunday, Forget The Polls

You could stay home Sunday and watch another round of talking heads.  But at this point, why would you?

You could go online and check polls at various news outlets and ideological outposts and forget coming to church for an hour to sing, pray and hear scripture read and expounded upon.  But at this point, why would you do that?

Our souls need respite from the turmoil of the world and especially we need access to light, unfettered grace and love, the truth of God-in-Christ, reconciling the world.

Saturday night, turn your clock back one hour and then Sunday morning, bring your soul to worship.  You got a soul–don’t give it to the politicos this Sunday.  Bring it to Christ for restoration, redemption, renewal and empowerment.  In the Name of God, peace to you and all whom you love. ~ See you Sunday!

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The Scourge of Gun Violence

Gun violence in America is a scourge.  Had an invader killed as many of our citizens, we would be demanding a declaration of war from our Congress. Instead, we hear the NRA talk about the “right to carry and conceal” and our Congress cowardly shirk before the Gun sellers.   Had a virus or plague killed as many, we would demand the CDC and other government agencies coordinate a multi-pronged effort to arrest the virus and find a vaccination.  Instead, we are subjected to lies and half-truths about the Second Amendment.

It is not patriotic to stand by as fellow citizens are murdered and wounded.

It is immoral, even if it be legal, to sell assault weapons.

Jesus told Peter to put up his sword.  Christians, stop supporting the blood soaked NRA.  Start asking your congresspersons to pass sensible laws that register and control what can be sold. Gun shop owners, stop selling assault weapons.  Put away your guns. We are reaping the whirlwind.

Riverside Church Cherry Blossoms

Seasonal Transformation

Seasonal transformation is all around us.  True, we had snow last week and the temperatures have been below average so many of us are walking around with our heads down as we walk into wind gusts and wind chills that elicit grunts and curses. Where is Spring!? we ask.

Of course, Spring has erupted already. The Forsythia, the leafing out of trees, the buds and flowers that ornament streets we pass through and lanes we walk down, all remind us of this fact. The grass is greener.  The transformation is under way and evolves until one magical moment when sun and warmth coincide with brilliant sky blue and landscapes of trees and flowers and we know… we have passed across the threshold of Winter into Spring.

Little wonder then that this season fills us with hope for the transformation of our own lives.  Now we can take all of this for granted. We can chalk it up to how things “just happen” and pretend the world around us is deaf and dumb. But oh, it is not.  The world is talking to us, it is a dialogical masterpiece threaded with conversation and information that, should we take time to hear, will inform our own lives. The psalmist declared [139:14],

 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works

In this season of transformation may your and my life be transformed.  May the Spirit of change and renewal restore you and make you whole.  This Sunday, let us join together in praise with the entire earth, for “the time of singing has come.”  ~See you Sunday

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The Cross Alone

“He was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”   (Isaiah 53: 12)

Crux sola nostra theologica est  

The Cross alone is our salvation.     ~Martin Luther

On this Good Friday, may we find our way through contemplation and prayer to the garden of resurrection and hope.                                      ~ See you Sunday

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Padded Pews and Splinters of the Cross

I like padded pews, not that I get to sit in them since I’m the preacher.  But they provide a measure of comfort that seems legitimate given how hard it is at times to listen to a preacher.  You deserve a padded pew.  At the least though, a preacher ought to preach the Gospel in a way that makes the pad necessary and I don’t mean by that the kind  of hellfire and brimstone beating people in the name of Jesus sermons I heard growing up. I mean sermons that call us to the justice and peacemaking Gospel Jesus preached even before there was a crucifixion.

Speaking of which, we’re getting close to the Easter High Holy Sunday and as you know, you can’t really get to Resurrection Sunday without passing through Thursday and the Garden of Gethsemane, betrayal and Friday’s catastrophe of blood and shattered body that was the flogging and crucifixion.  But like padded pews, lots of folks–both liberal and conservative–try to pad the Gospel and reduce Jesus to an ethical teacher or a prosperity salesman.  It will be very important in the coming days and weeks as we approach Golgotha that we listen to the Christ and all he had to say about servant-ministry and sacrificial love.  Martin Luther King summed it up well when he said, ’When I took up the cross I recognized it’s meaning. The cross is something that you bear, and ultimately, that you die on.’  We are all not called upon to give up our lives as King or Christ did, but we darn sure ought to get a splinter now and then from following the Crucified Lord.

Be awake. Be alert.  We are following Jesus to Jerusalem. We will sit in the upper room and commune with him.  And a time will come when we are tempted to betray him, to run from him, even before the rooster crows for the rising sun.  It is time to weigh our souls in the balance and find our way to a Holy place.  Easter is coming. First, however, there is a Thursday night of betrayal and a Friday noon of nails.