On Monday, January 11th, the Zoning Commission voted 5-0 to approve our PUD. We move forward into the future now, securing our past by seizing the day and securing our future. A voice for the Compassionate Christ, for inclusion, reconciliation, justice and ecumenical and interfaith cooperation will continue to be heard in Southwest Washington DC and the world for decades to come. We are grateful to so many who have worked so very hard to bring us to this transitional moment in our history, a continuous history begun in 1857. We are grateful to God whose promise to Joshua and the children of Israel about to cross over the Jordan River into the Promised Land is also our promise: ”the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Pastor Bledsoe will be preaching this Sunday on the topic, “I Hereby Command You: Be Strong And Courageous.” ~ See you Sunday
By the second Sunday of a “new” year, exactly 10 days in, we are haunted by headlines of last year. The forces of evil –and if you do not like that term, “evil,” then you are pressed to come up with some other term that captures the depravity of the human race and its nations roiling in war and terrorism–as I was saying, the forces of evil have marched into the new year, trampling the confetti and ribbons of our New Year’s celebrations underfoot.
What are we to do? What am I to do? The purveyors of violence have bought politicians; guns flood our streets; governmental and police response to perpetrators of violence is predicated on race or ethnicity; our cities implode; riding on the metro is not just a consideration about timeliness but one’s safety. Who are we? Who am I?
Perhaps the first pair of questions–rotated around the question of action–can only be answered by answering that second pair of questions–which rotate around identity and self-awareness.
Here is how we describe ourselves at Riverside Baptist Church, declaring at the close of our communion Sundays: we are a table fellowship, a covenant people, a welcoming table; we are a people loved by Christ and are in turn sent into the world to love the world, heal it, repair it and redeem it. When the question of identity is answered that way, then it becomes imperative that we treat others not only as we ourselves wish to be treated, but as Christ has loved us. By this power, the world can be transformed. Gandhi called this satyagraha or truth force. King created a non-violent movement that was founded on this idea. What are we to do? What am I to do? Resist for the truth, defy injustice, speak up for lovingly regarding others as fully human. And you might consider joining us in worship where every week, we remind one another about who we are and Whose we are. ~ See you Sunday
*Pastor Bledsoe’s sermon title for this Sunday is, myCloud (of witnesses)
It is always fun to watch the irony unfold at this time of year when persons who ridicule the Christian holy days as so much superstition and pagan sampling, line up to celebrate the great superstition that one more trip around the sun means we will have a new year. Really? The clock strikes midnight on the 31st of December and we turn into new pumpkins. Or something like that.
This reminds me of a wonderful story told by the great Danish theologian, Soren Kierkegaard. A peasant had come barefoot to town, having made enough money to buy himself a pair of stockings and shoes and still have enough left over to get himself drunk. On his way home in his drunken state he lay down in the middle of the road and fell asleep. A carriage came along, and the coachman shouted to him to move aside or else he would drive over his legs. The drunken peasant woke up, looked down at his legs and, not recognizing them because of the stockings and shoes, said: “Go ahead, they aren’t my legs.”
In two days many of our fellow citizens will lie in a drunken state, believing they have entered a new year when in fact, their hang-over will sound like the preacher of Ecclesiastes, hammering their noggins over and again, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
But still, we’ll go along and wish everyone ~a happy new year!~ while realizing it is a superstition. That what we need is a transformation of our lives by the One who makes all things new, even Jesus Christ, the great Redeemer who loved the world so much… Have a safe and meaningful New Year’s Eve. ~ See you Sunday.
*Pastor Bledsoe will be preaching on: A New Year’s Day Enchiridion. Communion will be served. This first Sunday of 2016 offers you the opportunity to begin the year off by worshipping with others. Let’s come together.
Exactly how much mayhem does one need to witness before concluding that something is terribly wrong? Daily headlines of extrajudicial killings of African-American citizens, war, mass migrations of persons fleeing from war, terrorist attacks in the name of God and the rude slander of persons by leading presidential contenders are enough to convince us that something is off balance. Right? But the fact is, Americans polarize into extremes and some, on the left, want to naively believe in the last superstition, progress (as Christopher Lasch wrote in his book, The True and Only Heaven). Or those on the right hunker down, double down and promote more violence as the solution to violence. It is a self-defeating proposition but logic is not a strong suit of the NRApocalyptic view of the world.
Enter the biblical narrative of Advent, which is to say, the coming of the Christ in our midst. This Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent. How much we need to hear this account again! The world is plunged into darkness. It is more than evident to anyone willing to put down their ideological playbook that human beings are sinners in need of a Redeemer. Don’t like the word “sin?” Try this: human beings are deeply alienated and in need of reconciliation. However we state the obvious, we would do well to begin our journey to a sanctuary of peace such is offered by our church. Not to the mall, clawing our way through crowds and the push-and-shove of consumer frenzy. Not to a party. But to the sanctuary of the Holy One who would speak to us again of peace and justice and a Redeemer.
See that field of shepherds? It is night. And it is night in more ways than one, for they are poor and live in the midst of a brutal Roman occupation. Set in the night sky is a star. That is a luminous symbol of Christ’s presence in our world as the dim tides of history and the inhumane plots of wicked persons blot out the light. The Gospel of John captures that scene in another way, saying, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:5)
This is the First Sunday of Advent. Let us take a step toward light, toward love and peace. ~See you Sunday.
Through every entrance of any beautiful garden I have ever visited; beside retinues of trees aligned in an array of stippled, green, pinpoints of color; standing on the borderland of shoreline that separates sea and sky and earth while at the same time acting as a seam that sews them as one fabric called the universe; engraved within a ring worn as an emblem of life…I have always heard these words resounding as a chorus, the coruscating high descant, the rose adorned emblem engraved onto the wooden gate :
Begin and end there. Let it be the incantatory response of your life, for life. See you Sunday~ Thanks be to God.
We are impoverished. I mean by this what Johannes Baptist Metz means in his luminous book, Poverty of the Spirit, when he writes, “We are all beggars. We are all members of a species that is not sufficient unto itself. We are all creatures plagued by unending doubts and restless, unsatisfied hearts. Of all creatures, we are the poorest and the most incomplete. Our needs are always beyond our capacities, and we only find ourselves when we lose ourselves.”
We find ourselves as we resign ourselves to God and into the care of others. There are simply things we cannot do for ourselves. It is a sign of our poverty that others must act for us and on behalf of us. This poverty is not something of which to be ashamed but it is merely an acknowledgement of our interdependence. When you are selfless, acting on behalf of others, you find yourself. This is something of what Jesus must have meant when he taught, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it.” Yes, we are impoverished and need others—and others need us. In selfless, devotional acts, we redeem our lives and the world. Our interdependence is a remarkable spiritual truth… and a remarkable, redemptive opportunity.
Our church is at a crossroads as we submit who we are and ourselves and all that we do into the care of others who do not know us nor share our view of the world. That is okay. That is, as noted above, the condition of humanity. I pray that we will be given a fair hearing, a just consideration, and that people of humane spirit will link with us in a brilliant, humane and humanist effort to heal the world around us. Whatever decisions get made, however our journey is travelled, our destiny remains unchanged: we live in this world by God’s grace and we are trekking always and ever toward the Kingdom of light and peace. May God bless those leaders and decision-makers who have some sway over our immediate circumstances. May the mission and mandate, as Metz describes being a human, be met in us so that “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable” would find us ready. Amen. So be it.