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.
I am the Road
I’ve been walking daily since about May, trying to be a good scout. Well, I’m no scout but I’m trying to do well by the gift of my life. And my walks are usually along the bike path near our home in Arlington. As you can imagine, this time of year is quite lovely. This morning (Tuesday the 6th) I was walking at about 7 a.m. To see the light of the sun reflected off a bank of trees in the horizon as I walk along what is a dimly lit and chilly path is quite a spectacle. We are so removed from nature that just taking a walk near trees and rushing water in a creek, sung to by birds singing and shouting their codes into the bright oblivion of sky and light, this is a tonic for the mind if not the soul.
You know by now of course that your life is a winding road. What you may not know or struggle with is an equally important truth: your life is a sacred journey. In this culture in love with death (a phrase I have taken from the fourth century bishop of Hippo in North Africa, Augustine), you must awaken to that truth and do your utmost to resist with your might all those who would steal, diminish or otherwise convince you to give up that truth. Do not be satisfied with a simplistic reduction of your life to the material. You are not a frog dissected on a table and then discarded. You are soulful. You are bearing in your life the image of God. Walk that road. Indeed, remember that Christ identified himself this way: I am the road. Walk it. ~See you Sunday
now edited to include a statement about Pope Francis’ secret meeting with Kim Davis.
When you begin your speech to Congress with references to Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, then you have sent a very loud signal to everyone that you are a pope of peace and justice. Indeed, Pope Francis even used that phrase as he used a velvet hammer on the noggins of a Congress that has used up most of its vital energy devising ways to overturn the Affordable Care Act. I had thought progressive Catholicism to be nearly extinct but in one speech and then in a whirlwind of activity aimed at uplifting the marginal and at-risk, this pontiff has single-handedly revived it.
Mind you, as a Baptist (and let’s keep in mind that of the three individuals noted above and referred to by the Pope as models of what it means to be a Christian citizen, King was the Baptist clergyman in the list), and as someone then who believes strongly in separation of Church and State, I do not believe the pope should have been invited to speak to the Congress. We would never, ever consider inviting an Islamic Imam of a country like Iran to speak before the Congress and that is as it should be. But allowing the pope to do so merely obfuscates the separation and is a dangerous thing to do. Why? Because our founders knew personally how terrible a thing it is when religion and state combine in their efforts to control people. The Church armed with the power of the State and the State armed with the rhetoric of God is flat out dangerous and comes very close to blasphemy. But leaving this important issue to the side, what Francis said penetrated the brassy patriotism of a deformed Christianity pawned off by politicians who resemble goats, not the sheep brought into the kingdom for their acts of justice and compassion. The cynical invitation to bring the pope here as a way of embarrassing the President–much as bringing Prime Minister Netanyahu before Congress to embarrass the President–backfired. Francis blessed the President for his efforts on behalf of immigrants and the uninsured while declaring to the Congress that they should take their moral lessons from three progressive Christians: Day, who was a pacifist and resisted WW1 and set up soup kitchens in NY to feed the poor and unemployed; King who denounced racism and led America’s second revolution, the Civil Rights Movement; and Merton, a contemplative monk who with his pen denounced the Vietnam War and worked for peace and interfaith understanding.
This is a special pope, a Jesuit with a Franciscan heart of service to the least of these.* It was a joy to hear him and watch him and he reminded me, a Baptist, why I find Catholicism to be so beautiful and rich in both history and liturgy. May God bless his efforts and the efforts of all those who seek peace and justice in our world. And may the Congress of the United States, sent to serve the People of the United States, move past religious rhetoric and do its utmost to live up to the sacred documents of the United States–its constitutional guarantees and Bill of Rights. ~See you Sunday
*So now I need to add an asterisk to the statement that Pope Francis is a special pope with a Franciscan heart. What a deflating disappointment to know that this pope who cited peace and justice warriors like King, Day and Merton and seemed compassionate for the least of these actually sided with a homophobic, misguided clerk from Kentucky. Yes, she has a right to be a conscientious objector but CO’s bear the consequences of such objection. She should not be clerk of a court anywhere. Those on the right who compare her to Dr. King are delusional for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that King worked tirelessly for the freedom and human rights of all people. Kim Davis is a homophobe who loves Jesus. And the pope just smeared his own remarkable visit with us in the United States by his embrace of her behind closed doors. Shame, shame, shame. Dear Gay Brothers and Sisters, God bless and keep you. You are fully human and thus, you should have all the rights and privileges of being a human being, including marriage. I, like you, am so disappointed . At the same time, we welcome you into our church!
Our foray into films and faith through the sermon series, Life Cinematic, concludes this Sunday as Pastor Bledsoe speaks to protest and film. A fundamental constituent of film is protest, particularly a protest of perception. As in film, so with Holy Scripture and the revelation of prophets!
Don’t forget, this Saturday is RISET’s game night and cookout. If you haven’t rsvp’d through the evite that was sent out, please do so. This will be a great way to conclude our summer together with food and fellowship.
Reach out to one another; stick up for one another; be salt and light; pray for our city, that violence would subside; and above all, love God with all your mind, heart and strength. ~See you Sunday
Pastor Bledsoe’s sermon title for Sunday is: ”
Film As Protest:
Cinqué, Martin, Malcolm, Thelma & Louise, Gandalf
We who live in Washington DC live in the midst of background radiation. I don’t mean that literally but figuratively to refer to the stresses of being ever on the watch for terrorist acts, political fallout and economic catastrophe. Of course, this is not just the case for DC but in a smaller world increasingly interdependent, most of us slog through a day of noise and radiation. It is not unusual to feel like someone has torn the bark off you.
What I don’t quite comprehend is why persons who are weary and beat up and despairing from the turmoil around them do not take advantage of resources. Can you imagine a thirsty marathon runner passing by a table of paper cups filled with water? Not likely. And yet, people will unpack themselves off metro cars, walk out of the labyrinth of office politics and world politics only to enter their residence alone and–drum roll–turn on the television or computer and feed upon more news that deepens the stress levels.
Here’s what else I don’t get: how people who know where some water is don’t offer it. I’ll cut to the chase here–most of us know that on the Cross of Shame, Jesus cried out, “I thirst.” The Roman soldiers took a sponge of vinegar and gave him a swig. How’s that for cruelty? But you already knew the world was cruel. Jesus in turn, prayed, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
On a corner in the Empire is an intimate congregation of inclusion and peace. A stream runs through it. Come and drink. And if you have drunk from this stream, then tell someone where they can slake their thirst. You’re thirsty. We have water. ~See you Sunday
Parking Lot Concert A Success!
Saturday, July 11th, the Riverside Choir led by Lauren White and accompanied by Kevin Twine on piano, Anthony Maimer on bass and Dominic Taylor on drums, filled our parking lot with praise and music. DJ Chris Barnett filled in the spaces and transitioned to upbeat and groovy tunes. Darrell Burnette deserves a special shout out for his organization and logistical support of this wonderful afternoon. And to all our volunteers, thank you! We enjoyed meeting neighbors and taking the joy from inside our church to the outside. Keep your eyes open for another event sometime in the Fall…
Worship tomorrow, July 12th at 10 a.m. will feature our choir and Pastor Bledsoe will be preaching from the lectionary reading from Ephesians chapter one where we are told that we are chosen. This idea of “election” or being chosen is a strong theme in the bible but also a difficult idea in 2015. We hope you’ll join us for deeply gratifying worship–worship that connects emotionally and intellectually. ~ See you Sunday.
Sometimes people can’t figure out Baptists (well, who can?) But one way to distinguish say, arch-conservative Southern Baptists from us progressive Baptists who believe in soul freedom, ordination of women and ecumenical relations is by dancing. We’re the dancing Baptists. LOL For an example, see the movie below of Riversiders groovin’ to the music.