Here’s what I saw today on the first Sunday of February, on my 22nd anniversary as your pastor: a choir and musicians who inspired us with beautiful music (notice I didn’t use the word, “entertain,” but inspire–they sang from their souls for God and for God’s people); a diverse congregation who, when they had the chance at the Peace of Christ, embraced one another; I heard laughter, the exchanges of peace and greetings between congregants, our children with smiles on their faces, two of our children displaying their Tai Kwan Do skills and being blessed and affirmed by the adults; a young man we’ve known since he was knee-high to a grasshopper arriving at 7:30 to lend me a hand setting up for church; leaders who worked behind the scenes to extend pastoral care and to insure we have heat; people reaching out to friends and inviting them to church; the proclamation of faith; a young adult covenanting with us to love God and others in this place; Holy Communion woven into our lives like golden thread; in short, I saw the Church today. We showed up. We worshipped. We were blessed and we blessed.
Have a great week. Go heal the world. Do not tire of well doing. And as the choir sang to us, Stand.
This week I stepped into a local pharmacy which also stands in as a consumer- culture-consumed-with-consumables portal. I was there to pick up a prescription and as I left, I noticed that there were some Santas sitting in chairs with large tags on them that said, “75% off.” I wondered, is that the mark-up on these products then during season?
If your spirituality is pegged to a season like a Winter cold or Spring allergy then by all means, get yourself to a nunnery. Well, that’s Hamlet. You at least might consider that a spirituality marked up by 75% in season just might not be worth very much when the day arrives that you need something long-lasting and dependable in season and out.
This is not to say that Christianity (or Judaism) is unaware of seasons. Read Ecclesiastes chapter three. Wise is the person who knows what season they reside in. The sense of time in the bible that speaks to seasons, as in when the harvest is ready to be harvested, is replete throughout the scriptures. The sense of a Santa on sale for 75% is similar to the prophetic annunciation that life is like the grass of a field. It withers. Generations come and go.
I stopped in a local café and ordered up a “skinny peppermint mocha” since I know the time is rapidly approaching when these won’t be served. The café will move onto other “seasonal merchandise.” It’s okay to enjoy such seasons. But for your life, for the journey into the sacred and holy, the season of God’s love that knows no end, that rock of Christ upon which the Church is built, that dear reader, is a far better thing.
This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of 2014. It is, however, thousands of Sundays recurring through millennia ever to remind us that Christ is the Light of the world. Bring your little light into the sanctuary. I’ll bring mine. Others will bring theirs and we shall begin this year illuminated and full of the joy of God’s everlasting kingdom. Grace and Peace to you and all whom you love. ~PSTR
Where do you keep your faith? Is it in your heart? Is it in your mind? That is, is faith something you feel or is it an intellectual assent to some list of beliefs?
Or maybe faith is something not kept within any chamber of your life. Perhaps it is more a gift bestowed on you by a power greater than yourself. Or maybe it is something you earn, like a grade in a course or a gold watch for reliable service rendered. Is faith something you have anything to do with? “Have more faith,” someone might say. But if faith is bestowed on me then how can I have more of it? If faith is simply something I earn, a merit badge, then I can see how I might have more faith by earning more merit. Works? Grace? What is this we call faith?
Do those who claim they do not believe thereby assert at one and the same time that they believe in something? They at least believe in the rationality of their statement of unbelief but it seems as arbitrary as anyone’s assertion of faith. I don’t believe sounds a whole lot like I believe in unbelief.
Is faith communal? I can read a novel by myself, a novel populated by characters and configured by plot. Is faith simply individual and narrated by myself? Or am I read into the narrative of faith? Aren’t current pop ideas of individuality simply the most craven renderings of conformity? Look at me! I’m like everyone else tweeting, texting, posting—an instagram moment of individuality conformed to instagrams everywhere. How can I know me if I am a mere island in a chain of islands cut off from any community of self-reflection?
Intelligo me intelligere wrote Augustine. I understand that I understand. What mystery is this but the deepest?
I do not know what your exposure to religion has been, but as I grew up in a naïve fundamentalist setting, my exposure was to religion as answer. We didn’t ask questions. And if we dared to ask we were simply and swiftly pressed back into line and told to accept without question whatever it was that was being asserted by the church. At Riverside, we have tried to nurture a place of quest where we get to ask questions and reflect deeply about who we are. We do not reject answers, of course. That would be naïve or stupid. But neither do we accept answers simply because some authority has said it is so. We will come to an authentic religious life, an authentic personhood, when we dare to ask questions and find a way to live within and through those questions.
Come join us. Bring your life. Bring your heart and your mind. Bring your questions and let’s journey together a while in a communal celebration of lives lived authentically before God and within a world that is more often than not translucent and too often, dark. Or as the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” [1Cor.13:12]
6, 13, 20 and 27. What are these dates, you ask? They are the Sundays in March when you can worship with us. Mark these days and do your best to be in worship every Sunday. You will benefit by the rhythm of a sabbath in your life because honoring a sabbath rest in turn honors your life. Fill your pew, please.
In Session, our women’s fellowship and outreach group, meets after worship on the 6th.
SPRING FORWARD MARCH 13th don’t forget to set your clocks forward by one hour Saturday the 12th before you go to sleep so you can be to church on time.
AWAB invites you to get together for lunch over at Jenny’s after worship on the 13th. We’ll be making plans for outreach and fellowship opportunities. Be sure to check out what is happening on the 20th for one of our first efforts!
Work Day is on the 19th from 10-Noon. We save money in these challenging economic times by not having a custodian. This makes it critical, however, that volunteers do their part every Sunday and especially on our Work Saturday. Please help us spruce up the church and set up for Koinonia Lunch the following Sunday.
Koinonia Sunday is on the 20th. We have our lunch fellowship following the service. Plan on hanging out and getting to know one another.
Baptism Classes begin: Pastor Bledsoe will meet baptismal candidates in his office after worship on the 20th.
AWAB will be filming inside the sanctuary after worship and lunch for the video project, It Gets Better. This is an effort to help young, GBLT people who are often bullied find hope. Kirsten Bledsoe will be directing this film project and editing it. If you are interested in sharing your story of hope, please see Nicole or Pastor.
Deacons and Trustees meet the fourth Saturday of each month. In March that will be the 26th, 10 a.m.
Our Ensemble will continue to meet and prepare for Easter. Please see Kevin if you are interested in singing.
Make March a month of spiritual fulfilment: Get involved, worship and share your lives with one another.
Dr. Bledsoe take time to lead the congregation in a time of prayer during Sunday morning worship service.