Tag Archives: inclusive baptist church dc

compass

A Compass and a Triptik: Navigating The Spiritual Life

I have never used a compass to navigate any journey I have undertaken but I am sure I have depended on persons –like pilots–who did use a compass.  Even without having used one, I’ve seen one and of course, I know it is important to know where East and West are, North and South, in relation to me and wherever it is I am located.

triptik1Some of you are old enough to remember Triptiks, those maps that AA A would print you with details on not only which roads to take in your route to your destination but also warnings on construction and advice on speed traps.  Those were useful but of course were overtaken by Mapquest in the dawning internet age and now, of course, GPS systems we carry in our pockets on our phones.

Getting located is something most of us find very important.  Indeed, when a loved one or friend seems overwhelmed by circumstances in their lives we will sometimes say, “they seem lost” or “they don’t know where they’re going.” And it is why sometimes we’ll say to our loved ones, be they children or spouses, “come home” since home is that one place where they not only have to let you in (I believe that was Robert Frost’s definition) but it is the one place to be counted on for knowing where you are in the world.

Which all may explain why the Church has hymns like Softly and Tenderly that has the line “come home.”  It yanks at our heartstrings. And the Bible has remarkable stories like the one Jesus taught about a young son who took off with his inheritance, squandered it to the point of living and eating with pigs and finally returned home.  His father, standing on a porch and seeing him from the distance, ran to meet him in the road, hugged and kissed him and welcomed him home.

Navigating the spiritual life involves all of these things:  finding a compass or GPS or map, sensing that one is lost (it is impossible to be found if one has not awakened to the truth that s/he is lost), and making the trip.  I hope you’ll join us this Sunday for worship.  It is basically the place and time when we who have been and are lost find our way home. We’ll sing “Amazing Grace” and declare that we’ve been found. We’ll rejoice in the sheer joy of being human beings made in the image of God. We’ll embrace like a family reunion and we’ll humbly make our way to God whose light, like a sun rising in the East, confirms the road we’re on leads to a place called faith, hope and love.  ~ See you Sunday

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The Patriot Organ Grinder

On July 4, 2016, I will give thanks for being a citizen of the United States of America, my native land, my country.  For its freedoms and ideals so beautifully stated in its founding documents.

I will also pray for the entire world where other citizens rejoice in their citizenship, love their country and admire their ideals.

It is not easy to tack between the right wing and the left wing on Independence Day.  I marvel that the Left can celebrate and fly the flags of other nations, particularly of nations either harmed by the U.S. or opposed to the U.S. but cannot take pleasure in their own nation’s flag.  Everyone has a right to love their country.  I marvel no less at the Right that insists that the United States is exceptional, so different from other countries as to warrant our absolute obedience despite whatever wrongs it has carried out in our names.

As a Christian, my ultimate allegiance is to Christ and the Kingdom of God.  I love my nation but I do so out of a critical engagement with its ideals and its practices. Right now, the Patriot organ grinder is churning out his relentless jingles, ginning up the passions and anger and fears of fellow citizens.  Christian Evangelicals have been captured by the Patriot organ grinder’s tune.  Below is an excerpt from Mark Twain’s autobiography when he reminisces about the nomination for President in the Republican Party of 1876, candidate from Maine, James Blaine.  Twain refused to support him though he was loosely affiliated with Lincoln’s Party.  His colleagues criticized him for not supporting the nominee.  Twain’s words are as prudent for our consideration today as they were then:

…I said: “But we don’t have to vote for him.” Robinson said “Do you mean to say that you are not going to vote for him?” “Yes,” I said, “that is what I mean to say. I am not going to vote for him.” The others began to find their voices. They sang the same note. They said that when a party’s representatives choose a man, that ends it. If they choose unwisely it is a misfortune, but no loyal member of the party has any right to withhold his vote. He has a plain duty before him and he can’t shirk it. He must vote for that nominee. I said that no party held the privilege of dictating to me how I should vote. That if party loyalty was a form of patriotism, I was no patriot, and that I didn’t think I was much of a patriot anyway, for oftener than otherwise what the general body of Americans regarded as the patriotic course was not in accordance with my views; that if there was any valuable difference between being an American and a monarchist it lay in the theory that the American could decide for himself what is patriotic and what isn’t; whereas the king could dictate the monarchist’s patriotism for him—a decision which was final and must be accepted by the victim; that in my belief I was the only person in the sixty millions—with Congress and the Administration back of the sixty millions—who was privileged to construct my patriotism for me.*

Happy Independence Day.  Tell the Organ grinder to go home. We are better than the tunes he plays.  ~ See you Sunday

*[Twain, Mark; Smith, Harriet E.; Griffin, Benjamin; Fischer, Victor; Frank, Michael B. (2010-11-15). Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition, Volume 1 (pp. 316-317). University of California Press. Kindle Edition.]

 

Genocide, Rwanda and the End of the Superstition Called Progress

God_Sleeps_RwandaSunday, June 26th, The Riverside Book Club hosts Dr. Joseph Sebarenzi as he talks with us about his acclaimed memoir God Sleeps in Rwanda. Dr. Sebarenzi experienced the tragedy of the Rwandan genocide and then rose to become the third most powerful man his country while pushing for greater democracy. Joseph will read excerpts from his book as well as take questions.  Join us in the Foster Room next Sunday after worship, approximately 11:15 a.m.

I will be preaching a sermon entitled, A Wreck of A World, in which I attempt to speak critically and theologically about evil and what this says not only about God but also about the last great superstition, as Christopher Lasch, referred to it, progress.  At Riverside, we are accustomed to using both our minds and our hearts in our struggle to understand God and ourselves.  We pose deep questions knowing that shallow questions only lead to shallow answers.

Please be sure to check out the Sermons tab where you can catch up on sermons you have missed or send a link to a friend or shut in or someone whom you think might like listening to a sermon online.  ~See you Sunday

Riverside Church Cherry Blossoms

Why I Don’t Go to Church … and why I do

I don’t attend church in order to find God. I attend church because God found me.

I do not enter the church to be entertained. Instead, my hope is that in telling the truth about my life, our world and measuring these beside the great Truth of God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ, I will be challenged to live an authentic life.

I don’t attend church to have my political ideas confirmed or the platform of the Republican, Democratic or Libertarian parties stapled into my bible.  I attend in order to hear about God’s rule, sometimes translated as “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven.”

I don’t attend church to “sow a seed” in order that I might become “prosperous.”  I worship God who has blessed me already, gifted me with life and is worthy of my praise and thanksgiving.

I do not enter a church to hear a preacher denounce and berate people, spew hatred or pick on persons who are already at risk in our culture at large. I enter the church to hear about faith, hope and love since, as the Apostle Paul wrote, these three endure when everything else passes away.

I do not enter a church to gossip, text, Facebook or check email.  I turn off those devices and turn my back on gossip in order to fellowship, deepen the bonds of love and friendship between myself and God’s people.

I step out of a mad world in love with violence, stoking revenge, fixated on guns and enter the church for peace, peacemaking and justice.

There is a place of peace. Go there. Be found.  Embrace truth. Be filled with joy.  Be girded in faith.  Hold your head up in hope.  The love of Christ sustain you.  ~See you Sunday

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The Church As Table

Sunday was a fabulous day with wonderful music, singers and musicians; prayers and scripture; and a sermon about “Table Stories.”  In that sermon the following definition of Church was offered:  ”The church is that group of persons who by gratitude and thanksgiving, offer a banquet in honor of the Christ and invites others to join them there so they can meet him.”  And from there I asserted:

“How preposterous then that the church is divided along lines of race and class, gender and orientation.  We follow Jesus, who invited everyone to share at table with him and in turn, was willing to enter anyone’s home who invited him.  The church ought to be offering a table of welcome and hospitality to all.  That is our mission. That is our identity. ”

Aren’t you tired of worshipping in a church that works on cutting people out, kicking folks off the island, putting out torches instead of lighting them?  Why would you remain in a church that hates you or, for that matter, hates anyone? Aren’t you tired of not worshipping, of sitting out and avoiding holy spaces because you’re afraid of unholy and mean people?  I know a place that practices a radical table fellowship. Christ shows up there.  We would love to hear your table story and have you join with us because life is too short not to pray, praise, connect, commune, celebrate, weep together, laugh together, journey together in this sacred journey.  ~See you Sunday.