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Stasi Archives

The Archives of Grace and Truth

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness.  ~ Exodus 23:1

When a dignified general joins hands with a malicious liar in a scurrilous attack on a widow of a soldier and the congresswoman who comforted her,   then the depths of despair this single act brings to an entire nation is devastatingly profound. We wake up in that moment–if we awaken at all–to just how lost we have become.  This president lies incessantly, daily and about the most sacred things.  General Kelly has polluted his character by joining hands with a malicious witness.  Shame.

After the fall of the Soviet Empire, countries that had been oppressed by the lies and cruelty of that empire began to unearth their archives in an effort to tell the truth about what had happened to them.  The Stasi, the secret police of East Germany, kept a watch over its citizens, turning neighbors against neighbors.  I recall reading about a couple, Vera and Kanud Volenberger, who had grown up in East Germany.  After the Berlin Wall fell, Vera became a German congresswoman and was instrumental in getting the archives of the Stasi opened so people could read their files.  She read her file and discovered details so intimate, details of her health and her husband’s and her finances, excerpts from letters she had written to her children that she realized the only person who could have possibly known her that well and told the Stasi was her husband. She confronted him and he admitted to having been the informer on her.

Americans are waking up to the truth that our president has pitted American against American.  He is the great divider-in-chief, polluting our entire society with lies.  The former President of the Czech Republic nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and honored by George W. Bush with the American Presidential Medal of Freedom, Vaclav Havel, referred to the country in which he had grown up as a “morally contaminated society.”  This sounds very much like the prophet Isaiah’s confession when he cried out in the temple, confronted by a Holy God who expects truth, “woe is me, for I am  a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.”  America is polluted by the lies of presidents and generals poured from unclean hearts and mouths.

There is another archive.  It is the archive of grace and truth. I take this phrase from Dr. James Melvin Washington and his book, Conversations With God: Two Centuries of Prayers by African Americans.  He prayed, “Thou who grants clarity, thank you for permitting us to have access to the archives of Thy grace and truth.”  We desperately need to break open these archives! Testaments of faith, hope and love; the affirmation that we are made in God’s image; the expectation that God is holy and expects us to be holy and just.  The East German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg tells how important the church was to him and others in the midnight of Communist oppression.  The church, he explained, was the one place in their society where they could tell the truth about themselves.

In a culture of pollution, let us find our way toward each other and open the archive of grace and truth.  Step out of the fuming hatreds of hearts on fire with hatred.  Walk into a holy space and time of grace, truth and love.  ~See you Sunday

Army Ten Miler, The Wharf, and Worship

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Coming in the Fall of 2018, our new sanctuary

This Sunday morning, October 8th, is the Army Ten Miler race.  Click here for a map so you can prepare your travel plans into the District.

This coming week, The Wharf has its formal opening and there will be multiple activities and opportunities to see and experience the new SW.  On Sunday October 15th at 4 pm Pastor Bledsoe will participate in a blessing of the Wharf along with other SW clergy.  Our own Lauren White will begin the service as she sings Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna’ Come.   Join us on the District Pier.

The center of our week is worship.  Please join us at 10 am each Sunday at Jefferson Middle School Academy in the school auditorium.  Pastor Bledsoe will be addressing our nation’s gun violence with reference to the assasination of President James Garfield.

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Balance: Turn Off the “News”

In Washington DC, the swirling currents of power and those who want it or those who attempt to live near it, threaten to overwhelm and diminish everything else.  It is difficult to maintain balance and perspective.

Reduce by half the time you spend watching the news.  I use “news” in its broadest terms as an entertainment product produced by a range of radio, print, and internet media.  Reduce the time you devote to that by half.

We have had illustrated for us in recent weeks how a hurricane can inundate every aspect of a person’s life.  The power, the devastation and ruin are so vast that persons living within that matrix are in danger of being swept away by the sheer number of issues and tasks they must undertake to regain their lives.  In such times, you must focus on the most immediate tasks that will insure your safety and health.  Find those few things that you must accomplish this week and then bracket out all of the other issues until such a time arrives that you can sort through them. And while weather reports are important (anyone who lives in a hurricane zone will have to keep an eye on the weather reports), watching those reports on the hour every hour will actually paralyze you.  Reduce your time watching reports to morning and evening and in between, get on with your life.

This is applicable to we who live in D.C.  There is an entire world that can be explored. There are other dimensions of your life that need and deserve attention.  The political vortex of “news” however can pull you in and deplete you of the joy of living in balance.

I pastor a church on the corner of 7th Street and Maine Avenue. Currently we are building a new sanctuary.  And as we do, we worship across the street at Jefferson Middle School.  Every Sunday, at 10 a.m., we dial down the noise and rhetoric and dial into the still, small voice of a merciful Shepherd. We sing, we pray, we live in the light of a greater Good.  Peace like petals from tree blossoms fall around us.  Dignity and blessing are handed out by hands and hugs.  If there is one thing in your routine that might immediately propel you out of the raging currents into a harbor of peace, worship is it.  ~See you Sunday, 10 a.m.

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Fog Lights Through A Disaster

In recent days since Hurricane Irma wrecked much of Florida, I have been dealing on a very personal basis with that wreckage for my mother’s home was ruined by the storm.  I won’t go into those details but suffice it to say I’m learning some things along the way as I navigate this disaster.

A disaster is always personal even when it is regional  One way we naturally gauge disasters like a hurricane is by satellite images and radar or even drones that hover above the landscape and provide us a perspective of the breadth of a disaster. The depth of a disaster, however, lie at the deep level of individual lives. Their narratives are comprised of trauma, harrowing escapes and sometimes unutterable loss.

When the storm dust is in the air, use fog lights.  The first time I learned this lesson was as a child in the back seat of a car. My father was driving and we went down a hill and as we did, suddenly a storm of dust out of nowhere filled the air.  He turned on his lights so he could be seen (ever see folks ride through rain storms without headlights on? they think they can see, and perhaps they can, but we need to see you!) but my father also pointed out that persons headed our way had their bright lights on which filled the dust with light and blinded everyone.  Dim lights or fog lights are the best way to navigate one’s path through.  But of course, people turn on their bright lights and with that they turn up their volume, yelling and frantically lashing out in panic. Turn your fog lights on, turn down the volume and find the path out.

We are interdependent and rely on the kindness of strangers.  I hope the country can finally come to terms with a covenantal view of human interdependency and be done with the half-truths of libertarian and other conservative ideologies that extol the individual’s liberty at the expense of our biblically mandated obligation to care for one another.  The question is not whether or not people “deserve” our help–we all need the help of one another. Living selfishly, as the monk Thomas Merton pointed out, is living at the doorstep of hell.  My mother has now made two trips to two different hotels. This morning, as she drank her coffee in the free breakfast area of the hotel, a stranger helped her with getting some hot water and other items.  Kindness is a hand that lifts our chin. We are humanized by those kindnesses and when we are the ones offering the kindness then we are also humanized in the process.

Life is a storm.  The Buddha’s first noble truth is, life is suffering.  Christianity has at its very center the suffering (the Passion) of the Christ.  To live is to navigate storms and loss.  We all suffer.  For me, at this frantic time, I am doing my best to get to Sunday. Why? Because I know when I get to Sunday, I get to peace and communion with others, hymns of joy and prayers of sustenance.  I hope you can find an oar and paddle your way over to our safe harbor.

~See you Sunday

A swamp

How to Live in the Toxic Atmosphere of Political Strife

I was struck Sunday in our worship service by the power and the simple eloquence of the lectionary reading take from Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 12.  As you embark upon another week and ponder how you’re going to deal with the various catastrophes, hatreds and toxic rhetoric, I urge you to read these words. Print them out and attach them to the refrigerator or  recite them into your life every day this week.  They are words to live by.  They are words that can help us live in the toxic atmosphere of political strife that has permeated our culture.

ROMANS 12:

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 

10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.

12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 

13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 

16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;do not claim to be wiser than you are. 

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 

18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

AMEN.  So be it…in our own lives, in the lives of our leaders and within the sacred bounds of our beloved community.

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Dial It Down

You may have noticed I have been away from the pulpit and from the blog post.  Vacation beckoned me and I responded and how glad I was to break away.  Re-creation is an important theological idea, folks.  It is interconnected with Sabbath rest and biological aspects of renewal we depend upon, like sleep!  I rested a while and frankly, not waking up each day dailed into the Trump Soap Opera was a gift.

Returned now, I am very tempted to speak to the continued shredding of our democratic core values and hopes as a diverse and unified nation.  The failure of diplomatic and mature solutions to Korea, the abysmal silence in the face of White Supremacists in Charlottesville, and the myriad other subjects that occupy us each day now since the inauguration of a White Nationalist to the Presidency of the United States.

But here is what I’d like to say to you as you begin your week:  dial it down. Turn off the news.  See if you can go twelve hours without reading any news or commentary.  In that time, dial into prayer and contemplation, rest and renewal.  Your mind really does not need to access all the information out there.  And I use “information” in its broadest sense.  Don’t tweet for a morning or an afternoon.  When you do this you recognize and honor the truth that Christ holds all things together, not any president.  When you dial it down, you turn off those dripping faucets of anger and resentment.  Take a break. Take a vacation. Take a Sabbath.  The Apostle Paul said it beautifully in his tender letter to the church at Philippi:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” [4:8]  Dial it down and contemplate these things. Start today.

~See you Sunday, Pastor Bledsoe