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
The second day of May and I am on the Silver Line headed to a faculty meeting, listening to “June Hymn” by the Decemberists. That’s a lot of months in one sentence. But it captures where I’m headed, not to Howard University School of Divinity, but into May, full throttle and “all my life’s a circle” rebounds to me in my little seat as the train operator’s voice crackles over the speaker, unspeakable and unhearable. If that’s a word.
What is ahead is a dedication of an adopted son, Master Mason, by loving parents on Mother’s Day, the 8th of May. And the following Sunday, the baptism of a dear child, Wyatt Alexander, who has conquered my heart since his birth and whose parents I love dearly for their faith and their devotion to their special needs son. These young people are a gift from God to us. We have the blessed opportunity to receive them into our community and as well, to see them as God’s signs of grace to us.
The perspective of a long-time pastor is one of circles, concentric, widening in ever expansive rings of inclusion and rippled across the lakes of lives and church. I’m nearing my stop at Van Ness, switched to the Red Line and switched to Macklemore’s newest album, listening to “Need to Know.” He raps, “we are what we run from.” But at Riverside, we are what we run to. We run to each other and toward God, toward grace and mercy. I hope you’ll worship with us this Sunday. After all, “it’s the circle of life, and it moves us all, through despair and hope, through faith and love…”
~See you Sunday
Strewn along the tops of the tables in the Foster Room are books from the Jerry Davis Library. There are books from the 1960s, some of which deal with issues that threatened the unity of churches (Black Power and Civil Rights, homosexuality, gender equality) and on this side of the 21st Century, it is fascinating to see how our brave little church stood up for Civil Rights, women and gay men and women. Those issues at that time were fuzzy, murky and unclear but our church found a way (and still does) to speak with clarity. There are books about war and politics and there are of course a myriad of religious books.
Speaking of which, I noticed there are several hymnbooks (some given as gifts to the church in honor of loved ones at Fifth Baptist Church). These hymnbooks are somewhat dated but I have said more than once that a practice of piety that you can count on is to have a hymnbook at your night stand so when you cannot sleep or are troubled, you can open that hymnbook and read a hymn as a prayer. There are several–help yourselves and in the process, enrich and encourage your spiritual life.
We are sifting and sorting now. Our summer will be a time for such and then, end of September, we should be exiting this building and stepping into our interim worship arrangements. It is not easy to say goodbye to a building that has offered us sanctuary and where we have evolved as individuals and as a congregation into God’s people. We will do so with dignity and hope. Christ tells the Church (in The Revelation of John), “Behold, I make all things new.” We will trust in him to do so with us, for we have been and are in dialogue not only with our architect (Phillip Renfrow), but we are and have been in prayer with the Architect and Designer of worlds. Of all the things we take with us, let us be sure to take our brave discipleship. Of all we leave behind, may we leave malice, anger, grudges or anything else that weighs us down in our journey. I love how Numbers (10:11) describes the journey about to begin as Moses led the children of Israel into their interim wandering through the wilderness:
Then the Israelites set out by stages
from the wilderness of Sinai
By stages, methodically, full of faith and dedicated to Christ who calls us to the future, let us prepare to leave. Let us prepare to arrive! ~ See you Sunday
When I am mindful as I walk across a small bridge along a bike path flanked by trees and a large creek on one side, then I am mindful that I am suspended but crossing. I am mindful that someone crafted this bridge. I am alert to being a bi-pedal creature, oriented in four directions.
When I am mindful as I count the coins to hand to the cashier, uniformed and standing across from me, a name tag tagged to their chest, then I am mindful that I am part of an exchange today. I am mindful that beyond the coin lie certain tacit covenants between us, that I will hand this coin over and be handed my groceries. I am mindful that we both have names but are separated by a chasm even as we extend hands across that chasm to give and receive.
When I am mindful as I turn out the light and crawl into bed, sheet and blanket to cover me, quiet and silence descended, and sleep covering me quickly then I am mindful of the poverty of my human existence. That I need to be recharged. That my powers are limited to the day that has just spent me. That a descent into twilight and sleep is a resignation of my life over to the world that is greater than my singularity and a commendation of my soul into the boundless care of the Creator. Whether I sing in my head and heart a doxology to paddle into the night of rest that awaits me or pray a thank you, I am mindful until the switch is clicked and my mind rests.
When I am mindful, I wake up.
~See you Sunday. Let us come together and be mindful of mutual presence and the Presence of the Holy One. Perhaps we will step into an Awakening.
This Sunday, February 7th, begins our observance of Black History Month. Pastor Bledsoe will be speaking on the topic, “History As A Weapon of Defiance” (a reference to an excellent essay by Drew Gilpin Faust, “John Hope Franklin: Race & the Meaning of America, “ New York Review of Books, December 17, 2015). An excerpt from that sermon to be delivered:
Our city was recently buried beneath more than 20 inches of snow in two days. It wreaked havoc and continues to interfere with commerce and transportation, weeks after the event. People comprehend this. It is not complex. How is it possible then for our nation and in particular, for Christians, to pretend they cannot comprehend how the effects of slavery, lynching, terrorism, segregation, Jim Crow, mass incarceration and untold suffering continue to destroy Black lives? Slavery and White Supremacy have been apocalyptic catastrophes. Hence, we need a Black History Month to plow through the blizzard of lies that not only sustained these systems but continue to this day to erase, injure, and destroy.
Join us in worship Sunday as we tell the truth boldly about who we are and as we embrace across the chasm of human alienation and despair and find one another, made in the Image of God; and as we dedicate ourselves to protecting one another, loving one another.
~See you Sunday