Tag Archives: peace and justice church

What Did You Do In a Time of Cruelty?

beloved_communityWho the heck is running things?  Have you ever asked that? Maybe at the Department of Motor Vehicles?  The doctor’s waiting room?  The grocery checkout?  Our country?

For two weeks I have been “gone” on vacation and I can tell you what I did not do:  never turned on the television; did not read one news article in print or online.  I was in solitude and dialed into contemplative mode.  I highly recommend that you practice a news blackout for at least one day in the week for your own sanity and peace.  It was indeed a restorative time as I did not digest the toxic spew gushing out of the White House and Congress.

We, by which I mean our country, have descended to depths of depravity and cruelty that defy reason.  We are a rich and resourceful country. There is no reason to grant massive transfers of wealth to the richest while denying citizens access to healthcare.  There is no reason to separate children from their parents and imprison them for the crime of fleeing poverty and violence.  No reason other than an intentional cruelty.  There is no way to square what we are seeing with the compassion of Christ and those Christians who have provided cover for this administration’s assault on dignity should stop doing so.  Immediately.

Look, kingdoms rise and fall.  Princes, Kings and Presidents come and go.  We will survive this presidency of petulance and hate but soberly speaking, we will not return immediately to what we were or could have been.  The debacle and sin that is this administration and the Congress will take a generation to undo.  Meanwhile, here is what you can say to those who ask you how you are navigating this treacherous time:  I belong to a community of faith that week in and week out seeks to live as the Beloved Community.  That is worth more than I can put into words.  Doing so ennobles your life, provides you peace and luminously illustrates to the world what the world needs to know—that  we are made in God’s image and we can and are obligated to treat  others as though they carry within them God’s image.

I hope to see you in the Beloved Community on Sunday as Westminster Presbyterian and Riverside Baptist Churches worship together.  11:00. Sunday. At Westminster Presbyterian in SW, DC.  Step out of the madness and into a community of peace, justice and compassion.

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The Church in Shadowland America

End the Cruelty:  National Council of Churches Statement on Separating Children of Immigrant Families.

If you can cast a shadow—be it your hand on the wall of your imprisonment or your body along the sidewalk you navigate—there is light. Shadow is not possible without light.

We are living in dark days, our country unraveled from former notions of democracy and human rights. We separate children from mothers and fathers at the borderlands while our highest officials quote from holy scripture to defend the profane and hideous.  Shadowland and shadows everywhere.

The maelstrom of heated rhetoric,  a firestorm of disunion and civil war, sends sheets of flame across newspaper, social media and congress.  We cannot seem to enter any conversation anywhere—homes, offices, churches—without the pollution of smoked and incendiary speech. Where is peace? Where the words of grace and inclusion?

I sat in a church this last Sunday, Westminster Presbyterian Church in SW DC, along with members of my church, Riverside Baptist Church, and we sang sweet words of sacred timbre; we prayed words in fervent desire for healing and repair of our lives; we read ancient texts devoted to the Holy; listened to a proclaimer of scripture remind us of faithfulness and a heart of obedience; we shared food at table and we embraced one another.  It was a luminous beehive of peace and justice.  We were radiant and because there is Light, we can see light. And yes, there are shadows in this shadowland of what used to be a beacon of freedom and light called America.  Just remember: if you can cast a shadow, there must be light.

I hope to you see you this coming Sunday at Westminster [400 I St.] where two churches dedicated to light and peace and justice meet.  11 a.m. Beloved:   Sing. Pray. Be the beloved community.

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A Golden String: How To Begin A Life Of Spirit

The mystical painter and poet, William Blake,  wrote these words in his poem entitled, “Jerusalem.”

I GIVE you 
the end of a golden string;
  Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate,
  Built in Jerusalem’s  wall.…

A brief verse, but filled with clues about a life of spirit!  The life of spirit is inaugurated often by someone giving us something.  In this case, Blake is offering a golden string.  Perhaps someone—a professor, a teacher, a pastor, an artist or parent—gave you a question to answer or an answer to question that led you to search.  In my life, my sacred journey began when, as a child just about five years old, my mother told me there is a God.  I remember that.  It planted a seed in my mind and my heart. And I have been winding her golden string handed to me ever since…

The string is golden.  Can you  detect the irony in this?  String is so ordinary, such a mundane and coarse thing.  It is, in a word, cheap.  But Blake is offering a golden string.  Gold is valuable, of course.  What is ordinary or common has, in his poem, taken on enormous value and importance.  This has the aroma of Jesus’ parables.  A man finds a treasure in a field and sells all he owns in order to buy the field.  Leaven is small but it leavens an entire loaf.  A mustard seed of faith can move a mountain.  But too often we judge our spiritual lives by our society’s standards.  Big is better, more is best, the right brand name is preferable and so forth.  This is one reason, I suggest, that people flock to preachers and churches that push those buttons of prosperity and wealth.  But Blake understands in a profound way what the bible knows:  a life of spirit begins when the common or ordinary takes on the gold of a spiritual journey.  The woman at the well offered a cup of water to a man she didn’t know.  He offered her the water of life that would quench her soul.

In Baptist life and thought, faith comes by hearing the Word of God. In other words we are given the Word, twined together like string and dipped into gold.  Wind them into a ball and they “will lead you in at Heaven’s gate.”

Worship is a gate.  It is an opening, a threshold, a passage-way.  From what to what?  From the world of the mundane to the kingdom of the holy.  From the huts of our wilderness wandering into the Temple of Being.  Wind the ball, begin your sacred journey… ~see you this Sunday in what is at the surface level a middle school auditorium but on deeper inspection is a gate, a golden threshold into the life of spirit.

Two Kinds of Steel

steel_frame_day6Monday morning, April 23rd, the first steel beam was put into place by a crane on our construction site. By Saturday, much of the steel frame was in place.  We thank God for this progress and for the many workers who work tirelessly to construct our church.  The picture you see was taken on Saturday morning, just six days into the process.

Another kind of steel caught my eye this week.  The steel of character.  Let me tell you what I mean and the discovery of it was very exciting and joyful.

On Thursday morning I noticed that Google was honoring a 1948 London Olympian from the Netherlands, Fanny Blankers.  And clicking on that link, I noticed a Youtube film of the 1948 Olympics that is an hour in length.  I immediately thought of Riverside’s own Olympian, Emma Wright, who had grown up in Mississippi, and found her way onto the first American Olympic Team after WWII. She competed in the broad jump.  Emma was a gentle, kind, wonderful Christian woman.  And how proud we were and are of her!  So I began to watch this film from 1948 in hopes that I might see Emma.  Sure enough, the film begins with the processional of the athletes into the Olympic Stadium.  Late in the processional came the Americans and soon, walking across the screen, there she was!  A young woman, proudly representing her country and her family. You can see her in the photo below where she is second from the right.  I have made the photo black and white except for Emma.  How amazing to reach back into time and find this.  She possessed a character of steel. While she is no longer with us and will not walk into our new building in November, we nonetheless sense her presence and remember her. Tomorrow, Sunday, I will preach on “The Horizon of Expectation.” I’ll talk a little about steel and the future.  ~See you Sunday

Processional of American athletes in the 1948 London Olympics.

Processional of American athletes in the 1948 London Olympics.

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The Courageous, The Just, Right Now

MARCH FOR OUR LIVES young people:

we believe in you, we pray for your success because your courage and commitment to justice can change our nation.

BAN ASSAULT WEAPONS RIGHT NOW

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Put down your guns. Stop taking blood money from the NRA.  And by all means, stop giving the NRA money to perpetuate the madness of gun violence in the United States.

Welcome to Washington DC:  We need you, we applaud you.

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Riverside Grants For Those Who Heal Our World

Join us this Sunday as we once again distribute grants to those who heal our world!  One year ago on Martin Luther King Sunday, Riverside Baptist Church dispersed $100,000 in nearly 30  small grants to groups who are healing our world. We did this because we believed good stewardship responds to the world out of the storehouse of one’s blessings–we had just secured an endowment that will hopefully protect and serve our church for decades to come. So the first thing we “spent” money on were these grants to support and empower those who heal the world.

One year later, the Endowment Team selected and the church unanimously voted to approve the dispensing of $25,000 in grants to ten institutions that are busy healing our world. Below you will see a list of those recipients.  All we can say is how moved we are by the courage and mercy extended by these institutions and their volunteers! They inspire us to compassion and action on behalf of others.  And I am proud to serve as pastor to a church that wants to share its blessings with those who heal and mend our world. The grantees:

The Arc of Montgomery County
The Arc supports families by providing child care, work skills training, employment, community living services, resources, respite care and advocacy.
 
Children’s National Medical Center
Provider of pediatric critical care and essential medical services to children, regardless of insurance or ability to pay.
City Gate Ministries
 Their mission in a sentence:  ”To provide quality education for children in Washington DC’s neighborhoods of greatest need.” Besides seeding our money into local Baptist efforts to heal the world, City Gate offers us the chance to supplement programs for children in some of our city’s neediest neighborhoods. 
 
Commission Baptist Institute
Commission Baptist Church in Monrovia, Liberia, operates a school for 200 children. Liberia is, as you know, one of the poorest countries in Africa with 60-80% living below poverty level.  Commission Baptist Institute needs aid to keep these children in school.
 
DC Center for the LGBT Community
The DC LGBT Center educates, empowers, celebrates, and connects the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.

 
Doctors Without Borders
Provides emergency medical care to patients who are victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and natural or man-made disasters – worldwide.
The Holocaust Museum
In honor of Rabbi Zemel and Temple Micah and in memory of Otto Feuer.  Otto was a survivor of the camps and his son, Michael, is a member of Temple Micah and has donated to the museum Otto’s pants and shirt from the camp and a jacket he wore.  A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity.
 
House of Ruth
Non-profit community-based organization caring for families, including women and children, victimized by domestic violence.
Safe Shores – The DC Children’s Advocacy Center
Safe Shores provides children with therapy, clothing, meals, books, financial assistance, advocacy and forensic interviews — all free of charge and in a welcoming, child-friendly and safe space.
 
Syrian-American Medical Society
A non-political, non-profit medical relief organization that is working on the front lines of crisis relief in Syria and neighboring countries to alleviate suffering and save lives.  SAMS has supported over 400,000 surgeries during the 6-year conflict in Syria.