Tag Archives: SW churches

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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.

Oh, Freedom!

April 4, 1968: Keep Your Eyes On the Prize. Hold On.

This week is a watershed moment in our nation’s history as we ponder the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.  While there are an array of things you can do on Wednesday to honor Dr. King’s legacy and life, I hope you’ll consider going to the nation’s Mall and stand with others who are calling on our nation to End Racism Now, sponsored by the National Council of Churches.

This is also a configurative moment in the life of our church, for Riverside Baptist Church had just completed its building and had set its first worship at 7th & Maine Avenue for Sunday, April 7th, Palm Sunday.  That service was cancelled in lieu of the rioting that broke out in the city, following the Dreamer’s death.  Fifth Baptist Church was reborn,  from a bustling white church of a thousand in 1957, to  a few handfuls of persons that had stayed after the urban “renewal” project in the ’60s; it slowly but surely became a bi-racial church at the behest of Rev. Frank Foster who, after ministering in the streets after those riots while pastor at National Memorial Baptist, came to Riverside.

Now in 2018, extrajudicial executions continue and those who carry them out are not held to account. Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, and very recently in Sacramento, Stephon Clark was shot by police eight times in his back. He was unarmed. He was Black.  As the New York Times columnist, Charles Blow, notes, “These shootings keep happening because, on some level, America finds them acceptable, finds them unfortunate but unavoidable.”

We are a small church. Since 1968, we have moved toward being a church that is bravely actualizing the dream that all of us are equal and can find a way to live together instead of perishing together, as Dr. King would say.  We are vibrantly opposed to the idea that the worship hour must remain the most segregated hour in America. We are passionately engaged in embracing all of God’s children. And we have been marching and calling on our nation to honor Black Lives because they matter as much as other lives.  We obviously have a long way to go.  The world needs a church like ours. We want to live up to that high calling. I hope to see you on the Mall on Wednesday. I will certainly see you at Jefferson Middle School for worship on Sunday.  Keep your eyes on the prize.  Hold on.

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Budget Time: Fix Your Mind on These Things

Most of us are forced to work out a financial budget. We have only so many dollars and so, we sort out the obligations we have from food to rent to travel and medical and subtract that from what we have coming in.  My uncle used to say “so and so has a champagne taste but lives on a beer salary.”  This was his way of pointing out what is obvious: too many of us live beyond our means.

I’m writing this not in order to have a financial discussion with you but in order to have you take the discipline of your financial planning and apply it to your attention span this week and month.  And I’m doing so because what I see around me—not just in our church but in our community and country—are persons who spend nearly every dime of their time on the news, commentary and assorted media outlets.  When a person lives beyond their means long enough, they are at risk of losing everything.  When a person spends all of their time devoted to news and political information across a hundred platforms, it is little wonder that one day they wake up depressed, cynical, exhausted or all three.

Starting now, count out the time you have as change to be spent.  If you have ten hours of time away from your obligations, how will you “spend” the change?  Try not to spend all of it on the news or entertainment.  Where can you spend the hours of your life?  Here is how the Apostle Paul instructed the Philippians:  “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” [Philippians 4:8]

When you do that then the anger begins to dissipate and lessen, the bitterness is removed and in their place we receive joy and peace, wisdom and grace.  Meditate, contemplate, fix your mind on truth, honor, justice, integrity—all manner of things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

~I hope to see you Sunday clothed in our right minds.

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Enchiridion of Faith, Hope and Love

For those of you who attended Sunday services the first Sunday in 2016, for those of you who asked and for those absent but interested, you may find my sermon, “A New Year’s Day Enchiridion,” on the sermon page.  We have begun another year, celebrating Christ’s birth, sharing in holy communion and worshipping God together. This is an auspicious beginning and one we want to carry through in the weeks and months ahead.

Despite the broken world with its violence and ideological hatreds, we are called to love one another.  You might be able to do this all on your own but I doubt it.  Love is communal and is thus in need of a community.  We need you and you need us.  May God meet us at this point of mutual need and transform us into those who heal the world instead of those who harm it.  Grace and Peace to you and yours in 2016 +

~See you Sunday

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Give Thanks. Always.

Through every entrance of any beautiful garden I have ever visited; beside retinues of trees aligned in an array of stippled, green, pinpoints of color; standing on the borderland of shoreline that separates sea and sky and earth while at the same time acting as a seam that sews them as one fabric called the universe; engraved within a ring worn as an emblem of life…I have always heard these words resounding as a chorus, the coruscating high descant, the rose adorned emblem engraved onto the wooden gate :

Thank you

Begin and end there.   Let it be the incantatory response of your life, for life.  See you Sunday~  Thanks be to God.