Tag Archives: the Church

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

I Saw You

communion_handOne of the most fulfilling aspects of being a pastor is the vantage point from which I get to view the world, especially the world of faith, hope and love.  From children to teen-agers to middle-aged adults and seniors, I get to see the treasure of faith developed, sculpted, woven, composed–pick a metaphor!–and it is a beautiful sight.  I would like to share with you some of what I have seen from this overlook of a pulpit.

I saw  you:

Entering the church with crumpled clothes and looking like you had just ascended from some journey in the inner earth, the smoke rising from you and your gait limped.  I saw you arrive earlier than anyone but me in order to make coffee for worshippers and prepare the house of the Lord in your own humble way.  I saw you wearing a robe of faith and laughter for a crown.

I saw you …

Speaking words of kindness, filled like flowers by nectar and so sweet and genuinely kind that they pulled hurt and broken persons into your field of view.  The fragrance of your mercy and hospitality have awakened in people their own quest for the holy.  Your love of God gleams like a star, it dispels darkness.

I saw you…

Praying fervently in the pew, eyes shut tight and lips moving, and words from your inner life falling on the floor like crepe-paper cut-outs of hearts, but rising like spirit and wind.  Your warrior nature submitted to the Prince of Peace in service to God, kingdom of Christ and church.

I saw you…

Singing with your head thrown back and a smile on your face like you were seeing God or at least an angel and I am pretty certain you cannot “sing” like a pop diva or some smooth crooner singing for his livelihood, but sing you did and full of heart and soul so that your notes were pulled like filings by the magnet of God’s love and formed with the celestial choir for a gift of eternal praise.

I saw you…

Weeping.  Your face was cupped in your hands for all the grace you have known and for all the grace you will need to get through whatever it is you’re going through.

I saw you…

Helping your mother into her pew, caring gently for her and thus mimicking her care of you when you were a child. Your devotion was a royal purple robe you pulled onto her shoulders while the God of mercy and love simultaneously placed you beneath the shelter of a wing.

I saw you…

Giggle and smile and roll your eyes, lean into your parent’s side for comfort and peace andthen hop down the aisle to share the Peace of Christ.  Child of God, you are so full of light that I am filled by your light.  The face of Christ peers deeply into my eyes when I look into your face.

I saw you…

Greeting a stranger in the foyer, making sure they knew where to go and how to get there. You smiled and touched in measures of sugar and spice so that friendship could be served, offered as tokens of hope on a paper plate, baked golden brown.

I saw you…

Overcoming your fears, resisting hatred and death and refusing to pick up the stones of ill will that graveled the paths you walked throughout the week. Instead, you turned stones to communion wafers and shared the cup of salvation, grape juice from a jar transformed into symbol of love that overcomes hate, life that overcomes death, light that the darkness cannot put out.

I saw you…

Enter the Shepherd’s gate into the city of God, find your place in the community of believers, link your hands in prayer and extend every fiber of your being toward the Light of the World.  You stood tall, head bowed and one hand extended to the heavens like God was a face to be touched.I saw you worship God.  I saw you full of dignity as the People of God.  And because I saw you, I saw the Nazarene, his clothes crumpled and the smoke of the grave rising from him as he limped on broken feet, ascended from the inner earth,  as he gave a shout that the kingdoms of this world could no longer hold sway over him.  Bless the Lord, you people of the Lord.  Now and world without end.  Amen.

Church Rise

Church_Rise I snapped this photo one recent Sunday morning about eight o’clock.    The sun was rising and piercing through the blue Alpha-Omega window, its  light burst over pews, dusting them with red, blue, green, amber clots of color.  It’s a lovely and contemplative moment in the sanctuary.  I like getting there before anyone else, the entire silent sanctuary of peace all mine.  I’ll tell you what else I like in this picture even though at first, it seems to be that the pew edge is marred that runs along the right border of the photo. Look closely and I think those are finger and hand prints.  The faithful have been here. They have sung, prayed, cried, laughed and worshipped here.  So even though I had the sanctuary to myself that morning, I was not alone.  There was a Church Rise, a community of faith-hope-love that extends for more than a century in this community of faith but part of the church that extends into the far past, even into that upper room where Jesus told his disciples one last time to love one another.

My question to you is, in this first week of a new year, Why would you not enter such a place of peace and leave your prints, abide in the presence of both God and others who are dedicated to loving others as Christ loved us?  It’s time. Come on.  This Sunday will be another Church Rise.  I hope to see you.  ~Pastor Bledsoe