Tag Archives: Worship

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A Prayer on Monday

For the earth that is round or seems to be and goes round and around so that its rotation is somehow synced to my life in ways that defy complete comprehension but this I do know, that seasons come and go and my life is lived out in days whose completion is the setting of the sun and whose beginning is the rising of the sun—so for these mysteries of interconnection and for life, I give thanks.

For my body and five senses though these are gifts that betray me in the course of a day and a week, I give thanks, Lord God.  When I can stand on my two feet and walk, when I can eat from the fruit of the earth and its harvest, when I can feel the healing power of hot water on my face or on my aching and arthritic shoulders, as light enters my eyes and images of the earth are conveyed to my mind via light, I am deeply grateful.

For my mind that is a mysterious gift that defies reductionist science, that cannot be reduced to an analogy with computers, that allows me to critically engage the world around me and most mysteriously, like a three paneled mirror allows me to step out (ex-ist) of my being and behold myself, I give thanks.  For minds that communicate with me from centuries and even millennia ago through scriptures and books and now through media of all kinds and above all, Holy One, for this mind that allows me to speak and hear your Mind.  Selah.

On this Monday when the wicked swarm the earth and the politicians in high places prepare to cut the cords of covenantal obligations to our fellow citizens thus ratcheting even tighter the barbed springs of suffering, O Just God, empower your people to heal the world and cause princes of terror to stumble so that peace and justice might anoint the low, the humble and the outcast.  Have mercy on us, Lord Christ, Good Shepherd, Lamb of God, Child of Mary and Joseph, Light of the world.  Have mercy. Amen +

The Counter-Cultural Power of Covenant Community

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Once upon a time, way back in the 1970s, I worked in a warehouse.  It was a non-union shop in Florida, low wages, hard work and people pretty much stuck.  I was between college and seminary.  It did not take long to see the patterns of these laborers. They worked strictly by the clock.  They had to clock in on time and they definitely wanted to clock out on time.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.  And you know what comes on Friday: TGIF.

People did and do work for the week-end. I’m going to skip over the long battles in this country for worker’s rights and how so many today take for granted that they get a week-end or work a 40 hour week instead of seven days, sun-up to sun-down.  This pattern is what I am focused on, how living for the week-end is ingrained in people’s lives. People are always looking to get across the finish line on Friday and begin the week-end. And then they push their stone back up the hill again starting Monday.

There is another pattern available to us. There is a way to break through the maze of work and and mindless binges in a haze of drugs, drinking or shopping.  That pattern  is called keeping the Sabbath. Whether or not you strictly adhere to the biblical notion of Sabbath beginning on sunset Friday to sunset Saturday or you simply block Sunday out and make time for worship, doing so provides remarkable gifts.  I’ll list a few (there are many more!):

*You are not working but resting and acknowledging the Creator who also sustains the world. And you are remembering this God who is Holy and Just expects us to live holy and just lives, so in that regard, you participate in a primal counter-cultural protest and are liberated into a joyful and satisfying life.

*You are being reminded that you cannot do it all and are not expected to save the world and all of its problems. What you are required to do is walk justly and act mercifully and do your best to alleviate some small amount of suffering in your corner of the universe (I’m paraphrasing Albert Schweitzer with that last phrase).

*You are creating a covenant with others to care for one another and our world. What results from this –week in and week out– is communal discourse or community.  This is one of the greatest antidotes to not only loneliness but our struggle with our own identity.  When you lose yourself inside a covenantal community you end up gaining your life and an identity that can sustain you when you enter back into the work-a-day world.

Many of us are struggling in this madness of an administration that seems hell bent on turning its back on middle America, poor Americans, sick Americans, aging Americans.  I really do believe that the way to peace is peace, the way to justice is justice. Introduce a new pattern or revive the pattern of Sabbath rest in your life.  Find a communal discourse and live at the center of it.

~See you Sunday.

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The Rhythm of Spirit, the Practice of Peace

On June 3rd, about 23 of us entered the sacred space of  Bon Secours Retreat Center in Maryland for a one day retreat devoted to the practice of prayer through the Divine Office and the Lectio Divina.  We were dialed into the rhythm and phases of the day and came to understand the vital practice of praying in the morning and evening as markers along the journey. Some of us will pray at noon and others may do so at the other offices of the day. But here’s the thing–we have kindled a practice of peace, turning and redirecting ourselves from the noise and belligerence of the world around us (and obviously by now we know that the media is belligerent or to put it more precisely, it is a platform for the belligerent). Turn away.  Center down. Breathe deeply.  Read a psalm. Pray a psalm.  Chant a psalm.  Practice silence.  There is a rhythm of the Spirit and a practice of peace and how much we need this in our lives!  Otherwise, what?  Otherwise we are tossed by every wave of news and events that erupt in a day, a week, a month.  Aren’t you exhausted by that?  Of course, we all are.  Practice this rhythm of the Spirit. If you want to discuss with me how you can implement this in your life, feel free to email me and set up a time.

Gathering for worship on Sundays is also a significant part of that rhythm of Spirit and practice of peace.  You get to feel a part of the continent, of the whole; you embrace that which is greater than your self but at the same time have your singularity and uniqueness affirmed. By Song and prayer and scripture and proclamation, we are placed at the center of the celebration of our common humanity and shared humanity; we commune with the Holy One; the Good Shepherd leads us to green valleys and still waters.  Why stay away from that? Why not be part of that? Come on.  You will be welcomed here and we need you as much as you need us.  There is a rhythm of Spirit and a Practice of Peace.   ~See you Sunday

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Life at Riverside:::Worship as Defiance

Life at Riverside Baptist Church this week includes:

Prayer Retreat   Nearly 30 of us are signed up for a full day retreat at Bon Secouers Conference Center where we will be led in ancient ways of prayer including the Liturgy of the Hours, the Prayer of the Heart, and the Lectio Divina.  A Baptist Church bringing congregants to a Roman Catholic Retreat center and being led by a Sister of the order of Bon Secouers and an Oblate of the order of St. Benedict is a vivid illustration of our church’s commitment to ecumenical cooperation.  We value one another and we benefit by the truths and disciplines of one another.  The goal of our retreat is twofold. First, we want to create a peaceful respite from the noise of the world. Thankfully, Bon Secouers has already accomplished that. Second, we want to begin creating contemplative disciplines that will take that peace with us as we leave and benefit our faith and practice for months and years to come.

Deacon Ordination   One aspect of Baptist polity is its congregational polity. That is, we believe in the autonomy of the local church –we do not believe the gifts of the Gospel and the Church reside only in some ecclesiastical hierarchy.  So we call persons out of the congregation to serve the church. Deacons are those who serve the church by extending pastoral care to the congregation. They oversee its two ordinances, Baptism and Holy Communion.  They provide wise counsel to the pastor. Therefore they are ordained to this office, this function, by the church.  We will ordain two new deacons on Sunday, June 4th, in our morning worship. The rite of “laying on of hands” and praying for their empowerment resides with the church and each individual believer.  A simple ritual, it is nonetheless powerful in its expression of local Baptist autonomy and the priesthood of believers. Finally, we ordain women as deacons (and pastors as far as that goes), believing in the egalitarian nature of the Church.  The Deacon Board is not a boy’s club, at least it should not be.  We also ordain LGBT believers as deacons, again believing there is no discrimination at the welcoming table of Christ.  A radically free and Christ-centric church—this is who we are.

Conclusion to Study of Job  Our seminary intern from Wesley Seminary and Aspirant, Tonetta, will conclude our First Sunday Bible Study series on Job on June 4th, following worship.  Tonetta, formerly an English teacher and in her final year at Wesley, brings literary and theological insights to bear on this study.

Worship is the “work” of the church.  It is the most important thing we do.  Worship is not entertainment though one would be hard pressed to conclude otherwise when looking at the religious landscape in our consumer society.  Worship is crossing a threshold into the presence of the Holy and finding oneself in a communion with other kindred souls.  Worship is also a primal act of defiance against idolatries that currently consume our country’s energy and time—idolatries of celebrity cults of personality that includes the current occupant of the White House; idolatries of political power aimed at hobbling the poor, the disadvantaged, the elderly, women and minorities.  In worship, we may enter as persons sorted out and tagged by the larger culture’s interest, but once we enter this space and sacred time, we are transformed into equals, fellow human beings made in the image of God.  I hope you will worship with us Sunday and resist the forces of darkness. Step into the light and peace of God. ~See You Sunday

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Still Point ~ Where to Go When the World Collapses

Last Sunday, I preached a brief sermon on Psalm 23.  Brief, because to say too much was to risk detracting from the self-evident beauty of that favored psalm.  This Sunday we will return to the psalms, focused this time on the lectionary reading for the day, Psalm 130.  It too is a favored psalm in and throughout Christian history.  It is one of seven “penitential psalms” that include psalms  6, 32, 38, 51, 102,  and 143. As lent rapidly moves toward Holy Week and Easter, one would be well-served to read these psalms as a way of entrance into the Light of Easter.

T. S. Eliot turns a phrase about light and contemplation in his poem, Four Quarters.  In Burnt Norton: IV he wrote:

…After the kingfisher’s wing                                                                                       Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still                              At the still point of the turning world…

When all around us the world seems unmoored, rising and falling and crashing upon wave after wave and our little boat of a life seems in peril, where do we go? how do we find respite and shelter? Where to go when the world collapses?  The 130th psalm is entitled, De Profundis, after its initial phrase, “Out of the depths.”  Out of the depths, I cry to Thee, O Lord…  Here is an entrance to the still point, where light has answered to light and the light is still. We arrive or at least, we can arrive at the still point of the turning world.

Each Sunday in a middle school auditorium at 10 a.m., we make our way to that still point.  I urge you to step into that hour of light answering light.  Walk, swim, paddle your way to that hour. Cling to a scrap of the shattered vessel if you must; navigate the perils of a twittered and maniacal rhetoric; but position yourself,  body and soul, into this light and stay a while.  ~See you Sunday

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Sabbath-Keeping As Resistance

The third commandment given to Moses and the Hebrews was, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy 

We are instructed to hallow that day and to remember that God created the worlds and that God liberated the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt.  It is a day of truth-seeking and a time to cultivate covenantal bonds of human dignity and worth. By remembering the Sabbath and hallowing that day, we signal to the world that our commandments come to us via the fountain of life and we are made in the image of God, thus it behooves each of us to live justly, uprightly, and mercifully.

So many of us are stunned by the first three weeks of a new President that has thrown the country into chaos, diminishing our institutional checks and balances, promoting his family’s business from the sanctity of the White House, promoting inaccuracies of all kinds and threatening to destroy politicians who oppose his policies.  What to do in such a time?

Keep the Sabbath.  Hallow the day of rest.  Join in with your brothers and sisters in worship. This is resistance of the subtlest and most profound kind.  Your allegiance is to the King of the Universe, not an earthly prince.  Your strength is renewed and your heart recharged for living a just life.  Your mind is rekindled, the kindling of lies and suspicions and hatreds burned by the fire of truth and of the Divine.  ”We” comes into being.  We  march in the light of God, as we sing on most Sundays. We gather around the table of Christ and give our hearts to the Good Shepherd and to one another.  This is resistance. Here is a source for courage and strength.  I hope to see you Sunday. We need you.  And you need us.  Sunday then.  We hallow the world.  We resist.