Tag Archives: Worship

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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.

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Beyond the tweeted trifling nonsense: Now is the time to worship

It is storming and you’re outside in it.  Rain in sheets and at times metal pellets of water.  Lightening, thunder, flash flood threatening you. There is a small, warm shelter nearby. What do you do?
You enter that warm shelter.
The office, the train car, the world around you is toxic.  It’s hard to breathe.  It is hard to see.  Nearby is a transparent tent.  You can see the air inside is clear and clean.  The toxic vapors are repelled and flow past it, a vapor trail.  What do you do?
You enter the clean air of that tent.
 Weariness grips you in a bone-deep ache.  Despair like shadows descend.  You see people exiting a building who seem invigorated, empowered, full of courage and hope.  They point you to the building, saying that each week they enter it and are filled, their humanity and dignity repaired.  What do you do?
Every Sunday a group of us, approximately 70, sometimes ten more sometime ten less, enter a middle school auditorium in SW Washington DC. For an hour we make that space a sanctuary of peace and a refuge, a safe place free of toxicity and hatred, a place of empowerment to all who would work for justice and peace. We sing. We pray. We listen to scripture and the Word of God is proclaimed—a Word that endures beyond the tweeted trifling nonsense of our culture.  You can taste some of this by clicking on a sermon and listening to it. Try, for example, this past Sunday’s sermon, “The Joy Formidable.”
You know when and how to get out of a storm.  You know you prefer peace to toxic rhetoric.  So what’s keeping you?  Get out of the rain.  Come, now is the time to worship. ~See you Sunday
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It’s Sunday, Forget The Polls

You could stay home Sunday and watch another round of talking heads.  But at this point, why would you?

You could go online and check polls at various news outlets and ideological outposts and forget coming to church for an hour to sing, pray and hear scripture read and expounded upon.  But at this point, why would you do that?

Our souls need respite from the turmoil of the world and especially we need access to light, unfettered grace and love, the truth of God-in-Christ, reconciling the world.

Saturday night, turn your clock back one hour and then Sunday morning, bring your soul to worship.  You got a soul–don’t give it to the politicos this Sunday.  Bring it to Christ for restoration, redemption, renewal and empowerment.  In the Name of God, peace to you and all whom you love. ~ See you Sunday!

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Tweetless, Restorative Silence and God’s Word

Do we really need another sham debate in this gruesome election cycle?  This is not unlike one more nuclear weapon—for what? To bounce the rubble?  What a shameful spectacle the United States has put on for the rest of the world and I’m not talking solely about the politicians who befoul the public square but I am talking about the citizens of this country that put up with this, promote it and behave like craven lunatics.

How many hours in a day do you devote your eyes and ears to the rhetoric of political discourse and news in this country? Take a break.  Seriously. For your own well-being, turn off the taps at the t.v., the computer, your smart phone and whatever other device you rely on to fill your mind with the bleak words of a dying culture.

The world has always been somewhat noisy.  John the Baptizer was out in the wilderness tweetless for a reason.  Silence may be the most underrated power available to us for healing and restoration.  Aren’t you sick and tired of all those words chewed on, the cow curd of a debased society tossed up for us every day over and over and over?

There is a Word from the Lord, however, that is restorative and in one hour in a week, in a middle school auditorium (Jefferson Middle School Academy where we worship for the near future and interim) you can access both silence and that Word; contemplation and proclamation aimed at your soul.  Isn’t it time for some soul care?

The Word of God severs and dissembles/the Word of God repairs and restores. The Word of God shatters and shakes/the Word of God rattles bone to bone and remakes. The Word of God pierces hearts and minds, unveiling all it finds/the Word of God clothes hopelessness with the raiment of grace.  The Word of God confounds the unrighteous and the wicked/the Word enlightens the wise and provides for the weak.  The Word of God divides the sea, straightens crooked paths, makes low every mountain, lifts valleys so that the uneven ground is made level and all flesh will behold the glory of God because, as Isaiah said, “the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” [Isaiah 40:1-5]

We need to hear the Word of the Lord.  May the Word of God in Christ remove the stigma of your wounding, restore you heart, soul, mind and body.  Let nothing terrify you; but in all you face and within all you do, may the Word of Christ so fill you with courage that you withstand and stand.  The triune God engrave the eternal name upon your hearts.  Stand on your feet and live.  Enter the silence. Hear the Word.

~See you Sunday