Sunday Service for April 11 Is Now Available

The Sunday service for April 11, 2021 is now available here. You can also view a list of past Sunday services here.

We welcome visitors joining us and ask that you go here to let us know you were here today. There is also an option to sign up for our weekly newsletter at that link so that you can keep up with the activities of our church.

Visitors are also invited to join the online prayer meeting at 11:00 am after the Sunday service. Today’s prayer meeting will conclude with virtual communion. Please gather communion elements of bread or a cracker and a cup to share in this sacrament.

To balance the spiritual needs of church-goers with the physical health risks from gatherings and COVID-19, Riverside Baptist Church is offering online Sunday services. Rev. Mumejian shares the word of God and a bulletin guides you through the service. Through these online resources, you can continue to connect with God and the Riverside community.

God Participates in Our Suffering

“God not only participates in our suffering but also makes our suffering into his own and takes our death into his life.”

Jürgen Moltmann

We keep hearing it, this past year has been one for the books, one “heck” of a year; I know I’ve said it more than once. And the truth is for many, many people it really has been a pretty horrible year to put it mildly. The Pandemic has now brought death to over 560,000 lives in our country alone. That number doesn’t begin to account for the countless many who are suffering the lingering effects of the virus. Nor does it take into account the economic hardship and injustices so many have faced.

This past year also brought to the forefront the suffering and injustice faced by many people color. There have been numerous killings of innocent black lives, mostly by the hands of the state meant to serve and protect them. Asian Americans have seen a grisly rise in hate-crimes along with many lives cut short. All the while desperate families fleeing from imminent danger to find a better life here (in the country that most likely created the conditions for why they had to flee in the first place) were met with Gestapo like tactics, being thrown into literal cages, while babies and children were ripped from their parents. I still haven’t got to the insidious insurrection just a few blocks from our church that took the lives of five people. And of course there are our own personal losses, loved ones gone in other ways. I could go on, but I think the picture is unfortunately clear enough.

And so, here we are in Easter. We’re doing our best to live into the Easter reality, into the truth of resurrection. We’re doing our best to claim the joy of Jesus’ conquering of death and shall continue to claim that joy. We celebrate lives lived, and life itself for Jesus has brought victory. Yet Jürgen Moltmann says, “God not only participates in our suffering but also makes our suffering into his own and takes our death into his life.” Holy Week reminds us of a God who loves us, joined in our suffering, continues to join in our suffering, and takes our death in to his life. May we take solace and comfort in the God who provides balm for those in pain, offers hope for the hopeless, soothes all suffering, and conquers death, for this realization is Easter.

~Rev. Nick

Easter Sunday Service Is Now Available

The Easter Sunday service for April 4, 2021 is now available here. You can also view a list of past Sunday services here.

We welcome visitors joining us and ask that you go here to let us know you were here today. There is also an option to sign up for our weekly newsletter at that link so that you can keep up with the activities of our church.

Visitors are also invited to join the online prayer meeting at 11:00 am after the Sunday service. A servanthood meeting for church members will follow the prayer meeting.

To balance the spiritual needs of church-goers with the physical health risks from gatherings and COVID-19, Riverside Baptist Church is offering online Sunday services. Rev. Mumejian shares the word of God and a bulletin guides you through the service. Through these online resources, you can continue to connect with God and the Riverside community.

Down To The Cross

Friends, this week we have a meeting to attend. It’s not a business meeting, so no business casual attire, and no business class seats (or pews), with a window view from which we can look down upon the world, and our fellow humanity. We are traveling by foot, down an unpaved road, on a crowded street. It is a meeting with Jesus down at the foot of the cross. But before we get there some decisions must be made. You see for our meeting to take place we must decide to go with and stay with him there. This is not a moment of pomp and circumstance, but of abandonment and transformation. A decision to follow him, will mean checking your status, your pride and worldly education; (not brain) at the door. To follow him to this cross may mean death for us, but guaranteed death for him. Understanding the true Gospel of Jesus, in today’s nationalized, center left or far right, commodified religions is not easy.

His birth and presence challenged an empire. An empire which sought to acquire, control and define the peoples Worship. This society was numb to the pain, suffering and despair of this broken but beautiful world. We will talk about beauty another day, but today I want us to see the tragic murder of an innocent man named Jesus from Nazareth. The very same empire sent his mother, Mary, fleeing from her homeland to save the life of her newborn baby. Why? What had this child full of promise done? After some time away, for safe keeping he returned a boy, ready to become a man. A child full of promise, steeped in the knowledge of his purpose and mission, he began his ministry. He would not pass by the woman at the well. He would not allow a woman accused of committing adultery to be stoned. He would not allow the crowd on the banks of the river to leave hungry, and after showing them compassion and healing them he feeds the multitude with two fish and five loaves of bread. This caused such a disturbance to the religious, contemporary and earthly authorities’ way of life, that a plot to kill him was ultimately conceived. The empire which claimed and comforted that prominent religious community, struck at night. Attempting to hide their acts by cover of darkness. Jesus was there announcing a new “Kindom” (Rev. Starlette Thomas). Yes, as in those whom you oppose and oppress are my Kin, they are my family. And, as his time with us will be short, the Word made flesh demonstrated the power of God. The same power which will liberate us.

He does not come to bring peace, nor to enlarge our territory. No, he comes with a sword. He comes with a word, words which still keep the powerful up late at night, words which strike fear into the heart or mind of the rich and powerful: “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” Something must be done. And with their hands wringing, and minds spinning, a trap is set. One of his closest friends will sell him out! An arrest is made. He will be beaten all night long and mocked. A show trial is had, and the verdict pronounced. GUILTY. Pilate tries to wash this man’s blood from his hands, but the water is powerless to make him guilt free. Just as our baptism with water alone does not, and will not guarantee freedom from our transgressions, or a guilt ridden conscious. His execution is scheduled for Friday morning. A rugged cross is made for him, a crown of thorns pressed in his head, and he is made to walk a road to a hill of skulls. Along the way a black man is seized and made to carry the cross behind Jesus. “Luke 23:26, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.” His unwitting participation paints a map for the journey we too shall take.

We too must be seized by the spirit, in order to carry this cross. It alone ensures the ultimate downfall of empires which mock God, as they brutally attack and oppress the innocent. Author and scholar: James Cone’s book: “The Cross and The Lynching Tree”, expresses the theological significance of this poignantly. As we make our way to our own meeting with Jesus; remember to pack light. Take nothing with you for your journey. No race, no class, no currency and no hate. Our Great High Priest became a sacrifice for the liberation of the oppressed. The Son of God, The Word made flesh, signs a New Covenant for us in his blood. To partake in this covenant requires more than rituals, or membership in good standing. It will require more than an allegiance split between God, career and country. It announces a reckoning; “Repent, the Kindom of God is at hand”. The Gospel makes reordering of our very way of life necessary. It will mean symbolically leaving behind the world which welcomed him not, and still holds hostility for the immigrant. It brings an end to the dominate social order and brings about the Reign of Christ’s Grace and coming Glory. This sounds like foolishness to some folks, yet 1 Cor. 1:18 says “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’” And as we find ourselves in this Holy meeting, at the cross of Jesus, may we come to see in God’s wisdom and righteousness, just how foolish and often cruel, this world so loved by God truly is. May we find the strength to re-prioritize, be re-educated, and renewed as we go with Jesus; down to the cross.

Service for Palm Sunday, March 28 Is Now Available

The Palm Sunday service for March 28, 2021 is now available here. You can also view a list of past Sunday services here.

We welcome visitors joining us and ask that you go here to let us know you were here today. There is also an option to sign up for our weekly newsletter at that link so that you can keep up with the activities of our church.

Visitors are also invited to join the online prayer meeting at 11:00 am after the Sunday service. A servanthood meeting for church members will follow the March 28 prayer meeting.

To balance the spiritual needs of church-goers with the physical health risks from gatherings and COVID-19, Riverside Baptist Church is offering online Sunday services. Rev. Mumejian shares the word of God and a bulletin guides you through the service. Through these online resources, you can continue to connect with God and the Riverside community.

Acknowledge Our Brokenness

Centering dominate, white culture (even within in the church) must be disrupted in order for us to find new paths that we can walk together. We are in the midst of the season of Lent, a time in the Church when we acknowledge our brokenness. The same deep brokenness that caused religious and political leaders to conspire together to kill Jesus Christ, the bearer of love, rather than embrace his faithful witness is evident in the killings of innocent victims in Atlanta and the other-ing and violence across the country. Each one of us is called to disrupt our desire for comfort and familiarity, to enter a beloved community where all can flourish.

Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia

This past week we saw the horrible tragedy of yet another racially motivated killing. Anti-Asian racism has increased drastically since the begin of the pandemic, largely due to certain elected officials using racial slurs to describe the virus. We at Riverside stand with our Asian-American sisters and brothers and condemn all forms of racism and bigotry.

What further made matters worse was the initial briefing by local law enforcement that suggested the killer “was having a bad day” and committed the crimes because of sexual addiction. This particular officer, who at one-point last year encouraged the sale of t-shirts that had a racial slur written on it, said he did not think the attack was racially motivated. I won’t go into the all the numerous details of why this horrendous attack was most certainly racially motivated; many other more nuanced and intelligent pieces have been written on the subject. To be clear, the attack wasn’t just racially motivated, but was intersectional cross matters of race, misogyny, and social status. There have been innumerable “bad days” that did not end up with eight innocent people dying.

I do wish to briefly address this idea that somehow the killer’s piety played into his vile actions. First off, it doesn’t. If the killer was a person of faith, particularly the Christian faith, he wouldn’t have resorted to any form of violence. In fact, Jesus instructs us in Matthew 5:29, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna.” That’s YOU, YOUR, your eye, not that of any other. To somehow state that the killer’s combination of faith and sexual addiction led to these actions is to minimalize the teachings of Jesus and to not recognize the effects of toxic purity culture in many churches. Jesus instructs us to handle our own affairs before we engage with others’. “… how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:5). I weep for the victims and pray for peace to come their loved ones. These victims were innocent, and targeted because of the racist, perversive beliefs of the killer.

We must continue to train our eyes to see each other as image bearers. We are all children of God and bear God’s image. When racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and the like rear its ugly head, it’s because of a failure to see God in each other. I pray for the many victims across our country who are in pain. I pray that God will not just be the Great Physician, but on this occasion the Great Ophthalmologist training and healing our eyes to see one another as we are, children of God.

~ Rev. Nick

Sunday Service for March 21 Is Now Available

The service for March 21, 2021 is now available here. You can also view a list of past Sunday services here.

We welcome visitors joining us and ask that you go here to let us know you were here today. There is also an option to sign up for our weekly newsletter at that link so that you can keep up with the activities of our church.

Visitors are also invited to join the online prayer meeting at 11:00 am after the Sunday service.

To balance the spiritual needs of church-goers with the physical health risks from gatherings and COVID-19, Riverside Baptist Church is offering online Sunday services. Rev. Mumejian shares the word of God and a bulletin guides you through the service. Through these online resources, you can continue to connect with God and the Riverside community.

For God So Loved the World

“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

John 3:14-17

Jesus’ advent amongst us can lead to life or it can confirm one’s place among the dead, much like what we read in Ephesians chapter 2. God’s motivation for sending Jesus is not condemnation, but as John 3 says, God’s motivation is love.

God sends Jesus into the world, and that trip culminates with Jesus’ own placement upon a stake, a pole, a Roman cross. Lifted high, Jesus’ pierced body demands attention, our attention. Just like the serpent in the wilderness Moses used to save the Israelites, Jesus’ body, which is the very location of God’s glory, is the most staggering revelation of the gospel and the life it offers. Rather than judging, Jesus’ form suspends and hangs, in order to be seen by those who dare face the abhorrence of “the sin of the world” that caused the Lamb of God to die.

Yet, rather than despair, this sight is also the place of life, the sign of God’s profound love for all of creation, for all of us. Just as the Israelites in Numbers 21 looked to the serpent, a sign of their sin, in order to be healed, we too must look at our sin in order to be healed. Again, I say we must look at our sins in order to be healed.

Do understand Jesus did not sin, but Jesus took on our flesh, and on the cross Jesus accepted all of our sin upon him, he took on the sins of the world past, present, and future, and he did so that we might have life. Hear the good news this Lenten season, the good news of God’s love for you. God so loves you he gave his only begotten son for you. Jesus so loves you he took upon himself all of your sin, so you may have life.

~Rev Nick

107:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.

107:2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble

107:3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

107:17 Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction;

107:18 they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.

107:19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress;

107:20 he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction.

107:21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.

107:22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Sunday Service for March 14 Is Now Available

Brazen Serpent Monument on Mount Nebo in Jordan created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni
Brazen Serpent Monument on Mount Nebo in Jordan created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni

The service for March 14, 2021 is now available here. You can also view a list of past Sunday services here.

We welcome visitors joining us and ask that you go here to let us know you were here today. There is also an option to sign up for our weekly newsletter at that link so that you can keep up with the activities of our church.

Visitors are also invited to join the online prayer meeting at 11:00 am after the Sunday service. Today’s prayer meeting will conclude with virtual communion. Please gather communion elements of bread or a cracker and a cup to share in this sacrament.

To balance the spiritual needs of church-goers with the physical health risks from gatherings and COVID-19, Riverside Baptist Church is offering online Sunday services. Rev. Mumejian shares the word of God and a bulletin guides you through the service. Through these online resources, you can continue to connect with God and the Riverside community.

Foolishness

Many churches are doing their best to be diligent about following public health recommendations as they relate to COVID-19, Riverside being such a church. However, there are sister churches in states (Texas and Mississippi) that disregard such recommendations of safe protocol. These churches, those in states who are disregarding the expert health officials, are now one of the few if not the only dimension in congregants’ lives in which parishioners are still being asked to follow public health recommendations. This has placed these churches in a difficult situation.

The churches who are now voluntarily complying with health officials are offering a counter-cultural witness of the gospel of life. That is, these churches are following the command to love thy neighbor by keeping them safe and are doing so at a great risk. In a society so habituated with commercialism and consumerism, it is easy for churches to begin to develop anxieties. What if our members leave and find congregations willing to risk the lives of their members to gather? Then, on the other hand, churches also run risks from the ease of couch worshiping. This past year has allowed many to sit comfortably in their homes while they drift in and out of services found online. Folks may like the music here, but the preaching is better there, and finally this church ends their service how I like it. The couch worshiping may beget complacency.

There are no easy answers, trust me, but I do find solace and wisdom in Paul’s words to the church at Corinth, “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The challenge is for us to both see the message about the cross as it pertains to the safety of our most vulnerable within our communities (why churches ought to heed the wisdom of public health officials), and understand that our acts, the actions of Christians and of the church, will be deemed foolish by many in our society. It will be foolishness to those who are perishing; unfortunately, many are literally perishing because of this foolishness, foolishness of not listening to the health experts.

We’re in Lent and we’re also in a sort of exile and have been for almost a year. But we are still the church, we are still from Riverside, and we are still loving one another as best we can, and we are still claiming the power of God.

~ Rev. Nick

1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

1:20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.

1:22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,

1:23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

1:24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1:25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength

1 Corinthians 1:18-25