Where the Spirit Leads Us

The deepest reality of life in the Spirit depicted in the book of Acts is that the disciples of Jesus rarely, if ever, go where they want to go or to whom they would want to go. Indeed, the Spirit seems to always be pressing the disciples to go to those to whom they would in fact strongly prefer never to share space, or a meal, and definitely not life together. Yet it is precisely this prodding to be boundary-crossing and border-transgressing that marks the presence of the Spirit of God.

Willie James Jennings

At times in our lives, we find ourselves being led to places and in directions we wouldn’t have selected. We encounter people and circumstances that bring us out of our comfort zones. This was the case in Acts with many of the disciples. Philip has a Spirit driven encounter with an Ethiopian eunuch. Peter is sent to “the house of uncircumcised” and ate with them, also learning from God it is not our job to “call anyone profane or unclean.” Peter ultimately learns that “God shows no partiality.”

There are many lessons for us in the book of Acts. In this season of transition may we be open to where the Spirit of God leads us, has us share space with, and when needed even prods us. For as Proverbs 19:21 reminds us, “many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” I pray that the Spirit will guide us, and the Lord’s purpose prevails in all our lives.

~ Rev. Nick

Sunday Service for May 2 Is Now Available

The Sunday service for May 2, 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.

I Am the Good Shepherd

‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.

The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.

So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

John 10:11-18

The above pericope from the Gospel of John leaves the door open and warns against any kind of exclusive claim on our Good Shepherd Jesus.

Deciding who is in and who is out is really, as Jesus suggests, not the business of the sheep, but solely up to God, solely up to the Good Shepherd. We sheep-folk are instructed to adhere to Jesus, to love, and to testify, as Jesus makes explicit in the Red Letters; we are to testify to the love, mercy, and grace the Good Shepherd provides in abundance.

As for myself and others in ministry, despite holding the position of the hired hand, we are called to be audacious, and to not run away from the challenge of calling God’s people to a clear understanding of the call to oneness in the name of Christ. We are called to address and welcome diversity in whatever form it is represented in the wider community in which our churches are located. We are called to be Christ-centered, inclusive, and ecumenical.

~ Rev. Nick

Sunday Service for April 25 Is Now Available

The Sunday service for April 25, 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.

The Long Journey to Justice

And he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Luke 24:46-48

The way we, as the body of Christ, can be witnesses to the resurrection is to offer radical hospitality and embrace the traumatized bodies of our neighbors, of those who are strangers, and as Jesus instructed even those we may view as enemies. The verdict rendered yesterday is but a short sigh, recognizing accountability has been adjudicated; but justice is long from being served or realized. As Amanda Gorman puts it, “a reminder that victory would be George Floyd being alive. Every day Black Americans worry if they will be next is another day without justice.”

“All nations” is not a restrictive call to individuals of different ethnicities, but a collective group who have been at the forefront of persecution and injustice, causing suffering and pain. Most of American Christianity preaches and teaches a hyper individualistic salvation, one focused on the sole individual sinner so it doesn’t have to repent from its systemic sin. For those who are ignorant to the evils systemic sin and the need for such repentance, I suggest you spend some time in the Old Testament, particularly the Prophets.

As the Prophet Isaiah wrote, “learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed.” There is still much to be learned as the church grapples with systems of oppression. It is our charge as followers of Christ to continue seeking justice and our mission to rescue the oppressed. We must work toward justice and embrace resurrection as insurrection, as we live into the reality of the risen Jesus whom we worship.

~ Rev. Nick

Sunday Service for April 18 Is Now Available

The Sunday service for April 18, 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.

“A Riot Psalm”

If I were to riot
I would riot against those institutions that actively harm Black people
I would riot against those businesses built on the stolen labor of Black people
I would riot against those churches built with bloodied Black hands
I would riot against book clubs and listening circles
I would riot against performative allyship and corporate co-option
I would riot against blue lives flags and stickers
I would riot against legislative bodies that encode and enact white supremacy
I would riot against white supremacists statues in public places
I would riot against museums and art institutions that promote anti-Black standards of beauty
I would riot against universities promulgating notions of classical that are white supremacist by design and intent
I would riot against financial institutions that flipped there slave-produced wealth into astronomical sums buy redlining and exploiting Black and brown and poor people
I would riot against representatives who gerrymander themselves into a white supremacist hegemony
I would riot against courts that render unjust justice and call it justice
I am not rioting
Today
At least, not in the streets
My words are a riot
A riot of fire
Leaping from page and screen
Kindling
Stoking
Inflaming
Smoldering
Feeding the flames of the riots to come

The Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney

The Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D. is Professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. She is the author of Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to Women of the Torah and of the Throne, a commentary on Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah; Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel; and co-editor of The Peoples’ Bible and The Peoples’ Companion to the Bible. The first two volumes of her Women’s Lectionary are due this spring. She is an Episcopal priest canonically resident in the Diocese of Pennsylvania and licensed in the Diocese of Fort Worth, and a former Army chaplain and congregational pastor in the AME Zion Church.

In Spite of What You See

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

There are three takeaways from John 20:19-31 that I wish to offer concerning the resurrection. 

First, the resurrection is personal and relational. When Jesus met Mary, he approached her and offered himself to Mary to which she replied “teacher”, she recognizes Jesus as her teacher and thus she is a disciple. When Jesus first appears to the disciples in their locked home her offers peace and breathes the Spirit of God upon them. Jesus gets extremely personal with Thomas. There is something almost voyeuristic with the encounter of Jesus and Thomas. This is an intimate moment to which Thomas replies, “My Lord and my God.”

Then there is Peter who Jesus walks with. Jesus asks Peter three times if he loved him, once for each time Peter denied Jesus. Jesus reconciles with Peter, instructs Peter to follow him and gives Peter the keys to the church. The resurrected Jesus is personal and relational. As a professor once said, “it’s not pie in the sky, but ham where I am, chicken in the kitchen.”

The second take away is the resurrection is physical and bodily. The fact the Jesus showed the disciples his wounds shows that Jesus didn’t come back as an apparition or ghost, but he, his body, rose again. As Jesus is the first fruits of resurrection, we know that our resurrection will be bodily, our loved ones lost will be raised from the dead, not in spirit, but in reality, just as real as Jesus was when he sat, ate, and drank with the disciples.

Finally, the third takeaway of the resurrection is the effects are communal, not individualistic. The effect of the risen Jesus shapes our communities just as much as it shapes us personally. When we look to the community in Acts, we find a community concerned for each other. There are no superstars or rock stars, but a community where each member is a different part of the same body.

You may have a personal relationship with Jesus, but it is not complete without the body, without the community to which you belong. It’s the reason why so many of us are yearning to when we can regather, which God willing will be soon.

This is the Easter story, that the risen Jesus, still carrying His wound, meets us in our fears and doubts. Jesus is intimate and personal with us. Death is not the final answer, life through the risen Jesus is.

~Rev. Nick

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