All posts by Rev. Nicolas Mumejian

Despite Our Good Intentions

There’s an old saying that goes, “The path to hell is paved with good intentions.” The saying usually is to convey, “So-and-so were trying to help, but they didn’t realize…” or, “So-and-so thought if they did this, it would be a good thing,” or the classic, “They meant well.”

More often than not, “The path to hell is paved with good intentions,” is said when someone did or said something from a place of ignorance and unawareness. And the point being made goes to show that ignorance is not always bliss.

Jesus begins to tell His disciples that He must endure great suffering, be persecuted by the authorities and those in power, and then killed. This is the first time Jesus brings up death in the Gospel of Mark. Until now all the disciples have seen and heard were healings and restoration of life.

Peter took Jesus aside, and perhaps said something to the effect that Jesus shouldn’t be talking like that, the disciples were there for Him. Jesus in turn then says, “Get behind me, Satan.”

Here’s the point I want to make. Peter meant well. His good intentions came from a seemingly good place. Peter obviously cared for Jesus and this is why he took Jesus aside. Yet, Jesus’ response was another way of like telling Peter the path to hell is paved with good intentions, except Jesus got straight to the point – “Get behind me Satan.” But, Jesus’ rebuke didn’t stop there; He continued with instruction.

I’ve heard it said before that rebuke is a fork in the road for a wayward soul. Will we cringe at correction as if it were a curse, or embrace the blessing of rebuke? The book of Proverbs is packed full of wisdom regarding rebuke as something to embrace the blessing thereof.

During this Lenten season, a season of reflection, I encourage you not to let those moments of rebuke, especially self-rebuke, bring you down and derail you. Give yourself a little extra grace and hear the good news of God’s generous grace and love for all of us.

I feel confident in saying I’m pretty sure none of you has been called “Satan” by Jesus, but even if you have, just as Peter was embraced by our loving God and became the rock on which the church was built, so are you embraced, so are all of us loved and embraced.

As Paul says in Romans Chapter 8 nothing, and he means absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God. And so, that all embracing love, no matter how well intentioned we are, is the hope we live by each day.

~ Rev. Nick

Now Is the Time

Dear Church,

Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!

Mark 1:15

Now is the time, God has come in the form of Jesus. The infinite has met and became the finite. Now is the time, there’s immediacy, just as a child coming into the world, God came in the form of Jesus into the world. Again, the infinite became the finite.

We are to live into God’s reign and kingdom now. The word “repent” in Mark 1:15 means to wrap your mind and heart around a new reality, it’s recognition language, in light of the “good news” we are to recognize this new reality of God’s kingdom and reign. The Good news is there is a new reality of God being loose in the world. A new kingdom is present, a different reality is breaking in, and our recognition is the repentance Jesus speaks of here. Some have made repentance an individual confession as opposed to what God, in Jesus, was doing in the beginning by forming a community with whom the presence of God is so evident that the promise of God’s peace is glimpsed even in the midst of chaos.

~ Rev. Nick

Calling the Prayer Troops

Dear Church,

During this time of celebrating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., one day before the inauguration of a new president, our city and communities find themselves in precarious times to say the least. I ask that you join in prayer for our city, for justice, for peace, for a seamless transition, and for positive change in the coming days. May we be instruments of this justice, peace, and change.

Instead of offering a reflection I think it best to share some of the powerful words of Dr. King so they may speak for themselves. It is my prayer that we at Riverside never lose our voice for justice.

Please keep safe this week and do not hesitate to contact should you need anything.

Rev. Nick

“People often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they cannot communicate; they cannot communicate because they are separated.”

“I have decided to stick with love, because hate is too great a burden to bear.”

“The person who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”

“If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace. If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I don’t want peace. If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it. Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but the existence of justice for all people.”

“Whatever we do, we must keep God and love in the forefront. Let us be Christian in all of our actions. But I want to tell you this evening that it is not enough for us to talk about love, love is one of the pivotal points of the Christian faith. There is another side called justice. And justice is really love in calculation. Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.”

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

“The problem of housing discrimination is a glaring reality all over this country, north and south; and as long as we have this problem, there will be some form of de facto segregation in the public schools and in all other areas of life.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

“The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.”

“We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream.”

“A Church that has lost its voice for justice is a Church that has lost its relevance in the world.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let’s Meet This Moment

“[My father] used to wake me up every morning at dawn…But it was still dark. It’s dark right now. But morning comes. And scripture tells us weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning. Let us rise up, greet the morning, and meet the challenges of this moment. Together, we can do the necessary work and win the future for all of our children.”

Raphael Warnock

I do my best not to be political for the sake of being political and seldom name actual politicians’ names. But when a Baptist minister, who studied under James Cone, is elected the first black senator of the state of Georgia, it’s difficult to not be excited and celebrate Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock. This is particularly true as his nomination was cemented on the same day seditious violence was perpetrated by white supremacists just a few blocks away from our church. Lives were lost including two Capitol Police officers.

In a year where there has been so much weeping, in fact too much weeping, I earnestly look forward to the joy that is coming; and church, joy is coming! I’m not sure when we’ll be able to regather, but I do know the prospect of such a regathering is more certain than before. The hard and determined work by the many scientists, health workers, administrators, doctors, and nurses have brought us to a place where we can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

There are still many challenges facing us. Challenges stemming from the virus of COVID-19 to the virus of racism and wanton prejudice. Yet despite these challenges, Riverside Baptist Church remains resolute in her mission and commitment to our families, community, and most importantly the gospel she teaches and lives out. May we continue to strive for joy and continue the necessary work that is ahead.

Thank you,

Rev. Nick

Our Fate Lies Not in Our Hands

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Ephesian 1:3

Church, hear the good news of Christ’s blessings! Our fate is not in our own hands, but in God’s and it has already been determined for us. And God, in mercy and love, refuses to be limited by our inabilities or abilities. God refuses to be limited by our abilities to do harm, evil, and even produce death. As we begin this new year, may we count our blessings, may we be blessings to one another, and may we demonstrate to the world the hope that Jesus brings. Amen. Thank you,

Rev. Nick

New Year, New Hope

Kindness, kindness, kindness. I want to make a New Year’s prayer, not a resolution. I’m praying for courage.

Susan Sontag

Dear Riverside,

We look upon the coming year with hope. 2020 has been a year filled with lose, anxiety, loneliness, hostility, and anger. So, we look toward 2021 with hope, perhaps cautious hope, but hope, nonetheless.

In that hope, may we find kindness, for this is also my prayer. Kindness towards ones another as we make our way through this pandemic and kindness towards ourselves as we accept our own limitations and realize that we often neglect imparting grace, much needed grace, upon ourselves.

The thing about kindness is that it does take courage. It takes courage to be vulnerable. It takes courage to do the right thing when that is what is best for our neighbor. It takes courage to put others first at times when we feel we need to cling onto perhaps the very little we have left. It takes great courage to be kind.

It takes courage to love ourselves at times when we feel inadequate or unworthy. It takes courage to admit that we may not have it all together and need the help of others. It takes courage to admit we can’t do it alone. It takes courage to be kind, to one another and ourselves.

Thus, my prayer for Riverside and our community for this coming year is that we find courage, the courage to be kind, the courage to become a living sanctuary that welcomes and comforts one another. The courage to have hope.

May God bless you and yours and may 2021 be year filled with hope, love, and kindness. May it be a year of healing and a year of continued growth. And with that, I’ll leave you with the words of a modern day psalmist.

“In our perfect ways. In the ways we are beautiful. In the ways we are human. We are here. Happy New Year’s. Let’s make it ours.”

Beyoncé

Sincerely,

Rev. Nick

Christ is the Reason for the Season

Dear Riverside,

As we conclude our Advent season and eagerly anticipate the coming of Christmas this week, it is my prayer you and your loved ones find hope, love, joy, and peace. I pray that during this time you are filled with warmth and contentment. This time of year can be difficult for many. Please know and feel the love of your Riverside family. If you are able, please join us Thursday at 7:00 pm for a Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols virtual service. The information is posted below and on the website.

Sincerely, 

Rev. Nick


Thursday, December 24, 7:00 pm: You are invited to a special live, virtual Lessons and Carols Christmas Eve service! Members of the choir and diaconate will lead us in Christmas carols and scripture readings as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

You will not be asked to participate, simply come and enjoy our service. The Zoom link is here.

The Promise of Isaiah

“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.”

Isaiah 40:1

Much like the people in the passage from Isaiah, we too are in a form of exile during the pandemic. We are in the wildness and we eagerly await a time when comfort will come and when the exile will be over. We await the one John “the forerunner” spoke of who brings peace, comfort, and salvation.

And so, the promise of Isaiah is good news to us today, because our world is in desperate need of some comfort, in desperate need of some good news. The holiday season is already a challenging time for people who are suffering pain or loss. From mid-November till the New year, the focus on family leaves those who are grieving the loss of loved ones or broken relationships, struggling to put a smile on their face and attempting to pretend to be in the holiday spirit, all the while they are barely making it one day at a time.

May we be both gentile and honest with one another, striving to provide comfort and peace during this season of anticipation and waiting. It is my prayer that this Advent season, and the holiday season in general, will be one of reflection, comfort, and grace as we continue to navigate these waters together. For as the Gospel of Mark tells us, this is “the beginning of the good news.”

~Rev. Nick

Advent: Anticipation for What Is to Come

Yesterday began the first Sunday in the new church year; it was the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a season of the liturgical year observed as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming.

I’m sure many of you have seen Advent calendars, many hold chocolates which you eat daily in anticipation of Christmas. Recently there can be found Advent calendars that have beer or wine. Despite what it is in them, the Advent calendar aims to offer a treat with our anticipation, a foretaste of the celebration that is Christmas. You may have noticed we began the service yesterday with the Advent wreath and candles, a tradition signifying the hope we possess in the anticipation of Jesus’s coming. We’ll continue lighting these candles each Sunday leading up to Christmas.

In the end, Advent celebrates two things. It celebrates the most important news about the past, and it celebrates the most important news about the future. The most important news about the past is that Christ has come. The most important news about the future is that Christ is coming back. When Christ came, God showed us everything we needed to know about the character of God, our friendship with God, how that friendship has been restored, and how we can keep it. Think back to Matthew 25 and how when we serve and love others, we serve and love Jesus.

It is said that when Christ comes again, God will deal with everything in his creation that is not yet ready to come into his glory. And so now we live in the meantime, the time in-between, the time of the already and not yet, the realm of God celebrating the life of Jesus which we live out in our service of others while we eagerly wait for the return of Jesus.

I hope and pray this Advent season is a blessed one for you and yours.

~Rev. Nick

Living in the Realm of God

“Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid…”

Matthew 25:24-25a

“So I was afraid.” Afraid of what? What was the servant who received one talent afraid of? Perhaps fear of the character of God and also perhaps fear of taking a risk?

I’d argue the third servant doesn’t understand the character of God. The reason he doesn’t understand is because he responds to the master by saying “I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed.”

If you look at all the parables in Matthew, you don’t see these characteristics of God. The third servant’s comments to the master are a mischaracterization of God, the God that we are told who throughout the Old Testament, and even in Matthew, is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and mercy.”

This third servant in the parable of the talents had more fear than trust, fear of living out the abundance and riches for which we have all been given. If we live just in the now, then perhaps we too will live in fear, but if we live in the realm of God, in the kingdom that is already but not yet, the time between Jesus’s first coming and second, then we can live both in abandon and with abundance; and we can go for it, risking all, loving everyone. When we hold back love we hold back our greatest talent.

~Rev. Nick