Riverside Choir Christmas Program and Sunday Service for December 20 Is Now Available

Holy Family, by Allan Rohan Crite (1936)
Holy Family, by Allan Rohan Crite (1936)

The Riverside Choir Christmas Program and service for December 20, 2020 is now available here. You can also view a list of past Sunday services here.

The Riverside Choir presents their online Christmas program during this service

Please remember 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.

Righteousness and Praise

“To be a Christian is to live dangerously, honestly, freely – to step in the name of love as if you may land on nothing, yet to keep on stepping because the something that sustains you no empire can give you and no empire can take away.”

Cornel West

In light of this weekend’s events, Riverside Baptist Church wishes to state that we stand with and support our sisters and brothers of Asbury United Methodist Church and Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal. Riverside remains resolute in her commitment to justice, peace, and love. We will contest hate and prejudice at every corner while demonstrating the radical teachings and love of Jesus, whom we both celebrate and await during this Advent season. Love will overcome. 

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

Take Refuge in God

Dear Church,

This past Tuesday night I was privileged to participate in the prayer vigil in DC led by the Emergency Clergy League. Below are the words I shared and the prayer I offered:

The Muslim theologian Said Nursi famously said, “I take refuge in God from Satan and politics.” These days when hate is normalized, children are ripped from their parents, prohibitions are placed on ethnic and religious groups as well as groups associated with their specific orientations, and the value of life is commodified to determine if it matters or not, I speak sincerely when I say it seems hard to find the line between Satan and politics; nonetheless, we seek refuge in God.

And so, as a nation we see many supposed people of faith claiming heirs, rights even, to the “true” political way.

I was reminded recently how James Wm. McClendon cited Roger Williams as a key source for understanding authority rightly. As a Baptist minister I would be remise not to include a little nod Williams. McClendon, drawing from Williams’ life and thought, observed, “From Jesus onward, government interference in anyone’s faith, be that faith false or true, constituted disobedience to Jesus himself; if undertaken for supposed biblical reasons, it was self-refuted.”

Yet here we are with a new supreme court justice, on the day of a critical election where a coalition of “emergency clergy” have gathered to intercede. And intercede for what? I suppose for many of us, of all faiths, we would say peace and justice.

But allow me to speak as a Christian for a moment. The always brilliant Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney reminds us, “If our gospel proclamations are not true for the most marginalized among us, women, non-binary folk, trans folk, gender-nonconforming folk and LGBTQIA folk, then our gospel is not true.”

And so, we pray to the God of creation to create new hearts within our elected leaders, reminding them that we are all tasked as stewards of God’s creation, a gift for us and our children.

We pray to the God of Abraham whose offspring are more numerous than the stars above, may we as children of Abraham work towards peace and not conflict, as we are all family.

We pray to the God who used Balaam’s ass, that even if a donkey can be taught obedience unto God so can any of us. We pray that obedience unto the sovereign God is instilled upon the hearts of our elected officials.

We pray to the God of Joshua, that as the walls of Jericho fell, so too will the walls we build up both spiritually and physically be brought down.

We pray to the God of a Jewish radical who taught the first shall be last, the captives would be set free, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and even love our enemies, praying for those who persecute us.

And finally we pray as the one who once did the persecuting instructed saying: Beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in God, and the God of peace will be with you. Amen

~Rev. Nick

Think About These Things

Dear Church,

As we take each day at a time and approach this critical election, let us be prayerful and hopeful. May we be comforted in knowing that the God of all creation is in control no matter the outcomes. I love you all and am praying for each of you by name.

In relation to the election, I encourage you to read this article in which Pastor Bledsoe, along with some Riverside friends, are featured.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in God, and the God of peace will be with you.  Amen.

~Rev. Nick 

A Nap and a Snack

Sometimes all we need is a good nap and a decent snack.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

I Kings 19:4-9

I was reminded recently about the need for selfcare, and not just selfcare but specifically the benefits of some rest and a decent meal. In the scripture above the Prophet Elijah had finished one of the more interesting scenes in the Bible. There was a famine in the land that had lasted years as prophesied by Elijah because of King Ahab’s (the seventh king of Israel) sin of allowing Baal worship to take place among the people of Israel. In order to end the drought and have the people of Israel turn back to God, Elijah proposed a contest between His God and the gods of Baal to demonstrate who the true deity of Israel was.

So, Elijah had the people of Israel, 450 prophets of Baal, and 400 prophets of Asherah summoned to Mount Carmel. Elijah challenged the other prophets to build an altar and have their gods light the altar on fire. After a few days of frustration among these prophets and nothing happening, Elijah builds his altar. In addition, he builds a trench around the altar and has water poured all over his altar and in the trench. With a soaking wet altar, surrounded by a water-filled trench, Elijah prayed to the God of Israel who brought down fire and burned the wet altar. Elijah then prays for rain and the many yearlong drought and famine ends.

Winning this contest put Elijah’s life into trouble as it seems that those in charge weren’t (and still aren’t) very fond of being shown up. Elijah flees the area and arrives at where the passage above begins. Elijah is tired, angry, and wants to die. What is the remedy? Some rest and food. After which, Elijah decides perhaps things aren’t so bad that he can’t go any further and continues in his calling and ministry for God.

While I don’t mean to patronize what some of us are going through right now, I do however, wish to encourage you to remember self-care; even if it’s just a nap and snack, as even a nap and snack are Biblical remedies for having a rough go of it. So if the pandemic has you down, caring for your family during a quarantine is exhausting, this election cycle is causing anger and anxiety, or whatever it is you may be going through, take a note from Elijah and treat yourself to a little relaxation and a good meal.

~ Rev. Nick