If you can retweet tweets you consider valuable then why can’t a pastor re-preach a sermon? My Easter sermon this year got a lot of hits. It was entitled Why I Believe. It just might be worth twenty minutes of your time this week. Below is an excerpt but you can of course listen online by clicking on that title which is linked.
Coming soon: Pier Perspective. Saturday morning, August 25th at 10:30 at the end of the Recreation Pier on The Wharf. Pastor B will gather with any who are interested in chatting about the topic, “If You Have A Holy Book, You Have Issues.” We’ll leisurely walk along the Wharf, stopping occasionally to chat (as we walk, we’ll ponder a question or thought provided by Pastor and Professor Bledsoe). Why this topic? Some of us are recovering fundamentalists and others are damaged or have been assaulted by bible thumpers. Many of us simply would like to know how we can approach a revered sacred book without compromising our intellects. And there are those who have given up on faith but would like to know how to recover a spiritual life. No need to rsvp. Just show up with comfortable shoes and an open mind.
The neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville a year ago have secured a permit to parade their hatred this week-end in Washington, DC. What a vivid illustration of the utter moral failure of the Trump White House and administration. But that aside, what do people of good will do when the haters parade?
Should people counter-protest? Obviously many will and the exercise of their free speech to denounce haters and hatred is probably a good thing.
Should people fight and attack the haters, neo-Nazis and white supremacists? As tempting as that may sound to some it is not only self-defeating but actually empowers them. Nazis and white supremacists were defeated in WWII and of course white supremacy was defeated in the Civil War. These paraders are the defeated. It is a sad and pathetic spectacle.
So I am going to do two things. I’m going to worship this week-end along with millions of other Americans who will be praying and thanking God for mercy and justice in mosques, synagogues and churches across the United States. MILLIONS of us who believe in love and justice will worship. The neo-Nazis and white supremacists might have 500 people show up in their parade. They could have 5,000 and it would come absolutely no where near the number of people who believe in the more noble calling of loving God and neighbor. I know there are denominations and churches that plan to rally elsewhere in the city and that’s great. But I’m “rallying” by worshipping with the People of God. That act of devotion dwarfs the pitiable band of haters who will be banging their trash-can-lid shields.
The second thing I’m doing is ignoring this parade of defeated, sad and pathetic haters. I won’t go near them. Won’t shout at them or try to have a rational discussion with them. I certainly won’t be trying to violently attack them. The ignore button will be on.
The most important thing we can do is vote in November. Those who have abandoned civility, abandoned their oaths of office to protect and defend the constitution, and betrayed the the sick, the poor, the elderly and the workers of this country need to be voted out of office. So do that this Fall. Because the ballot is still more powerful than a gun.
Neo-Nazis and white supremacists! Go home. Go back to your homes and ponder how you chose to walk a path of hatred and by doing so, have diminished yourselves.
August 5th and we enter the “dog days” of summer (hopefully with a break from the rain). Whatever the weather, don’t let it be an excuse for not gathering as the People of God. We are worshipping at 11 a.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 401 I St., SW. Pastor Bledsoe is preaching (All Who Wander Are Not Lost), Jonathan is leading our Gates of Praise, Terryn is singing special music and it is a communion Sunday–given our shared context with Westminster, we are blessed to share across denominational lines in Holy Communion with our Presbyterian brothers and sisters. Above all, in our gathering in Christ’s name, we are assured by Scripture that Christ is with us. That friends is worth missing the talking heads on t.v., the regurgitation of news on news programs and even brunch (though you should get out in plenty of time to eat).
~See you Sunday.
I am working very hard with our Outreach Coordinator, Jonathan, and our Social Media Coordinator, Anna, in an effort to promote our new church that opens in November.
You will be alerted eventually and likely soon about how to “like”us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We need a push from members and friends to get the word out about our church. So that is coming but I thought I would begin with a “slide” that is emblematic of our identity. Of course, if you have read many of my blog posts or listened to sermons, you already grasp the message in the slide above.
Please, in these waning summer weeks, do not neglect your church. We need you in worship. We need your financial support. And we need your passion for a new day on the corner of Maine Avenue & 7th Street, SW, DC. We have been and remain Riverside Baptist Church but we have also become RIVERSIDE CHURCH @ THE WHARF. I hope to see you in worship with our friends at Westminster Presbyterian Church this Sunday at 11. It is a communion Sunday and I’ll be preaching. Terryn is singing and Jonathan is leading our Gates of Praise. Let’s worship! ~PSTR
For two weeks I have been “gone” on vacation and I can tell you what I did not do: never turned on the television; did not read one news article in print or online. I was in solitude and dialed into contemplative mode. I highly recommend that you practice a news blackout for at least one day in the week for your own sanity and peace. It was indeed a restorative time as I did not digest the toxic spew gushing out of the White House and Congress.
We, by which I mean our country, have descended to depths of depravity and cruelty that defy reason. We are a rich and resourceful country. There is no reason to grant massive transfers of wealth to the richest while denying citizens access to healthcare. There is no reason to separate children from their parents and imprison them for the crime of fleeing poverty and violence. No reason other than an intentional cruelty. There is no way to square what we are seeing with the compassion of Christ and those Christians who have provided cover for this administration’s assault on dignity should stop doing so. Immediately.
Look, kingdoms rise and fall. Princes, Kings and Presidents come and go. We will survive this presidency of petulance and hate but soberly speaking, we will not return immediately to what we were or could have been. The debacle and sin that is this administration and the Congress will take a generation to undo. Meanwhile, here is what you can say to those who ask you how you are navigating this treacherous time: I belong to a community of faith that week in and week out seeks to live as the Beloved Community. That is worth more than I can put into words. Doing so ennobles your life, provides you peace and luminously illustrates to the world what the world needs to know—that we are made in God’s image and we can and are obligated to treat others as though they carry within them God’s image.
I hope to see you in the Beloved Community on Sunday as Westminster Presbyterian and Riverside Baptist Churches worship together. 11:00. Sunday. At Westminster Presbyterian in SW, DC. Step out of the madness and into a community of peace, justice and compassion.
Crux sola nostra theologica est
The cross alone is our theology. ~Martin Luther
This Wednesday morning, June 27, early in the morning, a single steel cross was attached to the “bell tower” of our new church. I am saddened I am out of town and was unable to witness this. Thanks to Trustees Luke and Karl for being there and recording the event for us.
The great religious traditions crystallize theology and narrative into symbols and very often we can see those symbols and identify immediately whose symbol it is. There are all kinds of problems with these meta-symbols that sometimes make it difficult for people to appreciate their power and their positive contribution. Suffice it to say, religious symbols can become polluted. A modern example of a polluted symbol would be the Nazi emblem or the Marxist hammer and sickle. Persons with all kinds of terrible agendas have taken religious symbols and hidden their perfidy behind them. Think of the klansman who hides behind a burning cross. So it is not surprising that some people have argued for giving up these religious symbols, fearing their pollution makes them at the least irrelevant and at worst, irredeemable.
I’m not persuaded. I do not believe for example, that Americans who believe in freedom and justice should give up the flag to the brassy patriots who preach hatred and are blighted by xenophobia. Sorry, you do not get to have a monopoly on the flag. Nor should Christians allow hateful persons to have sole possession of the Cross. You do not get to own our most cherished symbols. The Cross is not yours to have. So why erect a cross on our church? Why is it important?
One of the earliest hymns I can remember learning was The Old Rugged Cross. In the very first verse, it captures the reason why we place this symbol on our building:
On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross
The emblem of suff’ring and shame
And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain…
The Cross, despite those who used it for vile and violent purposes, does not endorse sacrifice or violence. It is a symbol opposed to these. We follow a Savior who was innocently slain, who suffered and died and from his suffering and death, we have come to learn that God has and will overcome death and suffering. It is an emblem of suffering and shame and reminds us that our own redemption was costly. Words from that cross were uttered that asked forgiveness for those who harmed him; words were spoken from that cross that speak the human condition—why am I forsaken? I thirst! And from that cross the words of faith and the belief in a power greater than all the empires and tyrants of the world was expressed: into thy hands, I commend my spirit.
I wish I could witness this moment in the life of our new building but pictures will be taken and I’ll see it soon enough. And besides, I’ve been witnessing the power of the Cross my entire life. The ground is level there. We are all beggars searching for mercy and grace. Indeed, the Cross alone is our theology.
Don’t miss worship this Sunday as we gather with Westminster Presbyterian. There is a sweet spirit in our worship and a remarkable and striking sign of the Beloved Community that can empower you in these dim days of a reckless government. “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light…”
If you can cast a shadow—be it your hand on the wall of your imprisonment or your body along the sidewalk you navigate—there is light. Shadow is not possible without light.
We are living in dark days, our country unraveled from former notions of democracy and human rights. We separate children from mothers and fathers at the borderlands while our highest officials quote from holy scripture to defend the profane and hideous. Shadowland and shadows everywhere.
The maelstrom of heated rhetoric, a firestorm of disunion and civil war, sends sheets of flame across newspaper, social media and congress. We cannot seem to enter any conversation anywhere—homes, offices, churches—without the pollution of smoked and incendiary speech. Where is peace? Where the words of grace and inclusion?
I sat in a church this last Sunday, Westminster Presbyterian Church in SW DC, along with members of my church, Riverside Baptist Church, and we sang sweet words of sacred timbre; we prayed words in fervent desire for healing and repair of our lives; we read ancient texts devoted to the Holy; listened to a proclaimer of scripture remind us of faithfulness and a heart of obedience; we shared food at table and we embraced one another. It was a luminous beehive of peace and justice. We were radiant and because there is Light, we can see light. And yes, there are shadows in this shadowland of what used to be a beacon of freedom and light called America. Just remember: if you can cast a shadow, there must be light.
I hope to you see you this coming Sunday at Westminster [400 I St.] where two churches dedicated to light and peace and justice meet. 11 a.m. Beloved: Sing. Pray. Be the beloved community.
The mystical painter and poet, William Blake, wrote these words in his poem entitled, “Jerusalem.”I GIVE you the end of a golden string; Only wind it into a ball, It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate, Built in Jerusalem’s wall.…
A brief verse, but filled with clues about a life of spirit! The life of spirit is inaugurated often by someone giving us something. In this case, Blake is offering a golden string. Perhaps someone—a professor, a teacher, a pastor, an artist or parent—gave you a question to answer or an answer to question that led you to search. In my life, my sacred journey began when, as a child just about five years old, my mother told me there is a God. I remember that. It planted a seed in my mind and my heart. And I have been winding her golden string handed to me ever since…
The string is golden. Can you detect the irony in this? String is so ordinary, such a mundane and coarse thing. It is, in a word, cheap. But Blake is offering a golden string. Gold is valuable, of course. What is ordinary or common has, in his poem, taken on enormous value and importance. This has the aroma of Jesus’ parables. A man finds a treasure in a field and sells all he owns in order to buy the field. Leaven is small but it leavens an entire loaf. A mustard seed of faith can move a mountain. But too often we judge our spiritual lives by our society’s standards. Big is better, more is best, the right brand name is preferable and so forth. This is one reason, I suggest, that people flock to preachers and churches that push those buttons of prosperity and wealth. But Blake understands in a profound way what the bible knows: a life of spirit begins when the common or ordinary takes on the gold of a spiritual journey. The woman at the well offered a cup of water to a man she didn’t know. He offered her the water of life that would quench her soul.
In Baptist life and thought, faith comes by hearing the Word of God. In other words we are given the Word, twined together like string and dipped into gold. Wind them into a ball and they “will lead you in at Heaven’s gate.”
Worship is a gate. It is an opening, a threshold, a passage-way. From what to what? From the world of the mundane to the kingdom of the holy. From the huts of our wilderness wandering into the Temple of Being. Wind the ball, begin your sacred journey… ~see you this Sunday in what is at the surface level a middle school auditorium but on deeper inspection is a gate, a golden threshold into the life of spirit.
On this Memorial Day week-end I will be thinking of some of my family who proudly served their nation: my father in the Pacific Ocean on a Destroyer in WWII; my uncle in Europe as a paratrooper, jumping into enemy territory; my brother in Vietnam in 1968, trekking through the Mekong Delta. I will expand my prayers and remembrance beyond my family to include fellow citizens whose names are etched in granite along a wall of black granite; those whose names are written nowhere but remembered no less by families who sent them off to defend the freedom of this country they loved; I will pray to God a prayer of thanks for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. But I will also remember those who have said no to war; who have practiced with tender conscience a resistance to governments taking their youth and too often frivolously marching them into oblivion; I will remember those who denounced as Communists and driven out of their jobs because they dared to ask hard questions about their government’s commitment to the very ideals it asked its people to die for. And I will pray, as you no doubt will too, that we as a nation will one day arrive at a moment when Memorial Day will be a time of remembrance about wars nearly too distant to recall; when we will pledge ourselves to waging peace with the ferocity that we currently wage war.
May God have mercy on our comrades and fellow citizens who have fallen in defense of our freedoms. May God have mercy on those who presently serve in harm’s way and bring them safely home. May God call us to the citizenship of heaven and may we find that blessed assurance that while we may not live to see the promises of God fulfilled in this life, we will be greeted on the other side of history and mortality and welcomed into the realm of love and light.