Sunday the 20th we dedicate our new church on MLK Sunday. Our previous building was built in 1967 and was to have its first service on April 7, 1968. Dr. King was assassinated on April 4 and the subsequent riots in DC postponed that first service. Now, 50 years later, on a national day of remembrance of his birth, we gather to dedicate our new church building. Terryn Nelson will be singing Patti Griffin’s MLK Song (Up to the Mountain). Dr. Michael Kinnamon will be preaching. And we will stand up! shoulder to shoulder to say The Beloved Community that gathers on the corner of 7th and Maine Ave in Washington DC is alive and vibrant and still speaking truth to power. Join us at 10 a.m. won’t you? Let us be the Beloved Community.
Sunday the 23rd is the last Sunday of Advent, the Sunday before Christmas. Christmas Eve will be at 7:30pm with parking at Westminster Presbyterian who will be joining us for our communion and candlelight service.
I’m not sure how to encourage folks to show up for these worship opportunities. I assume worship is high on the list of things one must do for Christmas to be truly Christmas. O Come All Ye Faithful. In the midst of the chaotic world and the swirling hatreds and violence around us, how would we pass up a chance to enter a place of peace in order to worship and honor The Prince of Peace? I look forward to seeing you Sunday morning at 10, Monday evening at 7:30. Because a communion of believers gathered ’round the holy child IS Christmas. Grace & Peace ~PSTR
“Trump Privately Urges Pastors to Help Him From the Pulpit in Midterms” The following is a repost of a March 18, 2017 post. It is still–unfortunately for us and our nation–relevant.
..for it is the nature of kings that they will hold good men in more suspicion than the bad, and dread the talents of others.’ —Sallust, The Conspiracy of Catiline
Our President is not a king so one might object that the Roman historian, Sallust’s depiction of kings does not apply. Our President, however, performs as a king, taking great relish in the issuing of edicts and demanding that his voluminous lies be accorded the appellation of Truth simply because the words are coming out of his mouth. Despite evidence to the contrary, he will double down and triple down on his lies, as if by merely repeating the words he will magically make it so. Having addressed the positive in Mr. Trump, let’s ponder the negative for a moment.
In his book, Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar, Tom Holland writes, “Words, under the Caesars, had become slippery, treacherous things.” And then turning to the Roman historian of that age, Tacitus, describes the moment: ‘The age was a tainted one, degraded by its sycophancy.’ Tacitus, meet Trump.
This sycophancy—at least it seems to me—is the danger of the moment in which we live. Sycophants are servile persons who obey and pander to someone important in order to gain an advantage. What this means is we have a congress that refuses to hold the president accountable because they have an agenda of their own (they would like to be rid once and for all of Medicaid, render the safety net useless, deny medical care to its most needy citizens, the elderly and the poor, and burn billions of dollars building more weapons of mass destruction). They won’t check the President because for now, they want the President to check the boxes on their legislative agenda.
The banal chant of “fake news” has been taken up by an administration that has attached itself to White Nationalism. White nationalist apparatchiks [like Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, Michael Anton] who fawn over fascists of previous eras have taken up residence in this administration with little objection from the party in control of both the House and Senate. Sycophancy has tainted our age and our government to a degree previously unthinkable. Here’s a tip though: when the alligators on your animal farm assert the swamp should be drained, you should think twice about who is faking whom.
Why would a pastor speak to these political realities? someone might ask. My response: The Church has since its inception worked out the Good News of Jesus Christ within the matrix of power and politics. It was Rome that crucified its Savior. And it was within the Roman history of which Tacitus and Sallust wrote that Christians had to live. They offered Good News, not fake news. They worshipped one King, the King of the Universe, not the tyrant that occupied the Roman throne at any given time. As the Gospel of Luke tells us, Jesus was born under the rule of Caesar Augustus. He was ruthless. He insisted upon being referred to as Divi Filius, son of a god. So when Luke tells the Good News of the birth of Jesus and the New Testament declares him to be the Son of God, it is a direct affront and counter to the tyranny of the Roman Caesar-god. As then, so now. The Church declares the Good News and thus opposes the fog machine of lies. Here’s a tip: when politicians and presidents declare they are being merciful, as Mr. Ryan has claimed about himself, or that they are born again, as the President has said he is, but they attack and assault the weak, the poor, the hungry, the sick, then you can chalk that up to fakery. The Apostle James was clear enough: “If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress,. . .[James 1:26-27] May the Good News of Christ dissipate the fog of fake news of this Orwellian government. In such a time as this, do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. ~See you Sunday
We pray for:
THOSE IN THE PATHWAY OF STORMS We are especially mindful of all those who reside in Florida and Georgia and the Carolinas, the Bahamas and Caribbean who, at this moment on Friday, seem to be in peril as Hurricane Irma makes its way closer to the United States. And for those who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. Christ, have mercy.
THOSE IN MEXICO We remember especially those in the state of Oaxaca and beyond who had family and homes destroyed. Lord, have mercy.
DREAMERS We pray for those children who have known only the United States and came here or were born here with families who had illegally entered the country but by no fault of their own were raised here and dared to dream they could be part of the American Dream. This administration and the Congress seems prepared to do them great harm. May it not be so. Christ, have mercy.
FOR ALL OF US We who toil day by day and attempt to do better by ourselves, our families and our communities are under great stress, carrying large burdens. May these burdens be lifted and in their place may we receive courage and strength. Lord, have mercy.
Sunday I will be asking the following questions and I hope to give some guidance in my sermon entitled, “Superman’s Cape, A Clerical Collar and Clothed in Christ”: How are you navigating this apocalyptic landscape? How are you making sense of your lives as you daily wade through the swamp of political rhetoric, assorted hatreds, natural catastrophes, not to mention trying to find an affordable plumber on the week-end? How are you living between sun up and sun down? What strategy for maintaining your human dignity and the dignity of others do you have when the power goes out and the storm is raging around you?
Join us in worship Sunday at 10 a.m. at Jefferson Middle School. Because there in that auditorium, we embrace each other as fully human. We carry one another’s burdens and share in each other’s joys. ~See you Sunday
I was struck Sunday in our worship service by the power and the simple eloquence of the lectionary reading take from Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 12. As you embark upon another week and ponder how you’re going to deal with the various catastrophes, hatreds and toxic rhetoric, I urge you to read these words. Print them out and attach them to the refrigerator or recite them into your life every day this week. They are words to live by. They are words that can help us live in the toxic atmosphere of political strife that has permeated our culture.
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;do not claim to be wiser than you are.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
AMEN. So be it…in our own lives, in the lives of our leaders and within the sacred bounds of our beloved community.
The African Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine, writing in the dusk of the Roman empire in his book, The City of God: “What are kingdoms without justice? They’re just gangs of bandits.”
Mr. Trump meet Bishop Augustine. America, meet your Congress that is dedicated to obstruction and falsification and yes, burdening the poor while enriching the wealthy. How does one live faithfully in a kingdom of bandits? By refusing to sacrifice the assembling of one another in worship; by resisting evil by what is right and just; by rallying around those at risk and certainly, by all means, being willing to name the gansters and bandits, Diabolus. The Congress could begin to redeem its soul by naming a Special Prosecutor to pursue Russia’s entanglement with the Trump campaign and our national election. The judgement of God is not always swift. Sometimes it is a slow train coming around the bend (thanks to Dylan). I can hear the click-clack rumble of that train.
I’ve been thinking about name tags. Like when I was five years old and my mother sent me off to school the first day or week. Was the idea that I might forget my name? Or was it verification of who I was for the teacher?
Hospitals of course are quite meticulous these days with those wrist bands. From patients to visitors they want everyone identified. We get this and it’s not hard to figure out why a name tag or identity badge is important.
It becomes especially important however for persons who no longer have a clear memory. Anyone who has had a loved one enter some phase of dementia or suffered an accident and is unconscious wants their loved one to be identified and people to know with whom they are working.
So I have a simple suggestion. In these days of madness when the White House is now tainted by the President of the United States having invited a murderer to visit him, the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, who delights in extrajudicial executions, let’s wear a name tag so we can remind ourselves who we are. And maybe we should write beneath our names, “I love justice.” Alas, this may be so much jousting at windmills. But I do know a way to remind ourselves who we are each week and month after month.
Every Sunday in a middle school auditorium, we gather to create the beloved community. Frankly, there may be no greater counter sign to the madness of a world in love with death than to place oneself within the community of those who believe that God expects justice and righteousness and whose dream is to see these flow down like mighty streams. Worship as counter-cultural, non-violent resistance. I invite you to remember who you are with us as we remember who we are in the presence of God, who loved the world so much… ~See you Sunday
How do I pray? This question is a recurring one in my dialogue with people. It is one thing to believe there is a God who is just and concerned about me and the world, it is quite another to figure out how to speak with and hear God. We’re encouraged to “pray without ceasing” but what in the world can that mean for me and my schedule? And more critically, how do I pray for the world much less myself when things seem so out of kilter? In an effort to help you create a discipline of prayerful contemplation, the Pastor and Deacons have scheduled a Prayer Retreat for all day Saturday, June 3rd at Bon Secouer Retreat Center. The cost is a mere $25 and includes breakfast and lunch. Spaces are limited so be sure to sign up on Sunday where fliers will be available with more information.
Why must we suffer? Right along with the question of prayer, this question is at the top of most people’s list. Some religious folks simply accept suffering as God’s will. Others question how there could even be a God as long as there is suffering in the world. Christianity has at the center of its narrative a story about a suffering servant messiah. First Sunday Bible Study in both May and June will be a read and discussion of the book of Job, led by our Aspirant associate, Tonetta Landis-Aina. The study takes place after worship on those two Sundays and as well, Tonetta will preach on the book of Job in May. Mark your calendar, sign up with Tonetta and prepare to have a rich and meaningful study/discussion about a crucial human experience and question, suffering.
Our choir and music team continues to inspire us and we are grateful, particularly for Easter Sunday’s beautiful worship service. If you have a musical skill, please let Lauren know. As we proceed into the second year of our interim worship at Jefferson Middle School, we are talking about and working on how we might expand to a second service in our community. If you are interested in helping us reach out to young adults especially and provide innovative ways both in schedule and mode of worship, please speak with Pastor Bledsoe.
We are a vibrant community. We are dedicated to loving one another and we have a vision that takes us into the future.
~See you Sunday
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!
This past Sunday, March 5th, upon entering Jefferson Middle School, there was a white-board sign propping open one of the doors that leads to the auditorium. Written on it in black marker were the words, “Lost & Found” with an arrow pointing to the auditorium which on Sunday serves as our sanctuary for ninety minutes. Sometimes things come together and make perfect sense.
Every Sunday we sing two verses of Amazing Grace and there is a line in that first verse that reads, “I once was lost, but now I am found/ Was blind, but now I see.” The truth is, we would be hard pressed to come up with a better sign to signify who has gathered in that auditorium on any given Sunday.
We’re the lost. We’re broken hearted by the violence and confusion that runs rampant through our world. We’re given up on any number of causes and hamstrung to come up with any fresh ideas about how to heal the world. We are lost in our caregiving of children, of parents, of ourselves. We enter Sunday sometimes with barely enough light to see.
We’re the found. We come to the church service not because we believe sitting in church makes us Christian. It no more does that than sitting in a garage makes one a car. We arrive on Sunday lost, that is true, but much of the time we enter joyful for having been found. We were slogging our way through the world when someone came alongside us and held our hand. We were captured by self-hate when someone reminded us that we were made by a loving God and are configured to love. We were lost when suddenly, we awakened to the presence of the Good Shepherd. So we show up found. And we didn’t make that happen but, as Annie Dillard writes in her marvelous work, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, grace is like a person who holds their cup under a water fall or stream.
We are the lost and found. We invite you to worship with us and despite all that generates fear in our lives in these precarious moments, discover a great grace and a remarkable love that overcomes the world. ~See you Sunday