Tag Archives: New Year

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.”



Rev. Nick

Embracing for a New Year

A favorite story for the coming “new” year:

“Two brothers shared a farm.  One brother was married and had seven children.  The other brother was single.   They worked hard and the land was good.  Each year the harvest was abundant; and each year they split the wealth of the land evenly.  They gathered the perfectly divided grain into their separate barns and thanked God for his goodness.

“One night the single brother thought to himself, ‘It is not right that we should divide the grain evenly.  My brother has many mouths to feed and he needs more.  I have only myself to look after.  I can certainly get by with less.’  So each night the single brother would take grain from his barn and secretly transfer it to the barn of his married brother.

“That same night the married brother thought to himself, ‘It is not right that we should divide the grain evenly.  I have many children who will look after me in my old age.  My brother has only himself. Surely he will need to save more for the future.’  So each night the married brother would take grain from his barn and secretly transfer it to the barn of his single brother.

“Each night the brothers gave away their grain.  Yet each morning they found their supply mysteriously replenished.  They never told each other about this miracle.

“Then one night they met each other half way between the barns.  They realized at once what had been happening.  They embraced one another with laughter and tears.

On that spot they built a temple.”*

What have you been building with your life?  What will you build in 2018? May our mutual care, covenantal love and duty create a sacred space and in turn hallow our world.*

*A rabbinical story as told by John Shea in An Experience Named Spirit (Chicago:  The Thomas More Press, 1983), pp. 7-8.


Ten Days Into the New Year: Defying Injustice, Speaking Truth

By the second Sunday of a “new” year, exactly 10 days in, we are haunted by headlines of last year.  The forces of evil –and if you do not like that term, “evil,” then you are pressed to come up with some other term that captures the depravity of the human race and its nations roiling in war and terrorism–as I was saying, the forces of evil have marched into the new year, trampling the confetti and ribbons of our New Year’s celebrations underfoot.

What are we to do? What am I to do?  The purveyors of violence have bought politicians; guns flood our streets; governmental and police response to perpetrators of violence is predicated on race or ethnicity; our cities implode; riding on the metro is not just a consideration about timeliness but one’s safety.  Who are we?  Who am I?

Perhaps the first pair of questions–rotated around the question of action–can only be answered by answering that second pair of questions–which rotate around identity and self-awareness.

Here is how we describe ourselves at Riverside Baptist Church, declaring at the close of our communion Sundays:  we are a table fellowship, a covenant people, a welcoming table; we are a people loved by Christ and are in turn sent into the world to love the world, heal it, repair it and redeem it.  When the question of identity is answered that way, then it becomes imperative that we treat others not only as we ourselves wish to be treated, but as Christ has loved us. By this power, the world can be transformed. Gandhi called this satyagraha or truth force.  King created a non-violent movement that was founded on this idea.  What are we to do? What am I to do?  Resist for the truth, defy injustice, speak up for lovingly regarding others as fully human.  And you might consider joining us in worship where every week, we remind one another about who we are and Whose we are.  ~ See you Sunday

*Pastor Bledsoe’s sermon title for this Sunday is, myCloud (of witnesses)

Enchiridion of Faith, Hope and Love

For those of you who attended Sunday services the first Sunday in 2016, for those of you who asked and for those absent but interested, you may find my sermon, “A New Year’s Day Enchiridion,” on the sermon page.  We have begun another year, celebrating Christ’s birth, sharing in holy communion and worshipping God together. This is an auspicious beginning and one we want to carry through in the weeks and months ahead.

Despite the broken world with its violence and ideological hatreds, we are called to love one another.  You might be able to do this all on your own but I doubt it.  Love is communal and is thus in need of a community.  We need you and you need us.  May God meet us at this point of mutual need and transform us into those who heal the world instead of those who harm it.  Grace and Peace to you and yours in 2016 +

~See you Sunday

New Year’s Pumpkins and Superstitions

It is always fun to watch the irony unfold at this time of year when persons who ridicule the Christian holy days as so much superstition and pagan sampling,  line up to celebrate the great superstition that one more trip around the sun means we will have a new year.  Really?  The clock strikes midnight on the 31st of December and we turn into new pumpkins.  Or something like that.

This reminds me of a wonderful story told by the great Danish theologian, Soren Kierkegaard.  A peasant had come barefoot to town, having made enough money to buy himself a pair of stockings and shoes and still have enough left over to get himself drunk. On his way home in his drunken state he lay down in the middle of the road and fell asleep.  A carriage came along, and the coachman shouted to him to move aside or else he would drive over his legs. The drunken peasant woke up, looked down at his legs and, not recognizing them because of the stockings and shoes, said: “Go ahead, they aren’t my legs.”

In two days many of our fellow citizens will lie in a drunken state, believing they have entered a new year when in fact, their hang-over will sound like the preacher of Ecclesiastes, hammering their noggins over and again, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

But still, we’ll go along and wish everyone ~a happy new year!~ while realizing it is a superstition. That what we need is a transformation of our lives by the One who makes all things new, even Jesus Christ, the great Redeemer who loved the world so much… Have a safe and meaningful New Year’s Eve.  ~ See you Sunday.

*Pastor Bledsoe will be preaching on:  A New Year’s Day Enchiridion.  Communion will be served.  This first Sunday of 2016 offers you the opportunity to begin the year off by worshipping with others.  Let’s come together.

Church Rise

Church_Rise I snapped this photo one recent Sunday morning about eight o’clock.    The sun was rising and piercing through the blue Alpha-Omega window, its  light burst over pews, dusting them with red, blue, green, amber clots of color.  It’s a lovely and contemplative moment in the sanctuary.  I like getting there before anyone else, the entire silent sanctuary of peace all mine.  I’ll tell you what else I like in this picture even though at first, it seems to be that the pew edge is marred that runs along the right border of the photo. Look closely and I think those are finger and hand prints.  The faithful have been here. They have sung, prayed, cried, laughed and worshipped here.  So even though I had the sanctuary to myself that morning, I was not alone.  There was a Church Rise, a community of faith-hope-love that extends for more than a century in this community of faith but part of the church that extends into the far past, even into that upper room where Jesus told his disciples one last time to love one another.

My question to you is, in this first week of a new year, Why would you not enter such a place of peace and leave your prints, abide in the presence of both God and others who are dedicated to loving others as Christ loved us?  It’s time. Come on.  This Sunday will be another Church Rise.  I hope to see you.  ~Pastor Bledsoe

Humans of The World: Welcome. Stop. Happy New Year.

voyager_gold_recordSomewhere over in academia they are presenting papers and arguing over the meaning of the word “human.”  Designers of computers will argue that computers and other machines are alive.  Ray Kurzweil is yearning for the moment when he finally gets to download his mind onto a floppy disk.  Well, not a floppy disk because as everyone knows, that technology is so over.  But he will get to download it so it can be uploaded again and again, which is oddly reminiscent of Leave It To Beaver reruns.

Several years ago, I visited the website for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and got this update on the Voyager spacecraft, “The twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft continue exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before. In the 33rd year after their 1977 launches, they each are much farther away from Earth and the Sun than Pluto.”

On the spacecraft is a gold plaque that contains various pieces of information (placed there by the scientist and deceased atheist, Carl Sagan).  Etched upon the plaque is, among other things, a pulsar charter that locates our solar system in the galaxy.  And also depicted are a naked man and woman. The woman has her hands down to her side and the man seems to be standing next to a surfboard. According to Sagan and the committee to contact extraterrestrials, they are waving hello or welcome.

Besides giving away the coordinates to our fragile planet to any enemy in the universe who might wish to visit and destroy us, Carl and company assumed that aliens know the difference between waving hello and gesturing “stop.”   In fact, of course, a human being could not distinguish between those signals by the mere gesture of raising one’s hand, palm outward, unless there were a narrative context by which one could make such a determination. Hence it is quite conceivable that Carl Sagan, scientist and intergalactic communicator, illustrator and part-time mime, has called upon all aliens to stop, take off their clothes and go surfing.  And the cultured despisers of religion accuse the religious of interpretive ambiguity!

In the fourth century the North African bishop Aurelius Augustine wrote something that has traversed space and time to reach us. He wrote, “It is our own selves that we are incapable of comprehending; it is our own selves, who, in our too great height and strength, transcend the humble limits of our own knowledge.”   Every experience, every encounter, is a trip past Pluto.

On to a “new” year then.  Welcome. Stop. And join us in the sanctuary as we consider the message sent by the Holy, Just and Loving God of the cosmos to all humankind.

~ See You Sunday.

New Year, Old Year

This is apparently the actual ball which will ...The consumer-culture-hallmark-moment-next-cyle-in-the-market world of which you and I are a part moves rapidly from one event to the next.   That includes any birth of a Prince of Peace in a backwater town like Bethlehem or Nazareth.  But if you are wise, you will resist the inclination to move too fast from the epiphany of the Christ child to a pagan celebration of a “new year.”  By new, I assume it is meant another journey ’round the sun is beginning in a few days.  Get ready.  Put your seat belt on. The earth moves beneath our feet and yet, the new year will look amazing like the old year within a matter of hours.  If I could afford it, I’d rent a blimp over Times Square with a neon sign that would blink the words from Ecclesiastes 1:9


Depressing, eh?  Party pooper, jaded religious nut… Interesting how the self-described nihilists find New Year’s something to celebrate and in turn accuse those who find nothing new in the recycling of the recycled as somehow negative.  Rich irony there.  There are wars and rumors of wars without end.  Your country is preparing for these even as the lighted ball descends.  The current congress locked in absolute partisan gridlock, fueled by ideologies that would make a Maoist blush, is prepared for more of the same.  By the way, how are you treating the least among you?  the hungry? the naked? the imprisoned? the elderly? the orphan? the widow? the poor? the different?  You live in a nation that prefers to spend money on weapons than on the weak and the ill.  Happy old year.  It is sotted and wrecked before the ball falls and the new numbers are lit up. 2014. A digit’s difference and a dime’s worth of difference.

Here is a paradox for you:  by spending time on the ancient truths resident within Holy Scripture; by pondering the mystery of God-in-Christ; by assembling together in worship within the lighted sanctuary of God’s peace; we will be made new.  The bible is not completely oblivious to the new.  Isaiah preached, “Behold, I will do something new…” [43:19].  Jesus proclaims, “Behold, I make all things new” [Rev. 21:5].  May the Grace of God revealed in the Holy Child, the Prince of Peace, even Jesus the Christ, renew you and transform you in this year and the next and forevermore.  The world awaits persons who are truly dedicated to repairing the world, not ruining it.  Ready. Set. Let’s go. Into another year of months, armed with the Love of God.

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