You could stay home Sunday and watch another round of talking heads. But at this point, why would you?
You could go online and check polls at various news outlets and ideological outposts and forget coming to church for an hour to sing, pray and hear scripture read and expounded upon. But at this point, why would you do that?
Our souls need respite from the turmoil of the world and especially we need access to light, unfettered grace and love, the truth of God-in-Christ, reconciling the world.
Saturday night, turn your clock back one hour and then Sunday morning, bring your soul to worship. You got a soul–don’t give it to the politicos this Sunday. Bring it to Christ for restoration, redemption, renewal and empowerment. In the Name of God, peace to you and all whom you love. ~ See you Sunday!
SUNDAY SERVICES CANCELED
Stay safe, read or listen to a sermon under the sermon tab, pray and return to us Sunday, January 31st. The Lord bless and keep you +
So my snow shovel from the last two years is pretty worn and I thought I might buy me one on Weds, two days before the end of the world as we know it (this is actually a song by R.E.M. and I think you might want to listen to it as you watch the blizzard roll in, while drinking some hot cocoa of course)… so I was hoping to buy me one (I admit this is poor grammar) and Home Depot was completely out of snow removal implements. Like there was a rapture, but only snow removal tools were taken and we’re left behind (that is a title too of a bad movie about “THE rapture” but I’m not linking to it). This got me thinking: if the world were really to be near an end then would people rush to churches to care for their souls? And the answer to that is, I’m afraid, no. How would I know this? Because even if people as a rule (at least in America the united states of entertainment) do not believe they have a soul much less that their souls might be in any danger, they do know beyond any measurable doubt that their lives are limited. Finite. Brief. The world is ending every day. People know this but… yeah. Life pretty much goes on until it doesn’t and lots of people ponder at that moment why they didn’t prepare for the fact that their lives end, that life is very precious and might should be lived justly and in harmony with God. Yes, you could use a shovel in DC this week-end but you need your soul any day and anywhere.
Be careful. Stay tuned. If we must cancel church then we will post an announcement to that effect right here. Check in on Sunday morning before you head out. If the meteorologists are wrong and it just rains then I look forward to seeing you Sunday. You can put your snow shovel back in the shed or wherever you store it and bring your soul into a holy place. Because we need soulcare. Just look around: the warnings are up, the evidence is glaringly obvious: something is awry.
Leave the “tournament of lies”* (*R.E.M. in the song noted above), turn off the talking heads, and enter a sanctuary of peace. ~ See you next Sunday, January 31st, snowflakes.
Like you I have stumbled into a temporary place of refuge at the right moment. You know, when the heavens opened and it rained like the first day it rained on Noah’s head and he likely said, “What the?” And then scrambled inside the ark he built. What a wonderful story of refuge in the storm. I recall when years ago hurricane Irene rumbled through here and the wind battered our trees and windows and lashed us pretty badly. I was glad I was in the house and not outside.
There are volumes and volumes of books written on the church and what it is. Truth is, there are several kinds of churches in the New Testament, all different and interesting in their own right. I do not believe there is one way of being the Church (though there are some core ingredients common to all churches, like baptism and communion). I would say this–a church is a refuge or at least, it ought to be. And we try at Riverside to be that kind of place. Amazingly enough, in a one hour service that includes a praise/song/hymn time, prayers and a sermon, we –or at least most of us– leave energized and renewed. Sometimes, it suffices just to get out of the storm for a while. Turn off the talking heads. Put down the spin masters in the newspaper or on the tablet. And practice peace, contemplation and rest in God. Here’s something from St. Augustine’s Confessions in Book VI:
…I sighed, and You heard me; I wavered, and you guided me; I wandered through the broad way of the world, and You did not forsake me.
Read it again, slowly. That is a confession of refuge. I hope you might stumble into our sanctuary this Sunday and pray those words uttered by Augustine in the Fourth Century. They have echoed through the corridors of time and arrived here in this moment. Use them. Come out of the rain and storm. Peace. The Peace of Christ. The Peace of Christ abide in you. ~ See you Sunday.
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
If you found yourself in the midst of a war, where would you go? Would you seek a place of refuge and safety? We are and have been in the midst of war.
If you awakened one more morning and heard the spin masters and tail-that-wags-the-dog rhetoricians howling as usual, what would you prefer to do? Where might you go for silence? where might you go for truth-telling?
If you peered into the mirror and felt your heart skip a beat with the sudden recognition that you are the problem as America or some other country defines a problem; if you dealt for a moment with the sober recognition that your race, your gender, your sexual orientation were the enemy as defined by money-raising think tanks that can’t think outside a tank or a box, what would you do? Where would you go to be embraced for who you are, celebrated for your singular and gifted life?
If one evening as the shadows lengthened you found yourself rubbing an aching scar, a wounded memory of having been trespassed-against, of being abandoned or unloved, what would you do? Where could you go to find healing, unconditional love, a candle lit against the darkness?
I know a place. It happens to be a people who gather in a building but the building is beside the point. Where two or more are gathered in my name, Jesus said, I will be there. Welcome to peace. Welcome to safety and embrace. Welcome to Riverside Church. Don’t be alone. Don’t carry it all on your shoulders. Forget the assorted spin masters and pot stirrers that bang their pots and pans up and down the neighborhood, the city, the country. I know a place that will welcome you and where Christ gathers with us. See you Sunday. ~Pastor Bledsoe
The moments of our lives—the tick tock of our mundane lives—are scattered throughout the course of a day. Our routines—when we awaken, when we arrive for an appointment or our job, our departure to return home, and the myriad other things like lunch and meetings that comprise our routines—provide us a sense of purpose. When those routines come to a grinding halt in traffic or are intruded upon by forces that threaten to overwhelm us then, in those kind of moments, we are liable to sense our routines as so much threadbare wallpaper. We end up asking ourselves what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
Those moments are intertwined with the moments of many, many other lives and events. And in turn, the weave of our interconnectivity is played out against a microwave background of tension that radiates the very city we live in: the federal city of the United States, a target of terrorists and the power grid of the powerful and those who want to be near the powerful. How does one keep one’s sanity in the midst of this? How does one arrive at an authentic sense of self so that when our routines are interrupted, when the traffic comes to a crawl, when a meeting goes spinning out of control, when getting home seems impossible, we are not ourselves spun into madness or purposelessness? Let me suggest something.
In whatever chaos or disintegration of the flow of your moments, put two fingers on your wrist, find your pulse and then, take a deep, deep breath. Pulse and breath. Remind yourself that these are the truly significant gifts. And whatever happens and however things play out today, it is this gift of life that graces us that matters. You’re alive. The world will be here tomorrow. Moments pass. In the time it takes you to feel your pulse and breathe deeply, you can discover how wonderful and strangely beautiful this all is.
One last idea—enter a holy place on Sunday and through worship, say thanks. When you practice a weekly rhythm of gratitude, your mundane moments will be placed into a larger, cosmic context. May the Peace of God that passes all understanding fill your hearts. Breathe deeply. Find the pulse.