Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Worship, Love, Live

We continue to worship at 11am at Westminster Presbyterian Church SW.  Pastor Brian is preaching this Sunday.  I will be a greeter!  And Pastor Ruth is working with Godly Play and the children.

You know, of course, that ours is caffeinated  culture.  Got to get going in the morning.  Need that afternoon break. And of course, our soda pop and products are laced with caffein. I mention this to say, we are ever finding ways to keep us awake and moving; we are trying to charge our lives.  Nothing quite compares to worship.  It is a shot of love as Bob Dylan sang.  We worship. We love. We live.  Join us.

Maniacal Social Media

One day last week I was backing out of a parking space in a small parking lot, having visited a hardware store for a couple of screws. I was mumbling to myself about something but I cannot recall what I was telling myself. Once backed out, I turned to look out the windshield and saw a guy my age, hobbling out of the pharmacy next to the hardware store. He was holding two bags, one in each hand. And I thought, he’s talking to himself!  Yeah, it was an odd moment but it reminded me of how I experience social media.   I have only been on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for about a month.  These are very chatty places. Alienated places as much or more than “community.”

And profane places and I don’t mean just the absolute disregard for language and using any and every profanity under the sun but I mean how people profane their own lives, the lives of their perceived enemies and their habituated following of celebrities who are profaning each other. No regard at all for their or other’s children stumbling upon their poisoned discourses. No boundaries.  The social platforms designed to communicate are often maniacal arenas.

I invite you to take a break from the shoving matches and the violent language by stepping into worship. A sacred place where we are encouraged to speak in peace, live in peace and honor the Image of God in one another; we pray, sing and are called to higher ground. I am preaching this Sunday on A Meditation On All That Is Good.   No hashtag needed. Just you with others who make a “We,“ called The Beloved Community.  11am at Westminster .  ~See you Sunday

Pier Perspective: Coming Soon w/Pastor Bledsoe

pier-perspective_1Coming 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.

 

A Golden String: How To Begin A Life Of Spirit

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.

Rejecting Simplistic Materialism For The Sacred Journey

I am the Road
I am the Road

I’ve been walking daily since about May, trying to be a good scout. Well, I’m no scout but I’m trying to do well by the gift of my life.  And my walks are usually along the bike path near our home in Arlington. As you can imagine, this time of year is quite lovely. This morning (Tuesday the 6th) I was walking at about 7 a.m. To see the light of the sun reflected off a bank of trees in the horizon as I walk along what is a dimly lit and chilly path is quite a spectacle.   We are so removed from nature that just taking a walk near trees and rushing water in a creek, sung to by birds singing and shouting their codes into the bright oblivion of sky and light, this is a tonic for the mind if not the soul.

You know by now of course that  your life is a winding road.  What you may not know or struggle with is an equally important truth: your life is a sacred journey.  In this culture in love with death (a phrase I have taken from the fourth century bishop of Hippo in North Africa, Augustine), you must awaken to that truth and do your utmost to resist with your might all those who would steal, diminish or otherwise convince you to give up that truth. Do not be satisfied with a simplistic reduction of your life to the material.  You are not a frog dissected on a table and then discarded.  You are soulful.  You are bearing in your life the image of God.  Walk that road. Indeed, remember that Christ identified himself this way:  I am the road.  Walk it.  ~See you Sunday

Highlights and Blooper Reels

Ravensworth Baptist's VW Pride Van.
Ravensworth Baptist’s VW Pride Van.

I wonder if you are like me and enjoy watching highlight reels and blooper reels?  Sometimes highlight reels are blooper reals—I’ve often had that feeling after a film that runs some bloopers as the credits roll and think, “gee, the blooper reel is more entertaining than the movie.”  But think of those reels as illustrative of the spectrum of emotions in our lives.

We like, as a rule, to see highlights of games or speeches or other events because very quickly, we tap into the most inspiring moments.  So highlight reels can generate hope and courage rather quickly and powerfully.  We’ll say things like, “wow, look what s/he did, that is remarkable.”

Blooper reels allow us a chance to be human, to practice a self-deprecating humor that keeps our perspectives in proper balance about who we are.  In the course of a day or week, we spend a lot of energy trying to be the best we can be and that means inevitably that we present positive spins on who we are, all the while keeping hidden or at least under the radar our vulnerable side.  When we watch blooper reels, we end up laughing at persons who seemed perfect just moments prior to when their “malfunction” took place.

What has this got to do with anything? Well, how about a spiritual practice that could take place once a week in your life, say on a Friday at the end of the work week, or a Sunday as the week is about to unfold before you. Take a moment to run the highlight reel from the previous week and inspire yourself.  In church language that would be similar to “count your blessings.”  Instead of focusing all your energy on what went wrong in a week, take a few moments and name your highlights.  You just might renew your courage and inspire yourself toward living more fully in the week of days ahead of you.  And include in that practice a brief blooper reel. Take a moment to laugh at yourself, take yourself less seriously and rejoice –really rejoice—in being a vulnerable human being.  Your humanity will be deepened by doing that.

So my highlight reel from last week would include:  holding my sign at CapitolPride, made by Terryn, that colorfully had our church’s name written on it with the word INCLUSIVE and pointing to the word “Baptist” as some judgmental Westboro Baptist types were marching along the sidewalks, denouncing those who had come out to celebrate their liberation from hatred and second class citizenship.  Those in the crowd in front of me cheered and drowned out the megaphone ranting of the street preacher denouncing them.  Highlight.  Inspiring.

My blooper reel:  I was standing in the street at CapitolPride, ready to begin marching (after a two hour wait), holding my sign up when a lady in front of me looked at me and said, “your sign is upside down.”  I sheepishly turned it right side up.  I won’t bother you with the details of how cranky I was and how much I whined while waiting to get going in the parade.  Suffice it to say, the wonderful persons from our church who were there to march were very kind and patient with me.

Highlights and bloopers. Who knew this could be a rather practical way to practice one’s spirituality?  Have a week of highlights and a good laugh or two at your own expense.  We are both heroic and yes, embarrassing at times.  It’s okay.  Live deeply and joyfully. See you Sunday~

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Pancakes & Sermons

 

Pancakes

Because of the devotion and skill of our bass player, we have some sermons back up for you to read and to listen to.  Our bass player also is I.T.  savvy.  So thanks for helping us out–you know who you are.  

I feel somewhat like the cook at a diner.  You know how you order your pancakes and while you wait you hear a bell ding? And you know the ding of the bell means “Order’s up!”    So imagine a bell dinging and me saying, “Sermon’s up!”  They’re ready for consumption.  Proceed to the buffet line on the “sermons” page.

Sermons are little emblems. They are snapshots of theology, praxis, philosophical and hermeneutical approaches to scripture and the world around us.  I hope you will take time to read and listen to some of these.  They are handcrafted.  I don’t just pull them out of a hat.  And more importantly, a sermon participates in the mystery of the Logos, the Word of God manifested to the world in Christ.  Through the poverty of our language we are ushered into the riches of God’s love.  Pancakes & Sermons. Get fed.

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Faith, Questions, Knowledge

Where do you keep your faith?  Is it in your heart?  Is it in your mind?  That is, is faith something you feel or is it an intellectual assent to some list of beliefs? 

Triumph of Faith over Idolatry, by Jean-Baptis...
Triumph of Faith over Idolatry, by Jean-Baptiste Théodon (French, 1646–1713). Church of the Gesù, Rome, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Or maybe faith is something not kept within any chamber of your life. Perhaps it is more a gift bestowed on you by a power greater than yourself.  Or maybe it is something you earn, like a grade in a course or a gold watch for reliable service rendered.  Is faith something you have anything to do with?  “Have more faith,” someone might say.  But if faith is bestowed on me then how can I have more of it?  If faith is simply something I earn, a merit badge, then I can see how I might have more faith by earning more merit. Works?  Grace? What is this we call faith?

 Do those who claim they do not believe thereby assert at one and the same time that they believe in something? They at least believe in the rationality of their statement of unbelief but it seems as arbitrary as anyone’s assertion of faith.  I don’t believe sounds a whole lot like I believe in unbelief. 

 Is faith communal?  I can read a novel by myself, a novel populated by characters and configured by plot.  Is faith simply individual and narrated by myself?  Or am I read into the narrative of faith?  Aren’t current pop ideas of individuality simply the most craven renderings of conformity?  Look at me! I’m like everyone else tweeting, texting, posting—an instagram moment of individuality conformed to instagrams everywhere. How can I know me if I am a mere island in a chain of islands cut off from any community of self-reflection?

Intelligo me intelligere wrote Augustine. I understand that I understand.  What mystery is this but the deepest?

 I do not know what your exposure to religion has been, but as I grew up in a naïve fundamentalist setting, my exposure was to religion as answer.  We didn’t ask questions.  And if we dared to ask we were simply and swiftly pressed back into line and told to accept without question whatever it was that was being asserted by the church.  At Riverside, we have tried to nurture a place of quest where we get to ask questions and reflect deeply about who we are.  We do not reject answers, of course. That would be naïve or stupid.  But neither do we accept answers simply because some authority has said it is so.  We will come to an authentic religious life, an authentic personhood, when we dare to ask questions and find a way to live within and through those questions. 

 Come join us. Bring your life. Bring your heart and your mind. Bring your questions and let’s journey together a while in a communal celebration of lives lived authentically before God and within a world that is more often than not translucent and too often, dark. Or as the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” [1Cor.13:12]

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