We have nodded to my 25th anniversary as pastor of Riverside Baptist Church this month –provided a collection of sermons, Safe Harbor— and now we conclude with a luncheon after a Sunday morning worship of “testifying.” This past week has been an appropriate reflection of my 25 years. Here is some of what I did.
I visited and counseled with the sick and the despairing; I kept vigil beside the former First Lady of Fifth Baptist Church, Rosalie Harrison, praying with her, reading psalms, and then commending her to God on Tuesday evening, February 21st. She had told me many years ago that she wanted to live to 100 years old. I visited her in January to wish her a happy 100th and then, one month later, she left this mortal world with its tears and suffering. Her graveside service is Thursday the 2nd of March at Fort Lincoln Cemetery. I spent my day Friday visiting the funeral home and the cemetery to make her arrangements and in between those visits, received word that Lauren was on the way to the hospital to give birth. I received news last week that Wyatt was released from Children’s Hospital where he had undergone a significant surgery. I sat on a bench on a beautiful Spring day of 74 degrees in February with the President of SWNA, a delightful and gifted gentleman who wanted to get to know me and our church better. Spoke with Ian over at Blind Whino about the possibility of an art show and an alternative worship experience once a month. Saw several of our development team walking our property, hardhats and goggles on as I drove by, headed for an appointment. I taught a class at Howard Divinity and worked to arrange for as student to serve on a panel discussion of an up and coming play on March 4th at Temple Micah, The Gospel of Lovingkindness, devoted to the issue of prevention of handgun violence.
Plans, prayers, tears and laughter–my 25 years crystallized in one intense week. From joy to sorrow and back again, the pastorate at Riverside has been a novel and a sacred journey. I’d like to conclude this month’s celebration of this anniversary with the Apostle Paul’s benediction in Romans: For from God and through God and to God are all things. To God be the glory forever. Amen. ~ See you Sunday
Please note that traffic patterns will be impacted by the Navy-Airforce half marathon Sunday. While not directly effecting the church, it may impact your commute in. Be sure to check their course map and determine if you need to alter your route to church Sunday
What is time? It is the ticking of the clock on the wall. It is the metronome of hours, providing rhythm to our lives. It is a template we place over the unfolding days and nights. It is the stuff of our lives.
The New Testament has a couple of words for what we translate “time.” There is Chronos time, which is the ticking of the clock on the wall. And there is Kairos, which is an altogether different kind of time. Because while everything I listed in that first paragraph is true as far as it goes, there is something else about time that the bible knows is most important. Kairos time is when the tomatoes on the vine burst red. Kairos is the moment of birth, when labor pains begin to radiate along the lower back and the mother knows the time has come. Kairos is always judgement and opportunity, the end of something and the beginning of another.
We live much of our lives along the flat road of Chronos. That road is grooved by our constant travel of it. We know the way to the coffee maker in the morning. We travel the same way to work day in and out. We have the same conversations over and again, day in and out. Chronological time is a monochrome rust.
Kairos is seasonal. Moments erupt out of the flat surfaces of life like fountains of water suddenly spraying into the hot desert air. Spring spills its riot of colors into the black and white pictures of our daily grind. Fall does the same thing. There are moments when our chronological time is shattered by Kairos, the ripening of a moment that chooses us and calls to us through the thick brick, insulated routines through which we travel. What time do we find ourselves in right now?
For Riverside Baptist Church, we find the fabric of time is opened along a seam of opportunity. This Sunday, September 18th, we will host a “Welcome Home Sunday,” inviting former members and friends to return to the church to honor its past even as we make our way from the shore to set off for a new future. After worship, we’ll linger over lunch and then return to the sanctuary for some music and testimonies. Chronos will be suspended. Kairos will clutch at our hearts and our minds. ~I hope to see you Sunday
We are impoverished. I mean by this what Johannes Baptist Metz means in his luminous book, Poverty of the Spirit, when he writes, “We are all beggars. We are all members of a species that is not sufficient unto itself. We are all creatures plagued by unending doubts and restless, unsatisfied hearts. Of all creatures, we are the poorest and the most incomplete. Our needs are always beyond our capacities, and we only find ourselves when we lose ourselves.”
We find ourselves as we resign ourselves to God and into the care of others. There are simply things we cannot do for ourselves. It is a sign of our poverty that others must act for us and on behalf of us. This poverty is not something of which to be ashamed but it is merely an acknowledgement of our interdependence. When you are selfless, acting on behalf of others, you find yourself. This is something of what Jesus must have meant when he taught, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it.” Yes, we are impoverished and need others—and others need us. In selfless, devotional acts, we redeem our lives and the world. Our interdependence is a remarkable spiritual truth… and a remarkable, redemptive opportunity.
Our church is at a crossroads as we submit who we are and ourselves and all that we do into the care of others who do not know us nor share our view of the world. That is okay. That is, as noted above, the condition of humanity. I pray that we will be given a fair hearing, a just consideration, and that people of humane spirit will link with us in a brilliant, humane and humanist effort to heal the world around us. Whatever decisions get made, however our journey is travelled, our destiny remains unchanged: we live in this world by God’s grace and we are trekking always and ever toward the Kingdom of light and peace. May God bless those leaders and decision-makers who have some sway over our immediate circumstances. May the mission and mandate, as Metz describes being a human, be met in us so that “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable” would find us ready. Amen. So be it.