Tag Archives: Southwest DC

Lincoln Has Been Murdered and the idea of Covenant along with him

One hundred and fifty years ago, April 14th, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Fords Theater.  A perverse act by a brassy patriot took his life and sought to destroy what Confederate armies could not.  One of the ways we could honor his life this week is to read again his Gettysburg Address.  It is, as you know, a very short speech.  In our time and in our culture of sound bytes, tweets and myriad screeds of hatred promulgated by politicians who seem to have little sense of a common destiny built upon shared goals, we would be served well by reading it.

The sad truth is, when the 1% control so much from wealth to media, a concept like of the people, by the people, for the people is endangered. The Congress is about to ratify a budget on the backs of the poor, the elderly, the disadvantaged and they do it in the name of patriotism, of course.  We are not so much called together with appeals to our better angels but we are called apart with appeals to what is small and fearful in us.

One of the things that stuns me is how those who claim Christ, claim to be his followers and wave the flag of family are so passionately committed to policies that harm families and their fellow citizens.  I’m not talking politics here as much as simple bible theology.  Persons who claim the bible as their foundational starting point for a politics of destruction should not be given license to use the sacred for the dismantling of safety nets for the least among us, for their misogynist bullying and their rhetoric of war and more war.  Here’s a word to consider:  covenant.  What Lincoln understood and died for was a covenantal comprehension of citizenship that defies the ideologies pouring forth from the president-want-to-be underlings populating the media stage at this moment.  If the bands of citizenship link us all in a common destiny then the “visions” offered us today are paltry and emaciated by comparison.  Listen to President Lincoln and you’ll quickly see what I mean:

…It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…

Oh, that a Battle Hymn of the Republic might rise up out of the People and we would find out way out of a country governed by a congress that cannot govern and a citizenry seemingly incapable of asking what they might do for their country, to cite another visionary president shot down and taken from us.  In the mean time, let us enter the sacred precincts of our holy places and learn the art of covenantal life and mutual aspirations undergirded by mutual responsibilities.  ~ See you Sunday.

Calculation of Presence, the ANC and Riverside Church

chalice_SalvadorHow does one  go about calculating presence?  By ‘presence’ I mean the actual appearance of someone into the equation of any group, be it your office, your dinner outing, a family reunion, and yes, a church.

And I’m not talking about—or at least I don’t want to talk about—the drunk uncle at the family reunion.  That is a kind of obvious and negative ledger sheet with which we are all familiar.  We have all said at some point in our lives (even in elementary school when deciding at which lunch table to sit), “I hope so-and-so doesn’t show up, sit down, come along.”

Let’s focus for the moment, or moments it takes to read this, upon the positive.  We have also said things like, “I am so glad s/he was there. What a difference s/he makes.”  Someone’s presence livens up a room, fills a room with light, replaces sadness with joy or hands out courage and hope in large bowls.  Calculating presence is an inexact art but we all calculate every day how someone’s presence in our lives makes a measurable difference for how we think, feel and act.

This holds true for institutions in our communities as well.  I recall not too long ago how a particular club along what is now called “The Wharf” impacted our community in Southwest. Suddenly it seemed we had more trash littering the parking lot of our church and streets, drunks sleeping in cars on the church lot, and assorted other behaviors we need not list here.  The neighborhood was revolted by that institution’s careless regard of others.  We expect more from one another and we calculate presence by how not only an institution appears on a corner, but how they deepen our humanity and raise our sights by calling us to noble ideas and actions.

This week and week-end, calculate your presence.  Consider how you individually bring light and hope into a group; ponder how you raise the sights of others, deepen the humanity of others.  The amazing thing about that kind of presence is this—while giving your life away in kindness and service to others you yourself are deepened and ennobled in the process.

Monday of next week, the ANC will address our church’s plans for the future as we attempt to do well by those who preceded us by securing this institution for those who will come after us.  The ANC commissioners will be calculating our presence as it were. One would hope such calculation goes beyond capitalist ledger sheets like how many burgers did you sell this week or how many widgets do you have in your widget piggy bank?  Instead, if the calculation of presence is predicated upon the deepening of humanity, the luminosity of wisdom and love, then we stand a chance of being understood.  Our little church on this corner of Southwest has had a great voice for exactly these kinds of values. We speak up for the inclusion of all, for the dignity and humanity of all, for justice and peace.  We cry out for these values but we also take actions to implement those values in our lives.

Were you to stand across the street where the Wharf is currently a kind of desolation row (and it will be exciting to watch as desolation is transformed into a wonderful intersection of human discourse and concourse), and if you looked across the street at our corner, I believe you could see not a building but a light.  On any given Sunday this is what we hand out:  light and salt, seeds of hope and empowerment that in turn transform our community, our work places and our lives.  ~See you Sunday.

I Know A Place In SW DC: Where Would You Go?

chalice_SalvadorIf 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