Tag Archives: Worship

Lord of the (Butter) Flies

FYI:  Tuesday events are cancelled due to on-going construction and remedial work at the church.  We apologize for any inconvenience.

Can you imagine living in community only with young people? I ask this because Riverside wants to be a community that welcomes young people. But that does not mean we want to be solely a church of the young (any more than we want to be solely a church of the old).  I remember reading a novel in high school called Lord of the Flies.  That was about a group of young people on an island.  You might recall reading it or seeing a movie based on it.  That did not turn out happily.

So Riverside Church is better perceived as a  Lord of the Butterflies church.  I use that image because as you know, a butterfly goes through four developmental stages.  And of course, these are beautiful creatures compared to a horsefly.  To be a Lord of the Butterflies church means we are an intergenerational community of faith,  so that across the spectrum of human development, we are able to interact with both children, young adults,  and our elders. That is a beautiful community of faith indeed!  We invite you, no matter your age or developmental stage, to worship with us and walk with us a while on your sacred journey.  We worship the Lord of Butterflies, of renewal and resurrection.  Note the calendar of events this week and drop by.  And I certainly hope to see you on Sunday at 10 am for our choir’s presentation of Christmas music.

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.

Communion at the Wharf

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a concert over at The Anthem on The Wharf. These folks are technically our neighbors now and as you know, Riverside sits at the gateway into the Wharf. The Anthem is just an incredible venue, by the way.

Today (Sunday) I walked down to gaze at our building and then decided to visit the Blue Bottle Cafe. I used the app on my smart phone to unlock an electric scooter and scooted over there.  Had a delicious Macchiato.  Then I got back on the scooter and parked across the street from the church, ended my ride and walked to Westminster for our worship.  I had used a scooter on Saturday to travel from the Wharf Recreation Pier to visit a congregant over near 4th and G Streets.  Awesome way to move about.

The weave of opportunities and travel options, the remarkable array of entertainment options and restaurants and the interweave of individuals making their way to and fro create a synergy and vibrancy to our community.  I use that last word broadly because as a church, we know that the word “community” derives from the word “communion” and I’m not really sure how much communion there is in all of this. It is a powerful mix though.   Potent.  The Anthem provides an ecstatic experience to thousands nearly every night.  People are lined up to enter restaurants and bars.  And thousands more simply want to stroll through this cultural-entertainment-web.  But community? Communion? I’ll just say I’m an agnostic about that at this point.  I’m open though because the other thing I know is this:  when people encounter other people, whether or not they intend to commune or communicate, they inevitably exchange information about themselves to others and often without saying a word.  We are interesting and complex creatures and everything from our facial expressions to the clothes we wear tell the world around us something about us.  And each of us–get this–carries the Image of God.

I write all this to say that I’m processing this information in an effort to understand what the role of our church is and will be on that corner at 7th & Maine Ave.  Materially speaking, it is very clear to me that our architect and the builders have made a wonderful contribution to the aesthetic on that avenue.  That stone wall, the swerve and wave of the roofline, the bell tower/ship stack, the stained glass and pearl white prefab—it is a handsome building that anchors the corner and it is a contribution to the architectural vernacular of SW.  But we are not the Anthem. No way we can compete nor would we try.  We serve coffee but we’re not Blue Bottle.  We’ll have potlucks but we’re not Kith & Ken.  We’re a church. We are communion. And we engage holistically soulful human beings.  And that, beloved, is something not offered across the exchange at any counter at the Wharf or online.  I invite you to ponder with me about these things. In a few months, we will step into a holy space, open its doors to our community, and commune and worship.  And I will catch a scooter for that any day and every time!

Worship As Resistance

Don’t you weary of reading the news every day through its various entertainment platforms?  There are few of us who would keep a window open if a bus was running outside spewing its exhaust or a jackhammer were pounding the concrete 24/7.  That would be a form of torture. My question for so many of us is, why are you subjecting yourself to torture?  Turn OFF the “news.”  Commend 45 to Almighty God, the Just and Holy.

People wonder what they can do. We march, we advocate for policy change, we denounce and post our opinions. And that is good and even needed. But if that is all you do day in and out, don’t be surprised when you’re constantly angry, nauseous, short with those you love and then crash and burn.  Because the spirit needs the Spirit.  My hope is this:  that you will commit 10% of the time you spend on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the internet period toward worship. Worship as Resistance means you enter a congregation that loves others and is thus involved in creating the Beloved Community. Worship as Resistance means, you get your soul fed.  How many hours do you spend a week posting and reading online? I would say it is  a safe guess that you spend 10 hours.  That means 10% would be 1 hour in worship.  See you in worship tomorrow.  We have singers singing, deacons praying, we’re combined in worship with Westminster Presbyterian and are thus fulfilling the prayer of our Lord to be One, and we are replenishing our souls. Oh, and I’m preaching a cinnamon stick sermon.  ~See you Sunday

First Sunday of August: Let’s Worship

August 5th and we enter the “dog days” of summer (hopefully with a break from the rain). Whatever the weather, don’t let it be an excuse for not gathering as the People of God.  We are worshipping at 11 a.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 401 I St., SW.  Pastor Bledsoe is preaching (All Who Wander Are Not Lost), Jonathan is leading our Gates of Praise, Terryn is singing special music and it is a communion Sunday–given our shared context with Westminster, we are blessed to share across denominational lines in Holy Communion with our Presbyterian brothers and sisters.  Above all, in our gathering in Christ’s name, we are assured by Scripture that Christ is with us.  That friends is worth missing the talking heads on t.v., the regurgitation of news on news programs and even brunch (though you should get out in plenty of time to eat).

~See you Sunday.

Two Kinds of Steel

steel_frame_day6Monday morning, April 23rd, the first steel beam was put into place by a crane on our construction site. By Saturday, much of the steel frame was in place.  We thank God for this progress and for the many workers who work tirelessly to construct our church.  The picture you see was taken on Saturday morning, just six days into the process.

Another kind of steel caught my eye this week.  The steel of character.  Let me tell you what I mean and the discovery of it was very exciting and joyful.

On Thursday morning I noticed that Google was honoring a 1948 London Olympian from the Netherlands, Fanny Blankers.  And clicking on that link, I noticed a Youtube film of the 1948 Olympics that is an hour in length.  I immediately thought of Riverside’s own Olympian, Emma Wright, who had grown up in Mississippi, and found her way onto the first American Olympic Team after WWII. She competed in the broad jump.  Emma was a gentle, kind, wonderful Christian woman.  And how proud we were and are of her!  So I began to watch this film from 1948 in hopes that I might see Emma.  Sure enough, the film begins with the processional of the athletes into the Olympic Stadium.  Late in the processional came the Americans and soon, walking across the screen, there she was!  A young woman, proudly representing her country and her family. You can see her in the photo below where she is second from the right.  I have made the photo black and white except for Emma.  How amazing to reach back into time and find this.  She possessed a character of steel. While she is no longer with us and will not walk into our new building in November, we nonetheless sense her presence and remember her. Tomorrow, Sunday, I will preach on “The Horizon of Expectation.” I’ll talk a little about steel and the future.  ~See you Sunday

Processional of American athletes in the 1948 London Olympics.
Processional of American athletes in the 1948 London Olympics.

Practice & The Spirit

This past week I had more than one conversation with some individuals who were seeking a way to deepen their spiritual lives.  As a pastor, these kinds of conversation are what I and other pastors long for–we want to lead our brothers and sisters to a well where they can drink deeply.  As it turns out–and it always seems to turn out like this in our spiritual journeys–a serendipitous discovery came across my footpath and is often the case in my life, I was guided to this discovery by my wife who was reading the 2018 updated version of What Color Is Your Parachute?   and she offered me a link to a site that the author had mentioned in the book. I went there. I found an ad for another site and it is this site I want to suggest to you as a tool for your daily practice of spirit and spirituality.

The site comes to us via the Jesuits who are trained in the discipline of Ignatius of Loyola.  They have created a marvelous site and a very practical and cool app that you can download called “Pray As You Go.”  If you are trying to find a way to kindle a spark in your faith or simply add sparkle to your walk in God, then go to the site.  You can listen to daily prayers on their web site (you don’t need the app to do that).  I have tried it and find it to be soothing, peaceful, and yet willing to confront questions about our spiritual lives that can get us unglued from the traps of a too-busy culture.

Finally, there is one practice you are urged to make part of your life by the scriptures. It is there from the moments of Creation. It is enshrined at Sinai.  And the Church insists that this practice is the work of the Church:  W O R S H I P.  Standing together as those called out by Christ; embracing one another fully as made in God’s Image; Rejoicing and Praying and Loving; this practice every week lends a rhythm and sense to our scattered activities and infuses us with hope.  Join us Sundays at 10 a.m. where, in the auditorium of Jefferson Academy Middle School, we become the People of God.  Practice makes perfect.  ~See you Sunday

Return

This coming Sunday, the first Sunday of 2018, we will return to Jefferson Middle School for our worship at 10 a.m.  Back to an auditorium that has served us well for over one year now.  And hopefully, prayerfully, we will walk into a new sanctuary sometime this Fall.  Return. Come back.

Though we were never truly apart. Our worship with Westminster Presbyterian Church on Christmas Eve was a delight.  How great it was to worship with our friends, our brothers and sisters there. They welcomed us and made us feel so at home in a true illustration of ecumenical life. We are better for having come together.  Thanks to Pastor Ruth and Pastor Brian and the entire congregation there. I will be working with SW clergy and especially Ruth to guide our congregations to more shared experiences and shared ministries in 2018.  Then this past Sunday on New Year’s Eve, Christ United Methodist welcomed us into their beautiful sanctuary. Their reception of us was as warm as it was warm inside on a cold day.  And again, we felt the strength and joy of being together with fellow believers.  Their new pastor, Monica Raines, is fresh out of Wesley Seminary and offers them (and our community) energy and vision.  We pray for your ministry and presence, Christ United.

Now it is time to return to our “church” such as it is and this we have learned:  while a building is wonderful (how wonderful it was to be inside those two churches!) we the people are the church.  Return and let us begin this year with renewed commitment and purpose. Be here as often as you possibly can.  Step up and support our ministry.  Reach out and embrace one another.  Let us be the Church.

And for any who have searched and longed for a church of peace, justice and Christ-centered joy, come with us this year.  Return. Come home.  Your spirituality and life in God can begin or continue here.  As we embark on this journey together, may Christ the Good Shepherd gather us, guide us and bring us to his Kingdom.  ~See you Sunday

A Prayer on Monday

For the earth that is round or seems to be and goes round and around so that its rotation is somehow synced to my life in ways that defy complete comprehension but this I do know, that seasons come and go and my life is lived out in days whose completion is the setting of the sun and whose beginning is the rising of the sun—so for these mysteries of interconnection and for life, I give thanks.

For my body and five senses though these are gifts that betray me in the course of a day and a week, I give thanks, Lord God.  When I can stand on my two feet and walk, when I can eat from the fruit of the earth and its harvest, when I can feel the healing power of hot water on my face or on my aching and arthritic shoulders, as light enters my eyes and images of the earth are conveyed to my mind via light, I am deeply grateful.

For my mind that is a mysterious gift that defies reductionist science, that cannot be reduced to an analogy with computers, that allows me to critically engage the world around me and most mysteriously, like a three paneled mirror allows me to step out (ex-ist) of my being and behold myself, I give thanks.  For minds that communicate with me from centuries and even millennia ago through scriptures and books and now through media of all kinds and above all, Holy One, for this mind that allows me to speak and hear your Mind.  Selah.

On this Monday when the wicked swarm the earth and the politicians in high places prepare to cut the cords of covenantal obligations to our fellow citizens thus ratcheting even tighter the barbed springs of suffering, O Just God, empower your people to heal the world and cause princes of terror to stumble so that peace and justice might anoint the low, the humble and the outcast.  Have mercy on us, Lord Christ, Good Shepherd, Lamb of God, Child of Mary and Joseph, Light of the world.  Have mercy. Amen +

The Counter-Cultural Power of Covenant Community

communion_hand

Once upon a time, way back in the 1970s, I worked in a warehouse.  It was a non-union shop in Florida, low wages, hard work and people pretty much stuck.  I was between college and seminary.  It did not take long to see the patterns of these laborers. They worked strictly by the clock.  They had to clock in on time and they definitely wanted to clock out on time.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.  And you know what comes on Friday: TGIF.

People did and do work for the week-end. I’m going to skip over the long battles in this country for worker’s rights and how so many today take for granted that they get a week-end or work a 40 hour week instead of seven days, sun-up to sun-down.  This pattern is what I am focused on, how living for the week-end is ingrained in people’s lives. People are always looking to get across the finish line on Friday and begin the week-end. And then they push their stone back up the hill again starting Monday.

There is another pattern available to us. There is a way to break through the maze of work and and mindless binges in a haze of drugs, drinking or shopping.  That pattern  is called keeping the Sabbath. Whether or not you strictly adhere to the biblical notion of Sabbath beginning on sunset Friday to sunset Saturday or you simply block Sunday out and make time for worship, doing so provides remarkable gifts.  I’ll list a few (there are many more!):

*You are not working but resting and acknowledging the Creator who also sustains the world. And you are remembering this God who is Holy and Just expects us to live holy and just lives, so in that regard, you participate in a primal counter-cultural protest and are liberated into a joyful and satisfying life.

*You are being reminded that you cannot do it all and are not expected to save the world and all of its problems. What you are required to do is walk justly and act mercifully and do your best to alleviate some small amount of suffering in your corner of the universe (I’m paraphrasing Albert Schweitzer with that last phrase).

*You are creating a covenant with others to care for one another and our world. What results from this –week in and week out– is communal discourse or community.  This is one of the greatest antidotes to not only loneliness but our struggle with our own identity.  When you lose yourself inside a covenantal community you end up gaining your life and an identity that can sustain you when you enter back into the work-a-day world.

Many of us are struggling in this madness of an administration that seems hell bent on turning its back on middle America, poor Americans, sick Americans, aging Americans.  I really do believe that the way to peace is peace, the way to justice is justice. Introduce a new pattern or revive the pattern of Sabbath rest in your life.  Find a communal discourse and live at the center of it.

~See you Sunday.