Things That Make For Peace: Patience and Letting God of Fear, Distrust, and Anxiety

A Sermon preached by the
Rev. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, May 20, 2018

Text: Acts 2:1-13 (The Message); Romans 8:22-27 (NRSV)

This has been a tough week. More than once my sighs have been too deep for words, punctuated by a number of guttural groans, for good measure. From the 5.5 hour City Council meeting Monday night, in which we tried to make our case to continue to be the First Baptist Church, operating at this site, to a difficult Church Council meeting Tuesday night to trying to figure out and explain all that is happening to friends and colleagues as well as to myself, it has been a tough week. I am not eager for another like it any time soon, if ever. I am guessing that this is the kind of week when a heavy dose of patience and a cultivated capacity for letting go of fear, distrust, and anxiety comes in handy. God knows I could use some peace today. Continue reading Things That Make For Peace: Patience and Letting God of Fear, Distrust, and Anxiety

Things That Make for Peace: Empathy and Economic Equity

A Sermon preached by the
Rev. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, May 13, 2018

Text: Mark 10:17-31 (The Message)

Things that make for peace. I asked last Sunday. Alan said “empathy” and Kathy said “economic equity.” Maybe I should have said, “Great. You preach next week.” But since it’s my job, let’s see what I can do. The lectionary texts for today were no help, (actually, they weren’t very inspiring at all,) so I sat down to try to conjure up a text that dealt with peace and empathy. What first popped into my head was this tale of Jesus and the one who had great wealth. Notice that the gospel of Mark gives neither gender or age to the wealthy one. No “rich, young ruler” here. Some commentators suggest this is so we can more easily put ourselves in his place. (The Greek pronoun is masculine,)

Here we have the very definition of empathy – “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Let’s put aside any empathy we have for this wealthy one for the moment and see how empathy does and does not play out generally in this story. To begin with, I think there is great empathy between Jesus and the wealthy one. The wealthy one has detected something in Jesus that inspires him to come running, to kneel in great reverence, and to ask the question that’s burning in his heart, sure that Jesus has the answer. His empathy may not be complete, especially his understanding of what Jesus is all about, but his desire to see, understand, and share is deep and it is sincere.

Continue reading Things That Make for Peace: Empathy and Economic Equity

A Resurrection People

A sermon preached by
Gregory Stevens
First Baptist Church of Palo Alto
Sunday, 29 April 2018
Text: John 15:1-8

“Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ’s message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology.” – James Cone (1936-2018)

If you are a follower of Jesus it seems pretty obvious that his calling on our lives is to be good people, to bear juicy fruit, and to live as if we were an extension of his life and work.

Christ is the Vine, we are the branches.

But what makes for a good and sturdy branch, one that can bear juicy fruit?

Is it enough to simply be nice to the person bagging our groceries? Did Jesus get executed for calling us to be friendlier to our coffee barista? Can the resurrection really be boiled down to mere neighborliness?

I don’t think the symbol of the Christian movement would have been a political prisoners execution, the cross, if God was calling us to niceness.

When the early church is forming in the Luke-Acts narrative we read that the Spirit falls on Pentecost, the whole room shakes, and everyone begins to speak in each other’s native tongue, united in their diversity they share their money and property, they distributed their goods as different needs came up: the sick were healed, the hungry fed, the outcaste welcomed, and the naked clothed.

Continue reading A Resurrection People

Listening to the Earth

A Sermon preached by the
Rev. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, April 22, 2018

Text: Psalm 100; Job 12:7-10; 19:25-27; from 38 and 39

“Ask the animals.” That was the original title of this sermon. “Ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.” Job uses these words to challenge the wisdom of his so-called friends. But in the end, Job, his friends, and we ourselves might do well to ask the animals, to consult creation, to listen to the earth to hear what they might have to tell us, to discern if we might be missing some message from the Holy One. If nothing else, it could be an important exercise in the practice of humility.

As Job asks his friends, “Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Holy One has done this? In God’s hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.” Maybe he would be better off asking “Who DOES know that the hand of the Lord has done this? That “In God’s hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.” “Know that the Holy One is God; it is God who has made us and not we ourselves,” the psalmist sings. If we really understood this, believed this, practiced this, how might our lives and the life of the planet be different? Continue reading Listening to the Earth

Community of Faith

A Sermon preached by the
Rev. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, April 15, 2018

Text: Luke 24:36-49

Enough of them had been there, even if they had been watching at a distance, to know what had happened. The tragic tale had been repeated enough times now that they could all recite it. He was arrested, tried, ridiculed, beaten, and executed. There was no question that he was dead. They all knew that Joseph of Arimathea had taken the body from the Romans and laid it in the tomb. Luke says, “The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:55-56). So, some of their own number had actually witnessed the entombment. The burial cave was sealed. That was it. He himself had cried from the cross, “It is finished!” Done. Over with. Dead. No one could deny it.

Except that on the “first day of the week, at early dawn,” that same group of women, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary, the mother of James, had returned to the tomb to complete the work of actually anointing the body, which they had been unable to do when the sun set and sabbath began. Shockingly, they discovered the stone rolled away and the body gone. Before they could do anything more than share their perplexity, “two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.” Naturally enough, “the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest” (Luke 24:4-9). Continue reading Community of Faith

Great Grace

A Sermon preached by the
Rev. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, April 8, 2018

Text: Acts 4:32-35

Long ago and far away – well 45 years ago in Berkeley, anyway – I lived in a kind of commune. 10 or 12 of us, all connected through the Graduate Theological Union and its member schools, lived in a large, three-story house on Hearst Street, directly across from the residence of the president of the University of California. The house was owned by two of the women who lived there who were the beneficiaries of wealthy families. I’m not sure how tight-knit a community it was compared to other communes of which I’ve heard, but we had house meetings, house rules, some shared meals, some shared activities, and common concern for things theological. There was diversity in background, life-style, interest, and theological thinking, but we were all white, middle and upper middle class young adults – clearly people of privilege. It didn’t cost us much to live in this sort of community. Continue reading Great Grace

Shattered Expectations

A Sermon preached by the
Rev. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, April 1, 2018

Text: Mark 16:1-8 (The Message); 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 (The Message)

What were you expecting? We have shouted, “Christ is risen!” and sung, “Alleluia.” Isn’t that what you were expecting on Easter Sunday? Or were you looking for something different, something more? To be sure, after a few more alleluias and a couple of amens, there will be chocolate eggs and a delicious finger food brunch. Our menu has something for everyone. There shouldn’t be any shattered expectations on Easter at First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, should there?

But then there is this morning’s text from the gospel of Mark that ends so abruptly and surprisingly. No Jesus standing in the shadows of the garden, no post mortem appearance on the Emmaus Road, no Christ walking through walls. Just the proclamation, “He is risen.” Followed by silence. As we read it over in Bible study this week, it struck me that in Mark’s narrative there are shattered expectations all over the place. In fact, “Shattered Expectations” might serve as a sub-title for this ancient text. Let’s go back to the beginning. Tell me about the Christmas story as recorded by Mark. What’s that you say? There isn’t one? Continue reading Shattered Expectations

And What of the Donkey?

A Sermon preached by the
Rev. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, March 25, 2018

Text: Mark 11:1-11

[NB. Today’s reflection on the word is more of a “poetry reading” than a traditional sermon. It was inspired by the discovery of one poem about the donkey that led to another that led to another. Hoepfully, the reflection will help to move us from the Triumphal Entry to the foot of the Cross – and beyond!]

He came riding on a donkey,
he came riding into town;
slow and easy, kind of lowly,
he came riding with the dawn.

And what of the Donkey? Maren Tirabassi plays with the fact that the donkey must first be untied to be ridden. She wonders if the untying isn’t a liberation to serve and speculates on the freedom we might experience if were untied from the things that bind us.

Continue reading And What of the Donkey?

The Love of God

A Sermon preached by the
Rev. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, March 11, 2018

Text: John 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:1-10

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to the human race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And everyone a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song. Continue reading The Love of God

It’s Hard to Follow Jesus

A Sermon preached by the
Rev. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, February 25, 2018

Text: Mark 8:27-38

Today we jump forward in Mark’s gospel. We pick up the narrative about half way through. Todd Weir points out that today’s ancient word “…is a peak moment in Mark’s narrative about Jesus. Before this chapter lies a series of miracles and triumphs. Jesus feeds 5000 people, heals the sick, and wins theological arguments with the Pharisees. He is definitely on the rise, his fame stretching throughout the small region of Palestine” (Todd Weir, “Who Do You Say that I Am?” January 6, 2018, But things are about to take a decided turn in a different direction.

As an itinerant teacher, Jesus uses the time that he and the disciples are walking from village to village as teaching time. “Alright, you’ve been with me on this journey for a while. You’ve heard what I’ve said and you’ve seen what I’ve done. I have a question for you. Who do people say that I am?” Seems like a sensible question. After leaving their lives behind to follow, after traveling with him for a period of time, after having observed him up close and personal, they ought to have some idea of what people are saying about him. What’s the buzz around Galilee?

Continue reading It’s Hard to Follow Jesus