Young People and Renewal at FBCPA

iSing GirlchoirI love the fact that this is a place that welcomes and embraces young people. As I mentioned last week, we hosted concerts for the Silicon Valley Boychoir and iSing Silicon Valley Girlchoir at the same time we have the ongoing presence of the New Mozart School for Music. The building is often crawling with kids. I want to tell you that the Girlchoir concerts Friday and Saturday were terrific. Not only were the concerts musically excellent, the leadership and teaching of Jennah Delp-Somers and Shane Troll is remarkable. This program has become a real asset not only to our church but to the cultural life of Silicon Valley.

And speaking of assets, our own children and youth will be leading us in worship Sunday. This is the first time in the years I’ve been here that we’ve done something quite like this. Pastor Tripp and Doug have been working with the kids this spring on the topic of baptism. Now they have created a worship service in which we will be “Remembering Our Baptisms” along with them. I am especially pleased that Oscar Ramirez, who is graduating soon from Los Altos High and heading off to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, will be bringing the Reflection on the Word. I am looking forward to what he has to share with us. You will surely want to be present for this gift from our children and youth. By the way, they are also hosting the fellowship time after worship.

Following the service, we will hold the Special Business Meeting to take action on the Renewal Proposal, brought to us by the Renewal Task Team through the Church Council.   I am sure you are all aware of the process this proposal has been through. We came to you originally with a great candidate for the proposed new pastoral position, but in the end she was not available. At our Quarterly Business Meeting in April we brought you a revision of the proposal that removes references to a specific candidate and proposes the creation of a search process for a new candidate. We invited and have been open to talking with anyone in the congregation prior to Sunday’s meeting. I hope you have taken advantage of this invitation if you continue to have questions or concerns. I am hopeful that we have come to the place where we can embrace this proposal and move forward in a timely manner.   I also continue to pray that God will sustain and guide us as we look to God’s future for us.

So plan to be here at 10:00 AM for Youth Sunday and then stay for this very important business meeting.

God grant us more light, more love, more life as we journey together.

Pastor Rick    

On Baptism

Doug DavidsonIn recent weeks, I have been thinking a lot about baptism. (Yes, seminary does invite you to spend a good bit of time contemplating such things!) In particular, I have been considering the central place that baptism occupies within the Christian faith, and the particular significance it has for us as Baptists. After all, we are part of a church tradition that got its very name from the distinctive way in which it practiced the baptism of believers by immersion.

During March, I will be spending three Sundays with our youth in which we’ll be talking about the meaning of baptism. I am really looking forward to this time. Additionally, Pastor Rick, Pastor Tripp, and I have been in conversation about building one of our worship services later this spring around the theme of baptism. I wanted to invite each of you to consider participating in that process in several possible ways:

  1. If you would be interested in sharing a bit about the significance of baptism in your own faith journey, I would love to speak with you. Perhaps one or more adults could join the youth during the Sunday school hour to share a brief word about what baptism means to them. Or, maybe we might include your stories in the worship service we are planning.
  2. If you’ve never been baptized and would like to consider taking this step of faith, the pastors would love to speak with you about that possibility. We would be delighted to be in conversation with you as you consider whether you might want to be baptized.

I am very much looking forward to having the opportunity to talk with our youth—and with any others who are interested–about what baptism means. I know many of our youth have been baptized already, and I look forward to conversations about how they understand the significance of that. And, while my time with the youth won’t be directed toward pressuring anyone, I will make it clear that our congregation would be delighted to celebrate with any who feel called to respond to God’s invitation to be baptized. It’s a joy and a privilege to be partnering with you as our congregation considers the new things God is doing among us.

Doug Davidson

More Jesus, Not Less (January 12, 2014)

sermonsRev. Tripp Hudgins
Baptism of Christ Sunday, January 12, 2014
First Baptist Church of Palo Alto

Let us pray.

Lord, I believe. Help, Thou, my unbelief. Make these words more than words and give us all the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

 

First they heard the music.

Maybe you know the song.

“As I went down to the river to pray, studyin’ about that good old way,
and who shall wear the robe and crown, good Lord, show me the way.”
Oh brothers, let’s go down
Let’s go down, don’t you wanna go down,
Oh brothers, let’s go down
down in the river to pray.”

Yeah, it always starts with the music for me. It ends with the music, too. Be ready.

In the Cohen brothers film, “O Brother, Where Art Thou” the conversation between our three fugitive anti-heroes goes a little like this. You see, Delmar has been saved. So Pete says:

Pete: Well I’ll be . . . Delmar’s been saved.
Delmar: Well that’s it, boys. I’ve been redeemed. The preacher’s done warshed away all my sins and transmissions. It’s the straight and narrow from here on out, and heaven everlasting’s my reward.
Everett: Delmar, what are you talking about? We’ve got bigger fish to fry.
Delmar: The preacher says all my sins is warshed away, including that Piggly Wiggly I knocked over in Yazoo.
Everett: I thought you said you was innocent of those charges?
Delmar: Well I was lyin’. And the preacher says that that sin’s been warshed away too. Neither God nor man’s got nothin’ on me now. C’mon in boys, the water is fine.

Pete goes in. Everett does not.

Pete: The preacher said he absolved us.
Everett: For him. Not for the law. I’m surprised at you Pete. I gave you credit for more brains than Delmar.
Delmar: But they was witnesses that seen us redeemed.
Everett: That’s not the issue Delmar. Even if it did put you square with the Lord, the state of Mississippi’s a little more hardnosed.
Delmar: You should’a joined us Everett. It wouldn’t have hurt none.
Pete: . . . at least it would’a washed away the smell of that pomade.
Everett: Join you two ignorant fools in a ridiculous superstition? Thank ya anyway. And I like the smell of my hair treatment – a pleasin’ odor’s half the point. [laughs] Baptism. You two are just dumber than a bag of hammers. Well, I guess you’re just my cross to bear.

We do so much with Baptism.
We do so much.
We welcome.
We bless.
We renew.
We cleanse.
We return.
We rebirth.
We heal.
We give up.
We give.
We take on.
We take.
We claim.
We die.

Baptism.

This morning, I want us to focus on this one little bit from the scripture we heard. I want us to hear it like we hear music. Listening to the one melody, the one instrument, that one refrain while the rest of the sound washes over us like water, and holds us up. So, hold Isaiah’s song of the coming Messiah. And keep John the Baptist in the forefront right where he belongs (You know he’s going to insist upon being there anyway). But hear the Voice this morning.

“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Good morning, Beloved.

When has anyone ever called you that? Beloved?

“In you I am well pleased.” Has anyone ever said that to you? I hope so.

When was the last time you looked at someone and said, “In you I am well-pleased.”

“I really like you.”
“I love you. . .completely.”
“You are still fun to be with even after all these years.”

Beloved. You. Me.

Turn to your neighbor and say it, “Beloved, in you I am well-pleased.”

How did you feel? Did it make you uncomfortable saying it? Receiving it?

It’s a little embarrassing, perhaps, especially in such a place as this at a moment such as this. Church is a rather public place for such a personal and even private declaration. But think on those words for a moment. Think on that as a declaration of who we all really are deep down no matter what has happened to us in our lives, no matter what others have also said, or what we may have done.

Can you imagine it?

No matter what you have done, you are still God’s Beloved. The story of Jesus is about how God has moved heaven and earth, pushed everything else aside, to tell you so.

There is no government, no power, no principality, no system, no individual, who can take that away from you. . .

. . .and yet.

. . . it’s a seemingly uncommon sentiment, an uncommon idea that we might be God’s beloved after all. It’s uncommon enough that we have made up many excuses for why we don’t behave like we are Beloved or treat others like they are Beloved. It’s why we have standing armies and criminal justice systems. We have a lot of data to suggest we are unaware of our status as God’s beloved. Big data wins, you know.

Day to day, we struggle to live life as the Beloved of God. Maybe this is why we single one person out as an example. We single out Jesus. We Christians console ourselves, “Well, he did it. I’m not him. So, I can’t. But at least Jesus did it.”

But an interesting thing happens, I think, when we make such statements. We distance ourselves from Jesus when we do this while the whole time Jesus is trying to get to us. We hold Jesus at arms length. “I am not like you” or John’s “I am not worthy” claim from today’s Gospel. “But, Tripp, the Bible says Jesus is the Beloved, not us.”

We look at Jesus and try to make sense of him and in the effort try to make sense of ourselves. We consign Jesus to his “belovedness.” We call it “divinity,” that otherness of Jesus that keeps him safely at arms length . . . when all along it is Jesus who is trying mightily to show us our belovedness, who is fulfilling all righteousness, by giving us this moment to witness divinity. This moment where the Voice of God, this moment when the Spirit descends like a dove and alights upon Jesus is an introduction to who Jesus truly is and to who we are.

Created in the image of God. Created, as John’s Gospel reminds us, with Jesus in mind from the beginning of all things, fully in our present moment, to the end of all things. God proclaims it all Good. God proclaims it beloved. You. Me. All of it. And as it is all made through and with God, it is divine.

It’s terrifying to me, truth be told, that I might also be divine. It’s not an original idea either . . . “God became human so that humanity might become divine” are words from Athanasius of Alexandria, a third century bishop. It is a very old idea.

Even Delmar gets it, “The preacher says all my sins is warshed away, including that Piggly Wiggly I knocked over in Yazoo.”

God becomes human. God walks among us and when God does, what we see is Jesus’ life and ministry. Or put another way, if you want to know the nature of God, look at the life of Jesus the Christ. The entire nature of God is enfleshed in the life of Jesus. Born poor, vulnerable, outcast, in an occupied land, Jesus did not live an easy life. . . a carefree existence. Jesus did not die easy. There’s much to learn about God by looking at Jesus’ life.

This morning we’re invited to look at this one moment in the life of Jesus. We’re invited to look at his baptism and in this story perhaps see our own stories.

Look in the mirror. Have you forgotten you are Beloved? Have you forgotten that you are divine? In that forgetfulness have you (have I) lived as if our neighbor, the stranger, the alien in a foreign land, the poor (and the list goes on) are not also The Beloved?

Each act of violence, ignorance, uncaring, and thoughtlessness contradicts this.

We are all the Beloved . . . even after we knocked over that Piggly Wiggly in Yazoo.

***

 As a Baptist, I know that we say that baptism is an affirmation of faith. I suggest that the realization of our belovedness is that faith. This is the impulse for baptism. This is the reason for the rite; it reveals what is already true and has been true since the beginning of all things.

It is faith. It is nature. It is ritual and rite.

We are Beloved.

It’s in our DNA. We are divine. It is The Image of God.

Nothing can take that away from us. God’s reaching out to us knows no end.

We are the object of God’s unending love, we are The Beloved.

We are divine because God has become human.
This is what we discover in the water.
This is what we reveal in the water.
This is what we proclaim in the water.

The world needs more of us to embrace the gift that baptism reveals for us.
We are the beloved. You are. I am. They are. We are. And in us, God is well-pleased.

So, what will we do now?

“Wade in the water.
Wade in the water, children.
Wade in the water.
God’s gonna trouble the water.”