This Week at First Baptist (6/1/16)

CalendarThis Week at First Baptist

  • Thursday, June 2, 7:30 PM: Choir Practice in the Parlor
  • Sunday, June 5, Fourth Sunday in Pentecost
    10:00 AM: Youth Sunday Worship for the Whole Family with Communion
    The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss: Oh, the Places You Will Go
    12:00 noon: Lunch Bunch: place to be determined. Everyone is invited to join in a meal for the whole community.
  • Sunday, June 5, 7:00 PM: A Night of Hope, a one hour candle light service commemorating the first anniversary of the shooting at  Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, Sunday, June 5 at 7:00 PM at First Congregational Church, 1985 Louis Road, Palo Alto, CA.
  • Tuesday, June 7, 10:30 AM: Bible Study at Marylea McLean’s apartment, 373 Pine Lane, #4204, Los Altos.
  • Wednesday, June 8, 10:30 AM: Meditation Group at Thelma Parodi’s house, 543 South El Monte Avenue, Los Altos.

LOOKING AHEAD:

  • Thursday, June 9, 8:00 PM: Free Movie Night- Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next, Los Altos Youth Center in Los Altos, CA
  • Sunday, June 12, Fifth Sunday in Pentecost
    10:00 AM: Worship and Sunday School
    The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss: The Lorax,” Genesis 2, Job 12:7-10, followed by Patio Hour.
  • Sunday, June 12, 2:00 – 7:00 PM: Communications in the Church- Pacific Coast Baptist Association Spring Conference including worship, panel discussion, and dinner. Grace Baptist Church, 484 E. San Fernando St., San Jose. Pastor Rick will be one of the panelists. Registration forms are available in the entry way and the church office.

A momentous week

God's PeopleIn so many ways, this was a momentous week, with important Supreme Court rulings on health care and marriage equality, with the elegant eulogy and song offered by the President in memory of those slain at Emmanuel AME church in Charleston and with horror of a number of African American churches torched in South Carolina. As things have unfolded and unraveled we have turned to one another in wonder, fear, love and compassion, affirming that evil will not rule the day. Now can we make it so?

The meetings I attended surrounding the American Baptists’ biennial Mission Summit offered many words of courage and hope. Not only were concerns about racism and white supremacy raised, we heard the calls for the full inclusion of lgbtq people in the life of our denomination in 3 of the 4 major addresses. It was the most encouraging “Biennial” I have been to in a while. There was an excellent Emerging Theologians Conference before the Mission Summit and I attended two brief retreats after – one for the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists and one for the Minister’s Council (led by our friend, Heather Entrekin, who sent her greetings.)

As always, it was great to see old friends and make new ones. The Roger Williams Fellowship dinner featured Marvin McMickle, President of Colgate Rochester-Crozer seminary in a brilliant analysis of racism in the USA; the AWAB dinner featured noted evangelical ethicist, David Gushee, outlining how his mind has changed to full inclusion lgbtq people in the life of the church; the Peace Fellowship breakfast was addressed passionately by J. Alfred Smith, Jr. from Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland on issues of peace and racial justice (Jim is the pastor of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who received the Edwin T. Dahlberg Peace and Justice Award, the denomination’s highest); and the Ministers’ luncheon sponsored by the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board heard Molly Marshall, President of Central Baptist Seminary on the “well-lived life.”

I have heard good reports on worship here, which was ably led by Stina Miller, Dan Cudworth and Carolyn Shepard. Thanks to everyone who helped out while I was gone and thank you for the opportunity to represent FBCPA in our denominational life. This Sunday we will consider unity and diversity in the church. We will consider these phenomena in the context of what is going on in our world, especially in terms of racism and white supremacy. It is very difficult to talk about unity without also talking about justice. The text is Ephesians 4:1-16 and the sermon title is “With Liberty and Justice for All.”

After worship, we will hold our annual church picnic on the Patio. Join us at 10:00 AM for worship and food, fellowship and fun. It will be a great day for you to invite others to share with us.

May we continue to grow together as God’s people.

Pastor Rick

 

This Week at First Baptist (7/2/15)

CalendarThis Week at First Baptist

  • Friday, July 2,11:00 am: Missions Task Team in the Parlor.
  • Sunday, July 5:
    10:00 AM: Worship and Sunday School:
    “Alive in the Spirit of God: Spirit of Unity and Diversity”
    Pastor Rick preaching.
    11:30 AM: Annual Picnic
    Congregational Life has planned a great event for us. They will furnish the hamburgers, hot dogs, buns, condiments and beverages. You are invited to bring whatever else you’d like to make the perfect picnic, particularly salads and side dishes. There will be fun games to go with the fabulous food. Feel free to wear your picnic clothes to worship. Invite friends, colleagues, family members, neighbors or strangers off the street to join the festivities. If you can come early (before church) to help with set up or stay afterward to help with clean up, that would be much appreciated.
  • Monday, July 6, 6:00 PM: Charleston Town Hall Meeting. Our sisters and brothers at University AME Zion Church, 3549 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, and their pastor, Kaloma Smith, invite us to a community town hall meeting to discuss “What’s Next? How Can We Make a Difference after the Tragedy in Charleston?”
  • Tuesday, July 7, 10:30 AM: Bible Study at the Terraces of Los Altos. We will meet at Marylea McLean’s apartment, 373 Pine Lane, #4204, Los Altos.

LOOKING AHEAD:

  • Sunday, July 12:
    10:00 AM: Worship and Sunday School:
    Alive in the Spirit of God: Spirit of Serviceseries, Pastor Rick preaching, followed by Patio Hour.
    12:45 pm: Lunch Bunch 
    at Dinah’s Poolside Restaurant, 4261 El Camino Real, Palo Alto. Any and all from our church family (plus guests) are invited to participate in this time of food and fellowship. Let Melanie Ramirez or Alan Plessinger know if you plan to attend.
  • Tuesday, July 14, 7:00 PM: A Conversation with LaDoris Cordell, Superior Court Judge, (ret.), Independent Police Auditor for San Jose, (ret.) at Community Media Center, 900 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto. Following numerous high-profile cases of police killings of unarmed African American and Latino civilians, public confidence in law enforcement is clearly in crisis. California is not immune. Suggestions have been made — and rather widely supported — to require police to wear body cameras. But is that a sufficient response to deeply endemic problems? What else can be done?
  • Wednesday, July 15, 8:30 AM: Men’s Breakfast at Palo Alto Breakfast House, 2706 Middlefield, Palo Alto. All the men from our Church family are welcome.
  • Thursday, July 16, 2:00 PM: Church Council Meeting in the Parlor.
  • Sunday, July 19, 11:30 AM: Quarterly Business Meeting in the Parlor.
  • Monday, July 20: SPIRE deadline
  • Thursday, July 23, 10:00 AM: Women’s Brunch at Corner Bakery Cafe, 3375 El Camino Real, Palo Alto. All women of our church community are welcome.

Double Vision (June 21, 2015)

Black Lives MatterA sermon preached by Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Text: Acts 10:1-17

Somewhere in the back of mind I had begun a different sermon this week. I suppose it might have been a kinder, gentler one until a lone gunman entered a church and murdered nine people at prayer. Everything changed. At least, it did for me. Once more gun violence has reared its hideous head in our so-called sophisticated society. Once more racism runs rampant in a heinous act of bigotry. Once more we are at risk to wring our hands in dismay only to move on shortly after, shaking our heads and changing nothing. I don’t have ready answers to either racism or gun violence but I believe with all my heart that something has to change.

I look at the pictures and read the reports about the young man who perpetrated this evil and I cannot help but think, he did not love himself, so he could not love his neighbors. This is neither an excuse or rationalization for what he did. It’s just an observation of what I see as an exceedingly sad reality. I will not be so presumptive as to try to analyze Dylan Roof. I’ll leave that for others more experienced, more expert, than I in the present and for history to determine in the future. But I do know that his action did not stem from love for self or love for neighbor.

Let me leave my rant for the moment to consider the theme and text for today. Maybe it well help to bring some balm from Gilead, some healing to the wounds. Perhaps it will tell us something about how we might move forward in this troubled, troubling world. The portion of Acts 10 that Alan and Melanie read for us this morning does not make the lectionary. I’m not sure why. It tells a powerful story of double vision brought into focus through the work of love for self and neighbor.

First, we have Cornelius, a man of might and privilege, a high-ranking Roman official, a man used to giving orders and having them followed. Surely he evoked fear and disdain in those over whom he ruled. We know the Jews of this period had no love for their oppressors. But there was something different about this warrior. Luke writes that Cornelius was “a devout man who feared God…gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God.” Not your prototypical Roman officer. Something or someone had touched Cornelius at the depths of his being. He didn’t have all the answers, but somehow he knew he was a child of God. He also could sense God alive in those around him and thus his compassion. I suppose you could attribute his respect or love for himself to his position of power and influence. That must have been a factor. Still, Luke says something more was going on. It looks a lot like love.

When he has his vision, he doesn’t hesitate to send for Peter. From his place of privilege, it is not surprising that he would simply go after what he wanted. Note he has slaves and soldiers to do his bidding. But I also think he was eager to hear what God had to say to him, to teach him through the Apostle. It was a word he longed to experience.

Now Peter, over in Joppa, is about to have his own vision as God brings this odd couple together. He was hungry. His stomach was growling. He was ready for dinner but dinner wasn’t ready for him. He thought he would just stretch out for a bit, take a little nap before the meal was put on the table. His physical hunger invites the dream, and what a dream it is! Rutabagas, liver, pickled herring, limburger cheese – all those things he was loathe to eat – appeared before him. Definitely appetite killers. Yuck! If this is the menu, I’m starting my diet today!

OK, I’m being a little flippant. What appeared before Peter was not just stuff that he would find personally disgusting, it was all stuff by ancient law and sacred tradition forbidden for him to consume at all. It wasn’t just yucky. It was a little frightening. It was so shocking, it took three appearances before he realized the invitation to “kill and eat” was a serious one, not just hunger pangs or indigestion.

“Lord Almighty, no! I’ve never let anything unclean or profane pass my lips. My religious identity, my sense of self-respect, is wrapped up in keeping the law. How can you ask me to do such thing?” Is this some sort of test? Well, yes and no. Is God hoping Peter will say “no” and earn God’s favor? No, I don’t think God works like that. God’s not likely to trick us into doing the right thing. But God is asking Peter to take a risk, to step outside his comfort zone, far outside his comfort zone. Does he trust God enough to take a risk? Cornelius has. Will Peter reach out to meet him somewhere along the way?

I may be wrong, but I think it takes a measure of self-love to take such a risk. You see, this kind of self love is not self-absorption, not self-aggrandizing, not selfishness. It is a self-love, a self-respect, that leads to a certain righteousness, to right living, to right relationship with God, with self and with your neighbor. Brian McLaren writes about love for self. “God wants you to love you the way God loves you, so you can join God in the one self-giving love that upholds you and all creation. If you trust yourself to that love, you will become the best self you can be, thriving in aliveness, full of deep joy, part of the beautiful whole. That’s the kind of self-care and love that is good, right, wise, and necessary” (Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking, p. 224).

You hear that? “God wants you to love you the way God loves you…” There’s a challenge for us. Love the way God does – with infinite patience and amazing grace. “Don’t call profane what I have made clean.” Take a risk. Get outside your comfort zone. Join “in the one self-giving love that upholds you and all creation.”

So how does the story end? In Peter’s case, the messengers show up with Cornelius’s invitation, Peter decides to take the risk in the service of God’s call, he travels to Caesarea, the gospel is proclaimed and Cornelius and his household find salvation. How will we respond to such a challenging vision and risky call? Will we find the sort of love for ourselves that allows us to love others? Again Brian McLaren reminds us, “Where the Spirit is moving, love for God always, always, always overflows in love for neighbor. And according to Jesus our neighbor isn’t just the person who is like us, the person who likes us, or the person we like. Our neighbor is anyone and everyone – like us or different from us, friend or stranger – even enemy” (McLaren, op. cit., p. 216).

So it seems to me that Dylan Roof could not see, could not understand, could not embrace, his neighbor in love. But before we pass final judgment on him, we might ask ourselves where we, too, fail to see, to understand, to embrace in love, our neighbor. “Don’t call profane anything I have made clean.” We would never do that, would we? Love as God loves – yourself and your neighbor. Jesus said that everything depends on this, along with our love for God. In fact, are they not they not two sides of one coin? Is this not a bringing into focus any double vision about love in its essence? Out of a growing understanding, respect, love for themselves as children of God, Peter and Cornelius come together in Beloved Community. Will we commit ourselves to such gracious activity across all the lines that divide us and threaten to do us in, whether see them as sacred or secular?

Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr. and DePayne Doctor bowed their heads as Pastor Pinckney led them, along with other members of “Mother Emmanuel” AME Church in prayer. Tragically they were not able to finish their prayers last Wednesday, so I’m thinking this morning we might lift some words from Martin Luther King, Jr. on their behalf:

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

And if they take your life, then let the wounded body of Christ take up your prayer and sing your song. “Our lives,” yours and mine, “begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” And black lives matter. The lives of Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., DePayne Doctor and Pastor Clementa Pinckney matter. We cannot live with double vision here. We need to focus clearly on what matters. No more gun violence. No more racism. No more self-loathing. No more hatred of our neighbors.

I imagine as the service comes to an end, with heads still bowed and eyes closed someone began to softly hum that gently powerful refrain: “Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart. Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart. Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart.” As an act of solidarity and hope, would you sing that last verse with me right now – “Lord, I want to be more loving…” Amen.