Or How Blessed You Are? (6/26/2016)

Pastor Rick MixonA sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Text: Philippians 4:4-13

Dr. Seuss has been a good guide for us through this month in which we’ve celebrated our graduates and all those moving ahead in their education. He helped us see the possibilities and challenges of the places we might go. Through the eyes of the Lorax, he helped us see the consequences of greed and the need to love creation and care for the earth. Horton, the elephant, taught us something about the compassion and care of a most improbable daddy. We have encountered the doctor’s wit and wisdom, his art and passion, his challenging expectations and his tender heart.

In his little book, The Parables of Dr. Seuss, Robert Short describes the good doctor this way: “Dr. Seuss is a doctor of the soul, a doctor of wisdom, or a healer of the heart. So I don’t think it would be stretching things too far if we thought of Dr. Seuss as a sort of ‘spiritual cardiologist,’ a doctor who can work on many levels and with many different types of people” (Robert L. Short, The Parables of Dr. Seuss, p. 84). Continue reading Or How Blessed You Are? (6/26/2016)

Advertisements

A Most Improbable Daddy (6/19/2016)

A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Texts: Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26: Matthew 17:14-21 (The Message); Horton Hatches the Egg

This has been a hard week – more difficult for some than others, I’m sure – but still a hard week for anyone with an ounce of compassion. Orlando is not the first murderous tragedy to scar the body of this nation and I don’t imagine it will be the last. It joins a long litany of hate and destruction that wounds our souls, individually and collectively, and threatens to undo all that we have hoped for and striven for in creating a land that promises “liberty and justice for all.”

At a time when it seems hopeless to bear witness against the principalities and powers of darkness, when feel numb and hopeless in the face of overwhelming violence and colossal evil, when the most vulnerable are under vicious attack and we don’t know where to turn or what to do, here comes Horton, the elephant with a heart as big as his body. Has he come to save us from all that threatens us? Has he come to rescue us from ourselves? Is his witness one that might lift us, as the first Christians were inspired by that great cloud of faithful witnesses in long ago times of terror? Continue reading A Most Improbable Daddy (6/19/2016)

A Note from Pastor Rick (6/15/2016)

Lament for Orlando by Meg HessIn the study of psychology, we discover that numbness is often a first response to trauma. I feel something of that as I have tried to wrap my mind around what happened in Orlando this weekend. I don’t live in that part of the country and no one I know so far was personally affected. But, as others have commented, a gay bar has been sanctuary, “sacred space,” in this country for most lgbtq people as we’ve struggled to find safe space and journey partners in a hostile world. For whatever reasons, the pain of this violation is palpable for me. I thank God that I find safe space and blessed community among you and I thank you as well. May God bless and keep us. May we yet find the grace and peace of God’s Beloved Community where no one hurts or destroys anymore.

We had a great time hanging out with and learning from The Lorax last Sunday:

 the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.
UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.’”

Thanks to Daniel Ha for his beautiful playing of movement from a piano sonata by Beethoven. We have certainly been blessed with young musical talent recently. Sunday we will have more as James Poe will play his violin once more before heading for summer in New York City, where he will be studying with famed violinist, Itzhak Perlman.

Our Suessian text for Sunday is the tale of that wonderful elephant Horton, who hatches an egg. It seems to me a wonderful text for Father’s Day, as well as a reflection on faithfulness. Jesus says if we had the faith of a mustard seed we could move a mountain. Paul says faith sustains people like Abraham and Sarah on perilous journeys to strange places when God calls. Horton says “an elephant’s faithful, one-hundred percent.” How about us? Can we make such a claim? The Psalmist says “God’s steadfast love endures forever.” Isn’t that the model for fatherly love, from whomever it comes?

After worship we will enjoy our first cookout of the season on the patio. It’s another way to celebrate Father’s Day. We can use your help in making this a grand event. Come for worship Sunday at 10:00 AM and stay for the cookout. Invite your family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, acquaintances and strangers to join us on the journey.

Together, let us strive…to know God’s love!

Pastor Rick

A Note from Pastor Rick (6/8/2016)

Pastor Rick MixonThanks to Pastor Gregory and our children and youth for a fine Youth Sunday. I was able to listen to the service recorded and was touched by their wisdom and witness. Congratulations to Hegene Lee and our other graduates and to Deborah Ha as she moves up to middle school this fall. Thanks also to Melanie Ramirez and Alan Plessinger for organizing Lunch Bunch. There are so many ways we area a blessed community.

This week we continue to journey with Dr. Seuss. Our focus will be on his classic story about The Lorax. In this cautionary tale he asks us to think long and hard about how we care for creation. He also raises important questions about success and greed. Jesus, too, had something to say about this when he told the parable of the Rich Fool who wanted to build bigger barns. See the Words to Consider (above) and think whether Dr. Seuss and Jesus might share a similar view of “biggering.” How do we think about such things in this day of rampant consumerism and the pressure to be a “success”?

Adult Spiritual Formation is on hiatus till the Fall. Our first Patio Hour is scheduled for this Sunday, though we don’t yet have a host. Please let me know if you might be willing and able to take this on. Next Sunday we will have our first cookout of the season in honor of Father’s Day.

Join us for any of these opportunities beginning with Sunday at 10:00 AM. Invite your family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, acquaintances and strangers to join us on the journey.

Together, let us strive…to know God’s love!

Pastor Rick

A Note from Pastor Gregory (6/2016)

Greg StevensIt’s meatball season! Also known as Graduation Season to some, but to Youth Ministers who bounce around to graduation parties (that serve those delicious little saucy meatballs on toothpicks simmering in a crockpot all day) to celebrate the seniors being sent off to their college adventures, it’s meatballs season. Parents, friends, and neighbors are traveling to campuses all over the country to hear commencement speeches at which the students themselves are usually scoffing for being inadequately woke. And of course, Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is selling like hotcakes.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! was the last book Theodor Seuss Geisel published before he died in 1991. He addresses the great balancing act of life, the ups and downs it presents while encouraging us to find the success that lies within us as well. When the critical eye strips away the Seuss-ian tongue ties and linguistic flip flops we find a little boy named “You” on a journey with a few vague obstacles and a vague happy ending: “Kid, you’ll move mountains!” Or at least that’s what many of the articles, book reviews, and online blogs had to say.

This is where as Christians I think we have a different take on things and how our inclusion of the word “gospel” changes things up. “The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss” says to me that we are talking about being a Resurrection people in a Good-Friday world. When death and oppression have taken over the day, we lay claim to Resurrection hope by embodying grace and infusing hate with love. If the cynics think Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is just utopian dreams, I’d say it’s a dream worth dreaming in our Trumpified world. We need to dream better dreams if walls, wars, and weapons are our current ones. At Pentecost when the Spirit falls on the disciples, Peter addresses them in Acts 2:17 proclaiming,

“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.”

May we see visions and may we dream dreams of kids moving mountains for the Glory of God! May walls of division crumble, may swords be turned into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, may nation not take up sword against nation, nor train for war anymore.

Pastor Gregory

Mixon Muses: The places you’ll go!

Mixon MusesOh, the places you’ll go! Oh, the places you’ve been! Oh, the places you are now! That about sums up my life – promises, memories and present reality. We are playing this month with the work of that great children’s writer and illustrator, Theodore Seuss Geisel. This brilliant and original man, had dreams of a PhD and a professorship in comparative literature. He studied at Dartmouth, Oxford and the Sorbonne, but he never achieved this original goal. He was “Dr. Seuss” by public acclamation, not the board of trustees of any institution of higher education. Apparently he was just a little too quirky to fit into the academic regimen.

He made strange proposals like publishing Milton’s “Paradise Lost” with new illustrations by him. It didn’t seem serious enough for Oxford University Press. I imagine, he was serious, though seeing something in the project that others didn’t or wouldn’t. Well, in the end, academia’s loss was the world’s gain. A broad, multicultural audience was the beneficiary of his wild and wacky imagination, his ability to grab language from thin air, his gift for creating characters who spoke to us with a wise wink and a knowing chuckle. Sometimes we sing the hymn “Earth Is Full of Wit and Wisdom,” a claim that Dr. Seuss personified and willingly proclaimed.

As I approach the end of my 6th decade, I am aware that I’ve been a lot of places and done a lot of things. For most of it, I am grateful. Like most people, there are moments I’d just as soon forget, but, of course, those are the very moments you can’t forget because they taught you something invaluable. Anyway, this June holds a couple of significant anniversaries for me, both of which represent promises fulfilled, an accumulation of rich memories and the blessings of my ongoing life.

It was 10 years ago in June that this congregation called me as its pastor. The official anniversary is July 1 but June is good enough for celebrating. As many of you know, I left the Bay Area 13 years ago to become interim pastor of the First Baptist Church, Granville, Ohio. While that was a significant step in my calling to ministry, I assumed that, at my age (mid 50s,) I would be doing interim pastorates along the eastern seaboard for the rest of my working years. So it was surprising gift to receive the call from this congregation to be its settled pastor. God works in mysterious ways.

We have certainly had our ups and downs over the years, but I thank God for bringing us together and for the profound blessing that is this community of faith. I am grateful to you all for giving me the chance. With this anniversary, I become the third longest serving pastor (after Dr. Offenheiser and Harold Bjornson.) Even though I’m passing Chuck Syverson in longevity, I am glad he is still around to share his wisdom and cheer me on.

Secondly, June 30 marks the 20th anniversary of my ordination to Christian Ministry. On a hot Gay Pride Sunday in 1996, I was ordained in a meaningful service at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church in Oakland. Lakeshore chose to ordain me after a 23-year struggle with larger Baptist bodies to get assent to proceed with its desire to ordain me. Though my ordination was by local congregation, some 25 other congregations from around the country sent letters of affirmation and support. I treasure the presence of the Granholms and Hunwicks at that service, representing this congregation and the time I served as Minister-in-Training here in 1973. Again, God moves in mysterious ways.

Of all the places I might have gone, might have wanted to go, did, in fact, go, here I am now. Dr. Seuss says,

 

You’ll get mixed up of course, as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.

A Great Balancing Act, indeed. Strange birds, for certain – and some of them quite wonderful! Careful, tactful steps – sometimes, other times, plunging stubbornly ahead. What a glorious journey it is. Thank you all for being my journey partners – in the past, in the present and, I hope, for some time to come. Of course, we don’t know for certain where the road will lead, or what lies ahead, except that we journey with the knowledge that the future, the journey, we, ourselves, are in God’s hands. Thanks be to God for the great gift of life, whatever it brings, wherever it leads. And while we’re at it, thanks to Dr. Seuss for a little wit and wisdom and joy along the way.

“I meant what I said and said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent.” Well said, Horton. May it be said of us as well.

Pastor Rick