May is for Peace

Earth in your handsAs we wrap up Earth Month, it is important for us to keep in mind that this is not the end. Rather it is the beginning of an ongoing emphasis we will continue throughout the life of our congregation. So, stay tuned for further reflections on and suggestions for loving the earth and caring for creation. Special thanks to Pastor Gregory for taking the lead on this kick off and for everyone who contributed.

Our focus for the month of May will be peace. This is the month we take our special offering for the Baptist Peace Fellowship pf North America. Our theme will be, “Blessed Are the Peacemakers.” In the Sermon on the Mount, one of the Beatitudes or blessings that Jesus lifts up is this, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Sunday’s lectionary readings offer two relevant texts. In John, the writer has Jesus say to his followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give you as the world gives” (John 14:27). What does it mean that Jesus promises peace but not in the way we are most likely to expect it? And what is our role as peacemakers. Then at the end of the great apocalyptic book of Revelation comes a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, complete with the New Jerusalem, God’s Holy City. In the center of the city is the tree of life, planted by the river of of the water of life. Its leaves are for the “healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-5). Must we wait for the end of time to gather by that river, beneath that tree, to collect and apply its healing powers?

It is Communion Sunday with Worship for the Whole Family. Afterward we will hold our second Quarterly Business Meeting of the year. I also want to alert you that we are planning a church work day for sprucing up our facilities on Saturday, May 14. Please plan to participate. We will go from 9:00 am until 2:00 PM. It will include lunch.

Come Sunday morning at 10:00 AM for worship, study and shared community. Invite your family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, acquaintances and strangers to join us as we begin to explore the things that make for peace.

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

Food and conversation for Earth Month

Watery Earth NASA photoLast Sunday we shared a delicious vegetarian lunch in the Fellowship Hall. Thanks to everyone for their creativity and willingness to try something different. The meal was followed by a delightful video conversation with Pastor Gregory and Tripp Fuller. Tripp is a doctoral candidate at Claremont School of Theology, one of the founders of the nationally known podcast, “Homebrewed Christianity” and Program Director of “The Hatchery” in Los Angeles. At many times paralleling the morning’s sermon, he encouraged us to to look for and celebrate God in all creation. Using both awareness and creative imagination we can come to deeper understanding of how all of creation is interconnected. This understanding can only help to strengthen recognition of our need to care for creation. Tripp is also funny and entertaining.

This Sunday we will conclude our Earth Month focus (though not our attention to creation care.) The theme is “The Good Earth.” In Psalm 148 and other passages we find the whole creation praising the Creator. In other passages, including the “Sermon on the Mount” we are encouraged to let go of worry and trust that the great God of the universe will also be our redeemer and protector. Pastor Gregory has a word about our Eco-Education guest, Elise Willis, who will help us to talk about the trees if not actually to them.

Come Sunday morning at 10:00 AM for worship, study and shared community. Invite your family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, acquaintances and strangers to join us in the joy of this Earth Month Sunday.

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

Pastor Gregory Says… (4/20/16)

Gregory StevensWe are heading into our last Sunday of Earth Month and I’m excited to introduce you to my former Florida youth group student, Elise Willis. She is now working for the City of Palo Alto in our Urban Forestry Department. Our programming will begin in the Parlor and then Elise will lead us around our church campus to explore the various greenery God has gifted us with. We often forget that it is the lush greenery, the trees and shrubs, the wild animals and their interactivity within these ecosystem (us included), that keep our lungs pumping with fresh air, our bellies full of nutrient rich foods, and our bodies healthy with their many remedies; hence our quest to live in healthy and right relations within these lively and wild ecological systems! I look forward to see you there.

Susan Bradley and I have also been working on an art exhibit that will be going up in our long hallway in the next month – expect wonderful things very soon!

On April 26th I will be cooking for the UCCM Stanford students, they request a vegetarian meal for 15. I usually cook the meal in our church kitchen and bring it over to the students in the evening. Would you be willing to help pitch in a helping hand? Email me if you are interested: gregory.stevens@me.com

“So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.”  1 Thessalonians 2:8

This Week at First Baptist (4/20/16)

CalendarThis Week at First Baptist

  • Wednesday, April 20, 8:30 AM: Men’s Breakfast at Palo Alto Breakfast House, 2706 Middlefield, Palo Alto. All the men from our Church family are welcome.
  • Wednesday, April 20, 12:00 noon: Baptists Lunching Together featuring Don Ng, retired pastor, First Chinese Baptist, San Francisco and immediate past President of the ABC-USA, speaking on Baptist colleges and hospitals in Nagaland (northern India,) which he and his family visited in February, Grand Lake Gardens, 401 Santa Clara Avenue, Oakland. $10.00 for lunch. RSVP to Joan Thatcher, (510) 350-7008, by April 18.
  • Thursday, April 21, 12:00 noon: Senior Connections Book Group in the church Parlor. This month we will be reading and discussing A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism, by Patrick Allitt. Brown Bag Lunch (beverage will be provided).
  • Thursday, April 21, 7:30 PM: Church Choir in the Parlor. Join us in the joy of making music together.
  • Sunday, April 24- Fifth Sunday in Easter
    10:00 AM: Worship and Sunday School
    “Earth Month: The Good Earth,” Psalm 19:1-6; 121, Isaiah 55:1-13; 65:17-25. Rick Mixon preaching.
    11:30 AM: Adult Spiritual Formation: “Learning to Love Creation,” a four part series. This Sunday will feature Elise Willis, arborist for the city of Palo Alto and former student of Pastor Gregory in Florida.
  • Sunday, April 24, 12:30 PM: Church Finance Committee in the Church Parlor.
  • Monday, April 25: SPIRE deadline
  • Tuesday, April 26, 10:30 AM: Bible Study at Marylea McLean’s apartment, 373 Pine Lane, #4204, Los Altos.
  • Wednesday, April 27, 10:30 AM: Meditation Group at Thelma Parodi’s house, 543 South El Monte Avenue, Los Altos. All are welcome.
  • Wednesday, April 27, 7:00 – 8:30 PM: Eco Education Film Night in the Youth Room. The Magical Forest. This BBC film explores our mysteriously interconnected world: why does the lynx need a caterpillar, why does the tree need the fish and why does truffle fungus need flying squirrels? Connections like these form the planet’s great ecosystems and are what keep all of life thriving into the future. As we close out Earth Month celebrating the Divine in every corner of creation may we watch, learn, and discuss together the magically interconnected lungs of Earth, the forests! Come hungry for popcorn.

LOOKING AHEAD:

  • Thursday, April 28, 11:30 AM: Women’s Brunch at Dinah’s Poolside Restaurant, 4261 El Camino Real, Palo Alto. All women of our church community are invited to join in.
  • Sunday, May 1, Sixth Sunday in Easter
    10:30 AM: Worship for the whole family with communion
    “Blessed Are the Peacemakers,” Rick Mixon, preaching

    11:30 AM: Quarterly Business Meeting in the Parlor

Eco-Education

candle and globeBy now we are well into Earth Month. On Sunday, we celebrated the God of creation in music and word. The big collage of “interconnection” that we started during worship is completed and hung on the hall wall. By all accounts the conversation with Elizabeth Singleton went well during the Eco-Education Hour. We might even look at the beginning and call it “good.”

This Sunday we will return to the first creation story of Genesis 1-2 to consider the place of human being in creation. Sometimes we take the instructions to have dominion, to rule and to subdue too literally. We think we are little gods and do with creation whatever we want. But the psalmist marvels at creation and asks just who are we that the creating God would consider us at all. What if God has crafted human being for loving, caring, co-creative relationship? We are not to be “over creation” as much as we are to be “of” it, recognizing God’s presence in every atom and wave. To have dominion is to respond to what is by affirming its goodness and embracing it with joy.

Eco-education will be incorporated into the “Every Day – Earth Day Potluck” right after Worship and Sunday School. Everyone is encouraged to bring vegetarian or vegan fare to share. Hopefully this will be an interesting and fun experiment for us all. After dinner, we will share a taped conversation that Pastor Gregory had with Tripp Fuller, entertaining theologian and Program Director for the Hatchery in Los Angeles. Their conversation is about how we might entertain a more creative imagination in considering how we as Christians live in and care for this world.

Come Sunday morning at 10:00 AM for worship, study and shared community. Invite your family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, acquaintances and strangers to join us in the joy of this Earth Month Sunday.

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

Pastor Rick

This Week at First Baptist (4/13/16)

CalendarThis Week at First Baptist

  • Thursday, April 14, 7:30 PM: Church Choir in the Parlor. Join us in the joy of making music together.
  • Sunday, April 17- Fourth Sunday in Easter
    10:00 AM: Worship and Sunday School
    “Earth Month: Human Being,” Genesis 1:26- 2:3, Psalm 8; Matthew 6:24-34. Rick Mixon preaching.
    11:30 AM: Every Day- Earth Day Potluck. You are invited to please bring vegetarian potluck style food for the whole church family to share! As part of “Learning to Love Creation,” we will be joined by Tripp Fuller of Homebrewed Christianity and Director of Theology and Humanities for The Hatchery in a video-conversation. He will walk us through biblical themes and historical themes of creation care.
  • Tuesday, April 19, 10:30 AM: Bible Study at Marylea McLean’s apartment, 373 Pine Lane, #4204, Los Altos.
  • Wednesday, April 20, 8:30 AM: Men’s Breakfast at Palo Alto Breakfast House, 2706 Middlefield, Palo Alto. All the men from our Church family are welcome.
  • Wednesday, April 20, 10:30 AM: Meditation Group at Thelma Parodi’s house, 543 South El Monte Avenue, Los Altos. All are welcome.
  • Wednesday, April 20, 12:00 noon: Baptists Lunching Together featuring Don Ng, retired pastor, First Chinese Baptist, San Francisco and immediate past President of the ABC-USA, speaking on Baptist colleges and hospitals in Nagaland (northern India,) which he and his family visited in February, Grand Lake Gardens, 401 Santa Clara Avenue, Oakland. $10.00 for lunch. RSVP to Joan Thatcher, (510) 350-7008, by April 18.
  • Thursday, April 21, 12:00 noon: Senior Connections Book Group in the church Parlor. This month we will be reading and discussing A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism, by Patrick Allitt. Brown Bag Lunch (beverage will be provided).

LOOKING AHEAD:

  • Sunday, April 24- Fifth Sunday in Easter
    10:00 AM: Worship and Sunday School
    “Earth Month: The Good Earth,” Psalm 19:1-6; 121, Isaiah 55:1-13; 65:17-25. Rick Mixon preaching.
    11:30 AM: Adult Spiritual Formation: “Learning to Love Creation,” a four part series. This Sunday will feature Elise Willis, arborist for the city of Palo Alto and former student of Pastor Gregory in Florida.

Mixon Muses: Earth Month

candle and globeThis month is Earth Month at FBCPA. You will see elsewhere in this Spire a variety of programming to lift up our love for the earth and care for creation. Thanks to Pastor Gregory for his hard work pulling all this together. We have a couple of books in the church library you might want to check out as resource for this month’s emphasis as well. One is A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism by Emory University history professor, Patrick Allitt. This book was recommended by Dan Cudworth and is the book we’re reading for this month’s Senior Connections Book Group. If you want to read it and join that discussion, feel free to, regardless of your age. We’d be delighted to have your input. The other is a book, suggested by Pastor Gregory, entitled Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth. This is a collection of briefs essays and reflections by spiritual leaders in many different faiths.

As if all that is not enough, Pastor Gregory also loaned me his copy of John Cobb’s Sustainability: Economics, Ecology, and Justice to read as well. Cobb is a distinguished process theologian and advocate for eco-justice who taught for many years at Claremont School of Theology. We have seen and heard him more than once on a variety of episodes in the Living the Questions video series.

In the opening chapter, “Christian Existence in a World of Limits,” Cobb writes that, as Christians, we must recognize “1) the physical limits of our context, 2) the limits of our own capacities to envision needed changes or to adopt even those we can envision, but also 3) the openness of the future and the unlimited power of transformation that is the grace of God” (p. 11). I was especially struck by his suggestion that we live with limits –some of which are self-imposed – to our capacity to envision change and to our willingness to act on such a vision when we do catch it. It may be that clouded or shaky vision actually precludes our ability or willingness to see and accept the possibilities of God’s transforming power in our own lives and in the world around us.

In my Easter sermon, I suggested that Mary Magdalene is prepared to grieve, to spend her time mourning what is lost. She is heart-broken and feels alone. But neither she nor the rest of the disciples are prepared for resurrection. Their vision is clouded. It doesn’t matter that he has told them more than once that he would die and rise again. It is a claim that does not compute, has not registered in their reality, is not within the range of their vision. Do you think it would be any different for you or me if we had been in their sandals? That clouded vision, that lack of awareness is all too true today.

My friend Tim Phillips writes of death and resurrection, “Maybe the worst thing about death in all its forms is that it robs us of the energy to imagine anything else.” Isn’t this Mary’s truth in the early morning shadows? She couldn’t imagine anyone else. She assumed she was talking to the gardener. Tim continues to speak of death and its equivalents, “Addiction robs us of the energy to imagine healing. Violence robs us of the energy to imagine peace. Sickness robs of the energy to imagine some kind of wholeness beyond a cure. The burdens of life rob us of energy for a sense of humor that can put things in perspective. Death robs us of the energy to imagine that anything has power great enough to outlive its hold on us” (Tim Phillips, “Resurrection Power,” The Spire, Vol. 80, No. 3, March 2016, Seattle First Baptist Church).

Isn’t John Cobb suggesting something similar? Cobb reminds us that “prophetic vision” is crucial to our Christian tradition. He argues that “we in the United States need a prophetic vision of an economic order that is viable and humane with respect to our own people without continuing economic imperialism and environmental degradation” (op. cit., p. 18). Is there anyone on the horizon running for public office on this platform? If not, why not? Is there nothing we can do to challenge and shape a political process that purports to elect officials who will represent us? Do we need to take a chance to open our eyes, our ears hearts in order to find the resurrection power that might make a difference?

Burdens of life interfere with our capacity to see beyond business as usual. The threat of death, ironically, robs us of the possibilities of new life. We get stuck in cycles of comfort and privilege and fail to see the potentially fatal consequences of our lack of vision for the whole of creation. What does rob you or me of vision, of our capacity to see God’s ability to work, even through us, to redeem creation and transform the way we understand the world and how it works? How many things do we accept as given, especially if they operate in our self-interest, rather than risking a challenge that might bring us closer to the realization of God’s Beloved Community? What might we have to lose in order to find true selves made in the image and likeness of God? What might we need to give in exchange for God’s promise of abundant life in Christ Jesus?

Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently, nourish the life of the world in our care… Let there be greening, birth from the burning, water that blesses, and air that is sweet,
Health in God’s garden, hope in God’s children, regeneration that peace will complete. 

Shirley Erena Murray

Pastor Rick