Note from Pastor Gregory (6/28/2017)

I don’t usually preach from Paul’s letters and I definitely don’t usually preach from the book of Romans. Luckily one of my professors John B. Cobb Jr. (read anything and everything he’s written! It’s all so good!) wrote a commentary on the book of Romans to help us pastors and scholars decipher what was going on in the early Jesus movement.

Dr. Cobb makes an interesting point about the ways in which these letters have traditionally been interpreted. The word Paul uses for “faith” in Greek is pistis which is more accurately translated as “faithfulness.” Paul is calling us into faithfulness to God through Jesus. In Jesus we see the image of the invisible God, the image of a poor Palestinian who is faithful to God’s call on our lives to love all beings.

This Sunday we will explore the lectionary passage from Romans 6:12-23 where Paul speaks to our new found freedom in our faithfulness to the Christ. This freedom might at first seem restrictive and not actually freedom at all (often falling into a legalistic debate about right living) but I hope to explore the ways in which the freedom Paul says can be found in God through faithfulness to Jesus’ teachings is truly liberatory.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God we are Free at Last!

Pastor Gregory

Where is Your Faith? (9/18/16)

A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, September 18, 2016

Texts: Psalm 29; Luke 8:22-25

Have you ever found yourself in difficulty, caught between a rock and hard place, up the creek without a paddle? Then you have some sense of what Jesus’ disciples experienced on the lake that day. It all started innocently enough. They pushed off from the shore near their home base in Capernaum headed for the Gerasene shore. At least some of them were experienced sailors. They’d made their living fishing this shallow lake. They were also familiar with the brief, fierce storms that could arise on the lake when the wind off the Mediterranean came roaring through Pigeon Pass and hit the lake hard.

Jesus was asleep. I wonder if he wasn’t exhausted from the effort involved in preaching, teaching, healing, and exorcising. This is not the only time the gospels tell us Jesus took to the sea, hoping for a little relief from the press of the crowd, from their constant demands and insistent expectations. It seems he was sound asleep, sleeping so soundly that the storm did not wake him. If we take the tale at face value, the disciples were terrified by the storm. The boat was taking on water and the prospect of drowning rose before them. “Master, Master, we are perishing!” they cried. In Mark’s older version, from which Luke draws this story, the disciples are a little snarky, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:39b). Desperate, and a little whiney, they call on him to save them.

Do you ever feel like that – “Jesus, we’re dying here. Don’t you care?” When you get between a rock and hard place, when you find yourself up the creek without a paddle, “when the storms of life are raging, when the world is tossing [you] like a ship upon the sea?” Do you ever cry out, “Stand by me!” “Jesus, savior, pilot me,” “Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to your bosom fly,” “Help of the helpless, O abide with me”? Song and scripture alike lift up our cries for help. At the same time, we hear the words of assurance: “God will take care of you,” “God, who holds the future, is the One who holds my hand,” “God walks the dark hills,“ “The voice of Love is heard in every storm…and in their hearts all cry, ‘Glory!’ The Beloved lives in our hearts; Love dwells with us forever.”

Continue reading Where is Your Faith? (9/18/16)

Pastor Gregory Says… (6/8/16)

Pastor Greg with childrenPistis (Greek: Πίστις) was our special word from Sunday as we explored John 14 and Jesus’ call to have pistis toward him and God. It’s often translated “faith” and attributed to both faith in God and in Jesus but on Sunday we talked about its more active form: faithfulness.

To be faithful not only requires an interior spiritual life of trust and commitment but also a life that embodies these very ideals. While some have contrasted faith and works as if faith might exist without embodiment, we can hardly treat faithfulness in that way. If one is faithful to the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, this has much to do with how one acts and embodies how one feels and thinks as a member of FBCPA. The same is true of one’s faithfulness to the United States of America or one’s partner in marriage.

To be faithful to Jesus Christ is to stand against popular opinion by standing up for morality. In the area of sexuality it means the inclusion of queer and trans* bodies, in the struggles against state violence it means the support of Black Mothers whose teens are being shot at alarming rates, in the face of President Obama’s fierce immigration raids it means standing firm as a Safe Sanctuary for undocumented people, in the face of mass deforestation it means asking the trees how they feel and being with them as they are murdered. To be faithful to Jesus Christ is to heal the leapers of our society: every being whose life is in danger of oppression, marginalization, or unnecessary suffering. It’s the kind of faithfulness that makes no sense sometimes as everyone will tell you it will never work out. I’m sure everyone thought Jesus’ famous last words on the cross would also never work out: “forgive them they know no what they do.”  But then again, I’m convinced those famous last words are still proactively working 2000 some years later!

Are you up for the wild pistis Jesus calls us into?

We’re in this together so let’s get to work.