Art Comes to FBCPA

Jazz musiciansAs you walk through our hallway you will notice our new photography installation! Thanks to the vision of Pastor Rick, Gregory, and Susan Bradley we now have 20 photos framed and displayed on our walls. These photographs were taken by Susan (and a few of her students) on trips to Africa, Cuba, and Haiti. They capture vividly and movingly some the people whom she encountered on her travels. A gifted photographer is a regular part of our community, including our Mission Task Team.

Juve Ramirez did a wonderful job of hanging each picture and, on the Work Day, Dan Cudworth and Doug Lee helped place each picture into its frame. This is a church family effort and it surely does look great! We are excited to introduce this project as we use our hallway as “gallery space.” This exhibit will be up for a while; then we hope to display the art and work of others within our church community. So, if you want to participate please let one of the pastors know.

The visual arts will help us explore other ways of learning and knowing God as liturgy and dialogue are but some of many ways to experience the divine. We are practicing a “sacred-seeing” for stories to be shared that humanize others and help us to see the sacred handprint in all people, places, and things. Join us in getting lost, and possibly found, in these photographs.

woman and tent

Preparing for Advent

Rev. Rick MixonThank you to Doug and Hegene Lee who gave us an excellent report on socially responsible entrepreneurship and their experiences in Haiti. The specific project has to do with providing potable water for villages in Haiti and a company that is providing that. We learned about the company, Ovide, its founder, Stanford grad Jimmy Chu and the work Hegene did as an inter, cleaning and filling water containers. We also saw some of Hegene’s excellent photography.

This Sunday we will tackle one of those tough texts, Mark’s “little apocalypse” in the 13th chapter. The disciples are much impressed with the grandeur and beauty of the temple but Jesus has a very different perspective. He foresees it’s destruction. Of course, Mark’s gospel may well have been written after that destruction actually occurred in AD 70. Regardless, for Mark Jesus is making a remark about what matters in religion. His comment flows naturally from the conversations he has been having with some of the practitioners of temple worship who don’t seem to get what it’s really all about. We’ll try to unpack some of this Sunday.

After worship, we will hold an Advent Planning Workshop in which you are all invited to participate – children, youth and adults. The over all theme this year is “Love Came Down.” We share a little about the “big picture,” then break into smaller groups to work on the worship services for Advent. We hope you will have ideas about liturgy (prayers and readings,) songs, décor, creative activities, etc. We would like for Advent to be as meaningful for all of us as possible, We will likely go to till 1:00 PM this Sunday to provide for plenty of time for sharing. You may remember that we did something like this a couple of years ago, led by our intern, Naomi Schulz and found it added a lot to our Advent experience.

See you Sunday at 10:00 AM ready to worship, learn and share. Bring someone with you.

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

 

Live Free!

jack-o-lanternsWe had a good time carving pumpkins last Friday even if the pumpkin crop was limited by the drought to pumpkins that were pretty hard to carve. Sunday we all managed to “fall back” and still make it to worship on time. Thanks to Gregory for his thoughtful reflection on Naomi and Ruth and deep and lasting friendship.

This is Stewardship time. Our theme this year is Live Free! Take Hold of the Life that Really Is Life, using texts from Galatians (5:1) and 1 Timothy (18-19,) as our scriptural base. You soon will receive a letter with your pledge form for 2016. I hope you will carefully and prayerfully consider your financial support for our congregation in this fertile time.

This Sunday we will consider Jesus’ battle with some of the ostentatious religious leaders of his time along with his classic tale of the widow who gives “all that she has.” Is he lifting her up as an example of sacrificial giving, risking all that she has for her love of God? Or is he using her as an illustration of how the temple system has come to exploit the very people it was meant to serve, demanding more of them than they can afford to give?

In Adult Spiritual Formation, we will be privileged to hear from Doug and Hegene Lee who have traveled to Haiti the past two summers to work with social entrepreneurs to bring clean, affordable water to the Haitian people. I am looking forward to learning from them.

See you Sunday at 10:00 AM ready to worship, learn and share. Bring someone with you.

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

Pastor Rick

This Week at First Baptist (11/4/15)

CalendarThis Week at First Baptist

  • NO Church Choir  this week; rehearsals resume on November 19.
  • Friday, November 6, 2015, 1:00 PM: Church Council in the Parlor
  • Sunday, November 8, 2015: 24th Sunday after Pentecost
    10:00 AM: Worship and Sunday School
    Just Giving,” Mark 12:38-44, Rick Mixon preaching.
    11:30 AM: Adult Spiritual Formation-
    Doug and Hegene Lee will share their experiences working to bring clean water to villages in Haiti.
  • Tuesday, November 10, 10:30 AM: Bible Study at Marylea McLean’s apartment, 373 Pine Lane, #4204, Los Altos.
  • Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 12:00 noon: Senior Connections (Prime Timers), Brown Bag lunch and concert featuring the Salzedo-Ruberstein family with Jonathan Salzedo on harpsichord, Marion Rubenstein on recorder, and Laura Rubenstien-Salzedo on violin, performing trios by Bach, Vivaldi and Teleman.
  • Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 2:30 PM: Meditation Group led by Charlotte Jackson at Thelma Parodi’s house, 543 South El Monte Avenue, Los Altos.

LOOKING AHEAD:

  • Sunday, November 15, 2015: 25th Sunday after Pentecost
    10:00 AM: Worship and Sunday School
    Future Hope,” Mark 13:1-8, Rick Mixon preaching.

    11:30 AM- 1:00 PM: Love Came Down- Advent Planning Workshop
    Pastors Rick and Gregory will lead the congregation in a process of planning this for year’s Advent/Christmas worship. Everyone of every age is encouraged to participate in this opportunity to make the sacred season even more meaningful for your sharing

Haiti: A Few Days With Missionaries Nzunga & Kihomi

Friday March 21, Greetings. I left with a team of well diggers to go to Fierville close to Gros Morne, the city where we have shared clean water, goats and pigs. Dr. James Steve accepted to accompany me. On our way, our first rest stop was at Enery about one hour and half from our home. Enery is small city where we have our Baptist church. On the main road, we have a gas station belonging to a parliamentary man. The gas station and its surrounding are clean and well kept. Bathrooms, restaurant and a store are kept clean all the time. The blower to dry hands in the rest room works just the way it is supposed to.

Alongside the road, the vendors have been given nice sort of cabins where to sell whatever they have to sell. By looking at this kind of change, we are encouraged to say that Haiti will change because some of its people are trying hard in spite of everything else. Thank you for praying for our Haiti, cheri.

HaitiMarch 22, 2014 Greeting. We are on our way to Fierville to share goats to children. Gros Morne was our second stop. Here we were welcomed by our many small girlfriends who hurried up to pick up dead flowers they presented as food for me to eat.

Those innocent children bring a joy that is unique to visitors in their midst. It is the joy one cannot read in the books or find it on TV screen. Their joy is what takes away our fatigue. Their natural love gives us more strength to hope for a better future for them. Thank you for supporting our ministries to the least of those. Serving the Master in Haiti,

Haiti RiverMarch 22, 2014 Dear Loved Ones, Peace of our Lord on each one of you. Saturday March 22 we left for Fierville about one hour and some minutes from Gros Morne. The scenic view is gorgeous. The road is close to impossible. Once you see the road, you regret taking your vehicle on such a road. The people of Fierville are nice. Let us say that they are extremely nice people. They are country people. The place is surrounded by huge mountains. There is no phone signal there. To call one has to climb up the mountain, make a call and go back down. The place is quiet and peaceful.

Haiti goatsWhen we got there, people were waiting for us to share the goats. As it is the custom, an event like this is for the whole community. People were present to witness the sharing of the goats. We did not share the pigs since many pigs are suffering from pig epidemic. I promised to go back for pigs when the disease is over. Thank you for praying for us and especially for our people in Fierville.

Yours in Haiti,
Nzunga & Kihomi

 

New Day Coming (November 17, 2013)

sermonsNEW DAY COMING

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

Sunday, November 17, 2013

 Isaiah 65:17-25

Times are tough on planet earth. Well, maybe not so much for you and me.  The sun is shining.  We’re well-fed, well-sheltered, well-dressed, even well-loved, aren’t we?  I guess if you’re a Stanford football fan you may be feeling the pain of yesterday’s loss to USC.  But, by and large, we’ve got it pretty good.

However if you’re standing in the middle of what little is left of Tacloban in the Philippines, looking for loved ones, your home, something to eat or something to wear, I’ll bet you would say “times are tough on planet earth.”  Or if you are a student at Balasore Technical School, looking at the barren flood plain where your home used to be or a family in Haiti still trying to recover from the earthquake or in New Orleans, living all these years later with the devastating effects of Katrina, things look pretty bleak.  Or if you’re a Palestinian trying to make a life in occupied territory or Afghanis or Iraqis existing amid the rubble of war or Syrians or Burmese forced into refugee camps or Congolese living in fear of rogue military, you would be hard pressed to know joy and delight.  If you’re homeless and hungry and struggling to make ends meet in East Palo Alto or surviving in a cardboard lean-to in a barrio in Rio de Janeiro, you might just feel a little desperate and hopeless.  I could go on.  Is this enough to convince us that times are tough on planet earth?

The point here is not to be a dark cloud on a beautiful today, to be a joy killer, to be the bearer of bad news or to induce guilt.  But I do think it’s important for us to see the big picture if we’re going to talk about a new day coming.  These ancient words of the prophet become much more compelling and powerful when seen from a wider perspective.

And frankly that’s the context in which they were first uttered.  These prophetic words of hope, joy and delight were first proclaimed in the midst of pretty awful circumstances.  Remember that the book we call Isaiah is really a collection of writings of anywhere from three to five different authors or schools over a period of some 200 years.  Today’s Call to Worship comes from first Isaiah (12), a hymn of praise and celebration, interpolated into harsh prophecy about the destruction that would come to a people who did not keep their covenant with God.

Later we find that prophetic word to have come true in that the people of the northern kingdom, Israel, were carried off into exile by the Assyrians and the elite of the southern kingdom, Judah, were subsequently hauled away to Babylon.  In the process, the Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s magnificent temple and lay waste to the city of Jerusalem.  It is another hundred years before Cyrus, of Persia allowed the Hebrews to return to their holy city.

There was initial excitement and joy at the prospect of returning home and rebuilding the city, the temple and their lives in the land of God’s promise.  But after those first days of happiness, the daunting task before them settled in.  The physical rebuilding, along with reclaiming a lost way of life, was overwhelming.  Can’t you see the prophet – third or fourth Isaiah – standing in the midst of the rubble, proclaiming that times are tough on planet earth?  “Oh we wanted it to be so much easier.  We believed that the task of rebuilding would progress much more quickly.  Secretly, we even wanted God to help with the restoration in miraculous ways that wouldn’t require so much effort on our part.   But, oh! this is so much harder than we ever imagined.”  The people affirmed the prophet’s discouraging word.

It’s smack in the middle of this discouragement, hopelessness and despair that fourth or fifth Isaiah brings forth today’s text – “…be glad and rejoice forever,” says the God of hosts, “in what I am creating… For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth… I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight…”   Well, now that’s a little loony, isn’t it?  Maybe this prophet has been out in the sun too long.  Look around, the glory of David’s capital and Solomon’s temple are not going to be seen any time soon.  Can’t you hear them pushing back against the improbability of the good news?  And, truth be told, don’t we sometimes respond to good news with similar incredulity?

It’s hard to hold good news when we have to hold it in tension with what looks like bad news all around us.  These promises make lovely poetry but when and how, O God?  Maybe you can make all things new, but it’s just too hard for us.  We have to be realists – economically, politically, even morally.  You promise too much God and you ask too much of us in the process.  It’s too much for us to believe your promises and then it’s definitely too much to think that we ourselves might have the wherewithal to make those promises come true.  What’s that you say?  How about if we formed a partnership and worked together toward a new day?  Well, we never thought of it quite like that.  After all you’re God and we’re just human beings.  Yes, we know we sometimes like to play God, but we also know how hollow and destructive that can be.  In fact, that’s part of why times are tough on planet earth.  But maybe we could partner with you to get some of it done.  We’ll check our busy schedules and get back to you on that.

A new day coming.  Somewhere in the back of my head, I hear Tony and Maria, right in the middle of the gang war that will take Tony’s life, singing softly and passionately as they look into each other’s eyes:

There’s a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us
Somewhere.

They continue:

There’s a time for us,
Some day a time for us,
Time together with time spare,
Time to learn, time to care,
Some day!

Somewhere.
We’ll find a new way of living,
We’ll find a way of forgiving

Somewhere . . .

It’s not exactly Isaiah, but it’s the same sentiment.  Somewhere, some day, some how, we’ll find a new way of living, we’ll find a way of forgiving – the same hope, the same vision of a new day.  Young lovers in improbable circumstances believed it could be.  Can we?  Can we capture some of the vision of God’s new day and make it real?  Can we pledge ourselves to that work in honor of and solidarity with all the dreamers and prophets who have held hope for us?

Corinne Carvalho writes of this ancient word that “In texts from Mesopotamia and Canaan, when a deity took up residence in a temple, blessings radiated out from that temple creating an ideal world. Human endeavors were prosperous. Crops were bountiful. Animals were tame, and the world returned to an Eden-like state.”  That is very much what is being described here in Isaiah.  We know that certain parties in Judaism believed that the temple in Jerusalem was the very place God dwelt on earth; therefore God must be worshiped there.  But what if the true temple was in our hearts?  What if we allowed God to dwell in us?  Might blessings then radiate from us?  Might we become agents of healing and wholeness, of abundance and grace, of justice and peace, the living God living in us and through us to bring about a new day?

Carvalho continues, “…too many times when I go to church, I am not expecting the world to change into a paradise.”  I wonder how true this is for us.  Isaiah’s words invite us to see a new day coming, God’s day.  The prophet’s proclamation draws us to commit ourselves to living into just such a day a day born of the One we worship.  Carvalho concludes, “We may not feel a great need to domesticate lions, but what would the world look like if children did not die from disease or gun violence, if adults had complete access to the best medical care, and if everyone earned a livable wage so that their work was not in vain. What if everyone could have as many children as they wanted, knowing they could provide for them without anxiety? Isaiah tells us that this is the world that worship should invite us to imagine.”

But you know and I know that imagination, wonderful as it is, is not enough for those who stand in the midst of tough times on planet earth, wailing their despair, aching in their hopelessness, yearning for a new day to come.  As children of God and followers of Christ we find ourselves right in the middle, living in holy tension between the new day of God’s promise and the real need of real people.  Only in partnership with the living God, following the living Christ, empowered by the living Spirit and in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the family of God will we see that new day come round – on earth as it is heaven.  To this the prophet calls us – to the vision and to its realization.  In all our living, let us commit ourselves to that new day coming.  Amen.