Note from Pastor Gregory (7/5/2017)

In my second year of seminary at Claremont School of Theology I remember being asked by a friend to take some potential students out for coffee to chat about a few of the differences between CST and Fuller Seminary (an Evangelical school not far from Claremont). I remember one of the guys squirming a bit when I told them about the transformative power of inter-religious and multi-faith education. My experiences (not just books and lectures) at CST taught me a lot about pluralist theologies and religious diversity. My professors were right when they told me I didn’t need a theology of pluralism to be a nice person to people of other faiths. I had a lot of opinions and ideas about other religions but I didn’t really know anyone who was of a different tradition.

“But the Bible says Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life! I could never go to CST if they affirm that kind of theology!” Yelled one of the guys squirming at every mention of Islam or Jainism. I replied with a little biblical history, some hermeneutical alternatives, and a confidence that Jesus is the way, truth, and life! I also made clear that the ways in which one interprets these texts must be contextual to the first century and not our current location in history.

It was common for people of old to both worship the gods of their historical context; for Jews this meant the God of Israel whose people turned a relationship into a religion of classed based exploitation and self-righteous exclusivity. The people were also required to worship the sitting Emperor; the rally cry in Jesus’ day was, “Caesar is Lord!”

For Jesus to tell a bunch of marginalized Jewish folk to follow his way, his truths about the world, and his lifestyle was an affront to both elitist religiosity and political insanity. Jesus’ words become more about living in healthy relations with one another than excluding other faith traditions.

This week we are looking to Matthew 11:25-29 where Jesus calls his disciples saying, “Follow me!” Jesus invites the marginalized peoples of his day to follow him in creating a Beloved Community where all people are welcome and loved.

Jesus invites us into a Way of life, not merely a prayer to repeat at an altar call but a way of “living and moving and having our being” with God. Jesus invites us to partner with God in the transformation of the world by denying religious exclusivism and rejecting Caesar’s Lordship.

Join us this Sunday to sing, celebrate, and honor our God through our embodied faithfulness to Jesus’ Way and Life.

Much love,
Pastor Gregory

Sermon: Caesar Divides, Christ Unites

The year was 2009, it was my junior year of College at the University of South Florida, and I was a youth minister for the evangelical para-church outreach ministry Young Life. Raised in a proudly Republican middle-class family in the suburbs of New Tampa, religion was no foreign subject. At the age of 16 I converted to Christianity at a small Southern Baptist church made up of blue-collar conservatives.

Youth group and High School Debate club formed my early years. It wasn’t until college that I was invited to a Young Life club, where I fell in love with the humor and joy in their presentation of “the gospel.” I simultaneously began taking religious students and gender studies classes – they wrecked my world, each and every semester. It was a slippery slope and I was enjoying the ride!

Continue reading Sermon: Caesar Divides, Christ Unites

Being Inter-religiously Baptist

Currently in the United States: Muslims and mosques all over the country report an increased rate of assault and vandalism. Many people from Muslim nations are being refused entry visas for pursuit of legitimate and meritorious endeavors in the U.S. Similarly, many foreign Muslims are being detained in this country for technical visa violations that are not being uniformly enforced. Persons of Middle Eastern descent and those belonging to other faith traditions, e.g. Sikhs, are mistaken for Muslims and subject to increased incidences of prejudice and discrimination. An increased number of Muslim women, whose dress makes them easily recognizable as belonging to a non-majority faith, are fearful of venturing outside their homes even for simple errands or to attend worship services for fear of the prejudice they encounter outside their doors. Strident voices make increasingly inflammatory public statements and unfounded verbal attacks. Continue reading Being Inter-religiously Baptist

Faith leaders ask candidates to give poor ‘living wage’

Left to right, Rev. Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Rev. Michael Livingston, Rev. Andrea Alexander, Rev. Sekinah Hamlin, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston, Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block, gather before the Pope’s visit on Sept. 22, 2015, to ask the Pope to acknowledge the plight of striking low-wage federal contract workers. Photo courtesy of Good Jobs Nation

Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

(RNS) On the anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., dozens of faith leaders are calling for the U.S. presidential candidates to include a “living wage” for low-income workers in their political agendas.

The move comes amid growing momentum for a wage hike and just days after state officials of New York and California acted to increase their minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“Today, we call on all those who are seeking the Presidency of the United States to honor the legacy of Dr. King and stand in solidarity with all people who are seeking to achieve racial and economic justice in our society,” they say in an “Interfaith Call for Moral Action on the Economy,”that will be publicly released on Monday (April 4).

Read more at Religion News Service…

Couple Creating Church ‘Mosaic’ From Diversity In Paris

ParisBy Ashleigh Bugg (Baptist News Global)

Julie and David Brown hurry onto the crowded metro in Paris. They’ve finished singing and preaching at a traditional French Protestant church and are on their way to the outskirts of the city to worship with immigrants from Madagascar.

“Do we have time to visit the Haitian church, too?” David asks. They check the metro map but realize they won’t be able to make the service.

“Next time,” Julie says.

“We usually visit two to three new churches every Sunday,” David explains. Since moving to Paris in February, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel David and Julie Brown are in charge of an initiative known as Mosaic.

Mosaic is a ministry of the French Protestant Federation that promotes contact between churches and believers from different countries of the world, he says.

– See more at: Baptist News Global

This Week at First Baptist (11/19)

  • CalendarThursday, November 20, 2014, 10:00 am: Women’s Brunch at Corner Bakery Cafe, 3375 El Camino Real, Palo Alto. All women of our church community are invited to join
  • Thursday, November 20, 7:30 pm: Church Choir in the Parlor. Come and lift your voice in song. All are welcome.
  • Friday, November 21, 2014, 6:00 pm: Gratitude Potluck for folk of all ages in the Fellowship Hall. Join us for an intergenerational potluck dinner and celebration of all for which we have to be grateful. Bring a dish to share. You may also bring turkeys and canned food for Ecumenical Hunger Program that evening. Invite a friend, family member, colleague, neighbor or stranger to join us in this time of celebration! 
  • Sunday, November 23, 2014: Stewardship Sunday
    10:00 AM Worship and Sunday School:
    “Stories That Shape Us” Pastor Rick preaching. You encouraged to bring your completed pledge form for the 2015 budget.
    11:30 AM: Hanging of the Greens We will decorate the church for the Advent to Epiphany season. There will be activities for all ages. Coffee, juice, fruit, doughnuts for extra enticement. Help make our Advent to Epiphany Worship a warm and colorful reality.
  • Monday, November 24, 2014: Deadline for December Spire
  • Tuesday, November 25, 2014: Bible Study at the Terraces of Los Altos at Janet Maxwell’s apartment. The address is 373 Pine Lane, #2106, Los Altos. Let Pastor Rick know if you need a ride.


  • Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 7:30 pm: Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church, 4111 Alma Street, Palo Alto. “Sharing the Land: with Compassion and without Fear.” An offering will be taken for Community Legal Services and Doctors without Borders. Non-perishable food items for local food closets are also welcome.
  • THURSDAY AND FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 27 AND 28, Thanksgiving Holiday, church office closed.
  • FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT, NOVEMBER 30, 10:00 AM, Worship and Sunday School: “Alive in the Adventure of Jesus: Promised Land, Promised Time” Pastor Rick preaching.  11:30 AM, Adult Spiritual Formation, Be Born in Us Today, a three 3 week series of Advent reflection based on a verse from Phillips Brooks’s carol, Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem

This Week at First Baptist (11/12)

  • CalendarThursday, November 13, 2014, 5:00 pm: Church Council in the Parlor
  • Thursday, November 13, 7:30 pm: Church Choir in the Parlor. Come and lift your voice in song. All are welcome.
  • Friday, November 14, 2014, 10:00 am: Senior Chat- Mental Illness in Our Midst. Fireside Room of Covenant Presbyterian Church, 670 East Meadow Drive
  • Sunday, November 16, 2014
    10:00 AM Worship and Sunday School:
    Alive in Creation: From Ugliness, a Beauty Emerges,” Pastor Rick preaching.
    11:30 AM: Adult Spiritual Formation:
    Part 3 of a 3 week series on Dan Buttry’s Blessed are the Peacemakers
  • Tuesday, November 18, 2014: Bible Study at the Terraces of Los Altos at Janet Maxwell’s apartment. The address is 373 Pine Lane, #2106, Los Altos. Let Pastor Rick know if you need a ride.
  • Wednesday, November 19, 2014, noon: Baptists Lunching Together at Grand Lake Gardens, Oakland. This month’s program will feature Evelyn Hanneman, BPFNA Operations Coordinator, speaking on Burma and the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. Lunch is $8.00. Please call Joan Thatcher at 510-350-7008 for reservations. Let Pastor Rick know if you would like a ride.


  • Thursday, November 20, 2014: Women’s Brunch
  • Friday, November 21, 2014: Gratitude Potluck
  • Sunday, November 23, 2014: Hanging of the Greens
  • Monday, November 24, 2014: Deadline for December Spire
  • Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 7:30 pm: Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church, 4111 Alma Street, Palo Alto