Mixon Muses: Blessed and Grateful

Pastor Rick MixonSometimes it’s difficult to believe I’ve been around as long as I have. Other times – not so hard. I suppose it depends on the day and the time and the circumstances. Several friends and colleagues, in commenting on my “dual” anniversary (10 years at First Baptist, Palo Alto; 20 as an ordained minister,) remembered older times when it was challenging to see that something like this would ever happen. Now it’s not that uncommon to find clergy who identify as lgbtq people, serving congregations that embrace them and support their ministry. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to see these changes over the years. I have been blessed to be part of the process. Continue reading Mixon Muses: Blessed and Grateful

Alliance of Baptists Grieving with Orlando

Candles lit in remembrance at congregational partner, Watts Street Baptist Church, Durham, N.C.
Photo: Candles lit in remembrance at congregational partner, Watts Street Baptist Church, Durham, N.C.

The Alliance of Baptists expresses our profound sadness and cries out in lament in response to the tragic shooting in Orlando. We are horrified yet once again by a mass shooting and an act of domestic terror.

We offer our prayers of care and support for all the families and friends of the ones who have been senselessly murdered and traumatically affected by this heinous act. We offer our best sense of God, rooted in our followership of Jesus, and expressed across the world’s enduring religions, that God is love and that God’s love embraces all with great care and compassion. Continue reading Alliance of Baptists Grieving with Orlando

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 momentous week

God's PeopleIn so many ways, this was a momentous week, with important Supreme Court rulings on health care and marriage equality, with the elegant eulogy and song offered by the President in memory of those slain at Emmanuel AME church in Charleston and with horror of a number of African American churches torched in South Carolina. As things have unfolded and unraveled we have turned to one another in wonder, fear, love and compassion, affirming that evil will not rule the day. Now can we make it so?

The meetings I attended surrounding the American Baptists’ biennial Mission Summit offered many words of courage and hope. Not only were concerns about racism and white supremacy raised, we heard the calls for the full inclusion of lgbtq people in the life of our denomination in 3 of the 4 major addresses. It was the most encouraging “Biennial” I have been to in a while. There was an excellent Emerging Theologians Conference before the Mission Summit and I attended two brief retreats after – one for the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists and one for the Minister’s Council (led by our friend, Heather Entrekin, who sent her greetings.)

As always, it was great to see old friends and make new ones. The Roger Williams Fellowship dinner featured Marvin McMickle, President of Colgate Rochester-Crozer seminary in a brilliant analysis of racism in the USA; the AWAB dinner featured noted evangelical ethicist, David Gushee, outlining how his mind has changed to full inclusion lgbtq people in the life of the church; the Peace Fellowship breakfast was addressed passionately by J. Alfred Smith, Jr. from Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland on issues of peace and racial justice (Jim is the pastor of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who received the Edwin T. Dahlberg Peace and Justice Award, the denomination’s highest); and the Ministers’ luncheon sponsored by the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board heard Molly Marshall, President of Central Baptist Seminary on the “well-lived life.”

I have heard good reports on worship here, which was ably led by Stina Miller, Dan Cudworth and Carolyn Shepard. Thanks to everyone who helped out while I was gone and thank you for the opportunity to represent FBCPA in our denominational life. This Sunday we will consider unity and diversity in the church. We will consider these phenomena in the context of what is going on in our world, especially in terms of racism and white supremacy. It is very difficult to talk about unity without also talking about justice. The text is Ephesians 4:1-16 and the sermon title is “With Liberty and Justice for All.”

After worship, we will hold our annual church picnic on the Patio. Join us at 10:00 AM for worship and food, fellowship and fun. It will be a great day for you to invite others to share with us.

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

Pastor Rick

 

In the World: Uganda

HOW ONE REVEREND IS DEFYING UGANDA’S ‘KILL THE GAYS’ ACT

Rev. SenyonjoUganda made international headlines when President Yoweri Museveni signed Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Act into law, jailing people for 14 years to life for loving someone of the same sex and leading to massive spikes in hate crime violence.

But one Reverend in the country is generating press for a different reason: hosting prayer sessions and counseling services even as he, too, faces prison for refusing to discriminate.

Rev. Christopher Senyonjo had already been cut from Uganda’s Anglican Church for calling on religious leaders to embrace LGBT people instead of encouraging hate and violence. Now his activism threatens to put him behind bars, too — unless we drawn the attention of the international community to his fight.

Uganda has already lost millions in global aid because of its hate policies. If enough of us stand behind Rev. Senyonjo, we can keep him out of prison and help him stay an ally and powerful voice against homophobia in Uganda.

Read more at ThinkProgress.org

PETITION TO PRESIDENT MUSEVENI

We stand behind Rev. Christopher Senyonjo in embracing love and community over hatred and violence. Listen to his pleas for tolerance, and don’t imprison him for standing up for the LGBT community! To sign the petition, go to:

http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/4452?r=2319173.axLTGe

Rev. Mixon and Rev. Senyonjo I had the privilege of meeting this wonderful saint of God’s church last October in Providence. He reminded me in faith and spirit of Bishop Tutu. I have signed this petition and invite you to join me. Pastor Rick

 

Mission Summit and AWAB

Pastor Rick and Children
Pastor Rick and Children

There was no Midweek Message last week as I was in Kansas City for the American Baptist Mission Summit.  Many I heard commented that this was the best biennial meeting in many years.  I went early for the theology conference, held at Central Baptist Seminary.  The theme was “Baptists and the Spirit: Living into God’s Future.”  It began with a fine address by Central’s President, Molly Marshall.  It was good to see my mentor, David Bartlett, there along with other friends and colleagues.  One of the joys of these events is seeing old friends.

The Mission Summit itself started with a stirring address by author and attorney, Michelle Alexander.  You can see a report on her address on “The New Jim Crow” here.  There were fine programs with excellent speakers at the MMBB luncheon, BPFNA and Coalition for Baptist Principles breakfasts and the Roger Williams Fellowship dinner.  Worship was well coordinated by Brad Berglund.  We celebrated three historical events – the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 200th anniversary of the arrival of missionaries Ann and Adoniram Judson in Burma and the 375th anniversary of the First Baptist Church in America (Providence, Rhode Island.)  One night we had a “battle of Burmese choirs” from opposite sides of the convention hall.  Two different choirs of Burmese-Americans and refugees from different ethnic groups, each over 300 strong, sang beautiful Burmese songs of praise.  A centerpiece of the Mission Summit was a series of facilitated “table conversations” in which participants shared their dreams and concerns for the ongoing mission of the ABC-USA.

On Sunday, June 23, I participated in the gathering of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists at Crossroads Church in Kansas City, Missouri.  We led the morning worship service, with the AWAB Executive Director, Robin Lunn, preaching.  After a typically delicious KC barbecue we witnessed a powerful documentary entitled, God Loves Uganda.  The film portrays the homo-hatred and abuse of lgbtq folk in that central African country, which has legislation pending that would make lgbtq identity a capital offense.  Part of the sad state of affairs is that this terror is being fueled by Christian fundamentalists from the USA, in particular the members of a KC mega-church called the International House of Prayer.  I hope we may be able to show this movie in the coming year.  It deserves to be seen widely.

Thanks to those who filled in in my absence.  This Sunday is the church picnic.  The theme for out intergenerational service is “Oh, Freedom!” We will use the 5th chapter of Galatians as a text, which includes Paul’s famous proclamation, “For freedom, Christ has set you free.”  But what is the nature of this freedom and how do we live it out?  Paul has timely suggestions in this chapter about freedom and “fruits of the Spirit.”

Come this Sunday at 10 AM dressed for the picnic and ready for celebration.  Bring someone along to share the morning with you.

May God’s new thing flourish within us and among us.
Pastor Rick

Moving On (June 30, 2013)

MOVING ON

A sermon preached by
Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, June 30, 2013

Text:  Luke 9:51-62

This has been a momentous week on many fronts.  Supreme Court rulings have held the headlines.  All over the country lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer and questioning folk are celebrating along with our allies the recognition of our right to marry under the laws of the land.  There may be a million or more celebrants on the streets of San Francisco this morning as we worship here.  To tell you the truth, there is a little tug on me to be sharing in that celebration.

It was 17 years ago on an equally hot Pride Sunday that I was ordained at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church in Oakland.  We have come a long way since that day in providing a fair and equitable society for lgbtq people in this country.  Last Sunday, I worshiped at Crossroads Church in Kansas City, Missouri.  Crossroads is one of 88 congregations that both welcome and affirm lgbtq folk as part of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.  It was AWAB day at the American Baptist Mission Summit.  Since we are not allowed to be officially a part of the biennial meetings, we usually hold some sort of alternate event at a site nearby.

The day began with a worship service at which the Executive Director of the Association, Robin Lunn, preached.  I was invited to read one of the scriptures, Revelation 21:1-6.  The Association is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, having had its first meetings at the American Baptist Biennial, down the road in San Jose, in 1993.  However, part of my role as member of the current Association board is to be a kind of living history, reminding folks that the birthing organization of the Association was American Baptists Concerned for Sexual Minorities, an organization, advocating for full inclusion of lgbtq people in the life of the church.  I was involved in ABConcerned leadership for some 20 years before the Association came into being.

Before I read the scripture, I reminded people that our little movement within Baptist circles is 40 years old, not 20.  It seemed significant, as we read the passage from Revelation, to remember that the full sanctuary and the growing movement started as the dream of a few faithful people a long time ago.  It also seemed important to recognize that, whatever progress we have made in building an inclusive witness in Baptist circles, there are still dreams to be dreamed and long, dusty roads to walk.  For many it is rightly a time to celebrate, but we must not forget that tomorrow will, of necessity, be a time for moving on.

Jesus set “his face to go to Jerusalem,” Luke writes.  As an old friend of mine used to say, he was “a man on a mission.”  Up to this point in Luke’s gospel we have heard the wonderful stories of Jesus’ birth, witnessed him wowing the elders in the temple at 12 years old, the same age as Daniel Ha.  He has proclaimed in his home church that “The Spirit of [God was] upon [him], because [that Spirit had] anointed [him] to bring good news to the poor…[had] sent [him] to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,to proclaim the year of [God’s] favor” (Luke 4:18-19).  He has taught and healed and driven out demons and fed the hungry throughout Galilee.  He has established his credentials.  He has assembled a large group of followers.  Now he is off to Jerusalem to confront the forces that have corrupted the religious tradition of his people and forsaken their covenant with the living God.  He is going to challenge the imperial powers where they hold people captive in systems unjust and evil.  Along the way and in the heart of the holy city itself, he will proclaim the in-breaking reign of God on earth with the promise of salvation for all who turn to God and God’s reign.

The text is tough.  Here Jesus has no time for villages that will not readily receive him nor for those who are not prepared to hit the road.  This is not the tender and compassionate Jesus we would prefer to meet along the way, the old friend who will sit and chat with us in the corner café, the beautiful dreamer who takes to time to consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.  This is someone intently focused on the road ahead, a man on a mission, one completely absorbed with moving on.  There is a certainty to his step, a sharp focus to his gaze, an urgency to his voice.  The reign of God is breaking through all around.  There is good news to proclaim the poor and oppressed.  A new age is coming.  It is vital that people see and understand, that they repent of being on the wrong road and come along with him on his journey to new and abundant life in the realm of God.

We ought to be careful not to read this text as saying that we should not be concerned for family life.  Jesus still loves and cares for those around him.  One could read the hyperbole of his pronouncements here as instructing his followers to let go of anything that binds them to a past that does not see and move on toward that realm of God in which they will be free of anything that has ever bound them.  As Ecclesiastes reminds us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  There is a time for mourning, a time for getting your affairs in order, a time for reflection, a time for play.  For Jesus and his followers, this time was one for moving on.  The reign of God was breaking out everywhere.  He had to show the way.

I have to confess that I have never been behind a plow, but according to those who have, you cannot look back and maintain a straight furrow.  Long and winding roads have their charms.  The twists and turns of a mountain stream follow the natural contours of the land.  Up and down and all around can be a merry adventure.  But for farming, furrows need to be as straight as possible, otherwise you have chaos in the crops and have not made maximum use of the land.  “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God,” says Jesus.  “Got my hands on the gospel plow.  Wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now.  Keep your hands on that plow, hold on,” sings the spiritual.  “We’re moving on toward the realm of God.  Times are tough, the journey will not be easy, but, in time, the goal toward which we move will eliminate all our troubles, free us from every chain and wipe away every tear.

Here’s the challenge as I see it in this week in which so many of us want to be celebrating the in-breaking of justice and equality for people who have been marginalized and treated as second-class citizens.  When the party is over and the streets have been cleaned up, we have to see that “it’s not all about us,” that Monday or Tuesday is time for moving on.  In the same week that DOMA was overturned and Prop 8 struck down, the 1965 Voting Rights Act was gutted by the same court along with a delay for the dreams of affirmative action for people of color.  The prospects of immigration reform were shot down by a recalcitrant House of Representatives and its leadership.  Legislators are making headway in taking away a woman’s right to choose how she handles pregnancy.  War is being waged in the Middle East and elsewhere, its living victims huddled into refugee camps while others wail and weep the loss of life and livelihood.  The very life of the planet is being threatened.

In our Association board meeting, one of our members rightly reminded us that justice is a whole cloth.  None of us is free to all of us are free.  Too often little victories are won at the expense of others.  Sometimes we are unwilling to look beyond our self interest.  We are too preoccupied to hit the road when Jesus calls us to be moving on.  In the end, however, we can’t stay put or we will suffer the dire consequences.

I know the burden can seem overwhelming, the road impassible, the work impossible, God’s realm unreachable.  But we just can’t afford the luxury of giving up or resting on our little islands of security. Ethicist Sharon Welch challenges people like us when she writes, “The despair of the affluent, the middle class, has a particular tone: it is a despair cushioned by privilege and grounded in privilege. It is easier to give up on long-term social change when one is comfortable in the present—when it is possible to have challenging work, excellent health care and housing, and access to the fine arts. When the good life is present or within reach, it is tempting to despair of its ever being in reach for others and resort to merely enjoying it for oneself and one’s family…Becoming so easily discouraged is the privilege of those accustomed to too much power, accustomed to having needs met without negotiation and work, accustomed to having a political and economic system that responds to their needs” (Sharon Welch, A Feminist Ethic of Risk, 15 quoted in Alyce M. McKenzie, “Keep Your Hand on the Plow!” Edgy Exegesis, 6-24-2013, patheos.com).

In a sense, this is the same challenge Jesus gives to those along his way who are not ready to join in the journey.  There some things, things that are sacred to us, that we have worked long and hard to develop and preserve, that we must let go of in order to move on with Jesus.  I really don’t want to be so presumptive as to say what those things are for you.  All I can do is invite you to listen to Jesus’ call.  What is being asked of you to help ensure the reign of God in your here and now, in this time and place?

If Jesus walked into our sanctuary today – his face set steadfastly toward Jerusalem, or Washington, or wherever captives need to hear a liberating word, wherever the poor need to find economic equity, wherever the oppressed need to be lifted up, welcomed and affirmed, wherever the blind need to see, the deaf hear and the mute speak, wherever the year of God’s favor needs to become a living reality – how would you or I respond?  Would we be prepared to let go of the past and dream of God’s new thing?  Would we be ready for moving on?  As my friend, D. Mark Wilson, sang at my ordination service long ago, on one of those days when we stopped to celebrate as millions are celebrating today, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes” (Bernice Regan Johnson, “Ella’s Song”).  Today, tomorrow, the next day, in the strong and steadfast name of Jesus, it’s time for moving on.  Amen.