Note from Pastor Rick (5/31/2017)

Sunday was a full day here at FBCPA. Not only did we honor Christ’s ascension in worship, we also shared refreshments in the Entryway, and gained a new perspective on “The Parable of Talents” in Adult Spiritual Formation. Then, in the afternoon, we celebrated the life of Marilyn Hunwick in a lovely and meaningful service featuring the Hunwick’s granddaughter, Chloe, singing, Anthia Lee Halfmann on piano, and, of course, Jan Gunderson on the organ. Thanks to Dona Smith-Powers, Betsy Anderson, and Chip Clark for their assistance as well. After the service we were treated to a lovely reception, provided by Beth Hunwick and the family as well as church members. It was a long day (I got home about 6:15) and a rich one. I couldn’t help but think that Marilyn would have been pleased.

This Sunday is Pentecost, so everyone is encouraged to wear red (or orange or yellow) as your own personal “tongue of flame.” The texts for the day focus on the ways in which the Holy Spirit, represents all the wonderful life-giving gifts of God to God’s people. We control neither the Giver nor the gifts, but we can always express our gratitude and make the most of that with which we have been blessed. Come to celebrate the “birthday of the church.” Stay for the first Patio Hour of the season and join in the Lunch Bunch as we enjoy Indian cuisine. Bring along someone with whom to share the events of the day.

Remember, our theme for this year is “All Are Welcome in this Place.” Let’s make certain that it is so.

Pastor Rick   

This Week at First Baptist (5/24/17)

  • CalendarThursday, May 25, 11:30 AM: Women’s Brunch, Shoreline Lake American Bistro, 3160 North Shoreline Boulevard, Mountain View, CA. Please let Lois Ville know if you will be attending, lotusville@aol.com or (408) 247-1764. All women of the church are welcome.
  • Thursday, May 25, 7:30 PM: Choir Rehearsal in the Parlor
  • Sunday May 28, 10:00 AM, Seventh Sunday in Easter
    Worship and Sunday School:
    All My Relations, Psalm 66:1-10; 31-35; John 17:1-11; Acts 1:6-14; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11, Rick Mixon preaching
    11:30 AM: Adult Spiritual Formation Speaking in Parables.” We will continue our study of Jesus’ Parables, focusing this week on “The Parable of the Talents,” Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27.
  • Sunday, May 28, 2:00 PM: Memorial Service for Marilyn Hunwick in the Sanctuary with a reception to follow in the Fellowship Hall.
  • Tuesday, May 30: Spire Deadline
  • Tuesday, May 30, 10:30 AM: Bible Study at Marylea McLean’s apartment, 373 Pine Lane #4204, Los Altos.
  • Wednesday, May 31, 10:30 AM: Meditation Group at Eileen Conover’s home, 1075 Space Park Way #217, Mountain View.

Looking ahead:

  • Sunday, June 4: Pentecost Sunday
    10:00 AM, Worship for the whole Family with Communion:
    Pentecost, Numbers 11:24-30; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; John 7:37-39; 20:19-23; Acts 2:1-21; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13, Rick Mixon. Remember to wear red (or orange or yellow or some combination to represent the “tongues of fire” associated with Pentecost.)

    11:15 AM: Patio Hour Everyone is invited to gather on the Patio after Worship for refreshments and community time. A sign-up sheet for hosting this summer event is posted in the Church Entryway.

Note from Pastor Rick (5/24/2017)

Well, last Sunday was a challenging day. In a small community like ours, missing a couple of key people can way lay the best made plans. And still we managed to worship and share, to sing and pray, listen and learn, which are the really important things. Thanks to everyone for pulling together at the last minute. It was also challenging to say good-bye to our friends Soo Kim and Doug Lee as they return to Korea. Doug, Soo, and Hegene have become beloved members of our “family” over the past five years and we will miss them very much. We promise to hold a place for them and they promised to come back to visit.

This Sunday is known as Ascension Sunday in liturgical tradition. On the Sunday before Pentecost, we remember that the Christ ascended into heaven as recorded in Acts or returned to God as he predicted in John’s gospel. After the Ascension, when Christ was no longer plainly visible to his followers, the Holy Spirit descended on them, imbuing them with great power to carry on Christ’s mission in the world. In the Ascension story in Acts 1, the angels ask the dazed disciples why they’re standing there looking into heaven when there is work to be done on earth. This is a fair question to ask every follower who may be more focused on what is to come than what is needed now to usher in God’s Beloved Community.

In Adult Spiritual Formation, we will wrap up our study of the Parables with a look at “The Parable of the Talents.” Please join us for worship, education, and community time and bring someone along to share the day. At 2:00 PM, we will hold a memorial service for our beloved Marilyn Hunwick, which will be followed by a reception hosted by the family. If church members are wanting to help with the reception, please contact the church office.

Remember, our theme for this year is “All Are Welcome in this Place.”

Let’s make certain that it is so.
Pastor Rick   

Mission visitors from Lebanon and India

Three candlesWhat a special day we had last Sunday with all our international visitors! It was a delight to welcome Dan and Sarah Chetti, missionaries from Lebanon; Ramesh Kumar and Dr. A. J. Samuel from India; and Leonardo Nogueira, a visitor (Baptist) from Rio de Janeiro. Dan preached for us on bringing the good news to the nations of this world; Sarah shared in our Time for Children and Youth; both brought testimony and videos about the work they are doing – Dan in the Arab Baptist Seminary and Sarah with female migrant workers who are brought to Beirut as domestics and then often mistreated. Ramesh brought greetings from Balasore Technical School and Dr. Samuel from the Telugu Baptist Convention of south India. All of them had been in the USA for the missions conferences, held at Green Lake, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Baptist foreign missions.

Dr. AJ Samuel, Ramesh Kumar, Sarah and Dan Chetti
Dr. AJ Samuel, Ramesh Kumar, Sarah and Dan Chetti

After worship and a time of sharing, Marilyn Hunwick, Nana Spiridon and the Missions Task Team provided a lovely lunch on the patio. We had dishes from India and Lebanon along with fresh fruit as everyone continued the conversation under the trees. I am also pleased to report that Ramesh has pledged $1000 to our special mission offerings for Habitat for Humanity and One Great Hour of Sharing, from the money BTS makes selling its goods and Dr. Samuel pledged $1000 from the Telugu Convention for the work of the Chettis! Of course, this doesn’t let us off the hook. It simply adds to what we have and will continue to give with our characteristic generosity.

At the end of the luncheon, both Doug and I commented on what good day it was. Special thanks to the Hunwicks for the key role they played in pulling all this together and for the indomitability of their missionary spirit! Thanks to everyone else who helped make the day special. I love not only the multicultural flavors of our own congregation but also our vision and appreciation for how modern missions bring all sorts of people together in a common family of God.

This Sunday promises to be another special day as well as we celebrate our annual joint worship service in Mitchell Park. This year I am very pleased that the folk from University AME Zion will be joining us, including their new pastor, Kaloma Smith. I believe the Tongan congregation “nested” in their space will also participate. Margaret Boles, Kal and I have had a good time planning a service around the theme, “All Are Welcome.” The service will be followed by the traditional potluck lunch so bring food to share. This would be a wonderful time to invite some others to join you.

Remember the service begins at 10:30 AM this week only! Y’all come.

God grant us more light, more love, more life as we journey together.

Pastor Rick  

We’ve a Story to Tell (October 6, 2013)

sermonsWE’VE A STORY TO TELL

A sermon preached by Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, October 6, 2013

Text:  2 Timothy 1:1-14

“We’ve a story to tell to the nations.”  We used to sing this song with some frequency whenever the missionary enterprise was considered.  It has a good marching tune, a positive, up-lifting tone, a sense of confidence that we might, indeed, win the world for Christ.  Of course, the text, and even the tune, are heavy with the threat of the colonialism that too often infected the Christian missionary enterprise in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  “We’ve a story to tell to the nations that shall turn their hearts to the right.”

We may ask, “Just what is the right?”  There have been times and places in which the right has been overly-identified with the values of the West.  A Euro-American way of life was closely linked with the gospel that was carried to the “uncivilized pagans” in foreign fields.  In the process, rich and ancient cultures were trampled, people exploited, traditions lost, in the name of a particular kind of progress linking Western culture to the Christian message.  Of course, there were notable exceptions and, indeed, the truly good news of Jesus Christ and the commonwealth of God was spread to the ends of the earth.

Two of the great figures in the American missionary movement were Ann and Adoniram Judson.  In very significant ways the Judsons were the parents of all Baptist missions in the USA today.  I mention them because 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of their arrival in Burma to begin their missionary work.  The Judsons sailed from Massachusetts in February of 1812 as Congregationalist missionaries headed toward the Far East.  The modern missionary movement among Protestants was only 20 years old at the time, begun by a group of Baptists in England who had sent William Carey and John Thomas to serve in India.

On the voyage east, Adoniram made a concentrated study of baptism and became convinced that “believer’s baptism” was what the gospel demanded.  He and Ann were Baptists by the time they reached India where they themselves were re-baptized.  As a result, the need for Baptist support for these new missionaries led to the formation of the first national Baptist bodies in the USA – the Triennial Convention and the American Baptist Missionary Union. These are the ancestors of the American Baptist Churches–USA and our mission boards, among others.

On arrival in India, the Judsons found no welcome from the controlling British East India Company.  So they found themselves sailing to Buddhist Burma where they were warned their efforts would be futile.  I won’t go into any great detail here but if you’re interested in more of the Judsons’ story, we have a six part DVD you’re welcome to borrow.

It took the Judsons six years to reach their first convert.  After almost ten years, they had 18 converts.  It was not until they began to concentrate their work among the animist hill tribes, the Karens and Kachins, who were Burmese minorities, that the mission work took root and grew.  Today Burma has the largest number of Baptists in the world only after the USA and India.

Adoniram Judson graduated at age 19 as the valedictorian of the predecessor of Brown University.  Judson’s work with the Burmese language, including his translation of the Bible, is still in use today.  One source says that “The essence of Judson’s preaching was a combination of conviction of the truth with the rationality of the Christian faith, a firm belief in the authority of the Bible, and a determination to make Christianity relevant to the Burmese mind without violating the integrity of Christian truth, or as he put it, ‘to preach the gospel, not anti-Buddhism.’”[7]  (wikipedia, Maung Shwe Wa, Burma Baptist Chronicle, page 9–10

Judson had a deep calling to which he felt compelled to respond.  He had a story to tell.  But, if this account is correct, he also had a deep respect for the people and culture of those among whom he ministered.  His task was not to demonize Buddhism but to tell his own story of how he experienced Christ and the living God. This sounds very much like modern missionary belief and practice.

In much the same way, the Apostle Paul was the progenitor of a mission movement.  He had a dramatic encounter with Christ that had changed his life forever.  With all the zeal of a convert, he tackled spreading the gospel with the same fervor with which he had persecuted Christians before his conversion.  He had a story to tell to the nations and he gave his life to sharing that good word.  Today’s text, from the second letter to Timothy was likely not written by Paul himself.  Still, it reads very much like what we know Paul wrote.  It speaks as a valedictory, the last testament of the great missionary before his death.

The letter is addressed to Paul’s young protégé, Timothy, urging him to continue the Apostle’s work, faithfully and courageously.  “We’ve a story to tell, Timothy.  Don’t forget it.  Don’t lose sight of the need to spread this good news.”  It’s not simple to summarize Paul’s story, his witness to the world, but he says a couple of things here to Timothy that I think are worth noting.

First, he reminds Timothy where he came from.  Faith is not something we achieve.  It is pure gift and most often it is passed to us by people who have walked the way of faith before us.  In Timothy’s case it is not only his mentor, Paul, but it is his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice who have given him the gift of faith.  I think I am particularly drawn to this because I had my own grandmother named Lois who was a woman of great faith as were my own mother and father.

Second, Paul reminds Timothy to rely “on the power of God,who save[s] us and call[s] us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to [God’s] own purpose and grace.”  It is God in whom we live and move and have our being.  It is God who made us and loves and desires that we live together in holy communion.  Our salvation is in this very relationship.

Third, he affirms for Timothy that “This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”  Christ conquers death on our behalf so that we may see and understand that death has no meaning or consequence in the reign of God.  God is about life and abundant living.  Through Christ, God freely and generously gives us this gift of life abundant and eternal.  It is ours to have and it is ours to share.

Finally Paul utters words that have found their way into another old hymn we don’t sing much anymore.  It is, in essence, the story that Paul wants to tell to the world, “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.”  Or as the NRSV puts it, Paul the intrepid old missionary shares his anchoring faith with his young friend, “But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.

When you get past the potentially overweening, culturally-based righteousness of the opening lines, the first hymn goes on to share helpful insight into what that old and still enlivening story is.  It’s a story of “truth and mercy, of peace and light.”  It’s a story that “shall conquer evil and shatter the spear and sword.”  It’s a story that “shows us that God is love.”

The missionary enterprise that we celebrate and support this month is very much grounded these days in the best of stories of Paul and Timothy, Ann and Adoniram Judson, Lynn and Marilyn Hunwick, Dan and Sarah Chetti, Dan and Sharon Buttry, Nzunga Mabudiga and Kihome Ngwemi, people who are willing to go among others all over the world.  They share the good news; they don’t impose it or use it to pick fights or devalue and denigrate others.  They share it because it is good news and is very much worth sharing.  And they share it, not only in word, but in deed – studying language, teaching farming and other skills, lifting folk from poverty and abuse, educating, healing, bringing new and abundant life in oh so many ways.  We, and these good and valiant folk as our representatives, have a story to tell.  It’s a good one.  In fact, it may just be life-saving and world-transforming.   Amen.

Legacy and Faith

pastors and interns
Doug Davidson, Pastor Rick, Pastor Tripp
and Naomi Schultz

An extra large helping of gratitude for everyone who pitched in to make our Rally Day and 120th Anniversary celebration so wonderful.  Special thanks to Marilyn Hunwick for all the work she did in the archives and setting up the displays, to Thelma Parodi and Lynn Hunwick for sharing their memories, to Eleanor Satterlee and Pastor Tripp for organizing the luncheon.  Though we missed Jan (who was off celebrating her birthday at the 49ers home opener,) we were delighted with the musical offerings of Ruth Butterfield-Winter, who played everything from Chopin to down home gospel with gracious flexibility and a smile on her face.  Pastor Tripp led the children and youth in an informative exploration of our roots in real time and via ipad.  We also celebrated the blessings of our interns, Doug and Naomi, and pledged to support one another through this coming school year.

It was a great day to focus our attention on those who came before us, who built this church and kept it going over many years.  As I said Sunday, their legacy is not just the rich resources they left behind, it is also their indomitable faith which informs our present ministry and calls us to participate in God’s new thing as it unfolds before us.

This Sunday I will be in Denver, Colorado, preaching the installation service for my friend, Brian Henderson, as pastor of the historic First Baptist Church.  It was interesting to hear Paul Tuan say Sunday that he and Jessie were married in that church 57 years ago.  Pastor Tripp will be preaching and leading in worship here.  His theme, drawn from the classic children’s book, is “The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” focused on Psalm 14 and Luke 15:1-10.  There will be Sunday School for children and youth as well as the kick-off for Adult Spiritual Formation, considering “What I Did on my Summer Vacation.”  It promises to be a good day at FBCPA.  I encourage you all to be here at 10 and stay for ASF.  Why not bring a friend to share the day?  See you next week.

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

We’ve Come This Far By Faith (September 8, 2013)

sermons.fwWE’VE COME THIS FAR BY FAITH
A sermon preached by Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, September 8, 2013

Text:  Hebrews 11:1-3, 39-12:2

Today we celebrate the official birthday of the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto.  In truth, that official date, June 18, 1893, is a little suspect.  Records indicate that the first gathering of Baptists in this area was in the village of Mayfield, which pre-dates the city of Palo Alto.  A group of 7 or 8 began a church in Mayfield, which was centered around what is now the intersection of California and El Camino, in the spring of 1891.  Ironically our church had its earliest roots in the very neighborhood in which we are now located, before it was part of Palo Alto.

At that time there were no churches in Mayfield but there were 13 saloons.  This intrepid group of Baptists bought one of those saloons, which was sitting vacant and refurbished it as a church, complete with new paint, carpet, an organ and a lovely coal-fired chandelier.  However, with the growth of Stanford University, several of the original group left Mayfield and the church for the new town of Palo Alto, where they worked on the construction of the new university.  The church sold its carpet and organ and closed its doors.

The first religious services in Palo Alto were held in September of 1892, outdoors, in a grove of live oaks at the corner of University and Emerson.  The minister was a Baptist who came up from Mountain View to conduct services.  At that time, Baptists in Palo Alto did not receive denominational support for founding a church that others did, but they were enthusiastically part of ecumenically shared ministry.  They met either outdoors or in a town hall which had an organ.  They were instrumental in founding the first Sunday School in town, which met in a downtown real estate office.

The First Baptist Church of Palo Alto was finally founded in June of 1893, in the chapel car, Emmanuel, which stopped regularly in the new town, as the Southern Pacific Railroad made runs from San Francisco to Aromas in northern Monterey County.  That first church had 9 members and was officially known as Emmanuel Baptist Church.  Unfortunately, they were only able to sustain their church life for about a year and a half before abandoning the project.  However, they continued to meet in the homes of members for prayer and study.  In 1897, with denominational support the church was re-started as the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto and has continued to this day.

We’ll share some more of the history of the congregation when we move to the Fellowship Hall after lunch.  Marilyn Hunwick, with some help from Lynn and myself, assembled a display of materials from our archives, which we hope you will find as interesting as we do.  What I would like for us to celebrate in this service of worship is the dedicated, persistent efforts of this small group of faithful Baptists to formalize their witness in an important, growing community in the Bay Area.  When the church built its first building in 1900, there were about 1000 people living in Palo Alto and Stanford was barely fifteen years old.   These people had a vision of what might happen in this area and they committed themselves to being a part of an exciting, new town that held great promise for the future.  These folk had faith that God was doing something in their midst and they chose to live that faith as a congregation.  120 years later FBCPA is their legacy and we are their heirs.

But we are not just their heirs in terms of property and resources, rich as those are.  We are also their heirs in faith.  The writer of Hebrews encourages us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…”  I often feel, when I enter a sanctuary like ours, the presence of that cloud of witnesses.  Maybe it’s memory, but maybe it’s something more.  Maybe those faithful folk who went before us still visit on occasion or linger long to guide.  Maybe I’m too taken with Dickens and the kind of spirits that come to old Ebeneezer Scrooge, leading him from his miserable greed into the joyful light of a new day.  Anyway, however you might think of or experience that cloud of witnesses, there are surely people who have helped to shape your life in the faith, who still draw you into a practice of faithfulness.

Who is in your cloud of witnesses?  I know some of you have been a part of this congregation for 50 or 60 years, half the life of the congregation.  Some of you were born here, like our moderator, Carolyn, who was entered on the cradle roll at 4 days old; or Thelma Tuttle, whose father helped to build our Fellowship Hall.  For some of us our candidates for the cloud of witness are still with us.  Others of us have faith heroes from other times and places.  In this month’s Spire I wrote about some of mine from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  Let’s take a minute.  Each of you has a slip of paper on which to write a name or two.  After you have written the names of your faith heroes, your cloud witnesses, we’ll collect them, share a few and offer a brief prayer of Thanksgiving.

We’ve come this far by faith.  Again, the writer of Hebrews reminds us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Commentators Edgar McKnight and Christopher Church write, “Biblical faith is both gift and action.”  It is something we hold and something we do.  It is grace that shapes and informs the way we actually live our lives.  The commentators continue, “…by faith the heroes and heroines of the past translated the promised hope into reality by which they lived their lives.  It was something substantial” (Edgar V. McKNight and Christopher Church, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary, Hebrews-James, pp. 259, 261).

In this congregation, a living faith is something we inherit, from the cloud of witnesses and from the life and ministry of Jesus, the Christ, “pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”  The challenge for us as we celebrate our past is, at the same time, to allow our faith to shape our present practice of ministry and draw us into God’s new thing, the promise of a future that will move us ever closer to the reign of God in our lives and in our world.  We’ve come this far by faith.  This is true.  As we honor the faithful who have led us this far, we offer our undying gratitude.  But we also remember that theirs is a living legacy.  Everything with which they have blessed us is so that we might “run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” We’ve come this far by faith and we keep on keeping on by the same faith and we look to God’s future wrapped in the very same faith, holding fast to the promise of all that is yet to be.  Amen.