LOVE! RESIST! (2/19/2017)

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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Texts:  Leviticus 19:1-2; Matthew 5:38-48

On the short list for today’s worship service was an old hymn from the early twentieth century revivalist tradition. The hymn didn’t make the cut, but listen to some of its text:

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

I suppose it sounds slightly sentimental and a little dated, but I wonder if there isn’t still truth in its urging – “Take time to be holy.” How many holy ones are here today? Raise your hand if you consider yourself holy. No takers? I wonder why? What does it mean to be holy? What do you hear when you hear that word?

Continue reading LOVE! RESIST! (2/19/2017)

Note from Pastor Rick (1/18/2017)

Last Sunday we celebrated the life and ministry of Martin Luther King, Jr., who advocated not only for racial justice through nonviolence action, but also for peace, economic equity, and the realization of God’s Beloved Community. It also seemed important to me that we lift up the witness of our Baptist brother, John Lewis, US Representative from Atlanta Georgia and Civil Rights leader, who has been under attack. There are few in this land who have captured and lived out King’s dream for our country than Representative Lewis. As US citizens, he reminds us that “Our struggle is a struggle to redeem the soul of America. It’s not a struggle that lasts for a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or a few years. It is the struggle of a lifetime, more than one lifetime.” This is a reminder and invitation to each of us to keep the faith moving forward. I am keenly aware that this may be a most challenging week in the life of our democratic republic. I urge you to be in prayer as well as witness for the well-being of our people and, indeed, the whole creation. Whatever our involvement, may it be an extension of our faith.

Continue reading Note from Pastor Rick (1/18/2017)

This Week at First Baptist (1/11/17)

  • CalendarThursday, January 12: Church Choir in the Parlor. Everyone is invited to share in the fun and the music.
  • Sunday, January 15: Second Sunday After Epiphany
    10:00 AM: Worship and Sunday School:

    “Big Call,” Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42, Rick Mixon preaching.
    11:30 AM: Adult Spiritual Formation: Saving Jesus Redux: Teachings of Jesus- Wisdom Tradition” Another session in our ongoing exploration of this challenging video series.
  • Monday, January 16: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Church office closed.
  • Tuesday, January 17: Bible Study at Marylea McLean’s apartment, 373 Pine Lane, #4204, Los Altos.
  • Wednesday, January 18: Deadline for Annual Reports
  • Wednesday, January 18, 8:30 AM: Men’s Breakfast at Bill’s Cafe, 3163 Middlefield, Palo Alto. All the men from our Church family are welcome.
  • Wednesday, January 19, 7:00 – 8:30 PM: Multifaith Service of Concern and Commitment on the Eve of Inauguration Day At Universalist Unitarian Church of Palo Alto, 505 East Charleston.

Looking Ahead:

Note from Pastor Rick (1/11/2017)

Belated Happy New Year! Thanks to Pastor Gregory, Betsy and everyone else who covered for me while I was in Idaho. It was cold and snowy but it was good to have time with my family. My sister is continuing to recover from her brain surgery and is grateful for all the healing thoughts and prayers.

A couple notes going forward. There is a signup sheet for hosting coffee hour in the sanctuary entryway. Please sign up to help with this important part of being a hospitable congregation. You can keep it simple but it is good to have the table to gather around after worship for the community and guests alike.

Continue reading Note from Pastor Rick (1/11/2017)

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…

Black Lives MatterRight around the time of the rioting in Baltimore, I posted on Facebook a meme with a picture and quotation from, James Lawson, a wellrespected and beloved figure, active in the US Civil Rights movement of the 60s. Lawson says, “Violence has no practical results – toward building a strengthened community or solving the problems of human prejudice, bias, and injustice. People accept the ideological or even religious myth that if you want to get things done, violence is the way. But violence is not even the faster way. It complicates issues, increases and escalates the pain, postpones the hard work of facing the problem and healing it. Violence can kill somebody and destroy buildings. But it cannot build a house or create a community that is more just and fair.” I found these words timely, instructive and inspiring.

Since last fall, when American Baptist Global Peace and Justice Specialist, Dan Buttry, visited our congregation, I have been thinking about the practice of nonviolent resistance. Using one of Dan’s books, Blessed Are the Peacemakers, which focuses on stories of people who have dedicated their lives to making peace – both famous and hidden heroes – our Adult Spiritual Formation group spent time meeting some of these figures in the fall. We also took the opportunity to share with each other our own peacemaking heroes. Then, in January, one of the texts we read in my Spiritual Direction program was Walter Wink’s The Powers that Be, again with an emphasis on peacemaking and the genius of nonviolent resistance. Eventually, we also used this resource in Adult Spiritual Formation.

The challenge of nonviolent resistance is that it takes incredible discipline and planning. It asks that we contain our anger in such a way that we can then channel it creatively and constructively rather than acting it out in spontaneous combustion. This is not easy. I have known anger in my life and I have lashed out more than once in ways that were unhelpful and only fueled the fire. Perhaps my early commitment to pacifism (I registered as a conscientious objector in 1965 at age 18) was an attempt to contain angry feelings and destructive impulses in the service of a greater good – the fulfillment of the Beloved Community of God in my own life and in the world around me.

Pacifism in our world often seems as quixotic as Jesus’ proclamation of the Beloved Community. “Get real! No one can live like that. What would you do if someone was raping your sister or threatening your own life?” “What do you mean, ‘love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself,’ ‘love your enemy, ‘love Samaritans and tax collectors and prostitutes?’ You’re a fool. You have to take care of number one first. It’s hard enough just to get along with our own kind.” This is such a common world view. Let’s not upset the status quo.

And isn’t it just this commitment, or at least default, to protecting the way things are that led to the rioting in Baltimore as well as to demonstrations elsewhere? People are angry, fed up with a system that clings to security for some of us while others suffer the pain and indignity of injustice and inequity.  When people are in pain they cry out. They lash out. They act out. I get that. But what I’m looking for is a better way to express frustration and suffering, a way that will lead to real systemic change and not just polarize us into extremes.

In the past couple of weeks, I have seen Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words posted a number of times, “…a riot is the language of the unheard.” It is a powerful perspective. It insists that we look for, listen to, walk with those who have been silenced, forced to the margins, trampled on and ignored. Yes, right here in “greatest country on earth,” there’s work to be done. But let’s look a little more closely at King’s comment. Let’s put it in the context in which he first embedded it.

I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.

“Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.” To me this speaks to the wisdom and rich possibilities of nonviolent resistance and peacemaking. In fact, I believe these are crucial dimensions of Christian theology, drawing on the life and witness of Jesus as he attempted to bring God’s Beloved Community fully into existence. This is Gospel. There is no peace, there is no freedom, there is no Beloved Community when we fail to be just and fair.

How do we resist injustice, inequity, evil without resorting to violence? How do we make real peace in a world dying for it? How do we learn to love our enemies and our neighbors and ourselves enough to turn the world right side up and bring to life the Beloved Community God imagined from the foundations of creation? I have no simple answers nor can I promise the work will be easy, but as a disciple of Jesus (along with Lawson, King, Thurman, Mandela, Gandhi, Wink, Dorothy Day, Dorothee Soelle, and so many others in the great cloud of witness,) I want to commit myself to this discipline because I believe it is the only real hope we have of a different, better future. “We make the road by walking” has been our journey this year. If this is so what sort of road do we want to make and leave as a legacy?

Yours on the journey,
Pastor Rick

Statement Applauds ABC contributions to civil rights

Edmund Pettis bridge
Edmund Pettis bridge in Selma

A leadership group in the American Baptist Churches USA adopted a statement March 13 celebrating the role of American Baptists in the civil rights movement and recognizing the 50th anniversary of the March 1965 five-day march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery led by Martin Luther King Jr.

The executive committee of the ABC/USA Board of General Ministries of American Baptist Churches, said a March 7 ceremony honoring marchers for voting rights attacked by police as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge “reminds us that this moral movement for justice and equality was birthed in the church from a faith that believes that all are created in the image of God and are worthy of love, justice and respect.

Read full article at Baptist News Global…

This Week at First Baptist (1/14/15)

CalendarThis Week at First Baptist

  • NO CHOIR PRACTICE this week
  • Thursday, January 15, 5:00 PM: Church Council in the Parlor
  • Thursday, January 15, 7:30 P.M.: Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Film Screening, Fellowship Hall – in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 86th Birthday, a special screening of Freedom Summer (2014, Stanley Nelson). Sponsored by Peninsula Peace and Justice Center.
  • Sunday, January 18, 10:00 AM: Worship for the whole family
    “Alive in the Adventure of Jesus: Join the Adventure,” Jennifer Davidson preaching.
    11:30 AM:Adult Spiritual Formation Doug Davidson leads a study of John Shelby Spong’s The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic
    12:30 PM: Finance Committee
    in the Parlor
  • Sunday, January 18, 3:00 PM: Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration First Methodist Church, 625 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto
  • Monday, January 19: Last Day for Spire articles for February issue
  • Tuesday, January 20, Bible Study at the Terraces of Los Altos

LOOKING AHEAD

  • Wednesday, January 21, 8:30 AM: Men’s Breakfast at Palo Alto Breakfast House, 2706 Middlefield, Palo Alto. All the men from our Church family are welcome.

Fulfilled. Today.

Martin Luther King, Jr.One joy of my expanded role during January while Pastor Rick is away is having the opportunity to share in our congregation’s Tuesday morning Bible study. Yesterday, I spent an hour and a half at Marylea McLean’s home with eight members of our church, discussing this week’s three Scripture passages. As most of you know, we have been following the year-long alternative lectionary presented in Brian McLaren’s We Make the Road by Walking in planning our worship as well as our weekly Bible studies this year.

Among the passages we examined today was the section from Luke 4 where Jesus enters the temple, picks up the scroll, and inaugurates his public ministry by reading the familiar yet powerful words from the 61st chapter of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (4:18-19). Luke reports that after reading, Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down, before asserting, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).

Fulfilled. Today.

In our discussion at Bible study, Thelma Parodi picked up on a point Brian McLaren emphasizes in his commentary on this passage. Jesus makes the bold claim that, in him, Isaiah’s promise has been fulfilled. As of that moment, the prophet’s words no longer reflect some hope for the distant future. McLaren notes that if someone declares things will improve someday, that may be “interesting and acceptable,” but it serves to “postpone until the future any need for real change in the hearers’ lives.” On the other hand, “For Jesus to say the promised time was here already, fulfilled, today…that was astonishing. That required deep thinking and radical adjustment.” And apparently, those who heard Jesus say these words found such a call to change more than a bit disconcerting. Although their immediate response seems gracious, it’s not long before they’ve driven him out of town and are seeking to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:28-30)

As I thought about the immediacy of Jesus’ claim, I found myself thinking about a phrase from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech in the 1963 March on Washington. In calling for an end to racial injustice, King spoke of the need for action amid the “fierce urgency of now.” King declared:

We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check—a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

I hear in the words of Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr. an immediacy that speaks to our task as disciples today. The “fierce urgency of now” presses upon us to build communities where every life matters, where all people are treated with justice, dignity, and respect. Similarly, Jesus invites us to get swept up in God’s reign today, immediately, in this moment.

God is moving in our world today. Can we perceive it? Are we ready to participate in it? The need is urgent, and the time is now.

Doug Davidson
Minister with Children, Youth, and Families

A Feeling of Gratitude

Martin Luther King, Jr.Friends of God,

In thinking about what to write for this month’s article, it occurred to me to simply thank you. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of standing in your pulpit, Rick’s pulpit, and preaching for most of January. Thank you for the privilege of that work and the trust it assumes. I am grateful more than I can express.

We have spent the month talking about what it means to be “beloved.” We called one another “beloved.” We heard about Dr. King’s vision of the Beloved Community and the powerful challenge of liberty and responsibility. And then we heard from Henri Nouwen whose book, Life of The Beloved has been a favorite of mine for many years. He too understood the idea that our belovedness is more than “feel good faith” but a deep call to seeing the world differently and acting within it accordingly.

To be chosen as the Beloved of God is something radically different. Instead of excluding others, it includes others. Instead of rejecting others as less valuable, it accepts others in their own uniqueness. It is not a competitive, but a compassionate choice. Our minds have great difficulty in coming to grips with such a reality. Maybe our minds will never understand it. Perhaps it is only our hearts that can accomplish this. Every time we hear about ‘chosen people’, ‘chosen talents’, or ‘chosen friends’, we almost automatically start thinking about elites and find ourselves not far from feelings of jealousy, anger, or resentment. Not seldom has the perception of others as being chosen led to aggression, violence, and war.

This is the foundation to what I understand as “unity.” The unity of the church is founded upon this understanding of what it means to be a human being. The challenge, I think, is evident. We often laud competition. We think our way through problems. We forget, sometimes to feel at all much less honor our feelings as part of who we are with as much value as our thinking.

“God so loved the world” begins the famous scripture verse. “Loved” not “conceptualized.” God’s feelings propelled God into the human flesh of the birth, life, and death of Jesus the Christ. A feeling.

All of creation began with a feeling.

So, I wanted to share my feeling of gratitude.

Peace and All Good Things,
Pastor Tripp