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

Glad News of Deliverance (January 19, 2014)

Martin Luther King, Jr.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday
Rev. Tripp Hudgins
First Baptist Church of Palo Alto

Text: Psalm 40

Let us pray: Lord, I believe. Help, thou, my unbelief. Make these words more than words and give us all the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

 I have declared your righteousness in the great congregation;
behold, I did not restrain my lips,
and that, O Lord, you know.
Your righteousness I have not hidden in my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;

I have not concealed your loving-kindness and truth
from the great congregation.

I wonder if we could actually take a deep breath and join the Psalmist and wonder aloud together what it might mean to proclaim deliverance or God’s righteousness in the great congregation

What would it be like to let the world know that there is a God and we have heard from God and we believe God has a word to give to all people; a word that can actually change people’s lives for the better,
that can help us to be better neighbors,
to live in peace with one another,
to live in harmony, in equity.

What would it be like to proclaim the Beloved Community?

Last Sunday we spent some time praying and thinking about being beloved. Good morning, Beloved.

This week, I invite us all to turn our minds and hearts to the ministry of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. specifically to being the Beloved Community. The Gospel of Christ that is entrusted to us is not an individual mandate, though it is certainly a personal one. No, the Gospel of Christ is a communal call to justice, peace-making, and economic fairness. Dr. King proclaimed this challenging vision of the Gospel through out his ministry. This is the vision of The Beloved Community.

The King Center defines The Beloved Community in this way:

For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was not a lofty utopian goal to be confused with the rapturous image of the Peaceable Kingdom, in which lions and lambs coexist in idyllic harmony. Rather, The Beloved Community was for him a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.

This vision takes work because it takes inequality and freedom seriously. It must be non-violent if people are to enter into this life freely. To seek liberation and lasting reconciliation, people must be free. The movement has to be non-violent.

Utopianism, on the other hand, is totalitarian, coercive to the core.

This is why Dr. King eschewed it so religiously. Liberty must be the cornerstone for any body of people calling itself Beloved Community.

As a specifically religious vision, Dr. King was rather Baptisty about it all.

The Beloved Community is not a pollyanna vision of shiny happy people holding hands, or that tame vision of singers on a hillside in a soda commercial. Rather, Dr. King asserted that such “[change] does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

Why is that?
Why does it have to be so hard?
Why can’t we all just get along?
I think it has everything to do with liberty.

Liberty of conscience and action is essential to such a vision. Liberty is the fruit of belovedness. Be loved. Be free.

But liberty is not without cost, it does not come without effort. Liberty comes with the necessity of God’s grace and human forgiveness. Reconciliation is work. But it is not without assistance. The Psalmist understood this.

Though I am poor and needy, 
   the Lord cares for me.
  You are my helper and my deliverer; •
   O my God, make no delay.

Dr. King understood that God has given humanity liberty and responsibility (a difficult tension to be sure) to respond to the vision of The Beloved Community. In part, it is this tension that makes the notion so revolutionary.

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable,” proclaimed Dr. King. “Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

The renewal of community, the blessing of the ties that bind us to one another, is potent only if we are free to respond to the Spirit that calls us to such work. It cannot be Puritanism, doctrinalism, essentialism, fundamentalism or some other coercive means of making people get along.

Perhaps surprisingly, this is precisely why Dr. King exhorts us to take our religion seriously.

We prayed these words from his Letter.

We remember Martin’s lament that

“the contemporary church is often a weak,
ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound.
It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo.
Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church,
the power structure of the average community

is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanction

of things as they are.”

We are called to take our religion seriously. We are to do so that we might be free to follow Christ, free to be the Beloved Community, free to be witnesses to the deliverance that has already been bestowed upon all human kind. And to do so non-violently.

 I have declared your righteousness in the great congregation;
behold, I did not restrain my lips,
and that, O Lord, you know.
Your righteousness I have not hidden in my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your loving-kindness and truth
from the great congregation.

The most revolutionary thing we can do as Christians is to take our religion seriously;
to take worship seriously;
to take the Bible seriously;
to take Christ’s ministry in the world seriously;
to act upon the deliverance offered to us
again,
and again,
and again,
and again.

We each, however, have our reasons why we won’t.
We have our own fears or aspirations.

Maybe we think we’re too young.

Maybe we think we’re too old.

Maybe we think we’re too small or poor or busy or have too much to lose.

I don’t know what to think.
Maybe I think too much.

There are so many excuses. Dr. King knew that. He laid them out for us in his “Letter From A Birmingham Jail.”

We have plenty of good reasons to be careful and “deliberative” in how we move forward. And yet…

…What if we were just a little more brave? Even reckless? What if we rethought this thing called church in such a way that we proclaimed and acted upon the promises of God with greater clarity? We can, you know. The Psalmist offers this to us.

Though I am poor and needy, 
   the Lord cares for me.
  You are my helper and my deliverer; 
   O my God, make no delay.

What if we stood on the street corner and told our stories of God’s deliverance, of salvation, and of grace?

God will not delay.

Jesus spoke aloud and in public about the trouble that he witnessed.
Jesus spoke aloud and in public about the grace that he witnessed.

God will not delay.

Dr. King followed that example, the example of the Prophets, of Christ, of the apostles, the disciples, of the women and men who also spoke aloud in public about trouble and grace.

God will not delay.

We are invited to take this call seriously so that we too might proclaim God’s deliverance, the deliverance that is for all people.

What if we lifted our voices with the Psalmist and sang,

 I have declared your righteousness in the great congregation;
behold, I did not restrain my lips,
and that, O Lord, you know.

This Week at First Baptist (1/15)

  • Calendar Thursday, January 16, 7:30 pm, Church Choir in the Parlor.
  • Friday, January 17, Noon: Annual Report & Spire Deadline
  • Sunday, January 19,
    10:00 AM:
    Worship & Sunday School:  Pastor Tripp preaching.
    11:30 AM:
    Adult Spiritual Formation
    During the month of January,  Doug Davidson will lead a consideration of the topic, “Visions of Jesus.” Beginning with the engaging portrait that Reza Aslan offers in his provocative new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, we will consider how different views of Jesus’ life and teachings point toward different understandings of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
    3:00 pm: Celebration of Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Featured speaker: Clayborne Carson, Ph.D., Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Education Institute and Professor of History, Stanford University. At First Methodist Church, 625 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto.
  • Monday, January 20, Martin Luther King Holiday church office closed

LOOKING AHEAD:

  • Thursday, January 23 at 10 AM: Womenʹs Brunch at Hobee’s Restaurant, 4224 El Camino Real, Palo Alto. All women of our church community are invited. Please join us.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration January 19

Martin Luther King, Jr.The Dream Marches On

Join in a celebration of the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at 3:00 pm on Sunday, January 19, 2012 at First Methodist Church, 625 Hamilton Avenue, PA.

The speaker will be Clayborne Carson, Ph.D., Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Education Institute and Professor of History, Stanford University. Students from Eastside College Prep, and Costano Elementary School in East Palo Alto will perform. There will be a reception in Fellowship Hall after the service. Admission is free.

This special event is co‐sponsored by The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community and Interfaith Celebration Committee, The Peninsula Chapter of Links, Inc., First United Methodist Church, Jerusalem Baptist Church, University AME Zion Church, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‐day Saints (Public Affairs Committee) and Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Summer of ’63

800px-Martin_Luther_King,_Jr._Memorial_08_-_July_2012In summer of 1963 I was 16 years old and had just finished a promising sophomore year of high school. I was finding high school much more satisfying than the bleak years of junior high. I’m sure it was, at least in part, due to the number of fulfilling activities – choir, drama, clubs, honor society, etc. – that provided both personal stimulus and social connection. I had just had a featured role as the hapless Hugo in Bye, Bye Birdie, our biennial high school musical. (Sophomores were not allowed to have singing roles, so Hugo provided an opportunity to shine in a speaking role.)

I was also very involved in the Baptist Youth Fellowship on the local and state levels. That summer I was privileged to attend one of the high school conferences at the American Baptists’ national assembly, Green Lake, in Wisconsin. I had been going to church camp on a state level since I was in the 4th or 5th grade. It was a huge part of every summer. The opportunity to learn, to deepen one’s faith and just hang out with friends at Camp Palomar (in southern California) or Cathedral Pines (in central Idaho) provided life‐shaping experience. Still, for teenager like me going to Green Lake was a big deal!

Right now we are caught up in a lot of press about the summer of 1963 and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It has also been a time to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most famous speech, “I Have a Dream.” (Yes, I know it also means my 50th high school reunion is just around the corner!) Living in Boise, Idaho, that summer was still a time of innocence for me. Washington and the Civil Rights Movement were far away, something we read about in the Idaho Daily Statesman and saw occasionally on television, but they didn’t have much direct impact on our small, largely white, western city.

There were a few black people in Boise. There was St. Paul’s, the black Baptist church, with which we occasionally had worship exchange, but the harsh reality of racial and economic injustice didn’t affect us much. I do remember when Congress began to debate civil rights legislation there were ugly ripples among my peers about how the legislation would create a huge influx of black people into Boise and we would lose our freedoms so that they could gain theirs. The arguments were absurd and I recognized that on the spot. It caused tension within my social circles.

Another memory I have of that time is the way in which my father, Baptist pastor, born and raised in the deep South, in so many ways conservative in his theology and politics, supported that legislation. He must have had a profound understanding, given his roots, of what was being asked of our government and how right it was. He didn’t need to take a stand for the Civil Rights Movement in Boise in 1963, but he did. I believe it was a gospel mandate for him. It certainly helped to shape my understanding of and passion for a “social gospel.”

So, back to Green Lake. That high school conference featured the Rev. Dr. Paul Stagg as speaker. Paul was a small, passionate man who was part of the Division of Evangelism for the American Baptist Convention. He belonged to a remarkable team of
social gospelers put together by Jitsuo Morikawa to guide the “evangelism” efforts of our denomination. Morikawa and his team believed in and practiced an “evangelistic life‐style.” That is, there was a story to be told but there were also lives
to be lived. It was important to let people know about Jesus, but it was also important to see and emulate the way Jesus lived in service of those most in need in his society. A personal relationship with Jesus inevitably led one to work for social justice and, to a significant degree, vice versa. The practice of social justice could lead directly to an encounter with the living Christ.

Paul Stagg was also a college classmate of my father’s, who, in 1958, had been fired as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Front Royal, Virginia, for his advocacy of racial integration. These “sons of the South” had been touched by Jesus and the gospel in such a way that they became activists in support of the Civil Rights Movement. Paul’s prophetic preaching moved that group of high school kids deeply. By the end of the week we had drafted a petition in support of the movement and all signed it. I don’t remember the content of that petition but I do remember how important it felt to each of us to speak up. Youthful enthusiasm, yes, but also a commitment I hold to this day.

Another memorable element of that week was that my dorm counselor was the great Charles Emerson “Chuck” Boddie. At that time he must have been a member of the Division of Evangelism as well. I know he was a great preacher, song leader and, eventually, the long‐time President of American Baptist College, an African American college and seminary in Nashville, Tennessee. His gentle presence and moving music left an indelible impression on this white boy from Idaho. (Indeed, a couple of years later, Chuck was the speaker for the Idaho BYF Convention, stirring some 600 youth from around the state with his signature song, “I Can Tell the World” – also the theme of the convention.)

I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this, except this summer’s commemoration stirred my own memory to harken back to where I was and how I was shaped by the summer of 1963. It was a significant time in the life of our nation. Events of that
summer helped to alleviate some of the most overt forms of racism and economic injustice in our society. It would be nice to settle into our fondest memories of that time. But the truth is that time marches on. The progress of 1963 was neither comprehensive nor complete. Racial injustice and economic inequity are still endemic to life in the USA. The dream has not been delivered. It has been deferred, confirming MLK’s worst fears. It is past time for us to take up the cause again – to speak, to march, to advocate for justice and fairness. Justice deferred is justice denied, and until all of us are free, none of is truly free.

Racial profiling, the new Jim Crow, which finds our prisons crammed full of young men of color, a shrinking middle class with an increase of those living in poverty while a very few grow obscenely wealthy, all situations against which Jesus would
rail, are the order of the day. From our own comfort he still calls us to follow. The reign of God, for which he gave his life, is a beloved community in which we find our common humanity and the common kinship in the One who has made us and
loves us all ‐ equally. That reign recognizes that God provides abundant for everyone to have enough to live in reasonable comfort. As disciples we’re called still to find ways to proclaim release to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, freedom
for the oppressed and that acceptable year of God when we may yet “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

Pastor Rick