Listening And Living (7/16/2017)

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Text: Psalm 119:105-12, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (NRSV)

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to observe your righteous ordinances. I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word. Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your ordinances. I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts. Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.

As we read these ancient words from Psalm 119 on Tuesday, I was struck once more by their power and beauty. I admit that I sometimes wrestle with the language of the Psalms. That’s why I most often turn to Nan Merrill’s lovely paraphrase when including a Psalm in our liturgy. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is a paean to the Torah, the ancient Jewish law. What hit me Tuesday is that this Psalm is in no way a tribute to the letter of the law but rather to its enlivening spirit. “Your word, O God, is a lamp to my feet and light to my path.” Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.” This is no dry legal brief; this is a love song to the law, to a living word.

Continue reading Listening And Living (7/16/2017)

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

How Can the Creature Say…? (6/25/2017)

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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Text: Genesis 21:8-21; Matthew 10:24-39 (NRSV)

God of the sparrow
God of the whale
God of the swirling stars
How does the creature say Awe
How does the creature say Praise

When I was growing up, I remember being taught that God was omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent – all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present. I don’t intend to do a word study on those terms this morning, but they did have an effect on my young faith, an effect that, in retrospect, was not altogether beneficial. I know that the inner conflict of these qualities, combined with the inevitability of judgment and the threat of heaven or hell, was, at times, terrifying. God, who held the whole world in his hand, could destroy any part, or all of it, at any time, if we didn’t straighten up and fly right. I’m not sure what that might mean for sparrows, but it surely was not good news for me.

Continue reading How Can the Creature Say…? (6/25/2017)

Note from Pastor Rick (6/15/2017)

We had a terrific Youth Sunday. Thanks to Pastor Gregory, the children and youth for leading us. Again, congratulations to our graduates and best wishes to all our kids moving up a grade. We pray a wonderful summer for all of them as well as for school teachers and staff.

The theme for this Sunday is a timely word – Compassion. With all the mean spirited talk and behavior, not to mention the violence going on all around us every day, there needs to be space for more compassion. Matthew writes of Jesus, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). It’s not surprising to note that some of us may feel this lost these days. But Jesus’ solution is to send the disciples out to provide comfort and care, courage and well-being for the people who made up those crowds. We, too, are tasked with a ministry of compassion in Jesus name.

This week, after worship, we will have our long-awaited first cookout of the season. This one is in honor of Father’s Day. Bring your hat, your appetite and salad, side or dessert to share. Bring someone else to share the day with you.

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

It Is Good To Be Here (2/26/2017)

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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Texts:  Exodus 24:12-18; Matthew 17:1-9

It is good to be here. I feel that nearly every time I enter this place. I feel it even more strongly on Sunday mornings when we gather for worship and community. This is a place where good people gather to celebrate, learn about, and share what it means to be God’s people. This is a place where disciples gather to consider what it means to care for one another, our neighbors, and the earth, to serve and spread the good news of Jesus Christ, to deepen and broaden spiritual interconnectivity. This is also a place where the wider community gathers to teach, to sing, to dance, to eat, to heal, to work for peace and justice. On most days, this is a good place to be. The catch is: is it enough, is it ever enough?

Moses goes up on the mountain to encounter the Holy One in a more intimate manner than most people ever conceive of. He takes the time to sit patiently on that mountainside until God is ready to speak; then he takes the risk of entering into the glorious mystery, the shekinah, the cloud of unknowing, trusting that God has a word for him that he needs to hear, not just for himself, but for his people. How many of us would be willing to go that far for an encounter with the holy, for instruction on what it means to be both God’s person and God’s people, for a vision of righteousness and right-relationship?

Continue reading It Is Good To Be Here (2/26/2017)

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 (2/15/2017)

More time this week with the Sermon on the Mount. The lectionary also gives us material form the Torah (Leviticus) and the Psalms. This week we find Jesus instructing his followers to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to love enemies, and to “be perfect as God is perfect.” It’s a challenging set of assignments. Clearly we need disciplined spiritual practice to be able to live into this reality Jesus envisions. But it is important, part of the law or life-giving guidelines God lays out for those who want to claim their membership in God’s Beloved Community.

In our Adult Spiritual Formation we will continue our study of the Parables of Jesus. Some of us been engaged in provocative reading on this topic that we will share on Sunday. You don’t have to have participated in the first session to join in the conversation. We’d be delighted to share with you.

So, see you Sunday at 10 AM for Worship, Sunday School, and Adult Spiritual Formation. Invite someone to share the time with you.

Our theme for this year is “All Are Welcome in this Place.” Let’s make certain that it is so.
Pastor Rick   

Yes and No (2/12/2017)

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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Texts:  Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Matthew 5:33- 37 (The Message)

“Yes and no are very powerful words. Mean them when you say them. Respect them when you hear them.” So writes Michael Josephson in today’s Words of Preparation and I believe he is right. Such, small, simple words; yet they can carry great weight and deep meaning. They can actually shape a life. “Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no,’” Jesus cautions his disciples, gathered on the mountainside. “When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.”

Yes and no, the crucial means to forming and communicating the choices we make. It’s yes or no. Well, there is “I’m not sure. Maybe. Let me think about it.” When I was looking for images for today’s bulletin, several of them were humorous versions of “yes, no, and maybe,” leaving room for the undecided. But there are times in life when we really must decide. Yes and no are the only options, the only choices available. I’m reminded of the poster that adorned the walls of many a college and seminary dorm room in the 60s, “Not to decide is to decide.” There are always consequences to the choices we make, even when we don’t actively make them.

Continue reading Yes and No (2/12/2017)

Note from Pastor Rick (2/8/2017)

Come Sunday we will continue our exploration of the Sermon on the Mount. This week we have some of Jesus more challenging words on what it means to hold a clean heart and practice right living. “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” Yes, we know what it means to obey the law, to follow the rules, to do what is expected of us, but Jesus asks more of us. He asks that we turn our attention fully to God and to walk God’s ways. The demands of righteousness are more than any legal or social system can sustain. To ground our lives in deepest love for God and neighbor is both a challenging and rewarding way to live – especially in these days when love is needed more than ever.

In our Adult Spiritual Formation we began our study to the Parables of Jesus with a spirited conversation about what parables are and what function they serve in Jesus’ ministry. We also talked about how each of us, whether scholar, preacher, lay person, comes to this material with a point of view that helps (or hinders) how we read the texts. In the next couple of weeks we will look at some specific parables, both the beloved and the problematic to see if we might cultivate a new and enlivening perspective on this familiar material. Feel free to join us. I’m sure you will fit right in.

See you Sunday at 10 AM for Worship and Sunday School. Invite someone to share the time with you.

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

Pastor Rick   

Salt-Seasoning and Light-Bringing (2/5/2017)

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

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Texts:  Isaiah 58:1-12; Matthew 5:13-18 (The Message)

There are two texts for this morning’s sermon – one from Isaiah and one from Matthew. Earlier I read the second part of Isaiah’s proclamation to his people as today’s Words of Assurance. But to put those words in context, hear the first part of what the prophet had to say:

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob, Leah and Rachel their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

Continue reading Salt-Seasoning and Light-Bringing (2/5/2017)