Pentecost and Peace

13-05-22.pentecost_banner.fwAfter a “peace-filled” Mother’s Day, we turn our attention to Pentecost. This Sunday everyone is encouraged to wear red (or orange or yellow,) symbolic of the flames of Pentecost, and our custom. Because Pentecost coincides with Peace Month this year, we are not using the traditional Pentecost texts. We are looking at what happens in our lives, after the Spirit comes, that moves us more toward peacemaking. Psalm 85 speaks of peace and righteousness kissing; Galatians lists peace as one of the “fruits of the Spirit”; and we find Jesus’ first followers living together in peace and harmony, caring for each others daily needs. What can we learn from these ancient texts about living more peacefully on this planet, aided by the breath of the Spirit?

In Adult Spiritual Formation, we will spend time considering the theme for this year’s Baptist Peace Camp, When Did We See You in Prison? Breaking Social and Structural Injustice. Many of us believe that the criminal justice system in this country is long overdue for reform, given harsh sentencing, overcrowded conditions, and racial injustice, among other issues. How can we practice peacemaking in regard to the prison reality in our land?

Sunday afternoon, the fine community choir, “Resounding Achord,” will present a concert in our sanctuary. I highlight this not only because the artistic director is my niece, Kristina Nakagawa, but also because the concert focuses on songs about “social injustice, oppression, resolution, and peace.” They will be performing a couple of spirituals, as well as the Cherokee version of Amazing Grace, which they used to heal their wounds, and a two-chorus arrangement of “Weeping,” a story about arms proliferation and peace, which is a mash up with the South African National Anthem. The Carlmont High School Chamber Singers will be guests, singing “Matthew” — a heart-wrenching choral work in memory of Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in Wyoming for being gay. So, you see, the concert fits right in with Peace Month.

Come join us for any or all of these opportunities Sunday, starting at 10:00 AM. Invite your family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, acquaintances and strangers to join us as we explore the things that make for peace.

Together, let us strive…to know God’s love!

Pastor Rick

May Mission Offering: Baptist Peace Fellowship

Baptist Peace FellowshipThe special mission offering for May is  our annual offering for the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. We are one of the original congregational partners of BPFNA,. generously supporting their important work over the years. The mission of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America is to gather, equip and mobilize Baptists to build a culture of peace rooted in justice.

The BPFNA website has this to say about the organization:

What comes to mind when you hear the word Baptist? Do you think peacemaker? How about folks who care for the poor, resist racial discrimination, speak out about worldwide injustices and care for the environment? If that is not your vision of Baptist, then we invite you to stay a while, find out more about us and learn what the word Baptist means around here. The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America works to gather, equip and mobilize Baptists to build a culture of peace rooted in justice.

As the largest network of Baptist peacemakers in the world, we celebrate and support the peacemaking work done by Baptist churches in Canada, the United States, Puerto Rico and Mexico by raising the visibility of these efforts; bringing peacemakers together in regional and international gatherings; and providing resources, speakers and training to our members. We also actively connect with peacemakers from other traditions, faith-based and secular, to build alliances and work together toward our common goal of a more just and peaceful world.

Copies of BPFNA’s award -winning magazirne1 Baptist Peacemaker, along with other literature , information on this Summer’s “Peace Camp,” and a brochure for individual membership are available in the church entry way or from the office. For further information, see the website at bpfna.org. FBC Palo Alto is a charter member congregation of BPFNA.

We urge you to give generously. Our goal for this offering is $500.

Entertaining Angels (September 1, 2013)

sermons.fwENTERTAINING ANGELS
A sermon preached by Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, September 1, 2013 

Text:  Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Today’s title and text were those used for this summer’s Peace Camp.  The full title was, “Entertaining Angels:  Peacemaking through Radical Hospitality.”  Plenary speakers, Bible study, workshops and incidental conversation all addressed this theme.  How can the practice of radical hospitality lead to a more peaceful world?  Indeed, how can it not?  The program booklet for the week was headed by these words from Radical Welcome:  Embracing God, the Other, and the Spirit of Transformation by Stephanie Spellers:  “In practicing radical welcome, we ask God, ‘What would you have us do?  Who would you have us embrace?’  And when God presents us with the holy opportunity to be stretched beyond our comfort – either by welcoming a particular group or by allowing that group’s culture and perspective to transform us – then we leap forward in faith…”

How does this challenge sound to you?  When you hear the word hospitality these days, what do you think?  Maybe hosting a family gathering or open house or a holiday party for folks you know and love?  Or perhaps, if we turn to the hospitality industry, we think of hotels, bars, restaurants, resorts and retreats, places where travelers find respite and refreshment, pleasure and play.  From our position of privilege we don’t give a lot of thought to hospitality as a necessity, as being a life or death matter as it was in the time when today’s text was written.

The writer of Hebrews encourages us “not [to] neglect to show hospitality to strangers.”  Why is this important?  Well one argument the writer makes is that “by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  You never know for certain how your guests may affect your life.  You may not even know with absolute assurance who your guests are.  The reference in the text is probably to the experience of Abraham and Sarah who welcome strangers under the oaks of Mamre that turn out to be messengers from God with messages that change their lives forever.

In those days hospitality was often a matter of survival in a wild and hostile environment.  Christine Pohl reminds us that “Before inns, hotels, and restaurants, every stranger needed someone’s hospitality.  Whether or not they had resources, when people were away from home, they were dependent on the kindness and generosity of others, often strangers” (Christine Pohl, “Building a Place for Hospitality,” Christian Reflection, The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, 2007, baylor.edu).    Hospitality was a moral imperative in many ancient cultures.

In addition, Erik Heen tells us that “The Greek word…traditionally translated…’hospitality’ is philoxenia, literally, ‘love of the strange.’”  He continues, “Many ancients were locked into lives of routine and did not stray far from their places of birth. Life was difficult and mobility was limited.”  He then speculates that “One way in which the world became ‘larger’ was to open one’s home (however poor) to those that came from ‘outside’…The unknown seekers of hospitality brought news (and stories!) of the wider world and broke open one’s little provincial world. There was a kind of marvelous exchange, then, of mutual benefit between host and guest. The guest received protection (inns were dangerous places), food, and company. Hosts were led out of themselves and their ‘little’ worlds. Those locked into deadly routine were engaged by that which was ‘outside’ the camp” (Erik Heen, “Commentary Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16, 2013,” WorkingPreacher.org).

The challenge for us, it seems to me, is whether or not we might recapture some of the significance of these ancient perspectives on hospitality.  Might we look beyond our comfort zones to see that are there still people on this planet in desperate need of hospitality?  Are we willing, indeed open, to loving the strange – and the stranger – not only because of their need but also for the ways such love might expand our consciousness and appreciation of the world in which we live?

“Break the Bread of Belonging” was the first hymn I encountered by the great British hymn writer, Brian Wren.  I am still moved by the way it attempts to capture the experience of people who are refugees and immigrants, people who, for whatever reason, have left country, culture, family, friends, home and livelihood in search of freedom and a better way of life.  “Break the bread of belonging.  Welcome the stranger in the land.  We have each been a stranger.  We can try to understand.”  And is this not true?  Have we not, each of us, had some experience of being a stranger, even if it was only the benign moment of being new to a neighborhood, school or church?  We can multiply the affects of those experiences on our own lives to try to understand the experiences of those who have fled the terrors of war, oppression, poverty, natural disaster.  We can see and embrace the need of some, whether they are deemed “legal” or not, to be offered hospitality, to be welcomed because their ability to survive and thrive depends on it.

And then there is the wonder and delight of sharing the stories of those who have come seeking hospitality and found welcome.  Some of those sitting here this morning have provided education, insight and understanding in this area for me.  I won’t go down the list calling you out, but let me tell just one little vignette from last week’s picnic.  I sat across the table from Paul Tuan as he shared some of his story of leaving China as a young man, coming to this country for educational opportunity, eventually finding his legality challenged in an age when the US still had laws on the books limiting Chinese immigrants to 105 a year.  Ask Paul to tell you the rest of the story of how playing the flute in an army band led to citizenship.  His story and those of others of you are fascinating and enriching.  Many of us have traveled broadly, but we have not always taken the opportunity to get to know with any intimacy the people and cultures we have encountered.  Indeed, we still have much to learn from the stories of those who gather here week after week.

What strikes me most deeply about the writer’s exhortations in this chapter of Hebrews is the opening line: “Let mutual love continue.”  Our acts of hospitality, of social reform, of individual and communal fidelity, of generosity, of trust and of worship are born of our ability to live lives of mutual love.  In the end, those we encounter, in whatever circumstance, are our sisters and brothers.  We are all children of God, made in God’s image and likeness, regardless of color, creed, national origin, orientation, identity, status.  We are all sisters and brothers, common kin in the family of God.  How do we, any of us, all of us, receive our kinfolk?  How hospitable can we be to one another?  How can we ground our lives in mutual love?

On this weekend of my mother’s 95th birthday, I think back to those days when her family – parents, 10 sisters and brothers and their children- would gather in my grandparents’ yard before tables groaning with the most delicious food imaginable.  In spite of our differences – politically, socially, theologically, economically – I can still remember the mutual love that drew us and bound us together.

“Francis Taylor Gench reminds us that ‘love, in the New Testament, is not something you feel; it is something you do.”  She says, “Love seeks the well-being of others and is embodied in concrete efforts in their behalf” (Hebrews, Westminster Bible Companion quoted in Kathryn Matthews Huey, “Open Table,” SAMUEL, 9-1-2013, ucc.org).  “Entertaining Angels:  Peacemaking through Radical Hospitality” – how might the mutual love we practice in acts of radical hospitality lead to peace on earth?  This is a particularly acute concern as our government considers an attack on another country in the Middle East.  How will military action against Syria, no matter how we justify it, lead to peace, hospitality or mutual love.  The expense of a military strike alone would be better allocated toward acts of peace, hospitality and love.

What if we were to order our actions as if everyone we met was a messenger from God?  If not a messenger per se, surely a child of God?  How would we live differently, how would our actions and attitudes be transformed?  Would we experience a leap forward in faith?  Would the reign of God come just a little closer?  What if we were to ask God, in all seriousness, “What would you have us do?  Who would you have us embrace?”   Just for this week, let’s not neglect to show radical hospitality to strangers.  Let’s see if by doing so we find that we are entertaining angels.  Above all, let us continue in mutual love.  Amen.

Peace Camp and Joint Worship Service

Joint Worship serviceIt was good to be away for two weeks, attending Peace Camp and visiting with my family, but it is also good to be home in Palo Alto where the temperature never stretches to triple digits.  (It got up to 102 in Boise, though it’s nice, dry heat.)  Peace Camp went very well.  Spokane and the Gonzaga University campus were attractive.  Highlights included a plenary address and workshop by Miguel de la Torre, an outstanding Christian ethicist from Iliff Seminary in Denver.  Miguel, who claims Southern Baptist identity, is Cuban American with a strong voice for justice.  Right now his focus is on both immigrant and lgbtq people.  There was a documentary film series, including a fascinating movie on the rise and fall of the Aryan Nation in northern Idaho in the 70s and 80s.  (Coeur d’Alene is only 16 miles from Spokane.) There was excellent worship, fine workshops and even a wedding for April and Deborah, who are long-time leaders in the BPFNA.  (Washington is a state that recognizes marriage equality.)  As usual, young adults, youth and children helped lead worship and were highlighted in the open mic sessions.  It was also great to see friends and colleagues, old and new.

This Sunday will be our annual joint service with Covenant Presbyterian Church.  You can see the details above.  The service is intergenerational and will feature a drama rather than a sermon as well as communion.  Afterwards we will share a potluck meal together.  This service, held in the “bowl” in Mitchell Park, was a hit last year.  I hope you will plan to be there for the celebration.  This is a great opportunity to bring someone along with you.  See you Sunday at 10:30 AM (unless you can help set up at 8:00 AM or want to sing with the choir at 9:30 am.)

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

Pastor Rick

iSing Showcase

tripp-banjo.fwFriends of God,

There’s a lot to report this week. Thank you all for your continued work here at First Baptist. This church continues to be a ministry to the people of Palo Alto, an outpost of God’s Kin-dom here on earth. Thank you for all you do.

This week I’ve been enjoying the sounds of the children in iSing as they practice and prepare for their showcase this Saturday. I’ve been practicing my banjo part for one of the songs (Jennah promises it will be easy…I dunno). The kids sound great. I’m looking forward to spending Saturday with them. I hope a few of you can make it Saturday afternoon to greet them and their parents. Your presence is a simple but powerful witness of hospitality.

Pastor Rick will return to us on Sunday ready to preach and share some of his adventures from Peace Camp. Please join us for worship on Sunday at 10:00am as we welcome him home.

Peace and All Good Things,
Pastor Tripp Hudgins

12.00

Friends of God,

There’s a lot to report this week. Thank you all for your continued work here at First Baptist. This church continues to be a ministry to the people of Palo Alto, an outpost of God’s Kin-dom here on earth. Thank you for all you do.

This week I’ve been enjoying the sounds of the children in iSing as they practice and prepare for their showcase this Saturday. I’ve been practicing my banjo part for one of the songs (Jennah promises it will be easy…I dunno). The kids sound great. I’m looking forward to spending Saturday with them. I hope a few of you can make it Saturday afternoon to greet them and their parents. Your presence is a simple but powerful witness of hospitality.

Pastor Rick will return to us on Sunday ready to preach and share some of his adventures from Peace Camp. Please join us for worship on Sunday at 10:00am as we welcome him home.

Peace and All Good Things,
Pastor Tripp Hudgins

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Gun lobby and Peace Camp

believethereisgoodI have to say that I am appalled and deeply disappointed with the choke hold that the gun lobby has on the US Congress.  It is shameful in a nation in which over 90 percent of our citizens are looking for some sort of sanity around guns that we cannot even get a vote on a relatively tame proposal on gun control.  Pray with me and take whatever other action you are able that our legislative branch come to its senses and represent the people rather than a ridiculously powerful special interest group.

We are still looking for folk to attend Peace Camp this summer.  This is a wonderful opportunity that does not come west that often.  I know there is expense involved.  We are hopeful of engaging in fundraising and scholarships to enable everyone to go would like to.  Please let Pastor Tripp or me know if you have any interest at all.  I can testify personally as to what a wonderful experience it is.

Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday.  The lectionary gives us the 23rd Psalm and a passage from the shepherding discourse in John 10, but I was struck by the passage from Revelation, which also has a shepherd reference, so we will focus on that week.  I think it fits into the exploration in which we’ve been engaged of how the Resurrection of the Christ brings in the reign of God.  Revelation speaks a vision of saints alive, gathered in glory, in the heavenly realm.  I know we don’t want to direct our attention too much to what lies beyond when there is so much yet to be attended to in our present reality.  Still, the passage from Revelation points us toward the rich inclusiveness of God’s heavenly realm and calls us to work toward such community here and now.  See you on Sunday at 10 as we join in community.  Bring someone along to share.

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

Off to Virginia

Rev. Tripp HudginsFriends of God,

Thank you all for your kindness and support. I’m off to Virginia for the weekend (I fly out Thursday night and return on Monday) to celebrate the life of Ann Watlington, my aunt. Please continue to keep my family in your prayers especially Carson, Ann’s daughter.

Have fun on Friday evening at the pot luck! Chip and Rick are going to organize a great scavenger hunt. Play well. Enjoy one another’s company. I will see you all when I return. When I get back, let’s get together and talk about the trip this summer to Peace Camp. We’ll do some fundraising. We’ll talk about how we’ll all travel together. Please be in contact with me or with Rick to let us know if you are interested in attending.

Peace and All Good Things,
Pastor Tripp