Speaking Out Boldly (6/4/2017)

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

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Text: Acts 2:6-21 (The Message)

With the crackle of flame and a whoosh of wind Pentecost is ushered in in this fantastic and familiar tale. It’s an important story that cycles around every year as we celebrate the “birthday of the church.” There are many angles a preacher could take in addressing this ancient word, but the thing that stuck out for me as we considered this text on Tuesday at Bible study is Peter’s role. In particular, I was caught by the text recording that Peter “raised his voice” (NRSV) or as The Message puts it, “spoke out with bold urgency.”

On the surface, it’s not a particularly remarkable thing. Surely someone addressing a large crowd, especially without the aid of amplification, would raise his voice or speak out boldly. The text tells us that, with the coming of the Spirit in wind and flame, all disciples are stirred up to speak out boldly. Not only do they speak out, but they are enabled to speak in such a way that people from a number of different language groups understand them. It’s something of a miracle, isn’t it? After all, these disciples are mostly Galilean peasants, poor, uneducated, unlikely to speak any language other than their own.

So, it’s a sort of circus, a kind of crazy block party, as the disciples pour out of the quarters where they have remained locked away since Jesus’ death. This week Carnaval was celebrated in San Francisco’s Mission District. It’s the largest multicultural festival held on the West Coast. Did you see and hear, either in person or on the news, the different cultures, brilliant costumes, and colorful languages represented as people took to the streets in celebration? I know Pentecost did not unfold exactly like Carnaval, but it gives you some sense of the rich diversity that gathered on the streets of Jerusalem that first Pentecost morning.

The writer of Luke says the crowd was baffled by the behavior of the disciples. He reports that “When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, ‘Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?’”

We’ve played on Pentecost in the past with the variety of languages that might be spoken in our own congregation, including English, Spanish, French, Creole, Japanese, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Hindi, Orilla, and Lebanese. Imagine how it would be in our little group if people started speaking in all of these languages at once and everyone somehow understood what was being said. It would be strange, exciting, confusing, a minor miracle. Or what if I stood up to preach and each of you understood in the non-English language with which you are familiar? Crazy, huh?

Well, whatever happened that day, the writer of Luke says the crowd cried out “They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!” At the very least, the crowd understood the words they heard and some of them understood the Word that was behind those words. In the end, the writer reports that more than 3000 people joined the church or “their number” that day. It was the sort of evangelistic meeting that Billy Graham would envy, a mighty revival of sorts!

And speaking of evangelistic preachers, the preacher that day was none other than Peter. But before we crown Peter the chief spokesperson for emerging church for speaking out boldly on this day, let’s do a little background check. From the various gospel accounts, what do we know about Peter before this day? In my mind he was impulsive, inconsistent, an ignorant Galilean fisherman. I picture him as large, dominant, loud, opinionated, slightly boorish. One minute he has brilliant insight into the nature of Jesus’ calling and the next he is trying to stall Christ’s mission. He thinks he can walk on water until he discovers he can’t. He is a rock that is susceptible to crumbling at the most inopportune time.

In fact, in Luke’s gospel, the last time Peter is mentioned before Pentecost morning is on the night they arrested Jesus. We find him huddled in the courtyard outside the high priest’s house. Remember, earlier in the evening, when they we were all gathered around the table for the last supper, it was Peter who boldly proclaimed, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” (Luke 22:33). A form of bold speech, to be sure, but listen to Peter’s prologue to Pentecost:

When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, ‘This man also was with him.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, ‘You also are one of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’ Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, ‘Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about!’ At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. Christ turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered Jesus’ word, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:55-62).

The camera pans out on a weeping Peter, bowed down in shame, devastated by his own words of betrayal.

So, you see, for Peter to speak out boldly on Pentecost something has to have happened in his life, something that radically transforms him, for, indeed, from this day forward it is reported that he was a strong witness for the Jesus Way, capable of performing his own signs and wonders in Jesus’ name. When the Spirit comes and lights upon you, chances are that you will be changed in ways you never imagined. For Peter, there is apparently forgiveness, redemption, and empowerment in Pentecost; he is never the same again. A Galilean fisherman becomes the Rock on which the church is founded. If it can happen to him, why not you and me?

You see, speaking out boldly is not reserved for heroic figures from long ago, for the canonized saints of the church, for folk with special spiritual gifts, it is a way of life for those who claim to follow Jesus. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everyone who loves Jesus needs to get on a soapbox on the nearest street corner and win souls for Christ. But I am reminded again of that old Baptist hymn that affirms:

My life flows on in endless song;
above earth’s lamentation,
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

And, no, that does not mean I expect any really committed Christian to join the choir (though we would be happy to have you.)

Another lectionary text for today is from the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians in which Paul proclaims:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

As the choir sang last week, there are “many gifts, one Spirit.” The challenge for each of us, as Christ followers, is to find our gifts and to use them, empowered by the Spirit, to bring about God’s Beloved Community. Each of us is encouraged to be “speaking out boldly,” in their own way, the truth of the gospel as we have come to know it. The great German theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, has written, “The sending of the Holy Spirit is the revelation of God’s indestructible affirmation of life and [God’s] marvelous joy in life. Where Jesus is, there is life. That is what the Synoptic Gospels tell us. Where Jesus is, sick people are healed, sad people are comforted, marginalized people are accepted, and the demons of death are driven out. Where the Holy Spirit is present there is life” (Jurgen Moltmann. The Source of Life, p. 19).

To the degree that you believe this is so – that God affirms and finds joy in all life, including yours and mine, and that “where Jesus is, there is life,” in the richest, fullest sense of the word, I invite you to take the strip of paper that was given you and write out what you might say (or do) in speaking out boldly in the Spirit of Pentecost. Take that truth claim with you. Pray about it. Invite the Spirit to move you to action. Be the church as best you can, be the Body of Christ, dream dreams, see visions, prophesy, if it comes to that. And remembering, now and then, that old affirmation of faith, sing to yourself, “Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?” Amen.

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)

Followers Follow (April 19, 2015)

Rev. Rick MixonA sermon preached by Randle R. (Rick) Mixon,
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA,
Sunday, April 19, 2015

Text: John 21:1-19

“‎Those who aren’t following Jesus aren’t his followers. It’s that simple. Followers follow, and those who don’t follow aren’t followers. To follow Jesus means to follow Jesus into a society where justice rules, where love shapes everything. To follow Jesus means to take up his dream and work for it” (Scot McKnight, One Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow).

Followers follow. Scot McKnight says it’s simple, but I wonder. It may be simple but that does not mean it is easy. Take these first followers of Jesus. In chapter 20 of John’s Gospel, the risen Jesus stands among them – more than once – bearing witness to God’s ability to turn the world right side up. In this epilogue, which was clearly added to John’s original later, we find those first followers busily bringing the Beloved Community into being, right? Well, not exactly. It seems they’ve made their way back to Galilee, left the big city and all its challenges behind them. They’re back home, just sitting around, apparently at loose ends.

In chapter 20, Jesus has offered them peace, shalom, well-being, the breath of the Spirit, the power to forgive and retain sins, even. Something significant has been given to them and yet they are not clear about what comes next. What exactly does it mean to follow the risen Christ? Hmmm. I don’t know. “Let’s go fishing.” “Yeah, that seems like a plan. Let’s go.”

Now admittedly fishing can have its meditative moments. Sitting in a boat, on a quiet lake, waiting for the fish to bite can provide time and space for contemplation. “Yes, we agreed to follow. We want to follow. Followers follow, but just where is it you want us to go?”

It’s a long, silent night on the lake. No fish, not even a nibble. Well, yes, there are nights like this. Fishing takes patience, no doubt. But now the eastern sky is showing the first faint signs of sunrise. There is a tinge of pink spreading through the clouds on the far horizon. Time to call it a night and wait for a better day, right?

But there, there on the beach is a shadowy figure. He is waving, asking that infernal question no fisherman likes to hear or answer on a night like this. “How’s it going?” the voice skims the calm surface of the lake. “Caught anything?” “No, not tonight. They’re just not biting.” “Why don’t you give it one more try, over on the right side of the boat?” Who does this character think he is, telling us how to fish this lake? We’ve been out here all our lives. On nights when they don’t bite, there comes a time when the fishing is futile. Pack it in and head for shore.

But for some strange reason, on this night they decide to humor the stranger on the beach. Maybe they’re just trying to be nice. Maybe there is something compelling in his tone of voice. Maybe he hooks the fisherman’s eternal hope that just one more cast will bring in the big one. Whatever their reasoning, they cast the net on the right side. The catch is so significant it threatens to swamp the boat.

It’s that disciple called the “one whom Jesus loves,” that disciple who seems to be more finely tuned to the master’s voice, who first floats the idea that it is Jesus, once more standing among them. Peter, fumbling with his tunic, leaps into the water and starts swimming for shore, in an act of ecstatic impulse at the thought of seeing Jesus once more.

One compelling thing about the story telling in John’s Gospel is the richness of these tales in curious detail. There are seven of the original 12 there. (Where are the others?) It’s apparently important to remember that Thomas is a twin and that Nathanael comes from Cana. Peter is fishing in his underwear, stripped for the hard labor of the night. They are only 100 yards from the beach. They catch 153 large fish. (Who knows the significance of this exact number?) Even with such a large catch, the net holds, it does not tear. Then there is Jesus, standing next to a cook fire, a charcoal fire to be precise, preparing fish and bread for breakfast. Details unnecessary, perhaps, but surely enriching the story.

Those first followers are both sure and not quite sure who he is. It’s again that early morning half-light that keeps things shadowy and unclear. Yet, the voice and the power of the presence are undeniably his. They have learned from Thomas’s challenge that it is better not to question the miracle of his appearance. And then, like Cleopas and his companion in Emmaus, they have that powerful sense of remembrance in the breaking of bread, the sharing of a simple meal. Didn’t our hearts burn within us? Don’t you just know when you’re in the presence of the risen Christ?

Pity poor Peter…so eager to greet Jesus, impatiently rushing to his side, hoping that all has been forgiven or at least forgotten in these blessed moments that they have together. But after breakfast it’s time to talk. Jesus and Peter stroll down the beach. They stop by a large rock. Jesus leans against the rock and Peter squats down at his feet. “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” The question pierces Peter. All is not forgotten. Is it also not forgiven? “He calls me Simon. That’s my old name. He has withdrawn his affirmation of me as the Rock.”

The painful memories come flooding back, Peter, standing in the courtyard of the High Priest on that fateful night. That woman, guarding the gate, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” “I am not.” Followers follow. It’s simple but not easy. That night they were gathered around another charcoal fire, warming themselves. “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” “I am not.” Such a simple thing to follow and so hard. “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” “No, damn it. I’ve told you, it wasn’t me.” The piercing crow of the cock and the scalding tears.

Do I love him? “Oh yes, yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” The words come tumbling from his mouth. He is so eager, desperate in his desire to be in the teacher’s good graces again. “How can I make it up to him? How can I convince that I really do love him?”

Some moments of silence and again the voice, so terrifying in its gently aching inquiry, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” The ache moves back and forth between the two friends. These are necessary and painful moments for restoring a trust betrayed. Peter cannot look up. “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you,” uttered with that lingering fear that Jesus does not know for certain the extent or even the existence of Peter’s love.

More silence. Then a third time, the same searching question, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” The tears brim in Peter’s eyes, the lump in his throat causes the words to catch there, the pain is palpable, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Followers follow, so simple, so difficult. “Lord, I want to be more loving…Lord, I want to be like Jesus…Lord, I want to be a Christian, in-a my heart.” Yes, but outside your heart, in the real, tough world, when you’re standing in the High Priest’s courtyard, warming yourself at his fire, being challenged to tell the truth, what then Peter? Not so easy, is it?

“But Simon, son of John, I need you. I need you to feed my lambs, to tend my sheep. I need you to be Peter, the rock on which I can establish the Beloved Community of God. I need to know I can depend on the depth and breadth of your love for me both to live inside and manifest on the outside of you. Follow me, Peter. Can you simply follow me?”

“‎Those who aren’t following Jesus aren’t his followers. It’s that simple. Followers follow, and those who don’t follow aren’t followers.” But here’s the catch. Here’s where it gets hard. It’s not enough to want to be like Jesus in your heart. “To follow Jesus means to follow Jesus into a society where justice rules, where love shapes everything. To follow Jesus means to take up his dream and work for it.”

The risen Christ stands among us, bearing witness to God’s ability to turn the world right side up and offering us the same peace, shalom, well-being, along with the breath and power of the Spirit, that was offered the first followers. Are we any more ready, any more willing than they to accept these gifts and follow, to follow Jesus into a society where justice rules and love shapes everything? Are we any better than Peter at speaking truth to power and living out our love and allegiance to the Lord of all life? Do we find ourselves any more busily bringing the Beloved Community into being than those first followers? Or are we, too, sitting around, at loose ends, waiting for the next miraculous appearance or a few more signs and wonders?

Can you hear the call today, echoing down the ages, so simple, so challenging, “Follow me.” Will you heed the call? accept the challenge? walk the way? bear faithful witness? Followers follow…it’s that simple and that difficult. What about you…and me?

Listening As an Act of Love (June 8, 2014)

sermonsLISTENING AS AN ACT OF LOVE

A sermon preached by George V. (Tripp) Hudgins
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA

Monday, June 8, 2014

Text: Acts 2:1-21

Prayer: Lord, I believe. Help, Thou, my unbelief. Make these words more than words and give us the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

The story of Pentecost always begins with a sound; the gathering of people and a sound. So often we focus on what is being said at the time in the story and ignore all the listening that takes place.

First, there’s a sound.
Second, people hear the sound.
An encounter with the Holy Spirit is predicated on a sound and listening.

I wonder what Peter was thinking that day…with all that noise.

When I read this account from Acts, it’s pretty clear that Peter’s first thought was, “Oh no! Everyone is going to think we’re drunk and it’s only 9:00 in the morning!”

But the Spirit moved and suddenly everyone needed an explanation.
I mean, look at this story.
Look at how many people notice.
Look at the text.
Everyone heard the Spirit.
Not everyone knew what it was, but everyone heard it.
Everyone.

The story of Pentecost is often told as if the most important thing that happened was the speaking in tongues…that people were empowered to speak. Indeed, it’s important. No doubt.

But first, first, they heard something. They listened.

“People will speak!” we cry out.
Language upon language upon language in an ecstatic bubbling proclamation.
Isn’t that cool?!
Yeah. But…no.
Today, I want us to understand that first there was something worth hearing.
The Spirit of God is worth hearing.

In 2010, Rev. James Forbes (former pastor of Riverside Church in New York City) spoke at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary’s commencement service. The famed Baptist preacher stood in the elevated pulpit of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, IL (a cathedral space just outside of Chicago) and addressed the graduating class and all who had gathered there that day. I was in attendance as a an alum and as local clergy. Dr. Forbes spoke of all the changes in the church but reminded us that it was not just in the church. It was everywhere. He gave us a list of all that was going on, a litany of change and discord. He spoke of it as a time of confusion of languages, of an inability to hear one another, of an inability to be civil and to listen. But, he said, the Holy Spirit is moving.

How do we know? Well, because everything is confusing

The Spirit is doing a new thing.
The Spirit troubles the water.
God’s Spirit is in the world
and it is up us to learn how to listen for it,
and how to listen to one another.

We have to listen to one another, he said, if there is to be positive, lasting change.

At American Baptist Seminary of the West’s commencement service this year, Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson preached to the students, faculty, and families gathered at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church in Oakland, CA. She spoke of her own discouragement at the present state of affairs in religious vocations. She had a long list of reasons to be discouraged, too. But in a stroke of homiletical skill she turned it all around. Dr. Jackson reminded us that the Spirit is moving, that God is doing a new thing, and that we must have ready hearts and minds to recognize what the Spirit is doing. She has great hope because God does not call people unless God has something for them to do.

We are not alone, O church. We are not alone.

“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.”

 

All of it.
All flesh.
Not some flesh,
the good looking flesh,
the young flesh,
the tanned, toned, muscular flesh;
or those who aren’t drunk at 9:00am flesh,
but all flesh.

A recent Pew research study states that 95% of Americans claim to make their spiritual lives a priority. Let’s look at that statistic and take it seriously for a second. 95% of Americans claim to be spiritual, in-spirited, inspired, filled with God’s own breath. I have to think that the other five percent simply didn’t understand the question.

One of my favorite things about being Christian is that I get to say things like this: It is the last days, just like it was in Peter’s day.

“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.”

My friends, it is always the last days.
The Spirit is always poured out.
Praise God for the end times!
Praise God for the Holy Spirit!

She just needs ready hearts to hear her. She needs someone to listen.
She needs someone to take her people seriously.
She needs someone to open their hearts
to the absurd possibility
that God is doing a new thing,
and that this new thing is happening everywhere.

Are we open to the Spirit? Or do we just think everyone is drunk?

The world needs people who are ready to listen. The world needs people who are ready to hear the truth…no matter how challenging the message might be. I believe that we, the church, are being called upon to listen.

Our question about the future of the church needs to change. When we hear “95%,” we need not ask, “How do we get them to listen to us? How do we get them in here?” What the world needs is for us to listen to it, to assume that the Spirit has been poured out upon all people.

What people need is someone who will listen to them as they tell their stories of encountering the divine. We need to listen to them.

Both of the commencement sermons I have mentioned here this morning have been offered in this time of transition and change. Seabury was in the midst of great change. It was graduating its last Masters of Divinity cohort before moving from the campus of Northwestern University to an office park near O’Hare airport, a shared campus in Ohio, and online. Fragmented. Dispersed. And Dr. Forbes asked us to listen, to get out out of our buildings and listen to people in the world. “Join the conversation!” he cried.

Likewise, ABSW as a member school of the Graduate Theological Union is witness to great transition as well. The GTU is increasingly inter-religious in focus. The Christian seminaries are struggling, yes, but the Islamic college is booming and a Hindustani organization has been announced as the newest member of the GTU. They begin teaching classes in the fall. They wanted a place where they too would be heard.

And it’s not only here in California, of course. Pope Francis recently announced that the Vatican will host a prayer service for peace between Christians and Muslims. This will be the first time in history that the Koran will be sung at the vatican. The Pope, I believe, is trying to show us how to listen, how to be open, to take risks, and to hear what others are saying. It very well may be that the pathway to peace assumes a posture of listening to one another.

Listening is an act of love.
It is an activity. You want to do something? Listen.
Do you want to change the world? Open your hearts and minds and listen.

Listen to the Spirit and be unafraid of the new thing that God is doing.

Listening is an act of love, of compassion. The world can feel fragmented. People are lonely…as they always have been. But the need seems more acute these days. Perhaps, you recall the social challenges that were outlined in the book Bowling Alone (2000). A simple example: The number of single-person households is up more than 100% from 1960 to just under 28%.

Think about that. 28% of American households are single-person homes. People live alone.

These are not all young people living alone.
Many of them are our elders.
People do live longer. Many live alone.

Is anyone listening to them?

The invention of social technologies such as Facebook or Snapchat are attempts to address the issue of loneliness. They connect us to one another in surprising ways and people are using these tools to craft new communities, to fashion opportunities to hear and be heard. Social technology is not a youth movement. It’s an attempt to stave off the loneliness, to find new ways of listening to one another.

“and your sons and
daughters shall prophesy,
and your young people shall
see visions
and your old people
dream dreams.”

The Spirit does not usher in a movement for some people.
This is a movement for all people.

Today the world is aflame like that day so long ago.
The Spirit is sounding, the very breath of God is moving out over our own chaos.
And people are talking.
All of them.
All at once.

Tongues of flame leap across the landscape.
They are in twitter feeds and lecture halls.
They are in cafes and along assembly lines.
They are in board meetings and sweatshops.
Young people are casting visions.
Old people are dreaming dreams.

It’s happening all around us.
But is anyone listening?
Are we listening?

I wonder if, like those who challenged Peter that day, we’re more ready to disregard what we hear. We can find any excuse to ignore the holy.

But that is not be our calling.

Open your hearts.
Open your minds.
Rejoice and be glad in what the Spirit is doing in the world around you.
Wisdom shouts in the streets. She stands in the public square.
The Spirit is poured out upon all flesh.

The world is in need of listeners, my friends,
people to offer one another the attention they so desperately need.
People need love, not programs.
People need someone to hear them,
not to tell them what to believe,
not to tell them what to think,
not to tell them anything except,

“I hear you, and I understand.”

Listening is an act of love.

Loving as Jesus Loved

absw_logoAfter a particularly trying week last week, this week has seemed calmer.  Beautiful weather helps, as do the many words of affirmation and hope that people have penned.  As followers of Jesus, we are caught up in the very specific challenge to love one another, in particular, our enemies.  This is never easy and the closer, more real, more evil our enemies seem, the more difficult the challenge.  I want to focus on two of the lectionary texts this week.  The first is Jesus “new commandment” as recorded in John 13, to “love one another as I (Jesus) have loved you.”  That little qualifier at the end of the sentence throws the challenge of love into an entirely different dimension.  We know something of love from our individual collective experiences, but to love as Jesus loved?  With the same compassion, forgiveness, grace?  That is going to take some work!

I see the story of Peter and Cornelius, as recounted in Acts 11, as a very specific illustration of what “loving as Jesus loved” might look like.  Peter is challenged to grow far beyond his comfort zone in the service of a God who is much more inclusive than Peter had ever imagined.  “You just keep bringing the good news, Peter.  God will make sure there is room at the table for everyone who hears and desires to join in the feast.”

We also have the privilege of having Robert Wilkins with us Sunday to share an update on the American Baptist Seminary of the West.  Robert, who heads the YMCA of the East Bay is a delightful person.  I hope you will all stay to hear him in the Adult Spiritual Formation hour.

See you on Sunday at 10 as we as we gather as Christ’s beloved community.  Invite someone to come with you.

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