Pumpkins, All Saints, and Advent

PumpkinsWe had two great creative events this weekend – Friday’s potluck and pumpkin carving.  Thanks to Pastor Tripp and the interns for organizing the festivities.  The creativity was “scary.”  Then on Sunday, Naomi led us in an excellent Advent-to-Epiphany Worship Brainstorming Party.  About 20 people participated.  We came up with some exciting ideas for this year’s Advent worship.  It was great to have so many join in.  It will surely enrich our worship experience during this special season of the church year.  Thanks to Naomi and everyone who participated.  If you have further input, don’t hesitate to let one of the pastors or interns know.

Please plan to come out Friday night for our very special service of “All Saints in Song,” led by the wonderful Ana Hernandez.  This will be another opportunity to exercise your creativity, this time in a devotional setting.  We are very blessed to have Ana with us.  Invite friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, seekers and strangers to join in this worship experience.

Sunday’s service will focus on one of everybody’s favorite Bible stories.  The tale of Zaccheus and the tree is one of the first many of us encountered in Sunday School, probably because children can identify with Zaccheus’ small stature.  But Zaccheus also had a big heart that was more than generous in its moment of repentance and transformation.  In adult Spiritual Formation, we will begin a study of Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  It is a fine spiritual memoir in the tradition of Cathleen Falsani’s Sin Boldly.

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

Pastor Rick

Widows and orphans

Cathleen Falsani, Tripp Hudgins, Naomi Schultz
Jan Gunderson (piano), Cathleen Falsani (front), Tripp Hudgins (banjo)

We had a wonderful time last Sunday with Cathleen Falsani.  Both in worship and in Adult Spiritual Formation we benefited from her wisdom and grace.  We were blessed to have her here because she is a friend of Pastor Tripp’s and was in the Bay Area for a series of concerts by Mumford and Sons.  If you have not had a chance to read her book, Sin Boldly: A Field Guide to Grace, we purchased 5 copies for the library so one should be available soon.  We will finish up our conversations concerning the book as well as Cathleen’s sharing with us in this Sunday’s Adult Spiritual Formation.

The worship theme for Sunday is “Widows and Orphans.”  It is interesting that both the reading from Hebrew scripture and from the gospel deal with widows who lose their only sons, only to have them raised from the dead – one by Elijah, the other by Jesus.  Both are miracles of compassion.  In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, the phrase “widows and orphans” can stand for all those who are poor and outcast, desperate and downtrodden.  Care for widows, orphans and the stranger in your midst was clearly mandated as righteousness.  It was rooted in the expectation that gracious hospitality would be a way of life in the arid, hostile environment of the ancient Middle East.

Come Sunday at 10 AM and bring someone along to share the morning with you.

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

June is bustin’ out all over

13-06-01.mixon.fw“June is bustin’ out all over.” In the midst of a heat wave, windows are open to catch any little breeze, everything is green and blooming, allergies are operating full throttle, and we’ve entered, post Pentecost, that long, lazy season in the liturgical life of the church called Ordinary Time. Ordinary though it may be, we still have some excitement on the horizon. The first Sunday of this month we will be privileged by the presence of Cathleen Falsani, sharing with us some mutual experiences of grace. “Story = Grace” is our theme. This is the culmination of a month‐long study of her excellent book, Sin Boldly: A Field Guide to Grace. I commend it you as ideal summer reading. One of the key things Cathleen says in her book is this: “Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. And grace is getting what you absolutely don’t deserve. Benign goodwill. Unprovoked compassion. The unearnable gift.”

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound…” Indeed, it is a sweet sound, sometimes a sound too sweet for our very pragmatic understanding. We all know that salvation can’t be earned but do we really believe it? Do we grasp how thoroughly God loves and accepts us with whatever our limitations and failures? It’s often a struggle to let grace enfold us, to feel its warmth, to bask in its light, to let its healing wash over us, making us whole. So we fail to see that amazing grace is around and within us in the simplest beauties and wonders of daily life – the tree, the flower, the breeze that blows, the stream that flows, the warm smile, the helping hand, the love that forms and sustains friendship and builds community.

Later this month, I will represent us at the inaugural session of a new phase in American Baptist life. The biennial meeting will no longer be a business meeting for the denomination. It is now called a Mission Summit and is designed to inspire
and build up the missional life of the ABC‐USA. This is an interesting experiment in a way to do church at a denominational level that will enable all American Baptists to work together in the service of God. I am very pleased
that Don Ng, the distinguished pastor of First Chinese Baptist Church in San Francisco, is the nominee for President of the ABC‐USA and is taking a key leadership role in this effort at denominational transformation. Don is an old friend whose vision and judgment I trust deeply.

It is interesting that this Mission Summit (and the next, in 2015) will be held in Overland Park, Kansas, a place where I lived from 1950 to 1953. Some of my earliest memories are of those days when my father was the founding pastor of Prairie Baptist Church in Prairie Village, Kansas. So, this represents a kind of homecoming for me. I hope to attend that church on Sunday morning of the Biennial. In addition, I will attend the pre‐biennial theology conference at Central Baptist Seminary (the school from which my father earned 3 degrees,) led by our friend, Jennifer Davidson, from ABSW. Then I will stay for the board meetings of the Association of Welcoming Baptists. It will be a full and, I trust, rich week. Wally Bryen will preach on June 23 in my absence.

What else can we say about June? There will be an intergenerational cookout and time for volleyball and visiting on Friday, June 14, in honor of Father’s Day. The church choir will end its season on June 16. Adult Spiritual Formation for
June will include our Sunday with Cathleen Falsani; a follow‐up on our Sunday with her and our study of her book on June 9; some reflection on The Awakened Heart: Opening Yourself to the Love You Need by Gerald May, one of the books from my spiritual direction program; and a last go for the season at “The Newspaper in One Hand…an occasional discussion of what’s happening in the world in light of the gospel.”

And there will be singing. Jan reminds us that The Bay Choral Guild, the group with which she sings will be performing in our sanctuary on Sunday, June 9 at 4:30 PM. The concert is entitled “Our American Heritageʺ and will feature music
from colonial days to the present. You won’t want to miss the wonderful opportunity right here in our building. And if you’re feeling a little more adventuresome, The Choral Project, the group in which Dan Cudworth, Ruth Winter (who is helping us out in the church choir through June) and I all sing will be presenting concerts in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz on June 8 and 9. Our concerts, entitled “Earthsongs” will cover a cross section of music from the classical to world music to pop music. It will be a fun event as well. More detailed information is available for both groups is available elsewhere in the  June Spire.

Which brings us back to grace. For me there is no more open door to grace than in the experience of music – heard and performed. I thank God for all the amazing music that has graced my life and, I hope, yours as well. May our lives flow on in endless song and may the God of grace author the music of all our days.

Pastor Rick

“Story = Grace”

13-05-22.pentecost_banner.fwSunday we spent the morning with the Trinity and with grace.  The children and youth decorated the hallway with their artistic comments on the Trinity as we wrestled with it in worship.  God in relationship inspires our efforts to be in relationship – not only with God but also with one another as children of God.  At the end of the service we all gathered back in the sanctuary to celebrate Jane and Jin Chin for the wonderful work they as do as volunteers for FBCPA.  We are deeply grateful for the way they look after our finances, provide a photographic record of our “family” and otherwise keep track of our life together – past, present and future!  If you didn’t get to see the “Chin picture board” Oleta made, we will have it again Sunday.

This coming Sunday we are privileged and delighted to have Cathleen Falsani share the morning with us.  We have been reading and discussing Cathleen’s beautiful book, Sin Boldly: A Field Guide to Grace, the past three weeks in Adult Spiritual Formation.  Now we have the opportunity to engage her in person.  She will be featured in an intergenerational worship service on the theme “Story = Grace” and will lead the conversation in Adult Spiritual Formation.  This is a rare opportunity for us to engage a significant and talented Christian thinker and writer.  I hope you all will make a point of being here and will bring along others to share the experience with you.  See you Sunday at 10.

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

A “spirited” Pentecost

13-05-22.pentecost_banner.fwWe had a “spirited” day last Sunday as we celebrated Pentecost.  Thanks to everyone who helped make the service “go” and to all those who attended for their flexibility.  We are still experimenting with what makes for meaningful worship for our cross-section of folk, including our children and youth.  Maybe we will always be experimenting to some degree as the Spirit continues to “blow where it wills.”   It’s great to have a community of people who are willing to go along on this journey, especially when it takes us out of our comfort zones.  It is delight to have colleagues like Tripp and Jan and Oleta as journey partners in planning and executing what it is for us to be a worshiping community.

In Adult Spiritual Formation, our consideration of Cathleen Falsani’s book, Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace is going quite well, with some spirited sharing and discussion.  We will continue the conversation this week and then on June 2, we will be privileged to have Cathleen with us for worship and Adult Spiritual Formation.

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday.  In worship we will focus on God, the “three-in-one.”  The ancient concept of the Trinity is really not mentioned in the Bible per se, though we see signs of it in the different faces of God that are shown.  It is a very human construct trying to make sense of the complexity of God, which is ultimately beyond our grasp.  What it does show us, though, in a significant way, is the relational nature of God.  It says something about the need for us to be in relationship with one another, as well as with God, in the practice of our faith.  So, invite a family member, a friend or neighbor, colleague or stranger to come along for our celebration of the Trinity as well as our exploration of grace.  See you Sunday at 10.

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

Pastor Rick

 

Wear red for Pentecost!

Joanne Jones plays violin
Joanne Jones plays violin

Thanks again to Joanne Jones for her lovely music last Sunday.  It was also a delight to have so many from her family, including all 5 of her beautiful daughters with us in worship.  In spite of her decision to retire from the Palo Alto Philharmonic after 25 years, Joanne still plays with grace and beauty.  And, of course, she also oversees our hospitality, in addition to all the other ways she serves our congregation.  We are blessed to have her.

This Sunday is Pentecost.  Everyone is encouraged to wear red (or orange or yellow – something to help symbolize the tongues of flame that lit on the disciples’ heads when the Holy Spirit came to them.)  The children and youth created some stunning décor for the sanctuary.  This will be an intergenerational service in which we celebrate the “birthday of the church.”  So come prepared to join in the festivities.

We began an excellent series in Adult Spiritual Formation, with our consideration of Cathleen Falsani’s book, Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace.  We will continue the conversation this week and next.  Then on June 2, we will be privileged to have Cathleen with us for worship and Adult Spiritual Formation.  Invite someone to come along for this exploration of grace and to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit as well.  Looking forward to seeing you Sunday at 10.

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

Sin Boldly

Cathleen Falsani
Cathleen Falsani, author of “Sin Boldly”

We’re on the verge of one of those big transitions in the liturgical year.  This Sunday (which is also Mothers’ Day) marks the end of Eastertide with a celebration of the Ascension.  The following Sunday, May 19, we will celebrate Pentecost, the “birthday of the church.”  Some theologians believe that the Ascension is as important as the Resurrection.  Here the Gospel comes full circle as the Christ, who descended from God, returns to God.  This is the ultimate homecoming on which all homecomings are patterned.  The course of our lives on earth is this journey from God to God.  It is the driven by the desire to nest our restless hearts in the heart of God.  It is the culmination of communion, now face to face with the Creator.  Jesus shows us the Way.

We also begin a three week study in Adult Spiritual Formation of Cathleen Falsani’s book, Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace.  Falsani argues that “Grace makes no sense to our human minds.  We’re hard-wired to seek justice, or our limited idea of what that means, and occasionally dole out mercy.  Grace is another story.”  This is a great opportunity to explore the author’s work before she visits us in person on June 2.  It is also a great opportunity to invite someone(s) to come along with us on the journey.  I’m sure we all know folks who would benefit from an encounter with grace.  Looking forward to seeing you Sunday at 10.

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

Pastor Rick