Joint Worship Service- August 21

Sunday, August 21, 10:30 AM will be our Annual Joint Service in Mitchell Park with Covenant Presbyterian and University AME Zion.  This year we also welcome First Presbyterian, iChurch and the Tongan Methodist Fellowship that meets at University AME Zion to the celebration.  Worship for the whole family will be followed by a potluck lunch, also in the park.  Bring food to share and invite someone to share the day with you. If you can help with setup (9:00 AM) or clean-up afterwards, that would be great. There will be a joint choir that will rehearse at 9:30 AM.

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Lent begins…

LentOur annual observance of Lent begins today with a simple supper and joint service with our friends from Covenant Presbyterian and University AME Zion churches. This is always a meaningful time and I encourage you to participate. If you want to bring some fruit or bread or cheese to share for the supper at 6:30 PM, that would be appreciated but not necessary. The service is at 7:30 PM with music, readings, prayers, activities and the imposition of ashes. Children, youth and families are most welcome

Sunday we will focus on Luke’s account of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. After the “mountain top” experience of his baptism, complete with God’s special blessing, it is the Spirit that leads him into the wilderness where he spends time in prayer and contemplation of the journey that lies before him. As we enter into this season of Lent, we are invited by the Spirit to explore whatever counts as wilderness for us. Here we are challenged to pray and contemplate the journey that lies ahead for us as followers of Jesus and the Body of Christ. Part of the Lenten discipline is wilderness survival or, as Barbara Brown Taylor puts it in our Lenten study book, “learning to walk in the dark.”

Though it’s a little late for Mardi Gras, we will still have a fun time celebrating Valentine’s Day with a potluck and program after worship on Sunday. The song sings, “Love Makes the World Go Round.” How does that work in our lives? Does love make your world go round? Bring a main dish or salad or dessert to share and stay to find out what love’s got to do with it.

Join us Sunday at 10:00 AM for worship, study and the sharing of community. Bring someone along share in the experiences of the day.

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

Pastor Rick

This Week at First Baptist (8/5/15)

CalendarThis Week at First Baptist

  • The Church Choir is on hiatus for the Summer. We will resume rehearsals in September.
  • Sunday, August 9, 10:30 AM [note the time change!]:
    “Unity In Diversity,” our annual joint service in Mitchell Park
    with Covenant Presbyterian and University AME Zion. This year we also welcome First Presbyterian, iChurch and the Tongan Methodist Fellowship that meets at University AME Zion to the celebration. Worship for the whole family will be followed by a potluck lunch, also in the park. Bring food to share and invite someone to share the day with you. If you can help with set-up (9:00 AM) or clean up afterwards that would be great. There will be a joint choir that will rehearse at 9:30 AM.
  • NO BIBLE STUDY Tuesday, August 11
    We will resume August 18, 10:30 AM: Bible Study
    at the Terraces of Los Altos. We will meet at Marylea McLean’s apartment, 373 Pine Lane, #4204, Los Altos.
  • Wednesday, August 5, 8:30 AM: Men’s Breakfast,  at Palo Alto Breakfast House, 2706 Middlefield, Palo Alto. All the men from our Church family are welcome.

LOOKING AHEAD:

  • Wednesday, August 19, 8:30 AM: Men’s Breakfast,  at Palo Alto Breakfast House, 2706 Middlefield, Palo Alto. All the men from our Church family are welcome.
  • Sunday, August 16: Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
    10:00 AM: Worship and Sunday School
    “Spirit of Holiness,” Pastor Rick preaching
    11:30 AM: Conversation on “Pastor Calls Planned Parenthood Exposé ‘Journalistic Distortion’”
    We have had a request for an open conversation on this article. Since Sunday seems to be the day most of us are present, we are scheduling this conversation for that day. Grab some refreshments from the Patio Hour and join us in the Parlor if you’d like to be part of the conversation.
  • Thursday, August 20, 2:00 PM: Church Council meets in the Parlor
  • Saturday, August 22, 6:00 PM: All Church Cook-Out in the church patio to meet Gregory Stevens, candidate for Associate Pastor
  • Sunday, August 23: Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
    10:00 AM: Worship and Sunday School
    Spirit of Life,” Gregory Stevens preaching and leading Time for Youth and Children
  • Thursday, August 27, 10:00 AM: Women’s Brunch at Corner Bakery Café, 3375 El Camino Real, Palo Alto. All women of our church community are invited to join in.
  • Sunday, August 30: Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
    10:00 AM: Worship and Sunday School
    “Spirit of Hope,” Pastor Rick preaching
  • Sunday, September 6: Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
    10:00 AM: Worship and Sunday School
    For the worship service on September 6, we would like to focus on your favorite hymns and songs. We did this a couple of years ago and people seemed to appreciate it. Please submit your favorites to Pastor Rick (preferably in writing) so that we might plan this service around music that speaks to you in particular ways.
  • Friday, September 18, 1:00 pm: Congregational Life Task Team in the Parlor

Children of the Day (August 2, 2015)

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo and Rev. Rick MixonA Sermon preached by Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

In this week’s “Midweek Message,” I offered these “Words to Consider” from Brian McLaren;

As we walk this road together, we are being prepared and strengthened for struggle. We’re learning to cut the strings of ‘unholy spirits’ that have been our puppet masters in the past. We’re learning to be filled, led, and guided, not by a spirit of fear but by the Holy Spirit instead…a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind to face with courage whatever crises may come.
(Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking, p. 243).

As we come near the end of our year long journey with Brian, he reminds us that walking this road entails a combination of struggle and joy, challenge and fulfillment, trial and the satisfaction of achievement. The road we make by walking may take us to the gates of hell or home to the Beloved Community of God. How we walk, with whom we walk, the resources we draw on for the journey, all will make a difference to the outcome.

Is he right to assert that we are being prepared and strengthened for the struggle? What do we know of struggle? For the most part, we’re pretty blessed, aren’t we? We’re people of power and privilege and wealth. Oh, I know it doesn’t feel like when for most of us there are always people next door who have more power and privilege and money, right? We’re just kind of average. We’re middle class folk. Some of us had to work hard to get to where we are and some of us are still working hard. But if we open our eyes and minds and hearts to the way most of the world lives, it’s hard to say we have any real struggle by comparison.

Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica was written to people who were having a rough time. There weren’t very many in the congregation. They were the only people in the city who followed the Jesus Way and that wasn’t very popular among all the religious options of the day. And then these Christians had beliefs and practices that seemed strange and unacceptable to most of their neighbors. We don’t run into that so often, do we? In our society and among our neighbors a certain brand of Christianity is commonly known and experienced. Christianity is still the dominant religion in our culture. It’s not much of a struggle to be a Christian in the USA today – or is it?

McLaren argues that, like our sisters and brothers from long ago, we may still be confronted with something like Satan and the demonic. In our modern sophistication we may not like or use that language but he suggests that we might see “…Satan and demons as powerful and insightful images by which our ancestors sought to describe shadowy realities that are still at work today. In today’s terminology,” he continues, “we might call them social, political, structural, ideological, and psychological forces. These forces,” he says, “take control of individuals groups, and even whole civilizations, driving them toward destruction” (McLaren, op. cit., p. 240).

What do you think he means by destructive forces in this so-called Christian environment in which we live? What are some of the powers with which we might struggle in order to remain true to our Christian calling? McLaren, again, suggests that “The real enemies back then and now are invisible realities like racism, greed, fear, ambition, nationalism, religious supremacy and the like – forces that capture decent people and pull their strings as if they were puppets to make them do terrible things” (McLaren, op. cit., p. 242). Does this sound right to you? Are you aware of any of these realities operating around you? Do you ever feel a pull – subtle or obvious – on your own strings to stray from the road we’re walking, to give up on the Jesus Way, to abandon hope for the Beloved Community of God – all for the good life on easy street?

What we struggle with may seem much less obvious than what those first Christians had to face, but that may make it more invidious and dangerous. To walk the road of compassion, hospitality and service may be more difficult than we imagine. It may ask more of us than we expected to give. It may lead us into conflict with our culture, our community, our families, friends and neighbors, maybe even with ourselves, as we have to make challenging choices about what road we walk, how we walk it and with whom. McLaren reminds us that “If we confront the love of power (which lies at the heart of all ‘unholy spirits’) with the power of love (which is the power of the Holy Spirit) we will understand why the New Testament emphasized suffering and persecution as it did” (Brian D. McLaren, “Author’s Commentary on We Make the Road by Walking,” p. 76).

Monday night several of us attended a screening of the powerful documentary film, “White Like Me.” I don’t how others felt about it but it surely convicted me of how easily I get caught up in racism and white supremacy. I don’t mean to but these undesirable perspectives are endemic to the culture I inhabit. They are woven into the social systems and cultural fabric of my life. There is struggle in that for me. “Lord, I want to be a Christian” but it surely is hard sometimes.

When Pastor Smith from University AME Zion kept asking the crowd on Monday to consider what we might do in our community to confront racism and white supremacy, one passionate woman stood up and said we have to speak up. As someone who works in social media, she said that whenever and wherever we encounter these demons we need to say something. On Facebook or Twitter or other social media sites we are all likely to encounter a friend or acquaintance making racist, white supremacist comments. The easy way out for most of us is to remain silent or quietly unfriend the offender. But she argued that we need, then and there, to say, “No, this is not acceptable. It’s not OK with me and let me tell you why.” I see this as a potential struggle, but also crucial to my Christian witness. As Martin Luther King, Jr., observed, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” and ” Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Our witness matters, even if only a little.

This is where the Spirit of Power comes into play. You see we don’t have to walk the road alone. We’re not without resource to face the struggle. We have more power than we imagine to make a difference in the world around us. We don’t have to settle, to give in, to go along with the crowd. We don’t have to get caught up in what is satanic or demonic. We don’t have to be less than what God has made and called us to be. We are children of the day.

The Spirit of Power calls us to be sober. And, no, I don’t think that means grim, narrow-minded. hard-hearted and judgmental. I believe it means to be thoughtful, considerate, and wise. It means to be compassionate, hospitable and oriented to service. Frankly, I see the potentiality for a lot of joy and fulfillment in that sort of sobriety. Take your time. Think it through. Pray about it. Ask God to lead you by the Spirit of Power to walk the way that leads to the Beloved Community. Put on that “breastplate of faith and love” and that “helmet [of] the hope of salvation” – healing, wholeness, peace and well-being. Oh, and don’t forget to sing a song of praise and thanksgiving as you wend your way – up on the mountain top and down deep in the valley.

The Spirit of Power is not just out there blowing around randomly as it sometimes seems to do. It also blows in and through us. When Paul urges the Thessalonians to “encourage one another and build up each other,” he is talking about calling on, incorporating and sustaining the Spirit of Power. Together we can do and be so much more than we can be alone. That is why we gather round this table. We need nourishment for the journey. We need a healthy helping of the Spirit of Power. We need to share a common meal in the bright light of the dawning day, God’s new day for all creation. As children of day let us shine out, on, for and with one another to bring about the blessed day of God when the road reaches its destination and the struggle ends, that day when the Beloved Community of God is fulfilled and all is peace and well-being. And until that day, let’s walk together, keep up the struggle and let our little lights shine. Amen.

This Week at First Baptist (7/29/15)

CalendarThis Week at First Baptist

  • The Church Choir is on hiatus for the Summer. We will resume rehearsals in September.
  • Sunday, August 2, Eleventh Sunday in Pentecost
    10:00 AM: Worship for the Whole Family with Communion:
    Alive in the Spirit of God: Spirit of Power,” Pastor Rick preaching, followed by Patio Hour – Ice Cream social hosted by Alan Plessinger
  • Tuesday, August 4, 10:30 AM: Bible Study at the Terraces of Los Altos. We will meet at Marylea McLean’s apartment, 373 Pine Lane, #4204, Los Altos.
  • Wednesday, August 5, 8:30 AM: Men’s Breakfast,  at Palo Alto Breakfast House, 2706 Middlefield, Palo Alto. All the men from our Church family are welcome.

LOOKING AHEAD:

  • Sunday, August 9, 10:30 AM [note the time change!]: “Unity In Diversity,” our annual joint service in Mitchell Park with Covenant Presbyterian and University AME Zion. This year we also welcome First Presbyterian, iChurch and the Tongan Methodist Fellowship that meets at University AME Zion to the celebration. Worship for the whole family will be followed by a potluck lunch, also in the park. Bring food to share and invite someone to share the day with you. If you can help with set-up (9:00 AM) or clean up afterwards that would be great. There will be a joint choir that will rehearse at 9:30 AM.
  • Saturday-Sunday, August 22-23: Candidating Weekend to meet Gregory Stevens, candidate for Associate Pastor. Watch for details.

Mission visitors from Lebanon and India

Three candlesWhat a special day we had last Sunday with all our international visitors! It was a delight to welcome Dan and Sarah Chetti, missionaries from Lebanon; Ramesh Kumar and Dr. A. J. Samuel from India; and Leonardo Nogueira, a visitor (Baptist) from Rio de Janeiro. Dan preached for us on bringing the good news to the nations of this world; Sarah shared in our Time for Children and Youth; both brought testimony and videos about the work they are doing – Dan in the Arab Baptist Seminary and Sarah with female migrant workers who are brought to Beirut as domestics and then often mistreated. Ramesh brought greetings from Balasore Technical School and Dr. Samuel from the Telugu Baptist Convention of south India. All of them had been in the USA for the missions conferences, held at Green Lake, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Baptist foreign missions.

Dr. AJ Samuel, Ramesh Kumar, Sarah and Dan Chetti
Dr. AJ Samuel, Ramesh Kumar, Sarah and Dan Chetti

After worship and a time of sharing, Marilyn Hunwick, Nana Spiridon and the Missions Task Team provided a lovely lunch on the patio. We had dishes from India and Lebanon along with fresh fruit as everyone continued the conversation under the trees. I am also pleased to report that Ramesh has pledged $1000 to our special mission offerings for Habitat for Humanity and One Great Hour of Sharing, from the money BTS makes selling its goods and Dr. Samuel pledged $1000 from the Telugu Convention for the work of the Chettis! Of course, this doesn’t let us off the hook. It simply adds to what we have and will continue to give with our characteristic generosity.

At the end of the luncheon, both Doug and I commented on what good day it was. Special thanks to the Hunwicks for the key role they played in pulling all this together and for the indomitability of their missionary spirit! Thanks to everyone else who helped make the day special. I love not only the multicultural flavors of our own congregation but also our vision and appreciation for how modern missions bring all sorts of people together in a common family of God.

This Sunday promises to be another special day as well as we celebrate our annual joint worship service in Mitchell Park. This year I am very pleased that the folk from University AME Zion will be joining us, including their new pastor, Kaloma Smith. I believe the Tongan congregation “nested” in their space will also participate. Margaret Boles, Kal and I have had a good time planning a service around the theme, “All Are Welcome.” The service will be followed by the traditional potluck lunch so bring food to share. This would be a wonderful time to invite some others to join you.

Remember the service begins at 10:30 AM this week only! Y’all come.

God grant us more light, more love, more life as we journey together.

Pastor Rick