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)
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.
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I don’t usually preach from Paul’s letters and I definitely don’t usually preach from the book of Romans. Luckily one of my professors John B. Cobb Jr. (read anything and everything he’s written! It’s all so good!) wrote a commentary on the book of Romans to help us pastors and scholars decipher what was going on in the early Jesus movement.
Dr. Cobb makes an interesting point about the ways in which these letters have traditionally been interpreted. The word Paul uses for “faith” in Greek is pistis which is more accurately translated as “faithfulness.” Paul is calling us into faithfulness to God through Jesus. In Jesus we see the image of the invisible God, the image of a poor Palestinian who is faithful to God’s call on our lives to love all beings.
This Sunday we will explore the lectionary passage from Romans 6:12-23 where Paul speaks to our new found freedom in our faithfulness to the Christ. This freedom might at first seem restrictive and not actually freedom at all (often falling into a legalistic debate about right living) but I hope to explore the ways in which the freedom Paul says can be found in God through faithfulness to Jesus’ teachings is truly liberatory.
Free at last! Free at last! Thank God we are Free at Last!
The weekly update on church activities and concerns.