Make Christmas Great Again

A sermon preached by Gregory Stevens on Sunday, 31 December 2018 at the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto. Text: Luke 2:25-40

It breaks my heart when our culture celebrates Christmas. They have made our holiday into a consumer market for capitalist exploitation. Gifts, shopping, more gifts, feasting, shopping, gifts…buy buy buy your way to happiness! Shop till you drop!

Oddly enough the sorrow and pain I feel for our country and my own families addiction to consumer Christmas, is fitting with the actual Christian holiday we find ourselves in during those months. As I’ve been exploring with our youth, Advent makes up the four Sunday’s leading up to Christmas as a yearning and desire for something more. As the days get shorter, and colder and we cuddle around our fires hoping for the Sun to brighten our days once again with warmth and blossoming-life; we also might see how our world too is drowning in injustice and the need for transformation is dire. Through Advent we hope and long for the Christ to redeem our cold dreary situation. Continue reading Make Christmas Great Again

Mosaic New Year Potluck

After such an epic Mosaic Vision Party let’s get keep the awesomeness going! Our next gathering will be an art-filled potluck with poetry, painting, and music for us all to enjoy.

This is an open (safe and brave) event, so please invite your (rebellious) friends! Please also bring something to share (food or drinks) with the gang.

Mosaic New Year Potluck
Tuesday, January 16th
7PM – 9PM
305 N. California Ave (Parlor Room)

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God Changes

Trigger Warning: I want to begin this sermon differently than I have in the past when I’ve told these stories. Rather than tell you a crazy story in hopes of jostling your emotions, then wrapping a bow at the end of the sermon like a 30min family sitcom, I’d rather give you a trigger warning. I’m going to talk some about suicide and that might draw up some strange and uncomfortable memories and feelings. Please feel free to get up and move around, the walk out and take a breather, or to openly cry with us all. Either way this is a safe space, you will not be judged and you are welcome, loved, and graced by God no matter who or what you’ve done and matter what you do in the future: God is love and Love always has your back.

From my previous sermons and from our times together, many of you know that when I was growing up my sister Carolyn took her own life in a desperate attempt to escape the pain of being queer, poor, and young, unable to see the possibilities of escape before her.

It was devastating. It changed my family life and it changed the way I thought about God, religion, and spirituality – as crisis events tend to do.

The crisis of suicide hits home for me. It has been entry point into spirituality in my faith journey.

Continue reading God Changes

Note from Pastor Gregory (7/5/2017)

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.

Much love,
Pastor Gregory

Note from Pastor Gregory (6/28/2017)

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!

Pastor Gregory

Sermon: Sanctuary Church (1/1/2017)

A sermon preached by Gregory Stevens
Matthew 2:13-23

In April of 2013 Octavio Nava Cabrera was pulled over by Illinois police for running a stop sign. He had arrived in the state in 1986, at the age of 13, and most of his family still live there. Octavio did not have a proper driving license and had an immigration violation from 16 years ago, that when he was stopped at the border after a trip to Mexico. He was sent to prison for seven months and then deported, having to leave his only son behind. He’s now sleeping on the floor of a friend’s apartment in Mexico City and baffled by the whole experience. “I don’t know anything about Mexico,” he says.

President Barack Obama has deported immigrants at nine times the rate of 20 years ago, over 2.5 million people, easily overshadowing former President George W. Bush. One journalist writes, “Border patrol agents no longer just patrol the border; they scour the country for illegals to eject. The deportation machine costs more than all other areas of federal criminal law-enforcement combined. It tears families apart and impoverishes America.”

And if that’s what Obama has done we’ve got a lot more to fear and resist with the new presidential administration.

Continue reading Sermon: Sanctuary Church (1/1/2017)

A Note from Pastor Gregory (1/4/2017)

Our 2017 theme is “All are welcome in this place” and it comes from the hymn “All Are Welcome” (1950) by Marty Haugen. We sang the first verse last Sunday:

Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live, a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive. Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace; here the love of Christ shall end divisions. All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

As Christians in the 21st century it is our calling to be a place of radical hospitality and welcome to those who have been mistreated, kicked out, religiously registered, or deemed illegal. In the past few years at our church this has meant welcoming people of diverse sexual orientations, different class and social status, and various racial and cultural backgrounds. As we move into 2017 may continue this welcome by raising our flag of inclusion to immigrants and refugees as they face incredible challenges in the four years ahead. Historically our church has been a place of sanctuary for refugee families from all over the world and now we step into this role again by opening ourselves to “the stranger” and offering support and care in the struggle. May we begin to discern what it is we are capable of and how we can offer our skills and abilities to migrating families of all kind.

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the stranger, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were once immigrants in the land of Egypt.”  -Deuteronomy 10:17-19

See you Sunday,

Pastor Gregory