Backpacks, business meetings, and Habitat Work Day

13-05-22.pentecost_banner.fwSunday was a good and busy day at FBCPA.  It was great, as always, to have our old friends, the Hilliers, visiting from Seattle.  Our project to provide backpacks, clothing and other back to school assistance for the children served by Ecumenical Hunger program culminated in a blessing of 15 completed backpacks, filled by our children and youth, as well as 10 $30 gift certificates.  Thanks to everyone who contributed so generously.  We raised $635 on a goal of $500 for this project.

After worship, we held a Quarterly Business meeting of which someone (I believe it was Thelma Parodi) said “This meeting was actually fun.”  We thanked once more our Annex Task Team for their hard work in completing the sale of our remaining share of the building.  We voted to explore giving 10% of our proceeds from the sale to missions and investing another 10% in microloans (see the item under “In the World” above.)   We also voted to release the accumulated income of nearly $55,000 (Thanks, Ron Tuttle!) for use on the Patio project and upgrades for our sanctuary sound system.  The discussion for all these proposals was lively and instructive.

This Saturday, August 17, is our annual Habitat Work Day.  If you’re available to work (see the information above) or help with lunch, please let me know right away.  Sunday afternoon at 2:00 PM, we celebrate the life of Dorothy Aker with a service in the sanctuary and a reception in the Fellowship Hall.  It will be an opportunity to hold in memory and in honor one who meant much to this congregation over a long period of time.

Sunday’s worship will focus on Luke 12:49-56, a difficult passage in which Jesus challenges his followers pretty severely.  It is not a passage that would be among our favorites.  Still, we may find something instructive in it to help us on our way.  Pray that we do.  We will also consider Hebrews 11:29-12:2, which may well be among our favorites as it celebrates the heroes of the faith who have gone before us and the “cloud of witnesses” that hover around, leading and guiding us.

Join us at 10 AM for worship and stay for the fellowship of the Patio Hour.  Bring someone along to share the day with you.  See you then

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

Pastor Rick

Stay Alert (August 11, 2013)

sermons.fw STAY ALERT
A sermon preached by
Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, August 11, 2013

Text:  Luke 12:32-40

Keep your lamps trimmed and burning.
Keep your lamps trimmed and burning.
Keep your lamps trimmed and burning.
The time is drawing nigh.

So sings the old spiritual, with words of warning to stay alert and be prepared for the coming “Day of the Lord.”  Or is it the day of freedom?  Is this one of those great signaling songs about the underground railroad and the way to liberation?  Stay alert. “There’s a better day a comin’, fare thee well, fare thee well.  In that great gittin’ up morning, fare thee well, fare thee well.” “My Lord, what a morning when the stars begin to fall!”  These songs and many others like them sing the hope of a people for freedom from slavery, for a better life lived in liberty, for the promises they heard in God’s word and longed to claim for themselves and their families.

Earlier this summer I saw a semi-staged version of West Side Story, the great American musical about life among poor white and Puerto Rican youth in 1950s New York City.  Early in the musical, Tony, the white boy who is the musical’s hero, is persuaded by Riff, the leader of the Jets, his former gang, to join them at the neighborhood dance that night, not knowing that Riff intends to start a rumble with the rival Sharks.  Tony agrees to go along with his old friend, though he is clear he wants no more part of gang activity.  At the end of the scene with Riff, he breaks into this powerful song of hope for a better future.

Could be
Who knows?
There’s something due any day
I will know right away
Soon as it shows
It may come cannonballin’ down through the sky
Gleam in its eye
Bright as a rose!
Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach
Down the block, on a beach
Under a tree
I got a feeling there’s a miracle due
Gonna come true
Coming to me
Could it be?
Yes it could
Something’s coming
Something good
If I can wait
Something’s coming I don’t know what it is
But it is
Gonna be great!
With a click
With a shock
Phone’ll jingle
Door’ll knock
Open the latch!
Something’s coming, don’t know when
But it’s soon
Catch the moon
One handed catch
Around the corner
Or whistling down the river
Come on – deliver
To me
Will it be? Yes it will
Maybe just by holding still
It’ll be there!
Come on, something, come on in
Don’t be shy
Meet a guy
Pull up a chair
The air is hummin’
And something great is coming
Who knows
It’s only just
Out of reach
Down the block, on a beach
Maybe tonight
Maybe tonight…

Stay alert, Tony.  Keep your lamp trimmed and burning.  The day is drawing nigh.  Something’s coming, something good, something great…maybe tonight.

Of course, Tony doesn’t live to see the day.  Neither did many of the African slaves in the USA.  Nor did those who first heard Jesus’ words as recorded in Luke.  Nor did many an Israelite who wandered in the wilderness.  The “Day of the Lord” did not come soon enough for them – at least not that grand apocalyptic day of radical transformation.  God’s kingdom did not come on earth as it is in heaven.  Still the hope lived on and it lives on today.  Stay alert.  You don’t know when the Bridegroom may return – or the thief break in.  You’re never sure when God may show up in your life – or the evil one challenge you from within or without.

We know that, for those who first heard Luke’s gospel, there was an eager expectation that Christ would return soon and make all right with the world, that the day of God’s final judgment was imminent and they’d better be prepared.  We don’t live so much with that expectation or even hope anymore.  I suspect most of us are not at all eager for the “Day of the Lord.”  We are not looking for God’s final judgment any time soon.  So, maybe these ancient words don’t have much to say to us.  Maybe we live in such comfort that we are not caught up in the Hebrews’ hope for a promised land, in the slave’s longing for freedom, in Tony’s dream of something better than the poverty and violence of the city’s streets, in the early church’s longing for Christ’s return.

Stay alert.  For what, we might ask.  We don’t live in that three story universe in which we hope to achieve heaven and avoid hell.  Most of us don’t worry about the devil.   We know there is evil in the world, but by and large it bypasses us.  We’re not so directly affected.  Our fears are not much the imminent danger of poverty, war, displacement, hunger, homelessness, street violence.  So when Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock…” does it have any meaning for us?  Does it touch you at all where you live?

Well, let’s take a minute and consider these words, “Do not be afraid, little flock…”  Of what might we be afraid, you and me?  Are you ever afraid of not being in control?  Do you ever worry about a lack of security?  Have you saved enough, accumulated enough to keep you comfortable and safe?  Are you ever concerned about thieves breaking in?  Any anxiety about the kind of future your children might face?  Perhaps our fears are not as dramatic as those of the most needy of our sisters and brothers, but they are certainly real for us.

Now the point is not to encourage us to dwell on our fears, to overinvest in them, to make them worse.  The encouraging, hopeful word in Luke’s story is just the opposite.  Before today’s text, Jesus has been talking to his followers about letting go of their fears and anxieties.  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Luke 12:22-31).

Life is more than food and the body more than clothing.  Strive for the reign of God and you will have all that you need.  “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  We need to hear very clearly.  The word is not that God wants us to work hard and do right so we can earn God’s favor.  It’s not stay alert and don’t mess up because that’s your heavenly insurance policy.  It’s that God wants to give us the delights of God’s realm.  God wants to shower us with the abundance and joy of God’s reign.  It’s God’s pleasure to welcome us home.  We don’t need to worry about anything.  God will take care of us, if we let her.

In our words of preparation, Alyce McKenzie writes of the place of fear in our lives: “We are all wrong about fear. We think it is our protective shield. But fear is the thief. When we dwell on our fears, they become our treasures. Jesus says, ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’. Faith is the genuine treasure we are to be accumulating, but we get it backwards when our fears fill our hearts and faith cannot gain entrance.”

So when I say stay alert, it’s not meant to be an admonishment to fear and anxiety.  Rather I see it as an invitation to faithful living.  It’s a word about watching over our lives so that unwarranted fear and anxiety do not come creeping in as a thief in the night and take over.  Stay alert, be mindful, so that the mighty movement of God in our lives and in the world all around us will be so obvious to us that we fall right in.  McKenzie again writes, “Live in the past and you will be depressed. Live in the future and you will be anxious. Live in the present with gratitude and you will be at peace.  From our Christian perspective the message is that that we need to be preoccupied, but not with fear and anxiety. We need to be preoccupied in the present with faith in God’s future.”  As children of God and disciples of the living Lord are our eyes and ears, our hearts and minds focused with faith on God’s future rather than self-absorbed with the petty details of our daily existence?  Stay alert to what is so much larger and more wonderful than we could ever imagine on our own.  Stay alert for that which can only nourish us and make us whole.

Friends, something’s coming, something good, something great.  Stay alert.  It may not be the apocalyptic “Day of the Lord” but “there’s a better day a comin’.”  Not only will it be showered upon us liberally without our ever lifting a finger, we can also be a part of making it happen – not because it demanded of us as a way of earning our salvation – but because that is where our treasure lies and, with it, our hearts.  Stay alert.  It can only lead us to the goodness of God.  Amen.

VIrginia and Silicon Valley

13-08-01.children_sermonFriends of God,

The summer is underway and life at First Baptist is as busy as ever. No summer lull for us even if we pastors have been traveling a bit.

My time in Virginia was fruitful. The Doctor of Ministry students at Virginia Theological Seminary give me great hope. The student body was multi‐ethnic and ecumenical comprised of Unitarian, Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran and Methodist pastors all ʺretoolingʺ for the ever‐shifting demands of ministry. We spoke about managing change, both decline and growth. We were reminded that in scripture, some leaders were called upon to lead in times of upheaval and sadness. Others were called to lead in times of growth and power. In both scenarios (and everything in between), God was present blessing the People. Like I said, it was an inspiring three weeks. I am sure I will be sharing what I learned with you all as we continue to meet the challenges of our own ministry here in the Silicon Valley.

To that end, I have been enjoying all of the music that iSing has brought to us this summer. Young voices have filled our halls during the week. Jennah Delp, one of iSingʹs directors, also shared her gifts with us in worship. Partnering with iSing has already brought new life to our congregation. I look forward with great excitement to what the future may hold.

Naomi Schulz will be with us again one more Sunday in August. She will once again bring her energy and creativity with her. Please welcome her with our usual generosity.

The summer is not over. Thereʹs more to come. Stay tuned for other announcements.

Peace and All Good Things,
Pastor Tripp

Blessed resources

13-08-03.opendoorWe are a blessed congregation. When I talk to friends and colleagues in other churches around the country, it is clear that we have more resources than many and that our resources have been well‐managed over the years. There are many people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for this.

Like many churches we have a large older building. Unlike many churches, we have not significantly deferred maintenance on our facilities. Oleta and I are always pleased when the firefighters come around for their annual inspection and praise the condition of our building. I think this year one of them actually said we were not only exemplary but “stellar” in our upkeep of the building.

Because we have chosen to open our building to the community, we are likely to receive more than $100,000 in tenant income this year. At the same time that the activities we host generate income, they also serve the community and gain us a reputation for being a good neighbor. This ministry of our facility is good stewardship.  It also makes our network and influence greater than the number in our congregation would warrant.

Our Special Funds, the money that people have left as legacy over the years, allows us to sustain the life of our congregation. This money, well‐managed by our Finance Committee and Special Funds Treasurer, along with our rental income, allow us to engage in ministry beyond what our annual income would support. This is a blessing from those who have gone before who believed in the life and mission of this congregation and wanted to see it continue after they were gone. It is always a challenge to consider how we use these gifts both responsibly and creatively to do God’s work in our community and in the world.

Recently, we made a decision to liquidate one of our assets, our remaining share in the “Annex” behind the church building. Thanks to the diligent work of a task team, made up of Jane Chin, Hugh Satterlee, Nana Spiridon and Jim Alexander, we were able to sell this piece of property to the child care center for $300,000. This is a rich return on a small piece of a small piece of property. We are grateful to this task team for its good, hard work.

This money will now go into our Special Funds and will be available for our ongoing ministry, as needed. As always, use of this money must be balanced between taking care of ourselves and serving the reign of God on earth. In the interest of sustaining this balance, I have suggested to the Council that we spend some of this money on missions. As a result they will bring a proposal to our Quarterly Business meeting for sharing some of this resource.

Many churches, when they have a capital campaign or receive a windfall gift, choose to offer a tithe of that money for missions. If we chose to do that we would be able to support some exciting mission project or projects in far more significant way than we do through our annual and special missions offerings. A large, generous donation from us could make a big difference in the life of an agency or missionary or mission project. It’s my hope that we would be moved to such generosity. That kind of giving can only be good for the “soul” of our congregation. We identify ourselves as a church whose mission is to “serve the needs of others.”

In addition to that act of generosity, I would also like to see us invest another 10% of this money in microfinance. Essentially microfinancing is a way of making small loans to people living in poverty that allows them to build businesses that lift them out of poverty. It is amazing what a loan of $500 or so can do for a dedicated worker who wants a better life for her or his family or village. Organizations like Oikocredit, founded by the World Council of Churches (oikocredit.org or oikocreditusa.org,) have been doing this sort of lending for almost 40 years. Their track record is outstanding. We might not
make as much return on this investment as we would in the stock market, but we would still get some return at the same time we’re “serving those in need.” It is a definite win‐win situation.

Because we have been blessed we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to be a blessing to others. I hope we will see our responsibility here and seize this opportunity to share what we have with neighbors in need. It is bound to be good for us.

In Christ’s service,
Pastor Rick

Like many churches we have a large older building. Unlike many churches, we
have not significantly deferred maintenance on our facilities. Oleta and I are always
pleased when the firefighters come around for their annual inspection and
praise the condition of our building. I think this year one of them actually said
we were not only exemplary but “stellar” in our upkeep of the building.
Because we have chosen to open our building to the community, we are likely to
receive more than $100,000 in tenant income this year. At the same time that the
activities we host generate income, they also serve the community and gain us a
reputation for being a good neighbor. This ministry of our facility is good stewardship.
It also makes our network and influence greater than the number in our
congregation would warrant.
Our Special Funds, the money that people have left as legacy over the years, allows
us to sustain the life of our congregation. This money, well‐managed by our
Finance Committee and Special Funds Treasurer, along with our rental income,
allow us to engage in ministry beyond what our annual income would support.
This is a blessing from those who have gone before who believed in the life and
mission of this congregation and wanted to see it continue after they were gone.
It is always a challenge to consider how we use these gifts both responsibly and
creatively to do God’s work in our community and in the world.
Recently, we made a decision to liquidate one of our assets, our remaining share

Peace Camp and Joint Worship Service

Joint Worship serviceIt was good to be away for two weeks, attending Peace Camp and visiting with my family, but it is also good to be home in Palo Alto where the temperature never stretches to triple digits.  (It got up to 102 in Boise, though it’s nice, dry heat.)  Peace Camp went very well.  Spokane and the Gonzaga University campus were attractive.  Highlights included a plenary address and workshop by Miguel de la Torre, an outstanding Christian ethicist from Iliff Seminary in Denver.  Miguel, who claims Southern Baptist identity, is Cuban American with a strong voice for justice.  Right now his focus is on both immigrant and lgbtq people.  There was a documentary film series, including a fascinating movie on the rise and fall of the Aryan Nation in northern Idaho in the 70s and 80s.  (Coeur d’Alene is only 16 miles from Spokane.) There was excellent worship, fine workshops and even a wedding for April and Deborah, who are long-time leaders in the BPFNA.  (Washington is a state that recognizes marriage equality.)  As usual, young adults, youth and children helped lead worship and were highlighted in the open mic sessions.  It was also great to see friends and colleagues, old and new.

This Sunday will be our annual joint service with Covenant Presbyterian Church.  You can see the details above.  The service is intergenerational and will feature a drama rather than a sermon as well as communion.  Afterwards we will share a potluck meal together.  This service, held in the “bowl” in Mitchell Park, was a hit last year.  I hope you will plan to be there for the celebration.  This is a great opportunity to bring someone along with you.  See you Sunday at 10:30 AM (unless you can help set up at 8:00 AM or want to sing with the choir at 9:30 am.)

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

Pastor Rick

iSing Concert, July 27, 2013

Oleta and everyone else who helped things run smoothly in my absence.  By all reports our mission project, iSing (girls’ choir camp,) was a great success, highlighted by a concert and cook out on the last day.  The program was led by Jennah Delp and Shane Toll.  Both Pastor Tripp (banjo) and Jan Gunderson (piano) participated in the concert.  We are looking forward to the growth of this program in the coming school year.

13-08-01.ising