Pastor Rick: December 19

wreathsWe had a lovely time Sunday afternoon enjoying the gracious hospitality of Nana and Alex Spiridon at their annual holiday open house.  It was especially nice to celebrate Grace’s completion of her MBA (from the joint program between Columbia and UC Berkeley) along with her proud parents and husband, Greg.  It was good to see some old friends as well.

Sunday’s service was a challenging one for most of us as we sought to reconcile the day’s focus on joy (Gaudete Sunday) and the enormous tragedy of the mass shooting in Newtown, CT.  Thanks to Pastor Tripp who brought a powerful witness through Bruce Cockburn’s song, “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”; to Daniel Ramirez for his eloquent ringing of the “singing bowl”; to the wonderfully joyful music provided by Susanna Jimenez, Jan and the choir; and to Melanie Ramirez and Dona Smith-Powers for providing and arranging the lovely poinsettias.   As I said Sunday, perhaps all we can do in moments like these is light candles in protest against the shadows that threaten us.

It felt like this was the right place to be on Sunday, as it was Friday night when we gathered in the sanctuary for our contemplative service.  If you and/or someone you know needs time and space to reflect on what’s going on in the world and what might be a faith response, I invite you and/or them to take advantage of the peaceful beauty of our sanctuary, especially on Friday night, when we will have our final prayer service for this season.

Sunday morning we will celebrate the “Light of Love” that breaks into the world and into our lives at this holy time.  Will we be as open as Mary was to the angel’s announcement of God’s calling?  Can we give ourselves over as she did to the power of love to transform our lives?  We will have extra music Sunday as we welcome an octet of singers from The Choral Project (the choir in which Dan Cudworth and I sing).  They will provide some special music as well as augment our choir.  Following worship, we’ll gather in the Fellowship Hall for our annual Christmas Brunch with a new feature – a Do-It-Yourself Christmas pageant!

And don’t forget we will have a Christmas Eve service Monday evening at 5:30 PM in the candlelit sanctuary.  It is a beautiful time for the whole family to join in worship of God who comes to us as a small child, a vulnerable child who in time will become “Jesus, the Light of the World.

This is a wonderful time to invite a family member, friend, colleague, neighbor or stranger to join in worship, sharing and celebrating.  See you Sunday before 10:00 AM and at the other events of the season.

May God bless us and keep us on the way,

Pastor Rick

Pastor Rick: December 12

Thanks to everyone for the flexibility in scheduling our annual caroling and chili event.  We had a good turn out; we sang for several folk from our community who are not able to be with us regularly.  Then we gathered back at the church for chili supper.  I think the singing was much appreciated by those we visited.

Please remember our Friday evening Contemplative Services.  They are lovely, brief opportunity to spend time in the beauty of our sanctuary praying, singing and meditating our way through this Advent season.

This Sunday we will continue to spend time with John the Baptist as well as the prophets Zephaniah and Isaiah and the apostle Paul as we search out the light of joy in this Advent season.  The challenge for us will be to look for the joy in the sharp critique and sometimes harsh words these biblical characters bring.  I suppose the real question is whether or not there can be joy in our lives and in the world if we do not get our house in order.   Yet, even in our wondering and our waiting Paul encourages us to “Rejoice in God always!”

Soprano Susanna Jimenez will be singing with the choir Sunday.  She will also supply some very special Music of Preparation when she sings “Rejoice Greatly” form Handel’s Messiah.  You will want to be here early to hear her.  After Adult Spiritual Formation, in which we will consider what it means for Christ to come into the world as we know it, we will take a little break before reconvening at Spiridons for their annual open house for the whole congregation.  We are always grateful to Alex and Nana for opening their lovely home and providing a fabulous party.

This is a wonderful time to invite a family member, friend, colleague, neighbor or stranger to join us in worship, sharing and learning.  See you Sunday before 10:00 AM and at the other events of the season.

May God bless us and keep us on the way,

Pastor Rick

Pastor Tripp: December 12

Friends of God,

Christmas Pageant

Advent is well under way. It has been good to so many participating in the worship life of the church. We have gathered on Friday evening for our contemplative prayer services. Please do invite a friend to join you. Our Sunday services have been rich and full of good Advent Cheer (Hey, if there is Christmas Cheer there is Advent Cheer)! We have been lighting the light of our faith, our love for God and our love for one another and God’s world. We have much to be grateful for at First Baptist. This season has been a wonderful lesson in that.

Keep the upcoming events in your calendar! We’ll meet at the Spirdon’s this Sunday for their open house. In two weeks we’ll gather after worship for our Christmas Brunch. Bring friends. It should be a great celebration. And prepare to get on stage. We’re performing our Do-It-Yourself Pageant. Each one of us will have a role! Bring a costume if you know what you’d like to be. Shepherds? Sheep? Angels? Mary? Yes, we can have Multiple Marys!

Peace and All Good Things,

Pastor Tripp

Pastor Rick: December 5

banjo.fwWhat a lovely beginning we have had for the Advent season.  Thanks to everyone who has contributed in action and in spirit.  It seems that we are on the right road of preparation for the holy coming.  I urge you to participate in all the activities of the season as much as possible at the same time I encourage you to take time to prepare.  Both John and Jesus spend time alone in the wilderness as they prepare for the work to which God has called them.  We may not find ourselves in the wilderness per se, but some down time in all the crush of holiday madness may be just what God is calling us to – time to sit quietly, to consider what is to come, to pray that we may be ready, to search for wisdom and understanding, to contemplate the light that is coming into the world and how it is manifest in hope, peace, joy and love.

Sunday we will spend time with John the Baptist and his forebears  John’s is that alarming voice, crying in the wilderness for us to make ready the road to salvation, urging all who will listen to turn from the seduction of empire to the promise of God’s righteous reign.  In this process, we will also look again at Zechariah’s song, the “Benedictus,” which was the focus of our work with Jennifer Davidson last month.  What did we learn in those sessions that we might bring to our worship this Sunday?  How might all these ancient words of blessing and comfort, prophecy and hope help us prepare for God’s touch on our lives this Advent?

As part of your time of preparation, I strongly encourage you to join us for Friday night’s contemplative service in the astonishing beauty of our worship space.  I find this to be a holy, healing time and trust that you might, too.  The services are simple and brief, scripture, songs, prayer and silence.

Sunday, we will keep our caroling and chili supper at 4:00 PM, so we will also continue our sessions in Adult Spiritual Formation on the theme “Prepare the Way.”  This Sunday we will consider preparation for Christ’s coming – in our faith community.  What is it for which we hope in this season and how might its realization make a difference in us and around us?

This is a wonderful time to invite a family member, friend, colleague, neighbor or stranger to join us in worship, sharing and learning.  See you Sunday at 10:00 AM and at the other events of the season.

May God bless us and keep us on the way,

Pastor Rick

Mixon Muses: Journey and Story

Advent at First Baptist

Pastor Tripp said on Christ the King Sunday that we “know the ending of the story” and in a way that is true. It’s an old, old story that we have heard many times before. And many of us treasure the old stories that have helped to shape our lives. Though familiar and well‐loved, this Christ story is not a linear one that runs from beginning to end. Rather is it is a story in cyclical form that circles round and round us every year. In the best of times it draws us ever closer to the heart of God. The story is familiar but it never grows old.

The Word dwells among us, “full of grace and truth.” And what more do we need in order to make our way than God’s grace and God’s truth? As Jesus says to Pilate, “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” For this, to tell God’s truth and to bring God’s grace, “the Word became flesh and lived among us.”

Of course, God reaches out to us in many forms – in law and prophecy, in story and song, in poetry and myth, in nature and science, in history and drama – luring us into glorious communion, that ultimate purpose for which we were created. I have referred before to the words of John Boswell, who wrote, “Christ was God’s unanswerable ‘argument.’ His people had hardened their hearts against his spoken reasons, the arguments propounded – in words – for centuries by the prophets and the sages. So he sent an argument in the form of a human being, a life, a person. The argument became flesh and blood: so real that no one could refute or ignore it” (John Boswell, “Introduction” to Chris Glaser’s Uncommon Calling, p. xvii).

There he stands, before Pilate, charged with a seditious claim of kingship, his life on the line. His response to Pilate and all of Rome and, indeed, to all the world down through the ages, “My kingdom is not from this world…For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” This is truth that sets us free to be drawn into God’s all‐embracing grace. This truth allows us to sink into God’s unfathomable love for all creation. From one perspective, the story ends here, or shortly after with the crucifixion and the resurrection. But is that really the end?

Within a week we are sitting again in exile, yearning with the prophets and those who wait for redemption. We once more watch with longing for the coming of someone who will lift us from despair, who will eradicate our troubles, who will make things right between the Creator and the creation. We ride all the way down from dazzling brightness of the King of Glory, enthroned for all eternity, to the bleakness of a midwinter watch for the One who will rise to dazzle us once more. The story circles round once again and we find ourselves asking the age‐old questions, “When will the Promised One
come and where and how and in what form?”

We are shaken awake from our visions of the triumph of the King of Glory. We find ourselves sinking into an old, old dream, wandering toward a stable in Bethlehem where a baby is born – cold, hungry, vulnerable as you and I and the journey begins again – the journey we walk with the One who comes to tell heaven’s truth and offer God’s grace, the Christ who embodies God’s final, compelling argument for deep and passionate relationship.

So, we really don’t know the end of the story. Our dreams and visions circle round but have yet to be fulfilled. Each of us made this same journey last year and the year before. Some of us have been on this journey for a good many years, and though we claim to know how it will end, in each pass we learn something new or forget something significant, grow closer to or further from our journey’s goal. We are blessed with the opportunity to come once more to the beginning of this life‐giving story. We do not know the end of the story because we are not done yet. We wait and watch, we wander and wonder and work in hope of the fulfillment that is yet to be. May the Christ story continue to shape us as we live more faithfully into its truth and grace.

Pastor Rick

Pastor Rick: November 28

wreathsBig thanks to everyone who stayed for the Hanging of the Greens on Sunday.  The sanctuary is beautiful.  Now the season of Advent begins, the start of a new liturgical year, the turning in the cycle to God come near in human form.  Our theme for this Advent is “A Light for All Nations.”  Each week we will focus on the key themes of Advent – hope, peace, joy and love – in terms of the Light that transforms the world.  Sunday we will consider the light that hope brings when it enters a troubled world familiar with disappointment and despair.

On the four Friday nights of Advent – November 30, December 7, 14 and 21 – we will have a brief time for prayer and contemplation in the sanctuary at 7:00 PM.  As we watch and wait for the coming again of the Christ, we gather in community to share the experience of anticipation.  Last year, people found these servings meaningful.  I hope you will give them a try this season in preparation for what is to come in your own lives during this season.

Beginning this Sunday, I will lead three sessions in Adult Spiritual Formation on the theme “Prepare the Way.”  Each Sunday will have a different area in which to consider our preparation for Christ’s coming – in our personal lives, in our faith community and in our world.  What is it for which we prepare in this season and how does it make a difference in us and around us?

This is a wonderful time to invite a family member, friend, colleague, neighbor or stranger to join us in worship, sharing and learning.  See you Sunday at 10:00 AM and at the other events of the sseason.

May God bless us and keep us on the way,

Pastor Rick

Pastor Rick: November 21

We had a lovely time last Friday at our annual Gratitude Dinner.  Not only was the food delicious but we had a delightful time creating a collage of good things in the life of our congregation this year.  If you haven’t had a chance to see our collective “masterpiece,” it is on display in the church entryway.  Thanks to Pastor Tripp for organizing the program and to everyone who helped with the meal.

 Sunday was Stewardship Sunday, and again it was delightful to gather as a community to share further our gratitude to God for all we’ve been given.  It was very moving to hear people share things for which they were grateful un the life of our church this year.  Thanks to everyone who brought your pledge forms on Sunday.  If you have not returned yours, I urge you to do so as soon as possible.  This information is invaluable in budgeting and planning for the coming year.  It is also an opportunity to express tangibly the “abundant joy and overflowing generosity” that the gospel draws forth from each of us.

This Sunday is Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday.  It marks the end of the church’s liturgical calendar.  The next Sunday we begin a new liturgical year with Advent.  This year Advent does not arrive on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, which gives a little more space to consider “Christ the King.”  What kind of king reigns as the “King of Love”?  What does it mean to give ourselves in allegiance to a reign of “truth”?  Sunday will be an intergenerational service as we celebrate the kingly Jesus as the whole community.

We also have a little more time to “Hang the Greens” this year.  I encourage everyone to stay after worship to help decorate the church for Advent and Christmas.  If you have visions in blue, white and gold (our Advent colors,) bring them along to share.  There is opportunity here for folk of all ages.  Once we are done decorating, we’ll gather around the tables for a simple lunch of soup, bread, fruit and cookies.

See you Sunday morning at 10:00 AM in the sanctuary for worship, sharing and learning, followed decorating and dining.  Invite a family member, friend, colleague or neighbor (or three!) to join the celebration.  Strangers are welcome, too!

May God bless us and keep us on the way,

Pastor Rick