Note from Pastor Rick (7/13/2016)

Pastor Rick MixonMy summer cold seems to be clearing up finally. It is a good thing that Pastor Gregory was scheduled to preach last Sunday. Thanks to him for his timely sermon and for the liturgy. Thanks to Anthia Lee Halfmann who played the piano for the service while Jan was away visiting family. Her playing added a lovely tone to our worship. We had several people on the road and we had several visitors. On the whole, it was a good day.

We continue to journey this week with those who seek refuge. Our texts ask the challenging and important question, “What does God require?” More specifically, what does God require of us as people of faith in a time and place fraught with so much violence and hatred. What does it mean for us to be God’s people in this context and how do we show that we are God’s people? Continue reading Note from Pastor Rick (7/13/2016)

May is for Peace

Earth in your handsAs we wrap up Earth Month, it is important for us to keep in mind that this is not the end. Rather it is the beginning of an ongoing emphasis we will continue throughout the life of our congregation. So, stay tuned for further reflections on and suggestions for loving the earth and caring for creation. Special thanks to Pastor Gregory for taking the lead on this kick off and for everyone who contributed.

Our focus for the month of May will be peace. This is the month we take our special offering for the Baptist Peace Fellowship pf North America. Our theme will be, “Blessed Are the Peacemakers.” In the Sermon on the Mount, one of the Beatitudes or blessings that Jesus lifts up is this, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Sunday’s lectionary readings offer two relevant texts. In John, the writer has Jesus say to his followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give you as the world gives” (John 14:27). What does it mean that Jesus promises peace but not in the way we are most likely to expect it? And what is our role as peacemakers. Then at the end of the great apocalyptic book of Revelation comes a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, complete with the New Jerusalem, God’s Holy City. In the center of the city is the tree of life, planted by the river of of the water of life. Its leaves are for the “healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-5). Must we wait for the end of time to gather by that river, beneath that tree, to collect and apply its healing powers?

It is Communion Sunday with Worship for the Whole Family. Afterward we will hold our second Quarterly Business Meeting of the year. I also want to alert you that we are planning a church work day for sprucing up our facilities on Saturday, May 14. Please plan to participate. We will go from 9:00 am until 2:00 PM. It will include lunch.

Come Sunday morning at 10:00 AM for worship, study and shared community. Invite your family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, acquaintances and strangers to join us as we begin to explore the things that make for peace.

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

Food and conversation for Earth Month

Watery Earth NASA photoLast Sunday we shared a delicious vegetarian lunch in the Fellowship Hall. Thanks to everyone for their creativity and willingness to try something different. The meal was followed by a delightful video conversation with Pastor Gregory and Tripp Fuller. Tripp is a doctoral candidate at Claremont School of Theology, one of the founders of the nationally known podcast, “Homebrewed Christianity” and Program Director of “The Hatchery” in Los Angeles. At many times paralleling the morning’s sermon, he encouraged us to to look for and celebrate God in all creation. Using both awareness and creative imagination we can come to deeper understanding of how all of creation is interconnected. This understanding can only help to strengthen recognition of our need to care for creation. Tripp is also funny and entertaining.

This Sunday we will conclude our Earth Month focus (though not our attention to creation care.) The theme is “The Good Earth.” In Psalm 148 and other passages we find the whole creation praising the Creator. In other passages, including the “Sermon on the Mount” we are encouraged to let go of worry and trust that the great God of the universe will also be our redeemer and protector. Pastor Gregory has a word about our Eco-Education guest, Elise Willis, who will help us to talk about the trees if not actually to them.

Come Sunday morning at 10:00 AM for worship, study and shared community. Invite your family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, acquaintances and strangers to join us in the joy of this Earth Month Sunday.

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

Eco-Education

candle and globeBy now we are well into Earth Month. On Sunday, we celebrated the God of creation in music and word. The big collage of “interconnection” that we started during worship is completed and hung on the hall wall. By all accounts the conversation with Elizabeth Singleton went well during the Eco-Education Hour. We might even look at the beginning and call it “good.”

This Sunday we will return to the first creation story of Genesis 1-2 to consider the place of human being in creation. Sometimes we take the instructions to have dominion, to rule and to subdue too literally. We think we are little gods and do with creation whatever we want. But the psalmist marvels at creation and asks just who are we that the creating God would consider us at all. What if God has crafted human being for loving, caring, co-creative relationship? We are not to be “over creation” as much as we are to be “of” it, recognizing God’s presence in every atom and wave. To have dominion is to respond to what is by affirming its goodness and embracing it with joy.

Eco-education will be incorporated into the “Every Day – Earth Day Potluck” right after Worship and Sunday School. Everyone is encouraged to bring vegetarian or vegan fare to share. Hopefully this will be an interesting and fun experiment for us all. After dinner, we will share a taped conversation that Pastor Gregory had with Tripp Fuller, entertaining theologian and Program Director for the Hatchery in Los Angeles. Their conversation is about how we might entertain a more creative imagination in considering how we as Christians live in and care for this world.

Come Sunday morning at 10:00 AM for worship, study and shared community. Invite your family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, acquaintances and strangers to join us in the joy of this Earth Month Sunday.

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

Pastor Rick

Earth Month

Earth in your handsEarth Month started off with a “big bang” last Sunday thanks to Pastor Gregory’s passionate leadership. His sermon focused on an “Easter Ecology,” making connections between John’s account of the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus to the disciples and the indomitable spirit that infuses all creation with life. Thanks also to Greg Griffey who led our “Eco-Education” hour by asking as to consider the significance of place in our lives. As a child of Appalachia, Greg has a particular attachment to the “hills of home.” Some of what he shared was grounded in Wendell Berry’s love for place. Each person present shared where he or she was from, giving us snapshots of the diversity of place that is possible on this planet.

Wednesday evening we will be showing a film, “The Story of the Universe.” This will be a great opportunity for us to gather, share and learn together. I urge you to come and join in the experience as part of our project to learn to love and care for creation.

Sunday we will spend time re-visiting the familiar words of the the first chapter of Genesis, “When, in the beginning, God was creating…” What is creation for you and me? How do we see it? How are we part of its fundamentally interconnected reality and not some entity over against? God seems to love the earth and care deeply for creation. If we are made in God’s image and likeness, how are we to love the earth and care for creation with that same God-infused spirit?

This week’s Eco Education Hour will feature an on-line conversation with Elizabeth Singleton, eco-theologian and graduate of Claremont School of Theology. Dr. Singleton is a mentor of friend and mentor of Pastor Gregory. She is taking time from a busy schedule to spend time in conversation with us. I hope we will take advantage of her generosity.

Come Sunday morning at 10:00 AM for worship, study and shared community. Invite your family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, acquaintances and strangers to join us in the joy of this Earth Month Sunday.

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

Pastor Rick

Mixon Muses: Earth Month

candle and globeThis month is Earth Month at FBCPA. You will see elsewhere in this Spire a variety of programming to lift up our love for the earth and care for creation. Thanks to Pastor Gregory for his hard work pulling all this together. We have a couple of books in the church library you might want to check out as resource for this month’s emphasis as well. One is A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism by Emory University history professor, Patrick Allitt. This book was recommended by Dan Cudworth and is the book we’re reading for this month’s Senior Connections Book Group. If you want to read it and join that discussion, feel free to, regardless of your age. We’d be delighted to have your input. The other is a book, suggested by Pastor Gregory, entitled Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth. This is a collection of briefs essays and reflections by spiritual leaders in many different faiths.

As if all that is not enough, Pastor Gregory also loaned me his copy of John Cobb’s Sustainability: Economics, Ecology, and Justice to read as well. Cobb is a distinguished process theologian and advocate for eco-justice who taught for many years at Claremont School of Theology. We have seen and heard him more than once on a variety of episodes in the Living the Questions video series.

In the opening chapter, “Christian Existence in a World of Limits,” Cobb writes that, as Christians, we must recognize “1) the physical limits of our context, 2) the limits of our own capacities to envision needed changes or to adopt even those we can envision, but also 3) the openness of the future and the unlimited power of transformation that is the grace of God” (p. 11). I was especially struck by his suggestion that we live with limits –some of which are self-imposed – to our capacity to envision change and to our willingness to act on such a vision when we do catch it. It may be that clouded or shaky vision actually precludes our ability or willingness to see and accept the possibilities of God’s transforming power in our own lives and in the world around us.

In my Easter sermon, I suggested that Mary Magdalene is prepared to grieve, to spend her time mourning what is lost. She is heart-broken and feels alone. But neither she nor the rest of the disciples are prepared for resurrection. Their vision is clouded. It doesn’t matter that he has told them more than once that he would die and rise again. It is a claim that does not compute, has not registered in their reality, is not within the range of their vision. Do you think it would be any different for you or me if we had been in their sandals? That clouded vision, that lack of awareness is all too true today.

My friend Tim Phillips writes of death and resurrection, “Maybe the worst thing about death in all its forms is that it robs us of the energy to imagine anything else.” Isn’t this Mary’s truth in the early morning shadows? She couldn’t imagine anyone else. She assumed she was talking to the gardener. Tim continues to speak of death and its equivalents, “Addiction robs us of the energy to imagine healing. Violence robs us of the energy to imagine peace. Sickness robs of the energy to imagine some kind of wholeness beyond a cure. The burdens of life rob us of energy for a sense of humor that can put things in perspective. Death robs us of the energy to imagine that anything has power great enough to outlive its hold on us” (Tim Phillips, “Resurrection Power,” The Spire, Vol. 80, No. 3, March 2016, Seattle First Baptist Church).

Isn’t John Cobb suggesting something similar? Cobb reminds us that “prophetic vision” is crucial to our Christian tradition. He argues that “we in the United States need a prophetic vision of an economic order that is viable and humane with respect to our own people without continuing economic imperialism and environmental degradation” (op. cit., p. 18). Is there anyone on the horizon running for public office on this platform? If not, why not? Is there nothing we can do to challenge and shape a political process that purports to elect officials who will represent us? Do we need to take a chance to open our eyes, our ears hearts in order to find the resurrection power that might make a difference?

Burdens of life interfere with our capacity to see beyond business as usual. The threat of death, ironically, robs us of the possibilities of new life. We get stuck in cycles of comfort and privilege and fail to see the potentially fatal consequences of our lack of vision for the whole of creation. What does rob you or me of vision, of our capacity to see God’s ability to work, even through us, to redeem creation and transform the way we understand the world and how it works? How many things do we accept as given, especially if they operate in our self-interest, rather than risking a challenge that might bring us closer to the realization of God’s Beloved Community? What might we have to lose in order to find true selves made in the image and likeness of God? What might we need to give in exchange for God’s promise of abundant life in Christ Jesus?

Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently, nourish the life of the world in our care… Let there be greening, birth from the burning, water that blesses, and air that is sweet,
Health in God’s garden, hope in God’s children, regeneration that peace will complete. 

Shirley Erena Murray

Pastor Rick            

Holy Week: Death and Life

easter_cross.fwEaster Sunday was surely a day of celebration as we looked to claiming our own “ressurection power” to make a difference in this world in the name of the risen Christ.  Thanks to everyone who helped make it a special day – to Jan, Daniel Ha, Daniel Ramirez, Dominique and the choir with extra singers for wonderful music; to Pastor Gregory fo his work with the children and youth and fo his work, alongside Carolyn Shepard and Soo Kim, in making the Sanctuary so beautiful; to Laurie Cudworth, Thelma Tuttle, the Satterlees, among all those who helped with the lovely brunch; and to Chip Clark for – well, only he knows all he does! I agree with Thelma Parodi and Pastor Gregory in the their celebration of our wonderful church “family.’

With the advent of April comes a special emphasis on “Loving the Earth.” Since Earth Day is April 22, this seems like the right time to take up our opportunities and obligations to share with God in good stewardship for all of creation. Pastor Gregory is taking the lead in this programming with some wonderful offerings from people whose life and work is focused on loving the earth. I hope you will “think outside the box” – that is, consider participating beyond your own version of “church as usual.”  I know I will.

Worship will be focused on loving the earth as will the education hour afterward. Even if you don’t usually attend Adult Spiritual Formation, I think you will want to take advantage of these sessions. There will be a couple of film nights for the whole family on the first and third Wednesdays and an all church Earth Day pot-luck on April 17. There are selected books in the library, if you want to do some background reading. “The Earth is God’s and the fullness thereof.” Let’s gather as a community to learn and to celebrate.

This Sunday Pastor Gregory will be preaching on “Easter Ecology,” following John 20:19-31. The education hour will feature Greg Grifffey, who is a farm boy from Appalachia and a fan of the great American essayist and poet, Wendell Berry, in addition to being a hospice chaplain. He will share with us about spirituality and love of the land.

This would be an especially good time to invite others to join you in sharing these experiences celebrating creation and loving the earth. Join us at 10:00 AM for family worship and communion, followed by adult education and Lunch Bunch at 12:45. Let’s carry the joyous spirit of Easter throughout these 50 days of Eastertide and beyond.

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

Pastor Rick