On Rising to the Occasion (10/30/2016)

A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Texts: Luke 19:1-10

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he.” That ditty ranks among the top Sunday School hits of modern times. Alan and I spontaneously broke into a rendition at Bible study on Tuesday. My, admittedly impaired, memory is that we sang about Jesus coming to his house “for tea.” Unless the song has British origins, I don’t know why we would sing about “tea,” except, of course that “tea” rhymes with “tree.”

All that aside, this story from Luke’s gospel still has something to teach us. It never hurts to be reminded of the transformative power of Jesus’ presence. Zacchaeus has heard about Jesus. He’s determined to see him. Jesus actually speaks to him, calls him by name, and his life is never the same again. Salvation comes to him and his household with the blessing of Jesus, the Christ.

Continue reading On Rising to the Occasion (10/30/2016)

It’s Me (10/23/2016)

A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Texts: Luke 18:9-14

“It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”  If memory serves me correctly, I first encountered this Spiritual some time in grade school. I doubt that it is sung much in public schools today, but the 1950s were a different time. State-prescribed prayer and Bible reading were still widely practiced in this country. As children, we probably did not grasp the full import of the song. We sang with gusto its lively tune, rocking out on the chorus – “It’s me, O yes it’s me.” The irony of our childish intoning of the text was how each of us felt different, special, better than all those folk named in the verses. Of course, the point of the song is humble acknowledgement of one’s need of God’s grace, not elevation of my particular neediness to something superior to yours. I suppose it was somehow developmentally appropriate for children to emphasize the “me-ness” in the song as we worked to find our individual identities. I hope I have come to enough maturity to understand that the point of the song is not to stress the significance of my need over yours.

Continue reading It’s Me (10/23/2016)

Itching Ears (10/16/2016)

A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, October 16, 2016

Texts: Psalm 119:97-104; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Luke 18:1-8; 2 Timothy 4:1-5

I probably should have entitled this sermon something like, “Itching Ears and Open Hearts,” because I think each of the lectionary texts this week shows deeper interest in the condition of the human heart than the state of our ears. I rarely try to weave all the texts for a given week into one sermon, but these four texts seem to invite it.

To begin with, Psalm 119, which is a kind of love song or hymn to God’s law is much less concerned with the letter of that law than its spirit. The section chosen for today begins, “Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all day long.” Now I don’t know about you but I don’t generally think of the law as something to love. It will take some time and effort to understand the 17 ballot measures that may or may not become law on November 8, but I don’t plan to spend all of the next 24 days meditating on them, though I may have more to say about them between now and November 8. I’ve already grown so tired and disgusted with the overgrown and misleading advertising for the various measures that I’ve taken to muting all political ads as soon as they appear on my television screen.

Continue reading Itching Ears (10/16/2016)

Where is Your Faith? (9/18/16)

A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, September 18, 2016

Texts: Psalm 29; Luke 8:22-25

Have you ever found yourself in difficulty, caught between a rock and hard place, up the creek without a paddle? Then you have some sense of what Jesus’ disciples experienced on the lake that day. It all started innocently enough. They pushed off from the shore near their home base in Capernaum headed for the Gerasene shore. At least some of them were experienced sailors. They’d made their living fishing this shallow lake. They were also familiar with the brief, fierce storms that could arise on the lake when the wind off the Mediterranean came roaring through Pigeon Pass and hit the lake hard.

Jesus was asleep. I wonder if he wasn’t exhausted from the effort involved in preaching, teaching, healing, and exorcising. This is not the only time the gospels tell us Jesus took to the sea, hoping for a little relief from the press of the crowd, from their constant demands and insistent expectations. It seems he was sound asleep, sleeping so soundly that the storm did not wake him. If we take the tale at face value, the disciples were terrified by the storm. The boat was taking on water and the prospect of drowning rose before them. “Master, Master, we are perishing!” they cried. In Mark’s older version, from which Luke draws this story, the disciples are a little snarky, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:39b). Desperate, and a little whiney, they call on him to save them.

Do you ever feel like that – “Jesus, we’re dying here. Don’t you care?” When you get between a rock and hard place, when you find yourself up the creek without a paddle, “when the storms of life are raging, when the world is tossing [you] like a ship upon the sea?” Do you ever cry out, “Stand by me!” “Jesus, savior, pilot me,” “Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to your bosom fly,” “Help of the helpless, O abide with me”? Song and scripture alike lift up our cries for help. At the same time, we hear the words of assurance: “God will take care of you,” “God, who holds the future, is the One who holds my hand,” “God walks the dark hills,“ “The voice of Love is heard in every storm…and in their hearts all cry, ‘Glory!’ The Beloved lives in our hearts; Love dwells with us forever.”

Continue reading Where is Your Faith? (9/18/16)

A Note from Pastor Gregory (9/2016)

In high school I once wrote an article for the school newspaper on immigration. My mom was always one to write articles for the local newspaper so she encouraged me to write this article for my school paper. It started with, “They’re illegal, not American. They raise crime rates and lower statistics on education. They’re stealing our jobs and destroying our country.” Let’s just say it didn’t go over very well.

Continue reading A Note from Pastor Gregory (9/2016)

Note from Pastor Rick (8/3/2016)

love quiltWhat a wonderful weekend we had with Daniel Pryfogle. He led us expertly in an exploration of how we might “Lead through Story.” Friday night we considered how our stories form us individually and collectively. Saturday we had two sessions (plus lunch) in the beautiful setting of Valley Presbyterian Church in Portola Valley. In the morning, we looked at how stories can challenge and even disrupt the status quo or what Daniel calls the “dominant models” for organizing our lives. In the afternoon, we moved from disruption to innovation. How do we draw on what we know about our own stories and the stories that disrupt (e.g., the Gospel) to innovate new ways of being in the world, shaping our lives in new stories. Sunday morning we talked about how we can bear witness to what we learned about story to bring about transformation in our own lives, in our community, and in the wider world. Many voices were heard in thanksgiving for this retreat experience. Stay tuned for the next steps. Continue reading Note from Pastor Rick (8/3/2016)

Pastor Gregory Says… (7/13/16)

Hospitality is hard work. After almost two weeks of hosting one of my closest friends Rony Francois in my tiny one bedroom apartment I have learned a few lessons. Hosting friends takes time and patience that I wasn’t prepared for as everything from my work schedule to my shower schedule had been jumbled around. I’m one to enjoy lists and pre-planned schedules so the in-the-moment-adventures created moments anxiety and frustration. I ended up spending more money and time on my guests than I had originally expected – a punch in the pocketbook is never fun. Hospitality is hard work. As I was writing this I had this scriptural passage from Luke 6 jump out at me and remind me how silly I am to think the opportunity of hosting a friend is difficult. The work we have ahead of us in hosting strangers and enemies is far more dangers and more difficult; this is the work of the church:

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Mother God is merciful.

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