Listening And Living (7/16/2017)

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Text: Psalm 119:105-12, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (NRSV)

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to observe your righteous ordinances. I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word. Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your ordinances. I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts. Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.

As we read these ancient words from Psalm 119 on Tuesday, I was struck once more by their power and beauty. I admit that I sometimes wrestle with the language of the Psalms. That’s why I most often turn to Nan Merrill’s lovely paraphrase when including a Psalm in our liturgy. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is a paean to the Torah, the ancient Jewish law. What hit me Tuesday is that this Psalm is in no way a tribute to the letter of the law but rather to its enlivening spirit. “Your word, O God, is a lamp to my feet and light to my path.” Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.” This is no dry legal brief; this is a love song to the law, to a living word.

Continue reading Listening And Living (7/16/2017)

On the Way (12/11/16)

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

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Texts: Psalm 146: Isaiah 35:1-10; Matthew 11:2-6

On the way. We’re anxious to be on the way, but then we’re not entirely sure which way it is we are to be on? Where are we headed and how will we know we’re following the right route? There’s no electronic voice assuring us that our route guidance will begin once we’ve backed out of the driveway. However, we have some voices in today’s texts which we may find helpful. Isaiah says of the wilderness, stretched out between Babylon and Jerusalem, A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way…” Dietrich Bonhoeffer proclaims that “God travels wonderful ways with human beings…” John the Baptist wants to know if he and his followers should journey with Jesus or wait for another guide.

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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)

All Together (9/25/2016)

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

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Texts: Psalm 148; Proverbs 8:22-31 (The Message); Colossians 1:15-20 (The Message)

PTL! There was a time when some Christian evangelicals might have responded by waving their hands and shouting “PTL” in response. It was something of a fad in the 1970s and 80s. PTL! Praise the Lord! In 1974 televangelists, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, took the acronym as the name for their new TV show – “The PTL Club.” I don’t know if anyone here was a member of the club or a fan of the show, but I will confess that I never saw it.  When Jimmy Bakker got in trouble for financial and sexual impropriety, the show and its assets were taken over by Jerry Falwell, who ran it for a couple of years. In all, it ran from 1974 to 1989, when, plagued by scandal and bankruptcy, it left the air.

Continue reading All Together (9/25/2016)

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)

Note from Pastor Rick (8/24/2016)

mitchell01What a wonderful time we had in the park on Sunday. Thanks to everyone who worked to make the joint service and potluck a joyful experience. Chip worked overtime setting up, breaking down and ushering. Jan pulled together a good combined choir and played all the hymns. The Tongan Dancers, the drama (which included Pastor Gregory) and the powerful preaching were highlights of the day. Then there was a lot fabulous food and fellowship around the tables. Truly, we came together in “Unity with Purpose.” Continue reading Note from Pastor Rick (8/24/2016)

A Most Improbable Daddy (6/19/2016)

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

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Texts: Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26: Matthew 17:14-21 (The Message); Horton Hatches the Egg

This has been a hard week – more difficult for some than others, I’m sure – but still a hard week for anyone with an ounce of compassion. Orlando is not the first murderous tragedy to scar the body of this nation and I don’t imagine it will be the last. It joins a long litany of hate and destruction that wounds our souls, individually and collectively, and threatens to undo all that we have hoped for and striven for in creating a land that promises “liberty and justice for all.”

At a time when it seems hopeless to bear witness against the principalities and powers of darkness, when feel numb and hopeless in the face of overwhelming violence and colossal evil, when the most vulnerable are under vicious attack and we don’t know where to turn or what to do, here comes Horton, the elephant with a heart as big as his body. Has he come to save us from all that threatens us? Has he come to rescue us from ourselves? Is his witness one that might lift us, as the first Christians were inspired by that great cloud of faithful witnesses in long ago times of terror? Continue reading A Most Improbable Daddy (6/19/2016)