Intergenerational Service Event on Saturday August 5th; 10a.m.-2 p.m.

We will continue our series of intergenerational service events with a special focus on caring for BIRDS–a very important part of God’s creation.

We invite people of all ages to join us at the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve for educational activities, birding, and a service project with the EcoCenter there. This event is being planned by Krissy Arnst (our FLC Birder!), Joyce Rice (a dedicated Environmental Volunteer) and Carol Larson.

Please bring sack lunches and any binoculars that you have.

We will meet at the picnic tables behind the Palo Alto Duck Pond at 10 a.m. that Saturday. The address is 2550 Embarcadero Road Palo Alto. We will have staked out some tables earlier that day, and when you arrive we can leave our sack lunches there.

From 10 to about noon, we will visit the Eco Cart that will be at the Duck Pond and also enjoy a walk and bird viewing with FLC’s own birder Krissy Arnst.

At around 12:30, we will visit the Eco Center and its exhibits which will be open to the public.
At 1, the Eco Center will close but we will stay to work on a service project for the Environmental Volunteers. Most likely this will be filling packets with wildflower seeds that will later be given to participants in community programs and other initiatives that focus on pollinators, drought tolerant, native plants.

2:00 pm -we will clean up and depart.

Please join us! Folks of all ages! Bring your friends! It will be a fun morning where we can get to know each other, learn together and contribute our efforts.

The Women’s Group  is participating in a project to purchase backpacks and school supplies for the children of Seton School in Palo Alto.  Backpacks may be purchased in any color except RED or BLUE from Costco, Target, etc.  There are three ways you can participate:

1) Make a financial contribution by check made out to Saint Elizabeth Seton School, write “backpacks” on the memo line of your check.

2) Donate backpack and supplies.  See the list of school supplies and indicate the grade level on the front of backpack.  Supplies can be purchased at Staples, Office Max, etc.

3) Donate only supplies and indicate grade level on bag containing supplies.  See list of school supplies for the grade level you choose.

Here’s a list of supplies: SchoolSupplies2023-2024

Please bring backpacks or donations to Fellowship Hall on Sundays or to Sharon’s home at 23 Wilburn Avenue, Atherton  NO LATER THAN AUGUST 2, 2023.

You can contact Sharon here for further information and address for shipping:

Contact Sharon

Many of these children arrive the first day of school without backpacks or supplies, since they do not have the resources to purchase them.  We have an opportunity to make a difference in their lives!




(edited a bit for posting online)


The traditional scripture and actions and prayers and songs of this three day Triduum worship experience are meant to flow together in the one story of Christ’s passage from death to life. And here’s my question: if these are the great three holy days of the faith, what do these days show us about what it means to be a Christian? How does this Triduum sum up what our faith is all about?

What we learn tonight, is that Christianity is about love. Jesus says about his last supper and washing feet and going to his death, that in all this he was loving us – he loved us to the end, to the finish. And Jesus gave us a mandate: that we love one another.

It’s common knowledge that Christians ought to behave a certain way. It’s maybe more in dispute, what we should be doing or what matters most. Voting a certain way? Using clean language? Jesus says, “this is my commandment” – singular: “that you love one another, as I have loved you.”

So, like the Beatles song? “All you need is love?” Jesus seems very particular about what kind of love he’s talking about: both – who – we’re to love: “one another, these ones, right here” – and how we’re to love, “as I have loved you.”

So how has Jesus loved us? In the bigger story, by dying for us – and on a smaller scale, by washing feet. In both instances, what stands out isn’t the affection shown or the care offered – they seem more about surrender of status. Jesus says “If I, your Teacher and Lord, wash your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” This was a duty fit only for slaves – just as crucifixion was a form of execution fit only for the lowest of the low.

So: to love “as I have loved you” means something like, “practicing downward mobility.” In the book, “Jesus: a very short introduction,” a New Testament scholar puts it this way:

“The ordinary everyday requirement of washing feet they are to do for each other. If this is not beneath their dignity, nothing is. Jesus thus took the unparalleled step of abolishing social status, not by giving all the disciples the status of master (then there would always be others, outside the community, to set themselves above), but by reducing all to the lowest social status: that of slave. In a society of slaves, no one may think him- or herself more important than others.”

When John Lennon wrote “All you need is love,” maybe he was thinking about his lover Yoko. But for him to do love like Jesus, he might drive an annoying fan to their doctors’ appointment. Or if you were in middle school, maybe it’s not so much inviting someone new to eat at the popular kids’ table, but going to sit with someone eating alone?

I think of a few years’ back when I asked some local immigrant day laborers to provide Salvadoran food for our Maundy Thursday dinner. But maybe it would have been more fitting for us to cook and provide a fancy meal for them?

To show love, those on top in our society might offer a way to rise up and join their ranks, such as an invitation to a fancy meal, or a great job offer. Or they might do a fundraiser benefit for those less fortunate. But Jesus’ love would seem less about “a leg up” and more “meeting people where they’re at.” Like our immigrant accompaniment?

One anecdote that’s stuck with me: a small town where the railroad tracks divide the wealthy area from the poor area, but the kids from both sides still got to know each other at school. Then, income inequality widened; and now, the kids go to separate schools; they don’t know each other. A church full of Jesus’ love, might be one where kids from both sides of the tracks meet again, and grow together.

That brings to mind a question: if we’re talking about the single essential mandate all Christians have, isn’t it worship? But the kind of worship Christ draws us into, is one where love of God and neighbor unite. What if people really got into online worship, only tuning in to the finest liturgies from the Vatican or St John the Divine in NYC or Central Lutheran in Minneapolis? But didn’t get to know any of the people involved?

Our worship is communion. In that reading from 1st Corinthians, Paul tells the story of the last supper. Why? Read the whole chapter: when the Corinthians gather, the well to do show up early and eat the good food, while the working people show up late and get relegated to a separate room. Paul is saying: “you fail to discern the body of Christ,” which isn’t just the bread, but the unified community that shares it. He says: “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death” – that is, the Lord’s love for all – “until he comes.”

One more thing about how we’re to love. “As I have loved you,” can mean, “following the example of love that I’ve shown you.” But “as I have loved you” can also mean, “only as you – personally – have been loved by me, first.” Or, “let it be my love that flows through you, to others.” Or as Jesus puts it a bit later, “I’m the vine – you’re the branches – abide in my love and you’ll bear fruit.”

Christianity is about a mandate; it’s about action, what we’re supposed to do. But as we know – first and foremost – it’s about what God does, how God loves us. We have to stop and be passive; receive what Christ offers. What was more difficult for Peter? That he’s have to wash Judas’s feet? Or that he’d have to just sit there, and let Jesus – his Lord, his Savior – wash his? “You’ll never wash my feet,” he says. Which reminds me of what Peter said when he first heard that Jesus would be crucified: “No, it can never be!” But Christ says, “unless I was your feet, you have no share in me.”

Each of these three nights, I’ll talk a little about an old hymn. Ubi Caritas, which the choir will sing, was composed for Maundy Thursday footwashing in I believe France in the 8th century – we’ve been singing it for like 1300 years!  (Listen here). The refrain is: where charity and love are present – that’s where God is dwelling. As I understand it, charity was spiritual love associated with God; Amor was attraction or desire towards earthly things or neighbors. Spiritual and earthly love are both present where God is.

The verses make clear how it’s the love of God that precedes everything we are and everything we do, from beginning to end. We’re “brought together by the love of God.” Think of that? That our sitting around this fellowship hall is about God wanting us together. And what can we look forward to? “Being surrounded by the saints in Heaven.”

The choir will sing a slightly different version, but I like this line from the original: In holy wonder let us love the living God, and may our hearts ever be one in faithful love. “Holy Wonder.” God invites us to stoop down, or to kneel, to cross the tracks and cross lines of status like ethnicity and race and social class. But we do so in “Holy Wonder,” at the beauty of our neighbors; in holy wonder in what can grow between us.


It might seem like Jesus’ execution is the low point of the story; when the bad guys got the better of him and all seemed lost. Which would make Easter the comeback, the turnaround and happy ending. But I don’t think that’s what we just heard. Jesus is doing just what he came to do; he’s in charge. With his last breath he says, “it’s finished.” Which can mean, “the end has come” – but also, “work completed. Goal attained.” As Pastor Kate put it last Sunday, the crucifixion is already God’s victory.

Last night, the topic was the great mandate of Christianity: what it is, we’re supposed to do – which is to love one another as Jesus loved us. Tonight, the topic is: what does God do? What is the mighty act that God is known for? Who does God prove to be? Why bother with this God? Does she inspire us? Will he help us? Heal us? Save us?

John’s gospel uses the word “glory.” How is our God glorious? Worth our trust? Says John’s gospel: the glory of God can be seen when Christ is “lifted up” – in the resurrection, but also, lifted up on the cross. I think of how when you lift something up you make it visible. “I can see him. I can contemplate who he is.”

I think most people would agree that Christianity is about action but also contemplation. We contemplate God’s glory. When we hear about a contemplative spiritual path, maybe we imagine meditating on a word like “joy” or “peace” until we calm down and feel it. But to contemplate the cross can make me feel all sorts of stuff, like perplexed and disturbed. What’s with people, that they could do this to him, and why does he allow it? How could the death of the Author of life be victory, not defeat? God’s ways are not our ways. Paul calls the cross “foolishness, but for those who trust, the power of God, the wisdom of God.” To contemplate the glory of the cross – I suppose – is to puzzle over it and struggle with it even as we find consolation and are moved, drawn into true mystery.

But let’s do some contemplation, with a couple of moments in this story:

First, how it begins – very much in charge, Jesus goes out to meet those who will arrest him. He doesn’t hide, but presents himself: “who are you looking for?” When they answer, “Jesus of Nazareth,” he says – “I am.” That’s how God identified himself to Moses at the burning bush: “I am. I shall be who I shall be.”

And the soldiers get it. The whole cohort – which may be 600 people – they fall to the ground, I suppose overwhelmed in the presence of Holiness. At this point, an ordinary god might say “now back off soldiers, and leave us alone, or I’ll smite you.” Peter even seems to expect it; he draws the sword and goes for the attack. But Jesus says “stop it, am I not to drink the cup the Father has given me?” This isn’t your typical deity.

“I am” can also be translated, “I am he.” In one short phrase, Jesus reveals divinity – and submits himself to arrest. He puts himself in his enemy’s hands like bread. Christ gives himself over to people who want to arrest what’s Holy. The Glory of our God, is that – in love – he wants to be with even those who deny and betray and torture and kill and bury him. Christ wants to be with us, personally, no matter what.

Another moment: they mock Jesus by putting on him a purple robe and crown of thorns.

Crucifixion was all about public humiliation, transforming a human into something undignified and hideous, that you don’t want to contemplate – as we heard in Isaiah tonight:

“he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces.”

And yet, says Isaiah, “they shall see. They shall contemplate.” Crucifixion “de-glorifies.” It’s like Evil is aware that God’s Glory is dawning, and wants desperately to stop it. But can’t.

How strange and amazing, that our way of erasing glory, would be at the same time, God’s way of showing glory? I think of that passage: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” The Glory of our God is the mighty power to redeem us, against any opposition.

As a kid, I’d see images of Jesus with the purple robe and crown and I didn’t know it was torture: I just thought, “cool – Jesus gets to wear a special cape, because he’s the King. He defeats all enemies – even the Devil.” And that’s the simple truth. And we’re helpless; we need him to do what we can’t.

But there are people who do know this kind of torture and mockery.
We just sang, “Were you there when you nailed him to,” not a cross, but “a tree.” That’s a hymn by African Americans from the era of lynching. I listened to an audiobook by the Black theologian James Cone – about the lynching tree, and how thousands of white people might show up, including women and children bringing a picnic lunch – to watch and participate as a black person was hung from a tree, tortured, burned. “Were you there?”

And yet – says Cone – where white Christians have often avoided seeing the connections between cross and lynching tree. Historically, the Black Church found and still finds great spiritual power in the cross. Jesus’ crucifixion has been a prominent theme in Black preaching. Black Christians can relate to the suffering he endured, to be with us. The Glory of our God in the victory of the cross, is as One who can give hope, no matter our circumstances.

Speaking of hymns, each of these three nights I’m commenting on one of the oldest hymns of the church – and tonight’s hymn was sort of made for Good Friday.

First, about Good Friday: some of us are probably familiar with a variety of ways to it. There’s the “stations of the cross” where you walk and contemplate the different events of the passion story, like Simon taking Jesus’ cross. There’s the three hours, noon to three, with seven sermons contemplating the last words Christ spoke in various gospels. There’s the Tenebrae, candles are extinguished with each reading, until the church goes dark. These all started as “extra devotions,” but the “official church liturgy” of Good Friday as one part of the Three Days, has been kind of what we’re doing tonight – John’s gospel, prayers, and adoration of the cross.

The service ends on a note of triumph, which for most of the history meant using one particular hymn, which we’ll sing tonight: “Sing my Tongue” (listen here). It has that note of victory: “Sing my tongue, the glorious battle – tell the triumph far and wide” – the story of the crucified – who vanquished death, not just on Easter, but already – on the day he died.

The hymn was composed by a guy with the awesome name Venantius Fortunatus, in the 6th century – think collapse of Rome’s empire, a brutal era. The hymn was presented to a French abbess along with what was supposed to be a splinter of the actual cross of Christ. The whole “true cross” relic thing can seem silly and superstitious. But isn’t there something powerful in the idea that God could use ordinary, splintering wood to save the cosmos?

Humanity has been pretty creative – sadly, especially in devising ways to hurt people. If you nail your enemy to a chunk of wood in a public place, you not only destroy him – you also strike terror in everyone who sees. But to the glory of God – Divine Creativity – takes your torture device – knots and splinters and all – and makes of it the source of life we carry to the front of the church each Sunday. As the hymn “Sing my tongue” puts it: “Faithful cross, true sign of triumph, be for all the noblest tree; none in foliage, none in blossom, none in fruit your equal be; symbol of the world’s redemption, for your burden makes us free.”


I know what you’re thinking: a sermon? Isn’t this service long enough? I promise I’ll keep it short. And as many of you know, this Easter Vigil service is relatively short compared to most – in my experience, 3 ½ hours is pretty common, with twelve readings. I like to share hearing this Russian Orthodox person showing up about 3 hours late to a Vigil, but it was OK, because the service wasn’t even half over.

OK – but why? Does it need to be so long? Well, what if you bought a day’s pass at Disneyland, but only got an hour there? I know you’re not going to buy the comparison. But Easter is exciting! A beautiful moment you want to savor!

Before Jesus died, people already believed that the dead would be raised. But this was supposed to happen at the end of the world. And then, Jesus – after being humiliated and destroyed – his tomb was empty. And word got out, he was raised from the dead: already. It’s like the end of the world already happened. And Christ was risen, forgiving our wrongs. A whole new creation is dawning, and each of us – all the world – gets to be a part of it.

In these sermons, I’ve been asking what these three day services show us about the basics of Christianity. Thursday was about what we’re supposed to do: love one another. Friday was about what God does: die for us, to save us. Tonight is about right now, how this present moment is for you new creation. Full of faith, hope and love.

Each night we’ve reflected on one of the oldest hymns we have, composed for these very worship services. Tonight’s hymn is what Alison sang when we lit our candles, the Exsultet, which means “Rejoice!” (Listen here).  It comes from between the 5th and 7th centuries – so before even the time of knights and princesses.

Did you notice what Alison sang, and we kept repeating? “This is the night.” This is it: how exciting! Back in bible times, days began at sundown, not sunrise. So this is Easter Sunday! And every Sunday is special for Christians.

Some of you were baptized at an Easter Vigil service like this. You or your parents could sing: “This is the Night! Finally, the night I get to be baptized!” But even if we’re already baptized, it’s exciting.

We heard the story of how the heavens and earth were created. “This is the Night!” Your whole world can begin again, tonight. We heard about dry bones living again. “This is the Night,” when you can live again, if you’ve been feeling like dry bones. From Isaiah, we heard God say: “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.” Well, “This is the Night,” when you can drink in everything God gives, and live by it.

And we heard how the slaves were chased by Pharaoh’s army, about to be killed, and ran up against a sea. They were trapped! The hymn says: “This is the night in which you delivered our ancestors, the Israelite children – and led them, with dry shoes, right through the middle of the sea!” In that story, God led the way by a giant pillar of fire. The hymn says, that’s like this candle, the Easter Candle. We’ll have it up front and lit all of Easter. When you see it, remember: “This is the Night. This is the Day. Right now, Christ is with me like a lit flame and pillar of fire. God is with me, with every step, so everything can be new.”

The hymn goes:
We, therefore, pray to you, O God,
that this candle, burning to the honor of your name,
will continue to vanquish the darkness of night
and be mingled with the lights of heaven.
May Christ the Morning Star find it burning,
that Morning Star who never sets,
that Morning Star who, rising from the grave,
faithfully sheds light on the whole human race.

In the gospel story you just heard, the risen Christ calls Mary by name, “Mary,” and her eyes are opened, that’s when she recognizes him “Teacher! Jesus!” Christ calls each of you by name. And the new world he wants for you, starts now. Rejoice! This is the Night, when God’s love changes everything.

-Pastor B