Category Archives: Weekly Meditations

BLESSED ARE THE GENTLE

Our study of Jesus’ Beatitudes brings us, on this coming World Communion Sunday, to Jesus’ teaching, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  The Greek word praus translated “meek” here is the same one Jesus uses for himself in Matthew 11:29 where he says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle (praus) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  I find the translation “gentle” which implies self-control and strength, to be more helpful than “meek” which suggests simple weakness and powerlessness.  Eric Kobell in his book What Jesus Meant says, “Simply stated: biblical meekness is quiet perseverance in the face of brute rage; it is our staunch refusal either to lay down in submission or to rise up in violence before those forces that oppress us.”  I invite you to think about that.

Click on the titled to listen to Pastor Ernie’s message, “Blessed are the Gentle”

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN

The wisdom of the world says “Fortunate and happy are those who don’t let the pain of life and relationships touch them, for nothing hurts them.”  But Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn (who love and feel deeply), for they will be comforted.”  May we allow our hearts to be broken open by the things that break the heart of God.  To listen to Pastor Ernie’s September 24 message, click on the title “Blessed Are Those Who Mourn”

BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT

Jesus begins his beatitudes by pronouncing blessing on “the poor in spirit.”  It is hard to see how poverty of any kind can be a good thing; certainly none of us wants to be poor.  This Sunday we will explore what it might mean to be poor in spirit, and how this could indeed be a blessed state.  To listen to Pastor Ernie’s message, click on the title, “Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit”

JESUS ON LIVING A BLESSED LIFE

This Sunday we will begin a nine week sermon series on Jesus’ teaching on living a blessed life, summed up in eight short sayings known as “The Beatitudes.”  I believe it is critically important for those of us who call ourselves Christians to seek to understand what Jesus taught, what he valued, and what he modeled, and then to live that way, as best we can.  Of course we will fall short, but still we must do our humble best to live by his values in both our private and public lives.  I am dismayed and ashamed by the blatant disregard of the teachings and values of Jesus by many who claim the name Christian most publicly.  ”Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46), Jesus asks them and us.  May we be those who build our lives on the foundation of God’s grace, love and justice, as taught by our Lord.

To listen to Pastor Ernie’s sermon series introduction, click on “Jesus on Living a Blessed Life”

STRONG AND COURAGEOUS

After Moses died, Joshua stood on the shore of the Jordan River, looking across at the Promised Land.  Joshua and the Israelites were at the beginning of a new identity as a nation; all they had to do was cross the river into a scary and foreign land filled with unknown dangers and countless foes.  But God commanded Joshua and the Israelites to “be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  So they obeyed God, crossed the river and took possession of the Promised Land.

The mainstream Christian Church in America, including St. Andrews is the like the Israelites – we stand at the edge of a new and scary place.  Statistics tell us that the Church today is becoming less relevant in today’s culture.  Americans don’t go to church as they did in the past.  The Church cannot remain on the side of the river that is safe and familiar.  If we do, we’ll just fade away.  Instead, I believe God is calling us also to be strong and courageous and cross over into a new and foreign place so that we can remain as Christ’s presence in the world and our nation.  The Session of St. Andrews is meeting this challenge by starting a process to look at Adaptive Change – how do we make Church relevant and meaningful in the new culture, and how do we reach the world and our nation for Christ.  There will be more to come on this in the future, as we are just beginning.

blessings, Rick

To listen to Rick’s message given at St Andrew’s on August 27, 2017, click on the title “Strong and Courageous” by Rick Oldenkamp

LABORING TO BE BORN

The world is groaning in pain, both the natural world and our social world.  How do we understand what is going on?  What can we do in response?  I find guidance and encouragement in Romans 8:22-27, where the apostle hears the groans of creation as labor pains as a new world struggles to be born and proclaims the good news that God’s Spirit is there to help us in our weakness!  We each have a part to play, but it is not all up to us.  We can’t do it alone, but we have help.  May God grant us faith, courage, and  wisdom for the living of these days.  To listen to Pastor Ernie’s message, click on the title “LABORING TO BE BORN”

JUST A LITTLE FAITH

What is faith?  And how much faith do you need?  This Sunday the gospel lectionary passage from Matthew 14:22-33 tells the symbolically rich story of Peter getting out of safety of his boat to walk toward his teacher Jesus.  Peter finds himself walking on the water, until he ins’t! As Peter begins to sink beneath the waves, Jesus needs to reach out and save him.  “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Jesus asks him.  How would you answer that question?

To listen to pastor Ernie’s message, “Just a Little Faith (Matt 14:22-3)”, just click on the title.  Also included is a prayer for Charlottesville.

IT’S OK TO TURN OFF THE NEWS! Enjoy some Sabbath Rest

This Sunday in my message I’m going to suggest that It’s OK to Turn Off the News to engage in the biblical practice of Sabbath rest; more than that, it’s essential for our sanity and spiritual health. Last February I read an online article that helped me a lot titled, “How To Avoid Being Psychologically Destroyed By Your Newsfeed”.  Particularly helpful to me at that time was her first piece of advice: “Recognize that there’s a difference between being immersed and being informed –  Sure, you want to be aware of what’s happening in the world, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be plugged into your Twitter or Facebook feed 24/7. Give yourself permission to take breaks.”   Permission to take a break – that is what Sabbath time is.  It is giving yourself time to take a break, time to recenter and refuel one’s spirit.  Jesus knew this.  Scripture shows us that it was his regular practice to withdraw to a deserted place for time alone in prayer (see Mark 1:35-39 and Luke 5:15-16).  May we learn from his example.

To listen to Pastor Ernie’s message, click on “It’s OK to Turn Off the News and Enjoy Sabbath Rest”

Jacob the Wrestler

We conclude our July sermon series on Jacob, the Man Who Wrestled With God, with the dramatic, mysterious experience (see Genesis 32:22-31) that gave us our sermon series title.  After 20 years living in exile during which he earned a family and a fortune, Jacob is finally returning home at God’s command, but he faces an uncertain reception from his brother Esau whom he had cheated out of his birthright and blessing.  The night before he must face Esau who is riding to meet him with 400 armed men, he finds himself attacked by a mysterious stranger in the dark.  They wrestle all night until Jacob receives a blessing, and a new name, Israel.  And he realizes that he has been wrestling with God, wrestling for a blessing.  As you know, I wrote a song about this that I will sing again (see the lyrics below).   May we recognize God in our encounters as we too wrestle for a blessing.  Click on the title, “Jacob the Wrestler”

Wrestling for a Blessing

I found myself wrestling for a blessing with a stranger in the night.

I don’t know if I’ll survive this but I’m gonna hold on tight, hold on for my life.

All my life I’ve been a fighter, grasping, clawing to make my way.

I even stole my brother’s birthright I’m now ashamed to say.

Wrestling for a blessing, don’t know if I’ll find my way.

Wrestling with my Shadow all night till the break of day.

“Help me God!” I pray.

Oh it’s been a long, hard journey, went out searching for a wife.

Won a family and a fortune. Learned even more about life.

But now my past is there before me, all the things that I have done.

No excusing or evading, from my shadow I can’t run. Oh I wish I could run.

Somehow I hold on for a blessing. So the stranger asks my name.

I say “Jacob,” He says, “No longer, Israel will be your name, for striving is your game.”

As I limped from that encounter, I knew I’d never be the same.

For I’d met God in that stranger, left me wiser but in pain, stronger and yet lame.

Wrestling for a blessing, don’t know if I’ll find my way.

Wrestling with my Shadow all night till the break of day.

“Help me God!” I pray.

Jacob the Lover

This month have been following the story of Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, as it is told in the book of Genesis, primarily in chapters 25 through 35.  Two weeks ago, we looked at Jacob as an egocentric young man, a schemer, who steals his older brother Esau’s birthright and blessing.  Last week we found Jacob on the run for his life from his very angry big brother.  It was in this situation of unexpected hardship that he had a powerful experience of God’s reality and God’s care for him, through that dream of a ladder stretching from heaven to earth, on which messengers of God traveled back and forth. This week, bolstered by God’s promise, Jacob has arrived at his destination, the land of his mother’s relative Laban in Haran.   “What now happens to Jacob is the third great event that shatters Jacob’s egocentricity and paves the way for a larger life: HE FALLS IN LOVE.”  Love changes us like nothing else can.  Come see how love played out in Jacob’s life,“Jacob the Lover” (Genesis 29) Click on title to listen to Pastor Ernie’s message.