On this coming first Sunday in Advent, we will reflect together on the meaning of baptism as we celebrate the baptism of my granddaughter, Genevieve Mia Newell. My message, Baptized In Love, will relate Evie’s baptism (and our own) to the stories found in the gospel of Luke of Jesus’ presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:21-40) and his later baptism by John in the Jordan River (3:21-22). As Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, presented him in trust and obedience as an infant in the Temple to God, so too are Evie’s parents, Marie and Mitch, presenting her in love, trust, and hope to God here at St Andrew’s. I believe that God delights to acknowledge Evie publicly as a beloved child of God, even as we delight to welcome her as the newest baptized member of our church family. To listen to my message, just click on “Baptized in Love”
This coming Thursday, November 23rd, is Thanksgiving Day, the annual National holiday celebrated in homes around the country. On this day families and friends gather together, sometimes traveling long distances, to share food and drink, and hopefully to experience and express their gratitude for the gifts of life. Wherever you are this Thanksgiving Day I invite you to bring to mind the things for which you are thankful. Such gratitude is food for the soul. Then when we gather together for worship on the Sunday following Thanksgiving Day, we will reflect together on what it might mean for us to make “Thanksgiving, not just a day but a way” Click here.
In his Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12 Jesus pronounced blessing on the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the gentle, the merciful, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted. This sounds like a very humble, down and out, and powerless group of people. But Jesus immediately follow in vv. 14-16 with a powerful affirmation of the calling and the impact, that these humble, blessed ones can have on the world. “YOU are the salt of the earth” says Jesus. “YOU are the light of the world!” This Sunday we will ponder our calling to be a blessing. To listen to Pastor Ernie and the congregation’s conversation, click on You Are Salt and Light
Jesus’ final Beatitude, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”, is the most difficult to accept. For none of us desire to be persecuted, or insulted, or slandered; if we did, I would question our mental health! But for me the key to understanding this Beatitude is the qualifying phrase “because of righteousness.” To do what is right, and just, and good is blessed even if it brings persecution and suffering upon us. Better that than to do what is wrong, unjust or evil. Jesus models the way of faithful integrity for us. May we follow in his Way.
To listen to Pastor Ernie’s message from Sunday, October 12, 2017 click on “Blessed When Persecuted”
If there is something we need in our world today, it is more people who are peacemakers, who work to bring people together rather than to divide. Working for peace is not easy. It takes commitment, patience, and courage. But it is our calling as God’s children. On this All Saints Sunday we will remember our members who have died, we will reflect on our calling to be peacemakers, and we will commune at the Lord’s Table. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
To listen to Pastor Ernie’s message click on “Blessed are the Peacemakers” by Ernie Hess, preceded by a stewardship message by Alan Clement
Download (TIFF, 392KB)
Jesus’ sixth Beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God,” is perhaps the most difficult for us to understand, and to experience. We are all too aware of our divided and anxious hearts, and further we tend to interpret purity in a moralistic way. Cynthia Bourgeault offers a different perspective. “In wisdom teaching, purity means singleness, and the proper translation of this beatitude is “Blessed are those whose heart is not divided” or “whose heart is a unified whole”. It’s about becoming single in the sense of mind and heart both going in the same direction, aligned with God, wanting one thing only. This is the singleness that Jesus taught and practiced.
When your heart becomes ‘single’ – that is, when it desires one thing only, when it can live in perfect alignment with that resonant field of mutual yearning we called ‘the righteousness of God’, then you ’see God’.” Think about that. When have you experienced such “singleness of heart”, if only for a moment? When have you “seen God?” To listen to Pastor Ernie’s message, click on “Blessed are the Pure in Heart”
In his fifth Beatitude, Jesus declares, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7). A few chapters later in Matthew 9:11-13 critics ask Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answers these critics by saying, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” Here Jesus cites the prophet Hosea (6:6) to remind them and us that mercy is the central attribute of God, and should be for us as well. May we “go and learn what this means.” Click on the following title to listen to Pastor Ernie’s message: “Blessed Are the Merciful”
In Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25, the ‘righteous’ ask “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?” His answer, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” This week we are focusing on addressing hunger. This Saturday, at our 8 a.m. breakfast, we will learn more about the work of the Contra Costa Food Bank; on Sunday at 10 a.m. we will “Rise Against Hunger” and help pack 10,000 meals; then next week we will cook and serve meals at the Martinez Family Shelter. When we feed one another, we act out our connection in Christ. For in Christ we are all brothers and sisters, members of one human family.
This Sunday, October 15th
We will once again be packaging 10,000 plus meals for
Rise Against Hunger
We will have a brief worship service in the Sanctuary at 10am, and then move to the
Celebration Center to package food
Thank you to all who have signed up. Here are a few notes to help you prepare for the event:
- Please wear comfortable clothing and shoes.
- Rise Against Hunger strives to meet all food safety and quality guidelines. Please wear a baseball cap if you have one. If not, hairnets will be provided at the event.
- Please leave watches and loose, dangling jewelry at home. Plain bands such as wedding bands are OK.
- We ask that you do not attend if you have had a fever or intestinal illness 24 hours before the event.
Click here to sign up and/or donate to Rise Against Hunger
What are you hungry for? What are you thirsty for? This is a vivid way of asking, What is it that you most deeply desire? In his fourth beatitude Jesus pronounces a blessing on “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” This coming Sunday we will explore what biblical righteousness is. I’ll give you a little preview. Righteousness isn’t something that we can earn or possess. In fact, we call that self-righteousness. Rather righteousness is something that we can connect to and participate in. Righteousness is a gift from God that transforms us as individuals and communities. May we hunger and thirst for that transformation. Click on the title to listen to Pastor Ernie’s October 8 message, “Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness”
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”