Category Archives: Weekly Meditations

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

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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”

Blessed are the Merciful

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


Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

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”


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”


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”


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”


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


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”