Good Friday Meditation

  Here we are again, and here is not where we want to be.   We’d rather be able to skip over this stuff.  We’d rather jump from a happy Palm Sunday Parade right over to Easter – without having to go with Jesus through the spiritual crisis of Gethsemane, the betrayal of his best friends, thrown into dreary dungeons, beaten and tortured, dragged through courts, humiliated and spat upon, and then finally forced to drag a heavy cross through grimy streets to be crucified.   Why do we have to endure year after year? Wouldn’t it be great to just hit fast-forward and zip through the painful parts?   I read a folk tale once about a young man who was terribly impatient and wanted to grow up faster, to become a man and to get married.  Out in a forest under a full moon, he was given a magic ball of [...]

By | 2017-04-17T16:28:43+00:00 April 17th, 2017|April 2017|Comments Off on Good Friday Meditation

Say Yes! to New Life

2 Corinthians 1:17b-22   Mark 16:1-9     Russell Eidmann-Hicks Yes!  Yes, it’s Easter morn!  Yes, we celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promise of resurrection and new life!  Yes!   Can I please hear you say “YES!”?    YES! St. Paul writes: “As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been ‘Yes and No.’…For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’”  In Christ every one of God’s promises is a ‘yes.’    Yes.   On Easter Day we are called to trust God enough, to have faith in resurrection power enough to believe that stones can be rolled away, angels revealed, death defeated, and new days unveiled.  At Easter we affirm that the Yes of God has overcome the No of death and the No of despair. Jesus at Gethsemane could have said no.   Instead of accepting God’s will and the suffering and sorrow ahead of him, he [...]

By | 2017-04-17T16:25:16+00:00 April 17th, 2017|April 2017|Comments Off on Say Yes! to New Life

Refreshment of Soul

Exodus 17:1-7   John 4:5-42   Russell Eidmann-Hicks       It was clear from the get-go that this woman’s heart was parched and dry, shrunk down to a thin and thirsty husk, hard and callous.  ‘Don’t mess with me’ was written all over her face.  The chip on her shoulder was as big as the bucket she carried.   She went to the well in the heat of the day to avoid talking to the other villagers, especially the other women, who would gather in early morn or evening, with their cold shoulders and critical looks.   She was in survival mode, defenses up, armor on, her tongue ready to cut and sting.   So why was this rabbi still talking to her?   Why didn’t he curse at her and walk away, or ignore her – the way most people did?   What was his problem?  Over and over again she pushed him away, [...]

By | 2017-04-03T16:12:05+00:00 April 3rd, 2017|March 2017|Comments Off on Refreshment of Soul

Eyes of the Heart

Ephesians 5:8-14    John 9:1-41     Russell Eidmann-Hicks       When I was in Kentucky years ago on a youth mission trip, we passed lots and lots of little churches – all Baptist – with names like “Regular Rock Solid Baptist Church” or “Fundamental Bible Baptist Church” or “Fire in the Spirit True Word Baptist Church.”   Churches had many ways to label themselves as true, and others as not orthodox or heretical because they don’t use the words they are used to or the definitions they want to hear. People tend to have very fixed ideas about what is acceptable what is not, and WHO is worthy and who is not.  So many are blinded by their opinions and judgments about others, so that they don’t see what is right in front of them.  This seems to what Jesus is teaching in our story today.  He’s asking us to [...]

By | 2017-04-03T16:09:52+00:00 April 3rd, 2017|March 2017|Comments Off on Eyes of the Heart

The Heart’s Rollercoaster

Ezekiel 37:1-14    John 11:1-45   Russell Eidmann-Hicks        Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were best friends to Jesus.  He would stop in to their home on his way down to Jerusalem, staying for days, laughing at their family stories, filling up on their home-cooked meals, sharing their faith.  Suddenly Lazarus died – and their stable family and friendship were blown apart – thrown to the winds, scattered to the swirling chaos of grief.  The remaining three had to come to terms with Lazarus’ passing and re-forge their own relationship after his loss. Like others going through the upheaval of grief, it was a wild rollercoaster ride.  One moment would have them flying up, sharing joyful memories, basking in love, and then the bottom would drop out and down they would plummet into weeping and heart-sickness and the confusion of emptiness and loss.   Grief is a wild ride, tossing [...]

By | 2017-04-03T16:06:54+00:00 April 3rd, 2017|April 2017|Comments Off on The Heart’s Rollercoaster

I Am Number Three

I Am Number Three    Genesis 2:1-3, 15-17, 3:1-8    Matthew 4:1-11    Russell Eidmann-Hicks I recently read a psychologist talking about what it is like to counsel billionaires.  He has seen a number of them. (There are about 2,800 in the world – and of course millions of wannabees…)  One key observation this psychologist makes is that billionaires believe that the rules do not apply to them; they don’t have to obey them.  People are constantly catering to these folks, encouraging them to bend or break the rules.  Because of the astounding depth of their wealth, they can do things most people think is impossible.   Rules just don’t apply.  They feel above them.   In our story today Jesus is being encouraged by the Tempter to act this way.   The Tempter says, “Look, you’re the son of God, right? God’s Son!  So the rules don’t apply – do whatever you want [...]

By | 2017-03-15T13:39:32+00:00 March 15th, 2017|March 2017|Comments Off on I Am Number Three

Spirit of Generosity

Spirit of Generosity   Acts 2:43-47    John 3:1-17      The wind of the Spirit blows free.  Can you hold the wind?  Can you grasp God?  Can you contain the Spirit?  Being free is not just being able to do whatever. And freedom is less about physical freedom and more about inner freedom. We’re free to jump into water whenever we want, but if we don’t know how to swim, it doesn’t lead to freedom.   We’re free to order whatever we want, but not if we can’t pay for it.  Freedom is more than just acting free – it is having the resources to be free.    That is what Jesus is point to in his conversation with Nicodemus.   This is what spiritual practices teach: inner freedom. We’re now in the season of Lent, and we are encouraged to take on spiritual disciplines and to repent for our misdeeds or indiscretions [...]

By | 2017-03-15T13:36:47+00:00 March 15th, 2017|March 2017|Comments Off on Spirit of Generosity

Salt in the Soup

Isaiah 58:6-12   Matthew 5:13-20   Russell Eidmann-Hicks A dash of salt tosses zing into a dish, spice into a soup, pizzazz into a pizza.   A pinch of salt perks up a bland recipe.  Salt cleanses and preserves, it kills bacteria – and so it’s good to gargle with when you have a sore throat.   Salt isn’t boring, a little bit goes a long way. A slim ray of light illuminates a dark corner, a dismal closet, a dank cellar.   One candle in a lantern is all that’s needed to beam a path through a night-shrouded wood.   A small bulb in the right location brightens a large room.  You don’t put a light under a box or a basket; you put it up on a stand or a table, so it radiates everywhere. So what is Jesus saying here?   What do salt and light have to do with being a church, with [...]

By | 2017-02-22T16:55:29+00:00 February 22nd, 2017|February 2017|Comments Off on Salt in the Soup

Loving Enemies

Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18      Matthew 5:38–48    Russell Eidmann-Hicks How can we possibly love those who hurt us, reject us, shame us?  How can we open our hearts or forgive those who have been nothing but cold and cruel, hard and mean?  Jesus sets a very high bar for us today. About two weeks ago, we got a call in the church office from a man named Wayne, who said that he needed help with a car ride.   We get a number of calls from people asking for assistance, and need to sort out which are legitimate and which are scams.  I called Wayne back and talked with him and ended up driving him from a motel on Rte 35 in Middletown to one on Rte 9 in Marlboro, so that he could catch a bus back home to Los Angeles, CA.  Here’s his story:  He suffers from AIDS in a severe [...]

By | 2017-02-21T14:26:26+00:00 February 21st, 2017|February 2017|Comments Off on Loving Enemies

A Prophet’s Call

Isaiah 49:1-7       John 1:29-42     Russell Eidmann-Hicks Hunter Camp, a seminarian, wrote this in the Christian Century about tensions that pulled at his heart on a trip overseas: “My seminary group drove into the Hungarian countryside, which was not breathtaking, and stopped at an orphanage.   The reality of the children’s home shattered any idyllic images we might have conjured. Unpainted cement buildings with brown stains stood upon bare grounds with rivulets of muddy water.   Over the entrance was an arch that read, in Hungarian, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?  Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (Isa. 49:15)            A plump nurse led us through a labyrinth of dimly lit hallways and sparsely decorated rooms.  I tasted bile rising in my throat.  A sense of powerlessness pervaded the room where we stopped.   I walked [...]

By | 2017-01-17T14:32:54+00:00 January 17th, 2017|January 2017|Comments Off on A Prophet’s Call