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Tag Archive | "Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church"

Why we need children


Courtland-OakfieldUMCPastor Robert Eckert

Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

10295 Myers Lake Ave., Rockford

 

Among the first stories you’ll come across if you read a Bible from the beginning concerns a man named Abraham and his wife, Sarah. Part of their story is a promise God makes to them that they will be the matriarch and patriarch of an entire nation. “I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore,” God says in the story.

However, at age 100 and 90, respectively, Abraham and Sarah are skeptical; in fact, they fall down laughing. But in this tale what is impossible for mortals turns out to be possible for God who does just as God promised. Sarah conceives and bears a son and celebrates his birth with a different kind of laughter: “Sarah said, ‘God has given me laughter. Everyone who hears about it will laugh with me.’”

We all know how an infant’s coo or a child’s smile can soften the hardest heart. But children mean more to our world than sentimental warm fuzzies. Children are the counterbalance to disappointment, cynicism, and regret. Unfortunately, the scales tip disproportionately toward pessimism when the seniors outweigh the juniors, a trend we have seen in this country, as the baby boom, following World War II, with its average of 25 births per 1,000 population between 1945 and 1959, tapered off to 16 or fewer births per 1,000 population since 1972 (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005067.html).

I’m not maligning folks at the upper end of the age continuum, I just turned 60 myself, but when a person can reasonably conclude that he/she is somewhere in the final 25 percent of his/her life, impending loss produces grief; grief breeds anger and depression; and the anger and depression of unmet expectations and unfulfilled goals is frequently expressed in variations of the lament that everything is worse than it ever was and the country is going to hell.

When one of my now adult sons was a child, there was a day he went to great lengths to turn his bedroom into a mini-theater, created and gave tickets to his parents and brothers, and put on a one-boy show. It was delightful. God gave me the gift of laughter and with it reasons to be optimistic and joyful. Recently his young son, with sword in hand, announced, “I’m a pirate; I’m here to steal your golden balloons!” It was another gift of laughter; another reason to hold on to hope.

Children give all of us a reason for living, a reason for being productive, honorable, charitable, and faithful. But, please don’t read anything into this from your own perspective on the several issues that fall under that nebulous heading of “family values.” I’m not making a political statement here. And please don’t take offense; it is not my intent to disrespect anyone who is uninterested in having children nor to be insensitive to anyone unable to have children.

It’s just that I was listening to the news on my car radio today, wondering whether everything is worse than it ever was, when I caught the smile on the face of the girl in the car next to me as she waved and giggled with the child in the seat beside her and found myself thinking, “along with fresh air and clean water, we desperately need children.”

 

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Keeping Warm?


Courtland-Oakfield-United-Meth

Pastor Robert Eckert

Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

10295 Myers Lake Ave., Rockford

 

 

King David was old and advanced in years; and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm” 1 Kings 1:1 (New Revised Standard Version).

The character of King David in Hebrew scripture is an enigma. He becomes a hero while still a child and grows into a “man after God’s own heart.” As his life draws to an end, however, he sinks into a winter of discontent. His condition has less to do with physical age and more to do with regrets. The wunderkind of courage, poetry, and conquest turned out to have feet of clay.

Driven by lust he plotted and successfully pulled the strings to accomplish the death of a man whose wife he had taken for himself, only to experience the gut-wrenching grief of seeing the child, who was the product of his illicit union, die in infancy.

Having led his armies to victory after victory establishing and securing the borders of ancient Israel, he is then disqualified by God from building a temple because of the wars he has waged and the blood on his hands.

Ruminating on moral failures and setbacks is a sure way to bring a chill to our souls that is difficult to overcome when guilt is undeniable and remorse is relentless. Imagine the bitter glare on David’s face when an insensitive attendant asked, “keeping warm?”

The Bible also tells a story of resuscitation when the prophet Elisha bends over a child lying dead on a mat “putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands.” As life returns to the boy “the flesh of the child became warm.”

It’s reminiscent of the account of the advent of humankind recorded in the second chapter of Genesis, where God is said to have “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.”

God, the breath of life, eye-to-eye and hand-to-hand contact, they add up to warmth.

Trying to stave off the cold of this unforgiving winter we’ve been living through? You know what your mother told you … layers. Trying to stave off the cold of the unforgiving memories of past mistakes? Try layers of breathing in God’s grace, upon layers of honest connections of the heart with people you love, upon layers of offering yourself in service to the needs of others.

 

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Have You Seen the Lord?


Pastor Robert Eckert

Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

10295 Myers Lake Ave., Rockford

 

“But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord’”(John 20:24-25).

If you’re a church-going person, this coming Sunday there’s a good chance you’ll hear the story from the gospel of John that describes an incident in the life of a man who has come to be known as “Doubting Thomas.”

If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s a quick summary. Following his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples, at a time when all were present, except one named Thomas. Later, after Jesus had gone and Thomas was again with them, the disciples told him of Jesus’ appearance, to which Thomas replied, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

In some churches this Sunday, Thomas might be presented in a negative light, as an unnecessarily skeptical man who should have been ready and willing to believe that Jesus, who had raised Lazarus back to life from death, could also be raised to life himself.

In other churches, Thomas might be presented as simply human, a questioner, a rational thinker, a thoughtful man who merely wanted to be certain that such a remarkable thing as Jesus’ resurrection could have happened. After all, he doesn’t say to his comrades, “that’s impossible,” he only says, “I want to see for myself.”

But let’s take a look at the other disciples. They probably won’t get as much attention this coming Sunday and they deserve credit for reporting candidly, frankly, and succinctly, “We have seen the Lord.”

They could have played games with Thomas. “You’ll never guess what happened when you were gone!”

They could have competed to claim storytelling rights. “I was standing at the table when Jesus appeared.” “But you had your back to him, I was standing where I could see his face.” “No, here’s what happened: I was just saying, ‘did you hear what Mary Magdalene says she saw at the tomb of Jesus?’ and then, surprise, he was right here with us.”

They could have editorialized, interpreted, or annotated, but they didn’t. They simply said, “We have seen the Lord.”

What about you? Have you seen the Lord? What about in this morning’s first smile from your two-year-old daughter? In the full moon that hung over the area a couple nights ago? In the face of the friend who accompanied you to that doctor’s appointment that had you so worried? In the tender, wizened face of the grandmother you visited last weekend? In the enthusiasm of children at an Easter egg hunt? In the faithfulness of your spouse who remembers to say “I love you” each night before falling asleep? Resurrection is about life and every sign of life is a sign of the resurrection of Jesus. Have you seen the Lord? Have you mentioned it to someone else?

 

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