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Tag Archive | "Robert Eckert"

About those 10 commandments


Courtland-OakfieldUMCRobert Eckert, Pastor

Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

10295 Myers Lake NE, Rockford

 

They are found in the 20th chapter of Exodus and the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy. They are posted in courtrooms in the United States and the subject of lawsuits heard within courtrooms in the United States. They represent the pinnacle of what is universal, timeless, and sacred for some. They are historical artifacts to others. And what about commandment number six? Does it prohibit killing? Does it prohibit murder? Is there a difference?

If we were playing a word association game any one of those thoughts might have popped into your head when you saw “10 Commandments” in the title of this piece. By any chance, did “thou shalt not” come to mind? My perception is that the 10 Commandments have a reputation for being restrictive, judgmental, and damning. People read “thou shalt not” but hear “THOU SHALT NOT!!” Both Exodus and Deuteronomy describe the Decalogue as having been written by the finger of God and depending on how they’ve been delivered to us, they just might have come across as divine finger wagging.

With that kind of notoriety, the 10 Commandments could use some good press. I was pleased to encounter what I found to be a refreshingly positive take on these ancient injunctions recently. I was reminded that recitations of the 10 Commandments often omit their introductory sentence, their preamble, if you will: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2, New Revised Standard Version).

In the context of remembering where they had been and what their circumstances were while there, the 10 Commandments sound less threatening and more entreating. “I just brought you out of slavery; don’t slip back into it by worshiping false gods or by taking me for granted. Don’t go back to trying to solve your problems by means you already know to be ineffective. Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t kill.”

Contributors to the Bible frequently speak of humankind as God’s children. Sometimes a parent has to say to a child, “Didn’t I just tell you [fill in the blank]?” Maybe the 10 Commandments are God’s way of saying, “C’mon, we’ve been through this. You’re free now. Don’t make yourselves slaves again.”

Human beings are plagued with self-destructive tendencies, bad habits, and addictions. We are trapped in cycles of behavior governed by the rubric that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But there’s a wonderful little sentence in Galatians 5:1: “For freedom Christ has set us free” (NRSV).

Unlike what the Egyptians were to the Israelites, and unlike what our own insecurities and lusts are to us, God has no interest in being our task master. God desires to bring us out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. If the idea of commandments seems harsh to you, consider them as compassionate, heart-felt reminders that God loves you and truly desires only what is best for you.

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ROBERT ALLEN JOHNSON


 

Robert Allen Johnson, 76, passed away peacefully in his sleep early Thursday, June 25, 2015. Bob was born January 28, 1939. Bob lived most of his life as a resident of Courtland Township. He graduated from Cedar Springs High School in 1957. He retired in 1992 after 30 years at General Motors Fisher Body plant on 36th Street. He loved farming and his family. Bob had a stroke in January, 2000. Although life was never easy after that, he always had a smile on his face. He was the kindest and gentlest person you would ever meet who cared deeply about others. He was preceded in death in 1997 by his father, Wesley. He is survived by his mother, Elna, whom he loved dearly. She was his primary caretaker. He is also survived by his children; Bob and Paula Johnson, Tim Johnson and Kathy Kay, and Kathy and Ken Coleman. Bob has three grandchildren, Ryan Coleman, Kate Coleman and Logan Armstrong. He is also survived by his sisters Joyce and Dick Kastas and Judy and Jim Idziak and their families. The family thanks the Green Acres of Standale family who took care of dad the last few months of his life. And also the Porter Hills home health care nurses who took care of dad at home before Green Acres. The family greeted friends on Sunday, June 28 at the Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs where services were held Monday, June 29. Pastor Robert Eckert officiating. Interment Courtland Township Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to Paws With A Cause, 4646 Division St, Wayland, MI 49348.

Arrangements by Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs

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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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Liberty and justice for all


Courtland-Oakfield-United-MethPastor Robert Eckert

Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

10295 Myers Lake Ave., Rockford

 

I’m still thinking about Independence Day. Celebrations of “liberty and justice for all” are still fresh in mind. Even though the nation was founded with some limitations on the word “all” (African slaves, women, non-landowners, for example, weren’t originally included), I am grateful that there have been courageous, visionary leaders along the way to push us toward a full realization of the ideals on which our country was founded.

“All” is a potent little word that is particularly challenging in world made up of such a diverse collection of people. Whether by age, race, sexual orientation, gender, ethnic heritage, cultural affinities, or any of a number of other characteristics, each of us can be defined and categorized in ways such that no one is identical to anyone else.

I am a transplant to this area having grown up in Indianapolis, Indiana, and lived for more than 30 years in Grand Rapids. There are reminders of many aspects of our nation’s diversity that are more evident in most cities than one is likely to find in the town-and-country living of the Cedar Springs area.

There are, however, other reminders of the full diversity of all creation in this part of the world, diversity of a different sort than shows up in urban settings. House wrens and grackles are just about the only birds flying the skies of Grand Rapids, along with the occasional cardinal, blue jay, or mourning dove. Here there are hummingbirds, orioles, and red-breasted grosbeaks; woodpeckers, bluebirds, and indigo buntings; Canada geese, blue herons, and bald eagles.

The writer of Psalm 139 has this to say about all that God has knit together and our place in the diversity of creation: “I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart. Your works are wonderful—I know that very well” (Psalm 139:14, CEV).

We often struggle with our differences; we let them breed discomfort, fear, and resentment, but they are evidence of God’s hand in all that is (there’s that word again) and all who are.

“Liberty and justice for all” is not only a promise for Americans in civic and political arenas, it is the promise of God for those parts of our lives that yearn for wholeness and spiritual peace. The apostle Paul put it this way: “Creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children” (Romans 8:21, CEV). That’s something to hope for, something to work for, something to grow toward, and that’s something for us to do together, all of us.

 

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