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Video Series: What I’m Thinking

Each week, Pastor Eric Anderson shares just a minute or two of his thoughts on the upcoming week. But the most important part of “What I’m Thinking” is what you’re thinking. Please share your ideas in the comments, and see how they become part of Pastor Eric’s thinking, too!

What I’m Thinking: Criticizing Religious Leadership

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Jesus made some very direct criticism of the religious leaders of his day. They’re the same things that had been said by the prophets about those in previous times – and the same things that can be said in our time, too.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the twenty-third chapter of Matthew (Matthew 23:1-12). This section is part of an extended conversation between Jesus and leaders of various religious schools of thought, various ways of doing theology. It’s all happening in the Jerusalem temple during that period of time on Sunday when Jesus arrived in that great procession that we remember on Palm Sunday and of course his arrest on Thursday and death on Friday.

At this point the conversation has turned into a monologue. Jesus had “silenced” his critics and opponents. In chapter 23, Jesus became much more explicit about his critique of those religious leaders. He said that they created heavy burdens that they laid on others and would make no attempt to help them. It is Jesus who said those devastating words, Follow what they do, but – or follow what they tell you but do not do what they do because they do not practice what they teach. They do what they do for the love of honor. They like to be called teacher and wear long fringes, and have the good seats.

That is the time honored critique of religious leadership, and all too often – in the mouth of Jesus, and in the mouths of the earlier prophets and in the mouths of commentators and critics from those days to this – it is all too often fair. Those of us who are called into the leadership of religious and spiritual communities: we have got to take this seriously. And so I invite you, those who experience me and my colleagues and contemporaries, to take up the challenge of Jesus and to recognize us for what we are.

We are human and fallible. The question is, are we failing out of pride and out of vainglory, or are we failing for the much more human reasons: the limits of our wisdom and our knowledge and our understanding. Those omissions can be corrected. Pride and vainglory: that’s much harder. When you see us doing it – when you see me doing it – I beg you, let us hear those words: “Do what he says, but not what he does. He is not practicing what he teaches.”

Let me hear it, and I pray God that I respond.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories: What I'm Thinking
Tags: Whatimthinking

What I’m Thinking: Never Since

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Deuteronomy says that there has never been a prophet like Moses since his death. In truth, has there ever been anyone like anyone?

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the thirty-fourth chapter of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 34:1-12). The entire content of that chapter describes the death of Moses.

You remember Moses, the one who led the people of Israel out of Egypt across the Red Sea; brought the Law of God down from Mount Sinai; argued successfully with God when God got fed up with the people and their misbehavior; Moses who led that nation as it wandered through the wilderness for forty years; Moses who did not enter into the Promised Land but died accompanied only by God here at the boundary; Moses who was buried in an unmarked grave, one that has never been identified since, in Moab.

Never since, it says here, has there ever been another prophet like Moses, referring to the ways in which God spoke with Moses face to face, referring also to the ways in which God exercised power in stunning and indescribable (even though they are, of course described) ways.

Never since. Never since.

Yet that is also true of every person who has ever lived upon this Earth and gone from this Earth to God. Never since has there ever been anyone like that person whom you remember and loved well. Never since has there ever been anyone like that person you never met. Never since has there ever been anyone like that person that you really, really disliked. We are all made in the image of God, but we are all made in very special and unique ways.

Never since. Never since.

It is reasonable, rational (it may not be easy), but it makes sense to affirm the uniqueness of someone like a Moses, a significant leader, a person of power and of passion, a person who dedicates their lives to the welfare of others. Yes, it makes sense to honor their uniqueness.

It is also good and right and just to honor the uniqueness of every human being, every one made in the image of God, every one that becomes a facet – one way to view into the heart of our Creator.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories: What I'm Thinking
Tags: Video, Whatimthinking

What I’m Thinking: Unsatisfactory Answers

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When people ask questions in the Bible, they don’t always get the answer they’d been hoping for.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about unsatisfactory answers. We are, in this day and age, quite used to them if not, I suspect, entirely reconciled to them. We get unsatisfactory answers from product manufacturers. We get unsatisfactory answers from politicians. We get unsatisfactory answers from, well, our children. We get unsatisfactory answers all over.

There are a couple of places in Scripture (and they are in the lectionary this week) in which there are some equally unsatisfactory answers. Moses had some questions for God (Exodus 33:12-23). Who will be going with me? Moses wanted to know. And will you accompany the people as we continue our journey? And will you show me your glory?

God said, Yes, I will be with you. I will be with this people for they are my people. But no, Moses, you cannot see my glory because nobody can see my face and live. Therefore, I’m going to put you in a crack in the rock. I’m going to put my hand over you. I’m going to walk by, and when I take away my hand you can see me, but you can only see me from behind.

Meanwhile, in the twenty-second chapter of Matthew (Matthew 22:15-22), it was a trap. The Pharisees and the Herodians wanted to find a way to diminish either Jesus’ popularity or to put him in real danger from the authorities, and so they asked, “Is it right to pay taxes to the emperor or not?”

The ardent rebels among the crowd if Jesus had said, Yes, pay taxes to the emperor, would have been outraged and would have left him. And if Jesus had said, No, don’t pay taxes to the emperor, well, there were plenty of Roman soldiers around who would not respond well to that particular point of view.

You probably remember the story. Jesus asked to see a coin, asked whose face was on it – it’s the emperor’s – and then said, “Give to the emperor what is the emperor’s; give to God what is God’s.”

It was an answer although not a resolution, since we all know that the conversation over what is the emperor’s and what is God’s is pretty much an eternal one. Unsatisfactory answers are just simply a part of our existence. As Moses discovered, there is a limit to what we can experience. There is a limit to what we know. Mystery, well, mystery is like God’s hand over us. In one sense it prevents us from harm, but our curiosity: it will still wonder.

And Jesus, of course, showed us that it is one thing to try and set a trap. It is another to earnestly consider what is the emperor’s; what is God’s. An honest conversation over those questions; that is of value. A trap: not so much.

So if I can encourage you to an earnest consideration of mystery and of what is good, then I think we might arrive at some more satisfactory answers if not, thanks to mystery, eternal ones.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories: What I'm Thinking
Tags: Faith

What I’m Thinking: Pollyanna Paul

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For a moment in the letter to the Philippians, Paul sounds like, well, Pollyanna. Which seems very wrong.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians (Philippians 4:1-9). It includes these famous words:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:4-5 (NRSV)

Rejoice in the Lord always.

I’ll be honest. As I read these words in these times, the first name that comes to mind is not Paul. It’s Pollyanna (I haven’t actually seen that movie). Pollyanna to me has meant for years that one focuses so much on the good things that one ignores or discounts or even discredits the hardships, the sufferings, the losses, the griefs. It seems odd to think of the Apostle Paul as a Pollyanna, especially after you’ve read Second Corinthians.

Paul wrote these words, in fact, while imprisoned.

Paul was no Pollyanna. Paul was, however, aware of both the blessings and the curses of human life. There in his imprisonment he was still able to see, to apprehend, to appreciate what there was around him: the people with whom he worked and whom he loved; the folks who had come to join him in imprisonment in order to be of aid to him. I can even imagine the Apostle Paul getting up early in the morning – and I hope his window faced east – so that he could watch the sun rise.

We do not need to be told in these days how stressful, how dangerous, how hard the world can be. The world, however, is also gentle and kind and loving. And so I offer you these words of Paul, written from his prison cell and carried over the centuries to us. May they be, if not a comfort, at least an open door or an open window so that God’s beauty may also move within your soul.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of pride, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8 NRSV

They are also real. Let them work within you and make you strong for the trials and the hardships.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories: What I'm Thinking
Tags: Video

What I’m Thinking: Guide for Human Living

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The Ten Commandments aren’t precisely law. They are the foundation of law, but more to the point, they are a guide for human living.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the twentieth chapter of Exodus (Exodus 20:1-20). It is the first of the two places in the Old Testament where we’ll find the Ten Commandments. The second is in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 5:6-21).

I’m at something of a loss. What is there to say about the Ten Commandments? Scholars have argued over the years over precisely how to divide up the text of Exodus 20 into ten commandments. Honestly, I’m not entirely certain why. The text doesn’t actually use the number ten at all, but we do, so, there are some places one can take sentences and put them in one commandment or another. And that’s been done.

Honestly, the Ten Commandments speak clearly for themselves. They are a standard for human life: for human life in relationship with God; for human life in relationship with other human beings. The Ten Commandments are not precisely law. They do not specify a penalty for not keeping the commandments. And indeed, they become the foundation for later law which becomes much more specific in Exodus and Leviticus and Numbers and, of course, Deuteronomy.

I guess what puzzles me about the commandments – well, what disappoints me about the commandments – is not about the commandments. It’s about us. Because we are tempted not to keep them as human beings. People steal. People lie. People do not keep faith with God. They do not honor their parents. And if there is one commandment that we break over and over and over again, it is that we covet.

How much better would human life be if we refused to steal? If we refused to put other people’s lives at risk? If we kept our word? If we loved God?

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories: What I'm Thinking
Tags: Tencommandments, Video
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