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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: One Commandment

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In the letter to Galatians, the Apostle Paul emphasized Christian freedom – but it’s freedom with a purpose and a direction.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the fifth chapter of the apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which begins with that amazing statement: “For freedom Christ has set you free. Do not return to a yoke of slavery.”

For Paul, however, freedom was not so much limited as purposeful. There was a reason – there is a reason – for people to have the freedom that is given to us in Christ. And the purpose is not self-indulgence, as Paul warned, but the purpose is love. To love one’s neighbor as oneself is to fulfill all of the commandments.

Now Paul was not original in saying so. Jesus, you might recall, said much the same thing. Both of them (Paul in particular here) were quoting Rabbi Hillel, who died about a dozen years after Jesus’ birth.

Hillel, I suspect, was not the first to say it either. My guess is that go back over the centuries and you’ll find many people realizing that that statement love your neighbor as yourself in Deuteronomy (actually Leviticus 19:18; oops) captures all the rest of the law.

So Paul warned against self-indulgence and being Paul, he couldn’t resist it: he had a long list of the things that qualified as self-indulgence. But he also had a list of the things that looked like love, that fulfilled love, that expressed love. Not love as a feeling, but love as an action, love as compassion embodied.

Just to name off a few of them for you: joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Paul said there’s no law against these: of course not, because they are literally the fulfillment of the commandments that God gave to Noah – gave to Moses – that God has given to people through the promptings of the Holy Spirit over the centuries and the millennia.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

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

Categories: What I'm Thinking
Tags: Aloha, Love

What I’m Thinking: Basic Needs

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When Elijah fled from the deadly threats of the monarch, he was cast back to his most basic needs: food, water, and rest. God met them all.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the 19th chapter of First Kings (1 Kings 19:1-15). The prophet Elijah had just had one of his greatest triumphs. He had asked God to send fire down from the sky, and God had done it: done it in front of King Ahab, done it in front of the prophets of Baal, one of the other gods of the eastern Mediterranean. Elijah had demonstrated – God had demonstrated – that the power of the God of Israel was far greater than that of these competing deities.

But there was another royal figure – another devotee of Baal – who was not present and that was the queen, Jezebel. She announced that she was seeking Elijah’s life.

Elijah fled.

As he made his way down towards the mountain where God had given the law to Moses, he stopped by a stream and collapsed. There an angel fed him and told him to rest until the time for the journey to resume.

I just want to focus on that moment in this reflection today. In peril of his life, Elijah had been brought to the most basic of necessities – food, water, rest – and these things were important not just to Elijah but to God.

When we come down to the place where we are in greatest need, God is still there. Even if, as might be the case, God is not absolutely pleased about where we are and where we’re going, God is still there, concerned that we meet our needs, that we eat and drink and rest before we continue on with our journey.

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

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

What I’m Thinking: Hope Fulfilled

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The Apostle Paul spoke of the sources of hope – but the greatest source of hope is that it has already been fulfilled.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome (Romans 5:1-5). in it he says we boast of our hope. What hope? Our hope of sharing the glory of God.

But he went on to say that we also boast of our sufferings, because suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Certainly that is true at some times for some people, but I would disagree with the Apostle Paul. I don’t think it’s inevitable. Some people do not survive their sufferings. Some people’s emotions or spirits are completely wrecked by suffering. Endurance is not an absolute.

Nor is character from endurance, nor is hope inevitable even from such a virtue as character.  But Paul concluded by saying our hope does not disappoint us. The reason our hope does not disappoint us is because we already have the company of the Holy Spirit, we already are imbued with the love of Jesus, we already are beloved children of our God.

And that, I think, is the crucial element of this passage: Paul’s reminder that our hope does not disappoint us because our hope is already fulfilled. Even in the midst of our sufferings, we are accompanied by the One who made us, the One who loves us best, the One who has said we will never be alone.

We boast in our sufferings not because of some inevitable progress of virtue from suffering. We boast of our sufferings because we are held in the grace and love of God. And so from the sufferings our hope has already been fulfilled.

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

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

What I’m Thinking: Pentecost Clarity

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The first Christian Pentecost was a celebration of clarity on a holiday that celebrated God’s clarity: a clarity of grace.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the second chapter of Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-21) because this coming Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost was the Greek name for the Jewish holiday Shavuot, the commemoration of the giving of the law to Moses after the people of Israel had been delivered from slavery in Egypt.

And chapter two of Acts finds Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem preparing to celebrates Shavuot, Pentecost. On this particular Pentecost, however, something startling happened. The Holy Spirit came with the sound of a mighty wind, with a vision of tongues of fire, and most noticeably (not just to themselves but to those around them) with their sudden ability to speak and have people hear them in their own languages, not the Aramaic or Hebrew or rough Greek that would have been spoken by Galileans but in a raft of tongues that were spoken around the eastern Mediterranean.

They wonder what it’s all about.

Peter stood up and proclaimed that this was the fulfillment of a prophecy of Joel that the old and the young, the men and the women, would see visions and dream dreams and share the word of God.

It’s not a coincidence that this happened on Shavuot, on Pentecost. The giving of the law was an exercise of clarity. “This is what I expect of you,” said God to the people of Israel through Moses, and in the first century Pentecost experience once more God intervened to say, “I am with you in this profound and blessed way. My grace is in law and around law and above law. My grace surrounds you all.”

It’s a burst of clarity about God in the midst of so much confusion and doubt and pain.

Friends, Pentecost never quite ends, because the Holy Spirit of God is not just the one that inspires. In the gospel of John, Jesus called the Holy Spirit “the Comforter.” The Holy Spirit is that aspect of God who is always present, who is always caring, who is always supporting, who is always comforting.

May you be blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit this Pentecost and always.

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

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

What I’m Thinking: United in Love

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In Jesus’ closing prayer at the Last Supper, he prayed for the unity of his disciples. It wasn’t just any unity, however. He had something specific in mind.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the end of chapter seventeen in John’s Gospel (John 17:20-26). This closes Jesus’ prayer at the end of the Last Supper. Following it, Jesus and his disciples went out across the Kidron Valley to a place that there was a garden to pray.

John spent a lot of time and effort in describing the events and (much more to the point) Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. Chapters fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen are what we call Jesus’ Farewell Discourse to his disciples. Compare that to the amount of space that you’ll find in Matthew, Mark, or Luke with Jesus’ words at the Last Supper and you’ll realize just how much attention John wanted us to give to this section.

And these words close it. These words of Jesus addressed to God close not just the Last Supper but Jesus’ great prayer for the disciples that were present with him in that moment and the disciples that they would, in turn, inspire. In other words, this prayer is about us.

Listen to just a few words of that prayer:

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.”

John 17:20-21a

This is, in fact, the motto of the United Church of Christ. This is one of the fundamental beliefs of our denomination and of the movement that we hope it is: that the disciples of Jesus are summoned to be one.

It is a special kind of unity, however. It is a unity that is firmly based in the other things that Jesus asked God to provide to his followers in this prayer. He asked God to love them. He asked God to love them so that he would be known, that God would be known, through their words and actions. He asked God to be present in them so that God would be present in us.

The distinctive unity of the Christian Church – in Jesus’ mind and in the mind of John who made sure that we could read these words – the essential unity is a unity of love. The essential unity is a unity that emulates Jesus. Jesus, remember, when this prayer was done, went out to the place that he knew that Judas would follow, would follow with soldiers and police, seek him out, arrest him, hand him over to the Romans for torture and crucifixion and death.

Make no mistake: the unity of Jesus’ imagination is not an easy one because it is a unity that can all too easily lead us into conflict with the standards of the world, a conflict that can easily bring us down, a conflict that can lead us to our own crosses. But this is a unity in which there is deep and abundant love, a unity in which which there is the constant presence of Jesus, a unity in which death itself is no longer a barrier between us and God.

Jesus’ prayer was that we might may all be one. May his prayer be fulfilled in us.

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: #aloha, Love, Video, Whatimthinking
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