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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: Filling the Poor

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In the Magnificat, Mary rejoiced in the coming of a savior – a savior who would fill the poor and send the rich away empty.

Here’s a transcript:

It’s fairly common for me on the third Sunday of Advent to be thinking about the first chapter of Luke (Luke 1:46b-55), Mary’s Song, the Magnificat. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Mary’s Song is not simply one about rejoicing in the prospect of a savior. It is also about a world reversal in which the poor find all the things that they’ve been denied and the rich are sent empty away.

It reminds me, curiously enough, of a movie that I saw this past year called Honeyland, a documentary about a Macedonian traditional beekeeper. Her name was – is – Hatidze (I might be pronouncing that correctly). The documentary follows her encounter with a family that comes to be her neighbors, and they, too, set up to keep bees.

But they don’t follow her advice about the traditional practices. One son attempts to, but the father, pressured by the need to produce large amounts of honey in a fairly short time, discards the advice and the honeybee hives – both theirs and Hatidze’s – end up collapsing.

The family moves away, leaving Hatidze and her mother alone once more in their abandoned village.

I have no romantic notions about subsistence farming. It is the hardest life on this planet. Nevertheless, the film demonstrates that Hatidze is in some kind of special – well, maybe not special – special in the sense of a very close relationship with her surroundings, with, in fact, the bees that she sings to, and loves, and makes sure have the things that they need so that they can provide her with what she needs.

So when I hear Mary’s song this year, I hear it as a reversal for her and for all the Hatidzes of the world: the beekeepers and the potato farmers, the ones who grow taro in small patches or seek in the trees for the ripe fruit. I think about them and how they might be filled with good things while those who are accustomed to everything they desire go empty away.

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: Advent, Magnificat, Poverty, Wealth

What I’m Thinking: Root of Jesse

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We still await the fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision of a truly just ruler and a world at peace.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m not thinking, because I know how grateful I am that Hawai’i’s Conference Minister, the Rev. David Popham, will be visiting Church of the Holy Cross this coming Sunday. David will be preaching. He’ll bring the message, his wisdom, and his abundant spirit. I’m really looking forward to this coming worship service.

But I am joining him in thinking about the eleventh chapter of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 11:1-10). It’s a familiar text, at least a familiar text for Advent. A shoot shall come forth out of Jesse, that is, out of the royal household, and this person will speak with wisdom and truth, will judge with equity for the poor, and indeed the entire nation will see this coming of an extraordinary peace. Much in the way that the 65th chapter of Isaiah would take up the theme some chapters and centuries later, the prophet envisions lions and lambs, wolves and children all playing together. And no-one shall harm anyone on God’s holy mountain.

Well, the sad truth of the matter is that such a ruler has yet pretty much failed to appear in Jerusalem or, for that matter, just about anywhere on Earth, except, Christian believe for Jesus. And Jesus, we must point out, never asserted any claim to any sort of terrestrial, earthly, throne, not even that of Jerusalem.

No, sadly, the days of God’s peace still lie ahead, the days in which the root of Jesse shall produce its great tree in flower. Those are still before us. It is still for us to labor each day for the peace of our households, the peace of our communities, the peace of our world, until the day lion and lamb can relax together in safety.

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: Peace, Whatimthinking

What I’m Thinking: Ready for What Comes

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Jesus stressed the need to be “awake” when the end of history comes. Awareness can be useful for other things, too: like appreciating the joys of life.

Here’s a transcript:

I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving holiday this week. May God bless all your gatherings of family and loved ones. If you are at a distance from those you care about, well, then may modern technology do its best to bring you together for some smiles and some laughter.

My sympathy to all those who will be working on Thanksgiving, and to all those in retail who will face the crowds on Friday. May God be with you.

This Sunday begins a new year in the Church. It is the first Sunday in Advent, and our Scripture comes from late in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 24:35-44). It is one of Jesus’ reflections on the end of time, on the coming of God’s great and glorious day.

Jesus’ message is fairly simple: we do not know when it is coming. He compares it with the flood of Noah, that everybody was just living their lives when the rains and the waters came. He uses the example of people doing their normal work from day to day, and one will be taken and the other one, he says, will be left behind.

Jesus, when he talks about the day of God always stresses preparedness, being awake.

This week, I would stress being awake and prepared for whatever comes. I suppose it might be the end of time and history, but it might also be an encounter with something wonderful, lovely. This is, after all, Thanksgiving week, and it’s time to reinforce those connections with those we love.

It might be something challenging, something noteworthy, something that calls you to stretch yourself in generosity, or in purposefulness, or in resilience.

The idea is to come into it as aware of your surroundings as you can be: as aware of the love as of the challenges, as aware of the grace as of the sorrows, as aware of the presence of God as you are of the presence of evil.

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: Advent, Thanksgiving, Video, Whatimthinking

What I’m Thinking: Monarch of Mercy

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What is the Gospel reading for Reign of Christ Sunday on the Church calendar? It’s the crucifixion of Jesus: power made perfect in weakness.

Here’s a transcript:

This coming Sunday is called Reign of Christ Sunday on the Church calendar. The Gospel text is not what you might expect, at least at this time of the year with Advent almost at hand. Instead of coming from the beginning of Jesus’ life, it comes from, well, quite literally the end of Jesus’ life.

In the 23rd chapter of Luke (Luke 23:33-43) we hear the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.

The particular passage for this Sunday describes how people taunted Jesus as he was being crucified, calling him, “the King of the Jews.” It describes the charge above his head, reading, “This is the King of the Jews.” And particularly, it tells about one of the others crucified with him, who asked to be included when Jesus came into his realm.

There are lots of notions of what it is to be a ruler, to be a savior. In first century Israel, there was a lot of notion that a Messiah, an Anointed One, would come with power and majesty and military might, chase away the Romans and those who had collaborated with them, and restore a kingdom, a realm, similar to that of David and Solomon some ten centuries before.

Instead, Jesus’ Messiahship led to a cross, to execution by torture at the hands of those he was supposed to have chased away.

This is one of the fundamental scandals of Christianity: Power made perfect in weakness, majesty given over to mercy.

Not so very long ago, I knew somebody in whose presence every heart was lightened, whose spirit somehow communicated so powerfully to the rest of us that just being with her made the day a little brighter. And it has made me wonder why we give any credence at all to those whose power and wealth and braggadocio… why do we ever give them our loyalty? Our allegiance? Why do we ever give them the time of day?

When not a single one of them makes our spirits lighter, when not a single one of them makes the day a little brighter.

Jesus, on the cross, was able to do that for at least this one other sufferer. Jesus, on the cross, shows us what true power is.

Jesus, on the cross, shows us what it is to be a monarch of mercy.

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: Power, Video

What I’m Thinking: Peaceable Realm

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Isaiah’s vision of the new heaven and the new earth includes the vivid picture of predators and prey living peacefully together. What I tend to forget is that it also includes the idea that those who work receive the fruits of their labor.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about some of the most popular little videos on the Internet. You know the ones. They’ve got cats and dogs in them, or sheep and dogs in them, or owls and kittens in them: all manner of different creatures, most of them generally hostile or suspicious of one another, but for a moment in these videos suddenly we see compassion, caring, affection. We might even call it love.

It is a long time human vision of what the perfect world would be, and we find that expressed, of course, in the sixty-fifth chapter of Isaiah (Isaiah 65:17-25): God’s new heaven and new earth, a new Jerusalem in which the lion and the lamb lie down together.

What I tend to forget is part of this passage is another instance which, in Isaiah’s day seems to have been as rare as the lions and the lambs living in peace. And that was that somebody would plant and harvest their own crop; that someone would build and live in the house that they had created. No, instead, says Isaiah, it appears that mostly other people would harvest the crops, other people would live in the houses. The poor would do the work. The rich would reap the benefits.

Well, that has not changed much in our time, has it? That is as far away from us as the lions and the lambs in peace.

The vision of the perfect world, to Isaiah, is not one without labor. It is not one without effort. But it is one in which those who do the work receive the benefits of what they’ve done. It is not one in which the rich enjoy all the successes, and the poor have to go on to some other labor in order to make their living.

Here in Hawai’i, we have plenty of people who travel many miles every day in order to get to their jobs. It’s not because there aren’t places to live near where they work. It’s because they can’t afford them, and so their commutes may be seventy, eighty miles one way in a day.

How is it just that people are not paid enough money that at the end of the week, they can make all their bills? The housing, the food, the health care, the utilities, the car. How is it that we feel justified to pay a wage that cannot be lived on?

It’s not Isaiah’s vision of a just society. It’s not my vision of a just society, and (dare I say it?) it’s not God’s vision of a just society, either.

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: Peace
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