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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: Ready for Angels

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Jesus told Nathanael that he would see angels descending with the Son of Man. Well, after last week, I would welcome some angels.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about how much I looked forward to the end of the year 2020, how much I hoped that 2021 would bring respite, relief; would bring renewal after all the strains and stresses, the losses and the sorrows, of 2020. Instead, just six days into the new year, we witnessed a violent insurrection in the nation’s capital. We saw people storm the Capitol building itself, the symbol of representative democracy, at the very moment when the nation’s elected representatives were engaged in the most fundamental activity of a democratic republic, and that is counting votes.

Who egged on this assault? The President of the United States.

2021 is not off to a good start.

In the first chapter of John’s gospel (John 1:43-51), after Jesus was baptized, some others who had come to hear John the Baptist preach and to also be baptized by him became aware of this Galilean. John proclaimed him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” and so a few of them began to seek him out and to inquire of him and to listen to him and to encourage others to do the same. In this section, Philip asked Nathanael to come and see (that’s a frequent phrase in John’s gospel, “Come and see”) this person from Nazareth. “Well, can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael wanted to know.

Jesus welcomed him with the words, “Here is an Israelite with no guile,” and mentions that he had been aware of Nathanael underneath a fig tree. Well, this won Nathanael over. “Are you impressed when I said that I saw you under a fig tree?” Jesus asked. “Well, you will see greater things than this. You will see the angels on the arrival of the Son of Man.”

To be frank, I’m ready to see some angels. I’m ready to see the Christ.

Just a couple of things to think about this week. First of all, there is only one Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. It is not any contemporary living figure. To say anything otherwise is a blasphemous untruth, a lie of tremendous spiritual consequence, a lie that fed the violent assault and the deaths of five – no, six – people this week. There is only one Lamb of God.

But second, we do not get to see the angels when we want. We see the angels when the angels are at work. Lincoln called for “the better angels of our nature,” and we have not seen that. But more to the point, Nathanael, as Jesus was telling him about angels, was at the beginning, not the end, of that journey. Nathanael’s journey would lead him to a great confrontation with the imperial powers that ruled his nation. Nathanael ran. Jesus was crucified.

But Nathanael would return when he learned that God’s love is stronger than all the hatred of human beings, when he learned that God’s power of life is stronger than imperial impositions of death.

So, what am I thinking? I’m thinking that, as much as I’d like to see the angels, there is still much ahead of us. Long roads between Jerusalem and Galilee for Nathanael; long roads to right the wrongs that this society has accommodated and indeed enabled for far too long.

Those who invaded the Capitol must be held to account. Those who incited the invasion must also be held to account and that includes the President of the United States.

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: 2021

What I’m Thinking: A Christmas of First Principles

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This is not the Christmas we’d asked for. It is a Christmas of first principles: love for one another, and God’s love for us.

Here’s a transcript:

It will shortly be Christmas Eve. It will shortly be Christmas Day, so I’m thinking about the second chapter of Luke (Luke 2:1-20).

“While they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. She gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.”

This is not the Christmas of my childhood. It is not the Christmas of my children’s childhoods. It is not the Christmas that any of us have asked for. It is the Christmas that we have.

It is the Christmas that we have that casts us back on first principles, what is important, what does in fact promote life and health and love. What does that?

Well it is care for one another, care expressed in these days with distance even as we yearn to be together and to embrace. This Christmas Eve we will light candles. And I encourage you, as you are taking part through the Internet in our Christmas Eve service at 7 o’clock on Thursday night – I encourage you to have a candle to hand, something to light to chase away the night.

But we will not be together. We will not have that increasing glow of candlelight to fill our sanctuary at Church of the Holy Cross. We shall have to fall back on first principles:

  • Of a father and mother giving birth at some distance from their home,
  • At an entire region that had been disordered by this sudden requirement that all the world be registered, enrolled for taxes,
  • Sudden singing on a hillside to people of whom no one thought, for whom very few cared (probably no one even troubled to see that they were included in the registration),
  • Angel song heard by shepherds,
  • Wondering next to a feeding trough holding a child of poverty, but a child of such surpassing richness that we see salvation in that child.

This is not the Christmas to which we are accustomed. It is not the Christmas we have asked for. It is the Christmas of First Principles, of love and care for one another and for Christ; of love and care expressed to us by God through Christ; of love and care that are a single candle in the night: a flickering flame but one that no evil has ever put out.

Friends, I wish you a very Blessed Christmas, this Christmas of First Principles.

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.

Program Note: With Pastor Eric on vacation following Christmas, the next What I’m Thinking will premiere on January 11, 2021.

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

What I’m Thinking: A Home for God

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What does a home for God look like? Does it look anything like a church, temple, or building for worship?

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about what it means to build a house for God. This comes from the seventh chapter in Second Samuel (2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16) in which David and the prophet Nathan discussed building a temple in which to place and in which to worship the Ark of the Covenant, the symbolic presence of God.

Curiously enough, God was the one who was not enthusiastic about the idea, directing Nathan to return to David and essentially to say: “No. Thanks for the thought, but my dwelling is actually amongst you; you, David, and your people. That is what is important, not whether I have a house built of cedar.”

And then in the first chapter of Luke (Luke 1:26-38), there’s no mention of a house or a home for God when the angel Gabriel came to inform Mary that she would become the mother of the Messiah. Nevertheless, if there is one thing about the Incarnation that relates to home, it is this: that in Jesus, God chose to make a home on Earth.

Among people. Born of people. Living beside people. Owning his own home among people (as Jesus did). Even dying among people.

A home for God is the one that we build amongst ourselves and within ourselves. “Let it be with me according to your word,” said Mary, and then later she would, in the Magnificat, expand upon what that meant with the lifting up of the lowly and the feeding of the hungry and the sending away of the wealthy.

God’s home is amongst human beings. God’s home is amongst us when we open our hearts to the presence of God – already here, but so often shut out. God’s home is amongst the people when we create room for one another in our communities, when we do not despise the poor for their poverty, but seek to make sure that they are poor no longer. God’s home is amongst us when we no longer give additional power and credence to those who already exert too much power over us, and instead lift up those who have been cast down.

God’s home is in no building of cedar, nor even with great glass windows and a magnificent cross and advent banners and soaring beams. No, God’s home is within us and among us and for 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: Whatimthinking

What I’m Thinking: Song Passed Down

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The “Magnificat” (Mary’s Song) is a Scripture that moves for many reasons. It turns out it is also a demonstration of the value of spiritual community.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the first chapter of Luke, specifically Mary’s Song, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46b-55). This is an incredibly rich Biblical text. Mary looks ahead towards a very very new and different community, one reshaped in its values and in its expressions of power by the grace and intervention of God.

But this text also looks back. Mary was certainly inspired by the message of an angel. She was certainly inspired by the testimony of her cousin Elizabeth affirming the blessedness of her pregnancy. But Mary also looked further back than that. She looked back to the Scriptural traditions of Israel. In the Magnificat you can hear echoes of many of the celebration Psalms. In the Magnificat you hear especially an echo of Hannah’s Song in First Samuel, her thanksgiving when she discovered that she would at last be able to bear a child into her family.

This sort of thing doesn’t happen with spiritual, religious, community. Communities remember things. Communities preserver things. Communities pass things on. Hannah’s Song could have been lost centuries before. It could have been never written down at all – and certainly plenty of amazing songs in praise of God were lost over those centuries.

But this one was preserved and it became a resource for Mary. It became an inspiration for Mary. It became a literary guidepost for Mary as she framed her own song of exaltation, joy, and promise.

In these days, religious community is sometimes dismissed, frequently discounted. What, after all, is the value of people gathering together for some time during the week? What does that accomplish?

One of the things it accomplishes is: when somebody has a profound spiritual experience, they have some background to help them understand it, to help them to embrace it, to help them to pass it on.

Because Mary had that, she was able to sing the Magnificat. Because Mary had that and other people have Mary’s words, we are also able to sing the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

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

What I’m Thinking: A Highway for God

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Isaiah and John the Baptist had different ideas about the phrase “a highway for God.” Both ideas have use for us.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the fortieth chapter of Isaiah (Isaiah 40:1-11) and about the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel (Mark 1:1-8). The reason, of course, is that the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel introduces us to John the Baptist, and John quoted extensively from the fortieth chapter of Isaiah. But he made an interesting interpretive twist.

Isaiah forty was a prophecy about the return of the people of Judah from their exile in Babylon, and so the highway for our God was also a highway for the people to make their journey from Babylon back to their grandparents’ home in Jerusalem. But when John quoted those words, he had a somewhat different idea in mind. Yes, he did believe that the nation of Israel was going to be radically restored with the coming of a Messiah, but for him the highway of God was less a highway on the ground but more a highway in the soul.

I actually think the two of them cannot be separated from each other. If we are to remake our nation into one that blesses more effectively and much more broadly; if we are to reform our communities into ones that truly care for our citizens; if we are to see that the hungry are fed and the homeless housed; then the first step is always going to be to create a highway for blessing, for correction, and for renewal in the individual human heart.

John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in order that the people might be prepared to welcome the Messiah – the one whom John expected, the one whom he would identify in Jesus of Nazareth – to welcome that Messiah with an open heart and a righteousness of spirit, and a courage of the soul.

May that be our quest as well in this Advent. As we wait for better days, let us come into those better days also as people more wholly and deeply connected to our 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: Advent, Repentance
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