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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: 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

What I’m Thinking: Gotcha

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They asked Jesus a “gotcha” question – but he wasn’t playing that game. Not that day.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about a conversation that Jesus had with some Sadducees. It’s described in the twentieth chapter of Luke (Luke 20:27-38). The Sadducees were another strand of first century Judaism. Jesus himself was raised among the Pharisees – probably identified as a Pharisee throughout his life – and the Sadducees and the Pharisees disagreed on some fairly fundamental things. When the Sadducees came to challenge Jesus, they intended not merely to challenge him, but also the entire Pharisaic world view that he represented.

So they asked him a “gotcha” question. They asked him a question which they did not expect would have an answer.

They asked a question about Levirate marriage, the practice of a brother marrying the widow of another brother, both to see that she had economic security, and to provide the family with its best opportunity of producing another generation.

Well, said Jesus, the premise of the question doesn’t make sense. Life after the resurrection is not like life that we know. It’s not about economic security for women. It’s not about producing another generation for our family. Relationships shift with the emergence into new life.

“Gotcha questions” deserve that kind of response, that kind of pulling out of the underlying assumptions that change the question from an earnest one, from a real desire for learning, for conversation, for growth, into a mere dismissal of someone else’s thought, world view, experience, and faith.

But I think it also tells us something about the ways in which our world shifts and we must shift our understandings of what may come.

And of course it also tells us that however much we might desire to know what the resurrection, what the new life, what the final realm of God will be like, it is different than we expect, different than we imagine, different than we dream.

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: Disagreement, Resurrection, Video

What I’m Thinking: Risky Climb

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Zacchaeus climbed a tree just to see the visiting celebrity preacher. Did he imagine how dangerous that climb was to his way of life?

Here’s a transcript:

Thank you to all those who contributed to the YWCA’s “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” campaign this past weekend. You saw a few steps of my high-heeled feet in the intro to today’s program.

Thank you so much. It is a very worthy cause and an absolutely crucial service to support those who have suffered from sexual assault in their healing, their recovery, and their full participation in our communities. Thank you.

I’m thinking about the nineteenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 19:1-10). Last week we had a story about a tax collector; this week Luke tells us about Jesus’ encounter with an actual tax collector. This one even gets a name – or rather, he had a name, and we know it. His name was Zacchaeus. Not just any tax collector, a chief tax collector, and that, we can be reasonably sure, is at least part of the source of his wealth.

Zacchaeus went and climbed a tree in order to see Jesus as he passed through the village. Jesus was the one who called out to Zacchaeus and invited a conversation, a meal, a relationship, even.

I think that illustrates, seriously, some of the risks of approaching faith. When we reach out, when we make an effort, when we climb a tree to see what there might be there is a risk that God, that Jesus, the Holy Spirit, that this Great Power beyond us all may see our efforts and call us on them, and invite us to something deeper and greater.

For Zacchaeus, that meant giving away half of what he had. For Zacchaeus, that meant righting the wrongs that he’d committed. What does it mean for you? What does it mean for me?

If we make that first climb, to see what faith might be like, what does it mean for you or for me to see the eyes of the Holy One gazing in our direction and inviting us onto a new way?

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, Risk

What I’m Thinking: Starting with Honesty

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In Jesus’ story (note: this was a story, not a history), it’s honesty and humility that separate the prayers of two people.

Here’s a transcript:

My first thought is how grateful I am to Church of the Holy Cross and its membership and leadership for recognizing me this past Sunday on the occasion of Pastoral Appreciation Month. I very much appreciate you, Church of the Holy Cross. You are a marvelous, marvelous group of people, and we are doing our very best to bring the love of God into the world. Let’s keep doing it.

And I’m thinking of the eighteenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 18:9-14). As with last week’s parable, this one, it seems to me, deserves a sign that says, “This is a Story.”

Jesus told it about a Pharisee and a tax collector who go to pray. The Pharisee prayed out of his pride in his religious faithfulness: his diligence in prayer, his regular payment of the tithe. The tax collector prayed in remorse for his participation, his collaboration, in the Roman occupation. It’s this prayer, Jesus says, that was heard and approved by God.

“Those who humble themselves will be exalted; those who exalt themselves will be humbled.”

I think we need to emphasize once more that This Is A Story, and the whole point of the story is that the Pharisee was somebody who did the right thing. The Pharisee was a righteous, faithful person. The problem was that his prayer was not… was not fully honest. His prayer did not look at the other parts of his life, and also his prayer compared himself with the tax collector. “Thank God I am not like him,” he prayed.

You might argue that the tax collector’s prayer was not fully honest either. It was simply, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” Honest, as far as it goes, but no doubt the tax collector had his virtues as well, that he failed in that moment to acknowledge before God.

Humility rises first from honesty, from a deep examination of who we are, what we do, the choices that we make, the things that we decide not to do, the ways in which we relate to those around us, the ways in which we care for ourselves. Honesty is the foundation of humility.

In Jesus’ story, the righteous man simply left his honesty behind. The tax collector more closely approached it. And so he went home with his prayer heard, whereas the Pharisee’s words simply fell into empty air.

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: Honesty

What I’m Thinking: Hope for Justice

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Jesus’ story of a widow and an unjust judge isn’t one to show how God is – it’s to show how God isn’t. Which leaves the question for us: Do we still have hope for God’s justice?

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the eighteenth chapter of Luke (Luke 18:1-8), which begins with what we call “the Parable of the Unjust Judge.”

Jesus told a story about a widow seeking a decision in a case from a judge who, quite simply, didn’t care. She asked for justice against her opponents, and apparently hers was the stronger claim. Nevertheless, he would not give it.

So she came back. She came back, she came back, and she came back, and finally, worn down by her persistence if not the righteousness of her claim, he granted her her decision.

No doubt, in the first century Jesus’ contemporaries would have nodded at one another, recognizing something in their lives or their families’ lives or their neighbors’ lives, some occasion when the right had not been granted without long and hard argument before an uncaring magistrate.

Justice for the widows: well, that is the standard for justice throughout the Scriptures. If widows and orphans can’t get what they deserve, can’t get what is right, then the society, say the Scriptures, is hopelessly corrupt.

Nevertheless, the story was not about judges, not about the way that life was working in the first century – not the way that it works for far too many people in far too many places in today’s world – it was the contrast that Jesus made between this judge who required persistence and a God who was always responsive. “Will God wait long?” asked Jesus. “No. God is not like the unjust judge.”

We may well ask in our time when justice will arrive. And surely enough, to me it looks very much like justice for far too many is delayed for far too long, and I yearn for the intervention of the Holy One to bring what is good and right and beautiful and true to the Earth.

Yet I strive to answer the last question Jesus asked: “When the Son of Man arrives, will there be hope on the Earth?” I strive to answer that question, “Yes.”

I will still hope even as justice seems delayed beyond reason, beyond measure, and beyond hope. I will hope in God and the righteousness, and love, and redemption, forgiveness, and justice to come.

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: Hope, Video
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(The Rev. Tevita) Sunday 1:00 pm Wednesday 7:00 pm (Sanctuary)

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(The Rev. Sunia) Sunday 4:00 pm (Sanctuary)

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