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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: Advent of Hope

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As we begin Advent, we recall that God’s compassion for us is present in both good times and bad.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the thirteenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel (Mark 13:24-37). This coming Sunday is the beginning of Advent, a new season for us in the church year. It is also the beginning of a new church year; our church years begin with the preparation for the birth of Christ. It is also the shift from Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary to Year B. We spent the last year mostly reading our Gospel lessons from Matthew; this year, we’ll spend much of our time hearing from the Gospel of Mark.

So: new year, new season, new gospel. Then why is it that this reading from Mark, with warnings about calamity and the repeated advice to be ready to be prepared, sounds just like we’ve what we’ve been hearing from Matthew for the last few weeks?

Partly it’s the nature of the lectionary but partially it’s the nature of Advent. Sensibly enough, the lectionary runs through the readings more or less in order (with some adjustment for the appropriate seasons like Easter and Pentecost), so that we end Year A with readings from Matthew that come from the end of Jesus’ ministry: from his time in the temple, from his last instructions given to his disciples on the Mount of Olives. That’s what we’ve been hearing these last few weeks and they have been the readings about being prepared and ready.

It’s also about the nature of Advent, which is about preparing for the coming of Christ, but of course Jesus has already been born. He has not yet returned in the way that Christianity has looked for these last two thousand years, so we begin Advent with this reminder that history is not fully accomplished, that Christ’s work is not yet done. There is something yet to anticipate, to pray for, to hope for.

Jesus preceded these words about getting ready with some not terribly hopeful words about what we’re getting ready for. He talked of wars and calamities. He described something which the later survivors of the fall of Jerusalem would have recognized as being awfully close to what happened.

It reminds us that the love of God is for the hard times, the bad times, the tragic times, the calamitous times. Certainly we have been through calamities these last few years, and there are people in the world right now whose lives are in ongoing catastrophe, particularly those living beneath the scourge of war. As I said, this passage reminds us of God’s ever-present love and care, God’s ability to sustain us through catastrophe, and to bring us on into a more blessed and promised time.

For any of us the end of history could come at any time through illness or injury or accident or some other mischance of the world. But for any of us, the end of our history is not the end of our relationship with God. It is not the end of God’s love for us. It is not the end of the soul and spirit that God placed within us.

So even as we prepare for a return of Jesus, remember again that we never know when it comes, so let us be prepared as Jesus advised us in Matthew 25: by caring, by loving, by hoping, and believing.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Send me an e-mail or leave me your thoughts in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.

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

What I’m Thinking: How to Prepare

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In Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus spent a lot of time telling his followers to be ready. In the story of the sheep and the goats, he told them what being ready looks like.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the end of chapter twenty-five of Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 25:31:46). It’s the story we usually refer to as the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.

You probably remember it. Like me, I suspect you don’t find it terribly difficult. In the story, at the end of time the Son of Man gathers the peoples of the world and divides them into two groups. One group, he says, “You took care of me during life.” The other group, he says, “You did not.” Neither group recognizes their success or failure and the Son of Man says, “Whenever you did these things or did not do these things for the least of these, my brothers and sisters, well then you did (or didn’t do) it to me.”

This story closes out a lengthy sequence in chapters twenty-four and twenty-five of Matthew in which Jesus has been advising his followers to be prepared for the end of history, for the judgment and the restoration of the world. Throughout this he has been encouraging them, directing them, cajoling them into readiness, into preparation. It hasn’t been quite so clear in most of those stories what that consists of.

In one of those stories it was the oil for the lamps, and what is the oil for the lamp? In another story was the talents and investing them and what does it look like to invest in the coming realm of God?

In this story Jesus made it abundantly clear: It’s about feeding the hungry. It’s about clothing the naked. It’s about visiting those in prison. It’s about tender care for those with whom we share this earth. “When you do these things for the least of these, my brothers and sisters,” said Jesus, “you do it to me.”

And that means we’ve got no excuse. We’ve got no way of coming to God and saying, “Well, I didn’t know what to do” (of course, we had the law and the prophets to tell us as well). Jesus expects us to care for one another. Whether we agree or disagree, whether we’ve been fair or unfair, Jesus expects us to care for one another.

When we do, we care for Christ.

As we come up to Thanksgiving this week, I hope that that is something that you can take to your Thanksgiving tables and to whatever groupings of family and friends that you gather with this weekend (or rather this week), but even more than that I hope that this is a message that we can take to the larger communities of our lives, to the extended family, to the church communities and the work communities, to the civic organizations, to governments, even to nations and to international relations. We’ve been asked to care for one another, and if and when we do so, then we know our God gives thanks.

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: Discipleship, Video

What I’m Thinking: Prepared – Woke

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Jesus repeated a very clear message in Matthew 24 and 25: Be Awake. Be Prepared.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 25:1-13). It opens with one of Jesus’ best-known stories. We call it the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Bridesmaids.

I can’t say I’m really familiar with the custom on which Jesus based this story. Ten women came to a place where they were to greet the bridegroom. They brought lamps and oil. The groom was late, so they settled in. Some of them fell asleep. The oil lamps continued to burn; the oil levels within them dropped.

When the groom arrived, they woke up. They gathered things and they got the lamps ready. Five of the bridesmaids had brought extra oil. Five of them had not.

The ones who had not asked the ones that brought extra if they could have some, but there wasn’t going to be enough to go around to get through the entire set of ceremonies for which these lamps needed to be lit. The five bridesmaids went out to find oil. They found it, but when they came back they were not admitted to the wedding.

Jesus ended this story with the instruction to keep awake.

In fact, this story is one of a series in chapters twenty-four and twenty-five of Matthew’s Gospel in which Jesus is making the point — made the point repeatedly — to be awake, to be aware, to be ready, to be concerned.

Curiously enough, in some quarters of the United States these days one of the worst insults that you can be called is “woke,” and yet it is Jesus’ precise instruction to be woke, to be aware, to be prepared, to be there when things are ready to happen.

I cannot recommend ignorance. I cannot recommend flying by the seat of your pants (however often I myself might do it). I can’t recommend letting others set the agenda, at least not when Jesus has set an agenda that tells us to be awake.

Whether you agree or disagree with the politics or the analysis around race relations or gender relations in the United States, what I recommend is that you make yourself as educated as you can. Learn. Consider. Because that is the extra oil of human decision making. That is the oil which will keep our lamps lit and our light bright.

Be awake. Be awake.

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: Prepare, Video

What I’m Thinking: Humble

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Jesus had little time for pride. He urged his followers to be humble.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the twenty-third chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 23:1-12).

In chapter twenty-two, Jesus had several little conversations, debates, challenges and responses, with leaders of the various schools of religious thought that one found in the temple in the first century. He went back and forth with Sadducees, who were dedicated to the temple worship. He went back and forth with Herodians, whose primary purpose was to support the continued existence of the Herodian dynasty. And of course, he had debates with Pharisees.

He had been debating Pharisees all his ministry because the Pharisees were strongest in the villages from which he had come. Here in the temple, these were Pharisees that came from a different kind of life. These were city people, wealthy people, powerful people. These were folks who were part of the Jerusalem Council. They had authority. They had power.

At the end of chapter twenty-two, all of these people were silenced. Jesus went on to address everybody who was present and the first thing he said was to beware of the Pharisees.

I’m pretty sure that he didn’t mean all Pharisees, in great part because throughout his ministry Jesus sounded an awful lot like a Pharisee, one trained in that way of thinking and of living and of worshiping God. But there amongst the powerful Pharisees, those were the things that he warned about.

He warned about two things. He warned about people who would put together systems that burden some and left others more free, and those others who were more free would not help those with the burdens. Obviously, the ones with the lighter weights upon them would have been these city Pharisees.

The second thing he warned about was their pride, their hubris, the way that they demanded the best seats and the way that they wore their fringes long. “Those who exalt themselves,” Jesus concluded, “will be humbled. Those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

It is due, in fact, to my own pride, my own hubris, that I find this message of humility to be so compelling and so challenging at the same time. I am convinced that one of the things that Jesus came to show us was how to live humbly, how to how to preach humbly and how to speak humbly, how to guide people humbly, how to critique them humbly, how to be humble.

This is not a world that rewards humility and we should not expect it to do so, but said Jesus we have a God who rewards humility. “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled; those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

There is a line between humility and abuse, and I do not recommend that you cross that line. What I do recommend is that listen before you speak. I recommend that you appreciate before you critique. I recommend that you remember that others have contributions that may be more valuable than your own. Most of all I recommend that you remember and celebrate that God has created so many gifted people in this world, and that God is greater than us all.

Be humble.

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: Humility, Video

What I’m Thinking: Remembering Moses

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The Book of Deuteronomy ends with a brief tribute to the life of Moses. This Sunday we will remember others who have made a difference in our lives.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the 34th chapter of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 34:1-12), the very end of the book, which describes the death, the burial, and in a brief tribute, the life of Moses.

God invited Moses to a place that he could see into the land of Canaan, the land that had been promised to those escaping slavery from Egypt. God told Moses that he would see it, but he would not enter. At a hundred and twenty years old, Moses had done many great things, but it was time to lay down the burdens of life and leadership to be held in the hands of God.

Moses’ burial is a little unclear. The text says that the site of his grave is not known. You can read the text as saying that God buried Moses; you can also read the text to simply say that Moses was buried (by whom left unclear).

The book closes with a final tribute to what Moses had done. “There was never a prophet like Moses,” it says, neither before nor after — or after up to the point at which the book was written. He did so many great things in the sight of the Egyptians and of the Hebrew people. He did, after all, lead them with the help of God out of slavery into freedom, and to the very boundaries of their new home.

This coming Sunday, Church of the Holy Cross will observe All Saints Sunday. We will read the names of those who have gone before us in the past year. We will ring the bell in their honor. We will light candles in their memory. And we will hold it in our hearts the love and the comfort that we received from them, the affection and the regard that we gave to them. We will remember them the way the people of Israel remembered Moses soul — not as great prophets, perhaps, but as great souls, great influences in our lives, great hearts that beat in concert with our own.

For if Moses was unique, so are each and every one of those whom we will remember. So are each and every one of us. God has given us our own gifts and our own tasks, and somewhere in someone’s heart we are held with as much affection in regard as anyone ever held for Moses.

And in one great heart, in the heart of God, all of us are held and comforted and loved.

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: AllSaints, Memorial, Video
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