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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: Raised Standards

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Micah 6:8 is difficult enough: to do justice, to love faithfully, and to walk humbly with God. In the Beatitudes, Jesus raised the bar. Poverty of spirit, meekness, pureness of heart, and more become the challenge of a faith life.

Here’s a transcript:

The Revised Common Lectionary has brought two of my favorite Scriptures to us this coming Sunday, and I’m thinking about both of them.

The earlier of the two is found in the sixth chapter of the prophet Micah (Micah 6:1-8). You may recognize the eighth verse with which it closes: “What does the LORD require of you but to do justice and steadfast love and to walk humbly with our God?”

Centuries later Jesus would go out on his teaching ministry. Matthew describes (Matthew 5:1-12) how he went to the summit of a hill or a small mountain, gathered his followers and a crowd around him, and began to teach. And he begins with what we call “The Beatitudes,” from the Latin word for blessing.

Why blessing? Well, because this is what Jesus said: “Bless are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth…” and so forth.

I usually think about Jesus as someone who takes the bar, the standards, and continually raises them, and indeed I think that if you compare Micah 6:8 with the first verses in Matthew 5 you will find Jesus raising the bar. It’s not enough just to do justice. It’s not enough to love with a steadfastness and commitment. It’s not even enough to walk humbly with our God. But now Jesus invites us to consider even the worst parts of our lives as times in which God’s blessing is active.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” – but how much did that mercy cost us when we extended it?

So yes, these are two of my favorite passages in Scripture. It does not make either one of them easy. It does not make either one of them something that one can just decide one morning to get up and do.

Part of the promise of Jesus’ words as recorded in Matthew 5 is that the struggle itself is part of the journey, and that God is with us in all the stresses and all the troubles to bring us to a better us and a better world.

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: Beatitudes

What I’m Thinking: Whom Shall I Fear?

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As we wrestle in Hawai’i with the shocking news of murder and arson near Diamond Head, we hear the Psalmist ask: “Whom shall I fear?”

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about how a Sunday in Honolulu, just below the majesty of Diamond Head, became the setting for violence, for fire, for death. My prayers are with the injured and with the grieving friends and family, with those who lost homes, and with those whose hopes and peace have been shattered by this eruption of violence. I have no great wisdom, especially when we don’t really know all of what happened, except to say that we are called to better things.

The psalm for this coming week, Psalm 27 (Psalm 27:1, 4-9), speaks directly to this. You probably recognize the opening words: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

The sad truth is that people fear a great deal in these days. Sometimes they do not fear what they ought. Sometimes they fear what is of no danger, but there is a lot of fear running around, and some of it, as we saw on Sunday, is fear that is justified.

Somebody asked me just the other day what my worst fear – memory of fear – was, and the things that came to mind were times when somebody else was in serious risk of harm or of illness, and this was a risk that I could not manage. This was a danger I could not control. Those were the times that really made my breath catch and my brain freeze.

The Psalmist wrote from an experience both of deep danger – deep fear – and an experience of resilience, of survival, of emerging into an assurance that it was not just the Psalmist’s own resources that had brought them through, but also the blessings, presence, and love of God.

I wish I had some wisdom that would bring that presence and power into everyone’s life automatically and we would, in fact, be able to say with assurance, “The LORD is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear?”

But the body will react as it does. The heart will race. The skin will get clammy. The breath will come short no matter what we believe when we get to that place where the danger signals are ringing their clarion call.

What I hope is that our assurance in God can help us to resist the worst impulses of our fears. Our fears are truly bad guides. Our fears lead us into horrors, into oppression, into unjust death and destruction for the innocent. Our fears also give us that which we need to confront and to survive the real dangers of our lives.

Perhaps in the assurance of God’s presence, perhaps in letting God’s presence work in us, we can let the resources of our fears help us to endure and we can prevent the misdirection and poor guidance of our fears from leading us into places where we should not go.

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: Fear, Video, Whatimthinking

What I’m Thinking: The Old, Old Question

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When John the Baptist began to “introduce” Jesus to his followers, he opened the question we’ve been asking ever since: Who is Jesus?

Here’s a transcript:

Belatedly, I wish you a very Happy New Year. My prayer is that the struggles and trials that 2020 has already brought to us on the national and international stages might serve as warning, as inspiration, and as a source of commitment for all of us to work for peace within our homes, in our communities, and throughout this world.

I’m thinking about the first chapter of John (John 1:29-42), and I can’t quite think about it without also thinking about Carl Bloch’s famous painting of the Sermon on the Mount. You’ve probably seen it. Jesus is sitting on a stone with his arm raised and a bunch of people listening.

It’s a source of Internet memes. One of my favorites has a caption in which Jesus is saying, “Now, everybody pay attention. I don’t want to see four different versions of this later on.”

Well, that is what we got, because apparently none of Jesus’ disciples took good notes.

Each of the four gospel writers took on a similar task. Each one of them was determined to describe Jesus in such a way that the readers – that we – would come to know who he was, what he meant, how the world has been changed through him. John the gospel writer was no different. And indeed, here in the first chapter, in the description of Jesus passing by John the Baptist on the day after his baptism, John proclaims, “This is the Lamb of God.”

Who was Jesus? That is the question that keeps getting proffered and keeps getting answered by each of the gospel writers and by each of the people that they describe in their gospels. It is the question that we, each of us, also face. Who is Jesus in our lives? What does it mean that some call him the Lamb of God? What does it mean that he would call himself the Bread of Life?

What does it mean that we say that God’s own self took human form, walked the earth, was generous and kind and faithful even unto a torturous death? What does it mean that this One lives on?

That is the question for each one of us.

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

Categories: What I'm Thinking
Tags: Video

What I’m Thinking: Birth of a Savior

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Luke and all his contemporaries knew where a savior should be born – and it wasn’t in a stable. Yet that, said Luke, is the way God works.

Here’s a transcript:

“And while Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first born son, and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for him in the inn.”

It’s a strange place for a Savior to be born. Luke knew that. So did his contemporaries. Saviors, like emperors for example, are supposed to be born in grand houses and palaces, not in strange places far from home. They’re not supposed to be laid to sleep in animals’ feeding troughs. They’re supposed to be in finely decorated cradles with finely woven blankets and soft pillows.

They’re not supposed to be greeted by a band of mangy shepherds descended from the hills. Even if they did say that they had been given the news by angels, shepherds are supposed to remain at a comfortable distance, and not be found crowding into the baby’s chamber.

But no, that is how Luke tells the story of our Savior’s birth, because this is how our God works. This is how our Savior works. This is how our Holy Spirit works: amongst the folks who are in the greatest need, amongst the people who are cast aside, amongst those who are far from power and position and privilege.

Amongst those, in fact, who need to be saved.

And so, I wish you the blessings of this Savior on this Christmas, this one who comes to you not to where your arrogance says you are, not to where your pride says you are, but to where your humility and your sense of truth tell you that you are: in need of God’s embrace, of God’s compassion, of God’s love.

And that is what you will find in the child of Bethlehem.

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: the next edition of What I’m Thinking will be released on Monday, January 13. Male Kalikimaka! Hau’oli Makahiki hou!

Categories: What I'm Thinking
Tags: Christmas

What I’m Thinking: God With Us

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Matthew describes Jesus with the ancient name, “Emmanuel,” “God with us.” Certainly Jesus was God with us – and so, in a different way, is every human being.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 1:18-25), the section that begins with these words, “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.” With these casual words Matthew introduces a section filled with remarkable events: Mary’s unexpected and miraculous pregnancy, Joseph’s visions, and – what many women consider would no doubt consider miraculous – Joseph coming to believe what Mary had said to him.

In these days when women so often find themselves discounted, disregarded, or disbelieved, we should remember that, yes, Joseph failed to believe Mary when she told him the truth. But he did come to trust her and to trust her truthful word.

Matthew also quotes from the prophet Isaiah speaking of the birth of a child to be called Emmanuel, “God with us.” You know, I think that every child, every human being is, by virtue of being created in the image of God, another “God with us.” Not, perhaps, with Jesus’ saving powers, but worthy of the same regard, the same compassion, the same embrace.

I cannot help reading this story of the birth of God with us without recalling what Jesus himself said (and that Matthew recorded toward the end of his gospel). Jesus told the story about a judge separating people who had cared for their neighbors from people who had not, and telling them that when they did so, they cared for him; when the failed to do so, they failed to care for him.

Certainly God was with us in a unique and powerful way in Jesus the child of Bethlehem, the prophet of Nazareth, the savior of Calvary, the resurrected Christ. We dare not forget the Messiah is with us in every single human being. Each one of them, each one of us, each one of you is worthy of our love, our compassion, and our care: our embrace as a sign of God with 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: Christmas, Godwithus, Video, Whatimthinking
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