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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: Questions About Wisdom

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The figure of Wisdom takes center stage in Proverbs 8 – but why not in human life? And why do we (men) resist the authority of women?

Here’s a transcript:

My apologies for the dealy in producing What I’m Thinking this week. Last weekend was the ‘Aha Pae’aina of the Hawai’i Conference of the United Church of Christ, and we elected the Rev. Dr. David Popham to be our new Conference Minister starting in September.

Welcome – e komo mai – to you, Dr. Popham. I’m really looking forward to the season of your leadership for the Hawai’i Conference.

But it also meant that I had less brain to do some thinking with over these last couple days.

Nevertheless, I’m thinking now, and I’m thinking about the eighth chapter of Proverbs (Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31). Although it is Trinity Sunday coming up, the eighth chapter of Proverbs (as is appropriate for an Old Testament book) contains no real sign of the Trinity, at least not the way it would be considered and developed in the New Testament writings. The eighth chapter of Proverbs focuses on the figure of Wisdom, a pre-existent Wisdom that was with God at the creation of the world.

A Wisdom who is female.

There are a couple of things that I always wonder about Wisdom.

First of all, I keep wondering why we are not more eager to seek it; why we do not consider what may happen or what is likely to happen when we do things; why we persist in transferring carbon from the ground to the air when we know perfectly well the effects that it is already having upon our planet and the effects that are likely to come? There are people living on islands who will become homeless because those islands will no longer be habitable in their lifetime.

Why aren’t we wise?

And why, also, are we so dismissive of women in leadership, in religious circles in particular and in the wider world? Is it because we are afraid that they might bring that wisdom, like the figure of Wisdom in Proverbs? Or is it because we are – we men are – simply so much in love with power that we will not let it aside for justice, for wisdom, for the very love of 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: Video, Wisdom

What I’m Thinking: Spirit of Discernment

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Even on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came with signs and wonders, it was not obvious that what was happenings came from the Holy Spirit. People still needed to interpret. They still needed to understand.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m wearing red because this coming Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. It celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church; we frequently call it the Church’s birthday. And on that first Pentecost, people saw something that looked liked flames dancing above the heads of the apostles: red flames, and thus red.

The apostles also found themselves speaking in languages that they did not understand but which others, visitors from foreign places to the city of Jerusalem, did. And so there’s this sense of confusion and of clarity, of hearing things that you do not understand but at least you hear them in your own language.

And that, I think, is typical of the work, of the movement, of the guidance even of the Holy Spirit in that day and in this. We still need to interpret, we still need to discern, we still need to decide what is the Holy Spirit and what is not.

The Holy Spirit may overthrow our expectations or it may confirm them. Some of the folks watching, listening to the apostles that day thought that they were drunk. Simon Peter returned that no, this is something that was prophesied – but I might point out that until that day nobody expected that prophecy to look like what they saw.

It is our kuleana, it is our responsibility in each one of our days to be attentive for the movement of the Holy Spirit, to listen for that still small voice, to follow the wind, the breeze of God. But it is also our kuleana, our responsibility, to determine what is the Spirit and what is not, what moves us toward that better and brighter place, and what in fact moves us back towards all the heartache, all the sin, all the evil of the world we already know so well.

It is our kuleana, our responsibility, to test the spirits, and to follow that which is holy.

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: Clarity, Discernment, HolySpirit, Pentecost, Video

What I’m Thinking: People, Not Things

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Sometimes people treat people as if they were things. The Apostle Paul showed how powerful it can be if you treat people like people.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the sixteenth chapter of Acts of the Apostles (Acts 16:16-34). In one sense, it tells a very common story: it describes the Apostle Paul being thrown into jail.

That happened to him a lot.

But there’s also some things that aren’t quite so common. It begins with Paul exorcising a “spirit of divination” from a slave girl. Her value to her owners was, in fact, her ability to, through this demon, to say something about the future. With that ability gone, they have Paul and his companions thrown into jail.

But then there’s an earthquake, and Paul and his companions could escape, but they do not. Instead, they stay and reassure the jailer, who otherwise was threatening to take his own life at this failure in his responsibilities.

Both the slave girl and the jailer have something in common (despite one being at the very bottom of the society’s ladder and the other being fairly close): that is, their value to other people, well, they get treated like things.

Not like people.

The young woman is only valuable as long as she’s got this spirit of oppression that makes her say and do things that she otherwise would not. The jailer? Well, as long as he keeps the prisoners behind bars, he’s fine. But he is disposable – even ready to dispose of himself – the moment it seems like he is no longer able to do that which he’s been appointed to do, despite the fact that an earthquake is, by anyone’s standards, an act of God.

Here, of course, very much so an act of God.

The Apostle Paul treats both of these people as human beings, healing the one and not claiming his own liberty in order to free the other.

It’s been said that humanity’s greatest sin is when we treat other people as if they were things. Here in Acts of the Apostles, we find at least two instances of early Christian leaders seeking to do the opposite:

To treat people as people.

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: People, Video, Whatimthinking

What I’m Thinking: Holy City

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Much of the Revelation to John contains words and images of judgment and destruction – but judgment and destruction are not the goal.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the Revelation to John, towards the end: portions of chapters 21 and 22 (Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5).

Much of the book of Revelation is concerned with judgment: first, judgment upon a series of churches, and then judgment expressed in predictions of disaster for what turns out to be the Roman Empire and its leaders and its minions.

But towards the end of the book, the author turns from the vision of destruction to the vision of a new Jerusalem, a holy city coming down from heaven to be the residence not just of God but of all nations.

I think it’s important to stress that this is the goal. It is not the judgment. It is not the destruction. It is this holy city, this place of healing for all the nations, this place of joy for all the nations.

It is probably not within our power – it is certainly not within our power – to create such a holy place here in this life on this earth. Nevertheless, our efforts and our prayers are all oriented towards this goal: a place of healing, a place of renewal, a place of joy, a place of peace.

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: Goal, Judgment

What I’m Thinking: Us and Them

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Who is “Us” and who is “Them?” It can be a very useful thing – but also a harmful barrier between groups of people.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about “Us” and “Them.” In the eleventh chapter of Acts of the Apostles (Acts 11:1-18), Luke tells the story (three times actually in chapters ten and eleven) of how the relationship between “Us” and “Them” changed radically in the early Christian Church, among the People of the Way, when Simon Peter first had a dream, and then had an experience.

The dream was of God declaring a net full of unclean animals to be clean. And then, the experience was that of the Holy Spirit coming to a group of Gentiles, a group of foreigners, to Them.

Us and Them – it’s a useful concept sometimes. It has its utility. The simplest single-celled animal would not survive without some kind of barrier that says what is Me and what is Not Me. Our skin on our bodies performs much the same function. Within the skin: Me. Outside the skin: Not Me.

But the relationship between Me and Not Me, between Us and Them: that is one that every single faith tradition, that is one that every single cultural tradition, that is one that every single national tradition has had to come to understand, to work out for themselves.

And in that dream, and in that experience, Simon Peter transformed who would be Us – who could be Us – and who would always be Them. Suddenly the doors were open wider, and the barriers were slighter.

And this, I think, is the movement of the Holy Spirit: to lower the barriers between Us and Them, until one day, by the grace of God we all celebrate that We are 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: #community, #video, Unity
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