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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: It Was Good

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Genesis tells us that when God created the world, God created it good. Why don’t we treat the planet the way we treat things that are good?

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the first chapter of Genesis (Genesis 1:1-2:4), the creation of the world. There’s a phrase that is used over and over again in this step-by-step, day-by-day account of God’s creative activity. God looks at the things that have been made, and God sees that they are good.

Not every religion in history has looked at Creation and seen goodness. In the ancient world Jews lived shoulder to shoulder with Babylonians for quite some time, thanks to the Exile, and Babylonians believed that the world was an accident, that in fact it was an unfortunate accident created by the death of one of the gods. But Jews, Christians, Muslims believe that God meant to create the world, and that in meaning to create the world God made something good.

I guess my question, for we human beings in general but particularly those who believe that the world is a good thing, is why don’t we treat it that way? Why don’t we care for this planet? It’s the one that has supported our lives since we were born. It is the one that will welcome our bodies when we are done with them. Why don’t we treat this planet is if it were good.

Plastic in the oceans. Overfishing and overhunting of countless species. The way that we discard carbon into the atmosphere to keep ourselves warm or cool, and the way that we disregard rising sea levels and increasing temperatures and more violent weather systems in order to preserve, not our lives, but our comfort. Why don’t we treat the world as if it is something good?

To be truthful, I know the answer to the question, “Why?” It’s greed. It usually is. So the next question is not a question, it’s a challenge. Let us overcome our greed. Let us set aside our instinct for power, and let us go back to what God saw at Creation. Let us perceive this world for its goodness and treat it with respect, honor, compassion, and care.

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: Creation, Environment, Video

What I’m Thinking: Pentecost

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In the early days of the Church they organized themselves around the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the second chapter of Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-21) because this coming Sunday is Pentecost.

A lot of people gathered in Jerusalem, because the holiday they were celebrating was an important one. It commemorated the gift of the Law, the organizing principle of the people of Israel. On that day, those first Christians — Jesus’ closest friends and associates — they were also present in Jerusalem and they were also observing the holiday. But then came the organizing principle of what would be the Christian Church, and that organizing principle was: the presence, the power, the inspiration, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

They started telling the stories of Jesus and to the astonishment of those listening they understood them in their own languages, not the languages that in theory all these Galileans would be speaking.

In all of the New Testament — in the Gospels, in the book of Zcts, in the various letters of Paul and John and others — it becomes abundantly clear that in the early Church the presence of the Holy Spirit was understood to be a universal. This was part of what it meant to be in the Church that one was filled with the Holy Spirit. In these contemporary times there are certainly churches that continue to organize themselves that way. Most of us, however, probably go through each of our days without even asking ourselves: Where is the Holy Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit guiding me in this moment, in this day? Is the Holy Spirit strengthening me for what lies ahead?

Let’s go back to that sense of the early Church that the Holy Spirit was important and indeed that the Holy Spirit provided that central organizing principle of the new Church, that we would be the people who in every circumstance paid attention and listened for God, seeking God’s direction, asking for God’s strength, rejoicing in God’s presence.

Some years ago, the United Church of Christ launched a tagline: “God is still speaking.” We did that because of our firm belief that we continue to be a Spirit led Church, a Spirit infused Church, a Spirited Church.

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

Categories: What I'm Thinking
Tags: Pentecost, Video, Whatimthinking

What I’m Thinking: Looking Up

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Why look up for Jesus? Actually, the question should be: Why aren’t we looking elsewhere for Jesus?

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the first chapter of Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:6-14) the ascension of Jesus.

After his resurrection, according to Acts of the Apostles, Jesus spent some time in Jerusalem with his followers, teaching them about the things that were still to be done and, I would imagine, encouraging them and strengthening them for the tasks they were taking on. According to Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, Jesus was still teaching them at the very moment that he was lifted up into the air and vanished into a cloud.

The story says that the disciples looked up after him until a pair of mysterious strangers asked why they were looking up into heaven. “This same Jesus who disappeared in that way will reappear in the same way.”

Why are you looking up?

Well we’re looking up because that was where Jesus went. We’re looking up because that was the last place that we saw Jesus. We’re looking up because we really want to see Jesus again.

The strangers’ – angels’ – messengers’ word to them is assuring but also confusing. “Don’t look up,” they say, but at the same time that’s where you’re going to see Jesus again. I’d have thought that would encourage me to keep looking up, rather than to bring my eyes back down. Because I think that Luke may have recorded that message just a little bit off.

Because the point is not that we don’t look for Jesus in the clouds; the point is that we look for Jesus elsewhere. The point is that we carry on the work that Jesus gave us. The point is that shortly in the book of Acts the Holy Spirit is about to come and both the courage and the skills and the energy (Both? That’s three… well) all of those of the disciples are going to be substantially increased.

The reason you can’t stand around looking up it’s because there is so much to do at ground level. The reason that you can’t stand and look up is that Jesus is still active in the world. The reason you can’t stand and look up is because Jesus is active in you.

Why do you look up to heaven? Well, because the eye follows a moving object, and the point is for us to be the moving objects that the eyes follow, to be the ones in whom Jesus can be recognized in our love and care and grace.

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

What I’m Thinking: No Harangue

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Despite his reputation for firmness, almost rigidity, the Apostle Paul began speaking to the Athenians with a compliment.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the seventeenth chapter of Acts of the Apostles, the apostle Paul’s address to a crowd in Athens in the great forum, the Areopagus.

I have, I know, my own mental picture of the apostle Paul. I typically associate Paul with a certain amount of impatience, and with inflexibility, even anger, which doesn’t quite square with the reality that the apostle Paul was an extraordinarily successful founder of brand new churches, churches that took root in places that didn’t have a background (or at least a strong background) in the Jewish faith. He was the apostle to the Gentiles, as he put it, and so the people that were persuaded by the things he said were the people who did not have to the Hebrew scriptures as a foundation for understanding the teachings, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.

He started from scratch.

And here in the 17th chapter of Acts I think we get a hint of how he was that successful: because he didn’t stand in the square and harangue people. He started out by saying, “I see how religious you are in every way.”

Now, he pointed to a particular altar dedicated to “an unknown god” and proceeded to say, I know something about this unknown God. The people that raised me know something about this unknown God. And this unknown God has done something extraordinary that I would like you to know.

The result was that people listened. Not all of them believed. Some of them challenged him. Some of them scoffed. But they listened. They listened.

It’s always tempting to say that our times are the worst of times (although I suppose with Dickens we could also claim that they are the best of times as well). It is something of a habit in contemporary society to harangue, to condemn, to begin addressing people by first telling them just how wrong they are. The apostle Paul shows us that we do not need to do that, not even with that most precious message: the message of God’s love.

Indeed, that message begins by recognizing just how precious the people to whom you’re speaking are to God. No need to harangue. Instead, it’s a matter of opening up something new about the God who is fundamentally unknown to us all, but of whom we can speak about love and compassion and care.

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: Evangelism, Video

What I’m Thinking: Show Us

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Philip wanted to see God – don’t we all? – but he hadn’t been looking in the right places.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the fourteenth chapter in John’s Gospel (John 14:1-14), a portion of Jesus’ Farewell Address to his disciples.

The supper was over and Jesus had some more things to say to his friends. We call it “The Farewell Address” — the disciples didn’t know that. In light of the resurrection, it wasn’t all that long a farewell, either. Towards the beginning of it, Philip wanted to know something. “Lord, show us the father and we will be satisfied.”

Well, he was in good company. Moses had asked to see God some centuries before. Jesus’ response is important. He said to Philip, look, you have known me, you have seen the things that I do. You know that these are the things that God does. How can you look at me and still want to see God?

But I don’t want to leave Philip’s question quite so quickly. I think there is a very common human desire to see beyond what is hidden, to pull away the curtain, to find out what makes things tick. Philip’s question is part of that grand tradition of human curiosity from which we have learned so much.

Yet the asking of the question, as Jesus’ response shows, shows it was not the question that was the problem, it was Philip’s ability to look in the right places, that his question came as much out of his expectations, out of his assumptions of what God would look like, as it did out of his curiosity. Be curious, said Jesus, about the things that you are seeing. Be curious about the ways in which they reveal God. Be curious about what is right in front of you.

It’s not a matter of pulling away the curtain. It is not a matter of pulling away what conceals, because in the case of the works of God we will see it in the very things that we believe are hiding it. “Show us God and we will be satisfied.” Look and see. Look and see those who comfort and guide and help and love.

Look and see and you will see 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
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