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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: Field of Hope

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It was an odd time to buy a field, but Jeremiah did it as a sign of hope.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the thirty-second chapter of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15), in which the prophet bought a field.

It seems like an unusual story to appear in the midst of a book of prophecy, although Jeremiah had performed other sorts of prophetic actions. That is, he would do something that was intended to be symbolic of God’s message, wearing a yoke, for example, in public. In this case, however, Jeremiah’s purchase of the field seemed really ill timed.

Jeremiah himself was a prisoner of prisoner of the king. Jeremiah had been pretty much systematically irritating King Zedekiah for some time, but it wasn’t just Jeremiah that was in trouble. It was also Zedekiah and all of the people of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was, at the time, besieged by a foreign army,

So why go buying a field?

The story as reported in the book is chock full of legal detail: the preparation of documents, and Jeremiah’s direction to have them properly preserved in a jar so that they wouldn’t deteriorate, so that they will last a long time. What’s the point of all this? Because you knew there had to be a point. Well, it comes in the last verse of Sunday’s reading: “For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”

Some years ago there was a fairly popular movie called Field of Dreams in which somebody was encouraged to build a baseball field so that the ghosts of deceased players could come and play one more time. This was Jeremiah’s Field of Hope.

It was the field that he wasn’t sure he would ever see because it lay outside the city walls. It was a field that he didn’t know if he would ever plant because when the city fell he might easily be among the slain. It was a field that as far as Jeremiah knew would end up in the possession of the besiegers, of the Babylonians.

But the careful transfer of the property, the meticulous documentation, the signatures, and preserving everything in a jar. It didn’t matter whether the field itself ever got into Jeremiah’s possession. What mattered was that it had become a sign of hope for Jeremiah himself and for the people to whom he bore witness of God’s will and intent.

Jeremiah had spent most of his life telling the leadership, telling the people, that God was not happy. And indeed God was not. In this moment Jeremiah heard another word: that God does not abandon those who are held in the love of God. So yes, things are bad — but there will be fields to be planted in, vineyards to be tended. There will be children and there will be the wisdom of elders. There will be a future.

What, my friends, is your Field of Hope? What is part of your life that lets you know that God loves you into the future?

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, Whatimthinking

What I’m Thinking: Lament

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Biblical writers did not hide their sadness and grieving. Jeremiah shows us how.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the eighth chapter of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 8:18-9:1). It is one of Jeremiah’s warning oracles, but in this section that we’re reading for this Sunday Jeremiah turned to lament:

“My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.
Hark the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land.”

Jeremiah 8:18-19

Most of most of chapter eight and indeed chapter nine consists of Jeremiah’s expression of God’s accusations against the people and the leadership of Judah, the things that they had done wrong. It consists as well of consequences to be expected if the people do not change their ways, if the leadership does not do right. Here in this section at the end of chapter eight and the beginning of chapter nine, Jeremiah turns to an expression of lament for the condition in which the people would find themselves if indeed they did not turn around.

In Jeremiah’s view, they never did. Jeremiah, in fact, experienced not one but two foreign invasions of his country, two sieges of his home city, two times in which the city surrendered and came under the oppression of a foreign power. It was in the second siege that Solomon’s temple was destroyed. Now, I can’t be entirely certain about when in his career Jeremiah wrote these words — Jeremiah had lots of reason for lament over the course of his life aside from the state of national affairs — and Jeremiah certainly anticipated, anticipated the need to lament.

I take the reminder from here that lament is… is one of those things that Scripture aids us deeply with. It is a feature of our era that we do not make time for lament willingly. We have no grieving periods; we do not wear black arm bands for a year after loved ones die. Instead, we are expected to pick up and make things all normal again within a remarkably short period. We ask the question, “How is so and so?” if we haven’t heard from them — that’s a good question — but should we really be surprised that the answer is “Not so well. Not so well”?

Let us take some wisdom from Jeremiah and from others of the prophets and the psalmists who knew that mourning, that grieving, that lament is an essential part of living, because times are hard and things do go bad. We lose jobs, we lose friends, we lose family. And so with Jeremiah we can lift our voices to God and ask:

“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?
Oh that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears,
so that I might weep day and night.”

Jeremiah 8:22-9:1

If you’re sad, my friends, lament and know that God hears.

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, Whatimthinking

What I’m Thinking: Cranky Jesus

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Like many prophets, Jesus got frustrated and cranky. Can we read both the frustrations of God and God’s blessings in the world?

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the twelfth chapter of Luke’s gospel (Luke 12:49-56), that portion when Jesus got cranky.

Jesus in the twelfth chapter had spent a good deal of time telling first the people in the crowd and then speaking with the smaller circle of his immediate followers and disciples about the urgent needs to be prepared for the reign of God. The reign of God, in Jesus’ mind, was coming and coming soon.

At this point, Jesus began to express some of his frustration. He’d come to bring a fire to the earth; he could not wait until that fire was kindled. He had come to receive a special baptism, and in this moment Jesus urgently desired that that baptism be fulfilled. He talked about bringing division. And he asked, why is it that you cannot recognize the signs of the times? You could look up to the sky and predict the weather; why can’t you see the signs of the times?

Jesus the prophet — Jesus the Messiah — was frustrated and anxious and cranky.

Jesus was certainly not the first of the great leaders of Israel to either feel that kind of frustration or to express it. I wonder: Can you imagine the frustration that God must feel in watching us human beings? Who, if we’re honest, know what is good and what is right.We know what is selfish; we know what is generous. We know how to care for one another; we know how we harm one another. We know, as the teacher in Ecclesiastes might have said, we know how to hate; we know how to love.

The signs of our times are not so different from the signs of Jesus’ time, in that human casual cruelty and tolerated evil is still rampant in the world. In many ways we expect it. We’re puzzled when it doesn’t appear.

Remember the frustrations of this teacher, healer, prophet, Messiah. Remember these frustrations because they reflect the frustrations of our Creator.

Remember these frustrations and remember also that this same frustrated God recalled to life the Savior that humanity rejected, and has given us the company of the Holy Spirit that we might never be alone.

Read the signs of the times the signs that say that human beings need to straighten up and fly right. Read the signs of the times that also say: our God is 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: Frustration, Grace

What I’m Thinking: Faith’s Assurance

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Faith is the assurance of things not seen – but faith is also informed by hope’s fulfillment in the lives of others.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the eleventh chapter of the letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16), which opens with what might be a familiar definition to you: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen.”

It’s a good working definition for religious faith. In faith we are concerned with relationship with a God whom we do not see. Even those closest to God in those most ancient stories did not see God, but experienced God’s presence, God’s action, God’s words.

Faith, however, is not quite the same as hope, because of the use of the word “assurance.” It is not merely that we hope that something will happen. We come into faith with something of a confidence that this thing we hope for will happen. Faith is related not just to hope but also to expectation, not just what we want to happen but also how firmly do we believe that it will?

Curiously, the author of Hebrews — who wasn’t the Apostle Paul; Hebrews neither claims to be written by Paul nor frankly does the author of Hebrews sound much like the Apostle Paul — the author went on to provide illustrations of people with faith. These included Abraham. And here’s the thing.

Abraham certainly did possess great faith, heard promises from God, promises that took some time to come to fulfillment. Indeed, the author of Hebrews says some of them never were fulfilled in Abraham’s lifetime. Abraham became an ancestor, but the proliferation of his children and grandchildren and great grandchildren and umpty great grandchildren was something he, of course, could never see. Not in a human lifetime.

But all of the examples offered by the author of Hebrews are examples not just of promises of God but promises of God fulfilled. We are the heirs, the heirs of faith, of people whose hopes were fulfilled.

And I think that is part of where our confidence, where our assurance of things hoped for, our conviction of things not seen comes from. We do not come into a faith relationship with God with a blank slate. We come into our faith relationship with God from the experience of those who come before us. Those people experienced the fulfillment of God’s promises. They experienced God’s trustworthiness. They experienced God’s faithfulness.

From their witness, may we find that assurance of things hoped for, that confidence of things not seen.

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

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

What I’m Thinking: Greed and Grain

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Jesus had some pointed things to say about a family dispute over inheritance. None of it had to do with the dispute. All of it had to do with greed.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the twelfth chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 12:13-21). A man in the crowd asked Jesus to intervene in a family argument over inheritance. When the father died, one of the sons received the inheritance and did not share it with the other.

Whatever the justice of the situation, Jesus simply refused to get involved. Instead, he issued a stark warning about the pursuit of greed.

He illustrated it with a story about a man who had lots of fields and wondered what he would do with the grain once the harvest came. So he built up barns. But when the harvest arrived, so did the end of his life, and instead of eating, drinking, and being merry, he had to stand before God and account for his life. This is one of the few of Jesus’ parables in which God was a character. Frequently there are characters in Jesus’ stories that we sort of identify with God, either by close association — being like God — or by contrast — being as much unlike God as Jesus could imagine — but in this one God is present as part of the story.

That’s a signal to us that when Jesus talked about the evils of greed, he was not kidding.

Jesus’ concern about greed and about holding onto possessions, about not sharing with others: that was a major part of his teaching, a major part of what he believed the Kingdom of God was not about. God’s reign is one of sharing. It is not one of keeping.

Because, you see, there was another solution. Jesus didn’t even mention it. There was another solution to the question of what to do with the great harvest instead of building barns. The landowner could have given the excess away.

Giving the excess away was a part of the foundational law of Israel. Gleaners were to be allowed to follow the reapers at the harvest, to pick up the fallen grain. The edges of grainfields were to be left unreaped so the travelers and the poor could pluck grain from the sides of the road.

Jesus’ warning about greed is timeless, I’m afraid. If I’m honest, I have to admit that in the contest between Jesus’ words, between the prophets’ words, between God’s words and greed, greed all too often comes out on top.

Let us take heed of Jesus’ reminder that God’s way is not greed’s way. Sharing — sharing — is the economics of the reign of God.

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: Greed, Whatimthinking
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