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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: Small Reassurances

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Jesus’ closest friends reacted to his resurrection with wonder and disbelief – until he ate a piece of fish in front of them. That small thing brought them the assurance they needed.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the twenty-fourth chapter of Luke (Luke 24:36b-48). Beginning at verse 36, we have reached the climax of Luke’s account of Jesus’ resurrection.

Luke began his account in mystery and uncertainty. When the women went to the tomb, they found it open and empty. When they brought back the words that the angels had told them, that Jesus had been raised, the eleven considered it “an idle tale” and did not believe them.

Luke then told us the story about Cleopas and a companion meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus. And although they learn a great deal about what Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection meant, they did not recognize Jesus until Jesus broke bread at the table with them. When they returned to the eleven they found that Peter had also encountered the risen Jesus – but we don’t hear any more about that. Here at verse 36, Luke at last told us the story of Jesus reuniting with the eleven, his closest friends, his dearest companions, those whom he intended for leadership in the first generation of the church.

They greeted his appearance with wonder and with disbelief.

Seeing him was not enough. Hearing him was not enough. Jesus’ invitation to touch him was not enough. Jesus finally did a small thing: he said he was hungry. He asked them if there was something to eat. They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he ate it in their presence.

It was a small thing, but it was the thing that enabled them to move through their disbelief into an appreciation for Jesus’ life; to move through their wonder – retain their wonder – but let it also become joy and confidence.

Just a piece of broiled fish eaten in their presence.

So I’m thinking now about the small things that make a big difference in our lives. It might be, as we were thinking about it from last week with Thomas, it might be a touch. It might be the sight of someone. It might be the vision of a sunrise or a flower in blossom. It might be the sound of a voice or the rain on a roof. It might be the scent of a familiar perfume or the sea along the shore.

It was a small thing that enabled the disciples to move from their fears and their disbelief into a place of trust and confidence, a place from which they could receive the Holy Spirit and become the foundation of Jesus’ church. These small things also occur in our lives and they are also given to us by this same Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Resurrected One of God.

Let these small things open the doors or the windows of your hearts, that the Holy Spirit may come in and fill you with all joy and peace in believing.

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: Trust, Video, Whatimthinking

What I’m Thinking: What I’m Singing

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Thinking after Holy Week is… hard. So this week I’m singing instead. Enjoy!

Here’s a transcript:

To be honest, with Easter just behind us and Holy Week a little further in the rear view mirror, thinking is not something I can be accused of doing to any great extend. So for this edition of What I’m Thinking, I’m going to do what I’ve done a couple of times in the past and shift it into What I’m Singing.

So this is, in fact, a song based not on the text ahead, which is our old friend Thomas, but the gospel lesson – one of the gospel lessons – for Easter Sunday itself. Mark 16:1-8, that strange ending to Mark’s Gospel, with the missing account (so it seems) of the resurrection. So this song is called “How Could the Story End?”

They stepped out in the morning’s shade
Bearing the spice mixture that they’d made.
How will we roll the stone away?
Is a question they don’t need to ask today.

[Chorus]

How could the story end?
Grieving/mourning/searching for a cherished friend?
No, the story goes on past the closing page:
Jesus Christ is risen!

They found that things were not as they had been.
The stone was rolled aside and they went in.
With startled face they heard the word
That Jesus’ resurrection had occurred.

[Chorus]

They left in fright and who could blame them
If they kept silent lest the story shame them.
But someone told and someone told and so we all know:
That Jesus Christ is risen!

[Chorus]

That’s what I’m singing. I’m curious to know what you’re singing, or thinking, or hearing. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you. Happy Easter!

Categories: What I'm Thinking
Tags: Easter, Music

What I’m Thinking: More Story to Tell

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Mark devoted far more of his gospel to describing the last week of Jesus’ life than he did to describing Jesus’ resurrection. Could it be that the rest of the story is for us?

Here’s a transcript:

Welcome to Holy Week. That has me thinking about the… well, the last six chapters of the Gospel of Mark (Mark 11-16).

For Palm Sunday, of course, we began in chapter 11 with the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem greeted by a shouting, cheering, welcoming, and beseeching crowd. “Help us! Save us!” – that’s the meaning of “Hosanna.”

The rest of Jesus’ week in Jerusalem is what is contained in chapters eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen. Jesus spends a lot of time in the Temple. The Cleansing of the Temple is described by Mark in chapter 11. Mark then goes on to talk about some debates between Jesus and various authorities, religious leaders from the different theological and spiritual movements of first century Judaism – Sadducees and Pharisees; the Essenes don’t seem to have been in on the conversation.

But Jesus and his followers were in Jerusalem to observe the Passover, and so they gathered for the celebration meal (not a seder; the seder did not emerge for some time after Jesus’ death and resurrection).

Mark spent an entire chapter on his account of Jesus’ crucifixion after his arrest on Thursday. It’s one of Mark’s longer chapters: 48 verses [Ed. note: 47 verses, actually].

Finally we come to the text for this coming Sunday, Easter Sunday, Mark’s description of that first Easter morning. It’s only eight verses long (Mark 16:1-8), and it ends with something that is clearly a falsehood. In Mark’s Gospel, women go to the tomb – there’s Mary and Mary [Ed. note: and Salome] – and they find angels who tell them that Jesus has been raised. He is not here; go tell his other followers. The last words of Mark’s Gospel, as he apparently wrote it or completed it originally, were that they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.

Well, at some point they said something to someone or we wouldn’t know the story at all. There were no other witnesses except for them. Some time or other they shared the story.

The event of the resurrection is one in which there are any number of untold stories, not just in Mark but throughout the rest of the Gospels. When Paul was writing to the Corinthians he included a list of the people who had seen the risen Jesus. The very first one, Paul said, was Simon Peter, but we never ever hear that meeting described. If Peter said anything about it, other than that it happened, well, it never got written down. It never got passed on. The curious thing about Mark is that Mark is the Gospel writer who does not believe in leaving us wondering about things. He began his Gospel, quite literally, with the words, “The good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” We were not to be left in suspense.

Here at the end of his Gospel, Mark left us in suspense. There’s got to be more story. Where is the rest of the story?

I don’t know if it’s what Mark intended, but I think there is a truth here that the rest of the story ever and always lies with us. We are the ones who are having, have had, will have experiences of the risen Christ. We will be told again and again that the powers of empire, the powers of fear, the powers of death itself cannot hold the love of God as expressed in Jesus of Nazareth. We are the ones who are witnesses to that truth, and a strange and scary truth it is.

We are the ones challenged amidst our fear to share what we have known, to share what we have experienced, to share what we have been strengthened and renewed in, to share the good news of Jesus’ life.

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: HolyWeek

What I’m Thinking: Messiahship

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Entering Jerusalem in the way he did, Jesus not only declared himself to be Messiah – he also declared what Messiahship was.

Here’s a transcript:

With Palm Sunday just ahead, I’m thinking about the eleventh chapter of Mark’s Gospel (Mark 11:1-11), Mark’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding upon a borrowed colt.

There’s a lot of reference to older Scriptures in this account. The people quote from Psalm 118: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.” The selection of a colt; well, that was an echo of Zechariah chapter nine, how the king of Israel was coming, humble and riding upon a colt.

The crowds, the noise, the waving of branches, all of this activity, well: It was pretty much unmissable, wasn’t it? It would have gained the attention of all of the local officials. It would have gained the attention of the Roman Governor. And it certainly gained the attention of the priests and the local nobility as this Galilean preacher and teacher entered – entered the city of Jerusalem echoing ancient symbols of royalty.

There are many who believe that it was, in fact, this way of entering into Jerusalem that kicked off the effort to see that Jesus was arrested and convicted and executed as soon as possible, before something even more dreadful happened.

Jesus, however, I think was engaged not in a declaration of Messiahship in the way that most would have understood it at the time. Jesus was engaged in redefining Messiahship. Yes, he rode in on a colt echoing the ninth chapter of Zechariah. The thing is that there were abundant Scriptures that talk about the entry of the king into the city in much more grandiose ways. Jesus could have chosen any one of those.

I can just imagine some of his disciples asking him, “A colt? You want a colt? How about we find you a horse. You’d look better on a horse. Everybody looks better on a horse.”

But no. It was a colt.

Messiahship, the Anointed One, the Chosen One of God, could have been and indeed many continued to believe that it would be and should be, a political and military leader, a religious leader to cleanse the brokenness of the religious system, but also one to overthrow the occupying Romans and restore the classical government, the monarchy of the realm of Israel. Jesus, however, wanted his anointing to be for something else: for healing for forgiveness, for restoration of relationship between human beings and God. It was a mission that he chose to follow even to a cross. It was a mission that led him also to emerge from an empty tomb.

There were others in the decades that followed that did, in fact, attempt to declare themselves to be the Anointed One, the Messiah, to overthrow the Romans and to restore the nation of Israel. All of those attempts failed. As a result, Jews today have a radically different notion of what a Messiah will look like than Jesus’ contemporaries did two thousand years ago.

For Jesus himself, the Anointed One came to restore the people to their God. And that is indeed why we shout with so much joy: “Hosanna to the one who comes in the name of the LORD!”

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: Messiahship, PalmSunday

What I’m Thinking: New Message

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When times were most grim, the prophet Jeremiah (yes, that Jeremiah) changed his message to one of hope.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Jesus’ ministry as described in the gospels lasted for about three years. The work of the Apostle Paul went on substantially longer than that, but his letters appear to have been written in a much shorter period of time, say over five, maybe ten years. The book of Jeremiah, however, contains writings and speeches of the prophet from near the very beginning of his ministry as a young man (he called himself a boy) to the end of his career some four, five, maybe six decades later.

During that time, much of Jeremiah’s message remained consistent. Follow the ways of God, he said. Follow the ways of God. But other parts of his message shifted in response to the times. As a young man, he was extraordinarily optimistic. In middle age, confronted with the… confronted with the refusal of leaders both civil and religious to follow the ways of God on which Jeremiah insisted, he became increasingly depressed, upset, and indeed downright pessimistic.

At one point his message shifted from, “If you do not repent, then God will withdraw from this covenant,” to “You have not repented, and God will not protect you any more.”

Jeremiah’s career included the great disaster: the conquering of the nation of Judah, the overthrowing the nation, the king, and the destruction of Solomon’s temple. In chapter 31, we seem to have some of what Jeremiah said in the wake of that catastrophe. And it was this:

“I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors… a covenant that they broke… But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

This is a message of extraordinary optimism, a vision of profound wonder, such a shift from the Jeremiah we find throughout the rest of the book that indeed some have speculated that it comes from another hand. Personally, I think this is Jeremiah. In the midst of what others considered to be the success and prosperity of the nation Jeremiah saw the weakness. When the weaknesses were brutally exposed, Jeremiah saw once more to the foundations of that nation’s strength: their deep and abiding relationship with God, a God whose faithfulness was greater than theirs.

So friends, in our situations, whether we think we are at the pinnacle of success and power, or whether we have been broken down to bedrock, know this: that the faithfulness of God always is greater than our own, and we have never ever been abandoned whether we were at the top or at the bottom of our lives.

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: Faithfulness, Video, Whatimthinking
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