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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: Clear Message

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Matthew’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem has a curious feature: Jesus rode on two animals. It’s because Matthew wanted to make sure we understand who Jesus is.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m pleased that we’ll be welcoming a guest to bring the message to Church of the Holy Cross this coming Sunday. The Rev. Dr. Jonathan Lee is Philanthropy Officer at the Pension Boards United Church of Christ. He’s also a colleague of mine from seminary. We used to work next door to each other when he was with Hartford Seminary and I was on the staff of the Connecticut Conference UCC.

So Jonathan, it will be good to see you, even if it will be on a screen. He’ll be with us via technology, of course, not able to travel.

I am thinking about the twenty-first chapter of Matthew (Matthew 21:1-11), his account of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Matthew, rather curiously, describes Jesus riding (somehow or other) on two animals, a colt and a donkey. This is because Matthew was being rather rigorous in his reading of the earlier prophecy that describes the Messiah’s triumphant entry. Matthew read it as there being two animals, and so if this was a fulfillment of prophecy, then Jesus must have rode in on two animals.

What this tells us is not so much that Matthew is a fussy reader of Scripture, it is of Matthew’s utter conviction that Jesus was the Anointed One, was the fulfillment of God’s promises to the people of Israel, was and is the ultimate expression of God’s love on Earth. And so it’s not so much a matter of whether Jesus might or might not have fulfilled the prophecy, Jesus had to fulfill the prophecy and Matthew was going to describe it as such so that you and I would not miss his meaning. This is Jesus. This is the Christ.

It is sad that we will not be able to be together and to wave our palms in the air. It is sad that we will have to enjoy Jonathan Lee’s message in our separate places.

But it is not sad that we recall once more this truth Matthew worked so hard to make sure we would not miss: This is Jesus the Messiah. This is God’s Anointed One. This is God’s ultimate expression of love on Earth.

Wave your palms however you may, and lift your hearts, and say, “Hosannah!”

For God is with us. Amen.

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: Christ, PalmSunday

What I’m Thinking: Dry Bones

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Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones drawing together is a word of hope for us today.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the thirty-seventh chapter of the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:1-14), his vision of the valley of the dry bones.

Ezekiel describes the Spirit of God taking him to this valley. I presume it’s in his imagination or in his mind. And the valley is full of bones, and the bones (I love this detail) are very dry.

God directs Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, to tell them that they will be filled with breath again. Ezekiel declares that message, and then watches the bones draw together and flesh and sinews come upon them. Then God directs Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath, and to direct the breath, the spirit, the ruach, into the bones. Ezekiel does that, and now the former bones, now enfleshed bodies, have breath and life and spirit.

Finally God directs Ezekiel to declare this vision to the people of Israel. The people of Israel believed – well, felt, experienced – the sensation of being dry bones. They were conquered people, some of them exiled, many of them living under a foreign power. They felt as if the life of their nation, the life of their faith, the life of their people had come to an end.

No, says God, the breath, the spirit, the ruach will return to you. You will live again.

In these days of pandemic, in these days of physical separation, we strive to bring some social connection – from six feet distance or more – with phone calls and notes and letters, with teleconferencing meetings and live streamed worship services (as we did yesterday at Church of the Holy Cross). We try to bring assurance to one and all that however lonely we are in this moment, none of us have been forgotten.

None of you ahve been forgotten.

And to you I bring the vision of Ezekiel and the dry bones. Oh, I don’t think we’re all dry bones ourselves, not yet, but we may come to feel in much that way. Ezekiel’s vision is an assurance that the bones will draw together again, that the flesh and sinew that are the relationships that tie us together, those will bring us together once more.

And there will be the breath, the wind, the ruach, the spirit of God to bring us once more into 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: Hope, Video

What I’m Thinking: Responding to Circumstances

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When he healed a blind man in the wrong place at the wrong time, Jesus drew criticism. Sometimes, you have to do things in a new or different way appropriate to the time.

Here’s a transcript:

First of all, I need to make an announcement.

Church of the Holy Cross will not meet in person for worship on Sunday, March 22nd, or Sunday, March 29th. In addition, we will not be holding our regular Bible studies on Wednesday or Sunday, and the choir will not be rehearsing. We will also not be gathering for the Community Sing on the fourth Friday.

Why? We are trying to do our part to (slow the) spread (of) the distribution of the corona virus and the COVID-19 disease. We’re not going to stop it, but if we slow it, then it gives the hospitals an opportunity to respond properly, that they will not be overwhelmed with a lot of very, very sick people all at once, and find themselves unable to care property either for them or for the other folks who are injured or ill or needing treatment for chronic conditions at the same time.

It is my prayer that all of you might get through this time in good health and in good spirits. It is my prayer that God might hold all of us in a tender, healing, and loving hand.

I am also thinking about the ninth chapter of John (John 9:1-41) because we will be holding a worship service on Sunday, only we’ll do it via the Internet (probably right here on this channel).

The ninth chapter of John seems appropriate. In it, Jesus heals a man born blind. A controversy erupts. The problem – at least the way I read the problem – is that when Jesus did this healing, he did it outside of the normal procedures, outside of the usual boundaries, outside not just of the common expectations but of the common beliefs in what was right and what was proper. He stepped outside what they knew to be good and right and true.

We have seen that in this COVID-19 outbreak, that there have been occasions when folks have followed good, sound procedures, and it turns out that that delayed, sometimes by a fair amount, testing or an up-to-date response to the growth of this pandemic.

Most of the time procedures like this make sense, whether they’re procedures for theology and theological reflection or whether they are procedures for medicine and medical diagnosis. Most of the time they serve us. That’s why they’re there.

It is also important for all of us to be aware of the realities around us, and when new realities emerge that our older structures do not respond well to, then we need to be prepared to try something new, something different. We need to be ready to respond to changing circumstances.

That was, in part, the message of Jesus. That was, in part, what John was trying to teach us in chapter nine. It is, in part, our life as faithful people, living constantly in changing times and seeking to bring what we understand of the grace of God to them.

May God be with you in this challenging time. May God sustain you where you need strength and comfort. May God guide you in compassion and 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: Video, Whatimthinking, Worship

What I’m Thinking: Thirsty

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The woman who spoke with Jesus at the Samaritan well was smart, self-assured, and curious. She was also thirsty, and that was important, too.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the conversation between Jesus and a woman at a well in Samaria described in the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel (John 4:5-42). You’re probably familiar with the story.

There’s a certain amount of back-and-forth between the two of them to start, with Jesus asking for a drink and then offering a drink of living water. Living water was the water of a flowing stream rather than water that was recovered from a dug well. Of course, she doesn’t see anything of the kind.

Jesus then tells her that the water that he offers, well… Nobody will be thirsty if they drink of it. And she, somewhat, I think, in jest, and somewhat, I think, in hope, asks him to share that water with her so that she doesn’t have to come out to this well, lower the rope deep down, and then carry that water back to her home.

I’m sure that part of what was on her mind was a metaphorical water. I don’t think it took her terribly long to catch up with the notion that Jesus was a teacher, a religious leader, even a prophet. And so her request for this living water, for this water that flowed, for this water that brought life, well, I think it was a question asked maybe without a lot of hope in having a brook near her home, but I think it was a question asked in hopes of something that would restore her spirit, that would help her recover her sense of God’s presence and blessing, something that would make her feel less alone.

It is that thirst that is so important in the life of faith. Even though, as I firmly believe, God comes to us first. God’s grace is always first. Nevertheless, it is our thirst that helps us to understand God’s presence with us, that helps us to perceive it, that helps us to receive it.

It is our thirst that helps us to realize that the living water is there to satisfy our thirsty souls.

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: Thirst, Video

What I’m Thinking: First and Last Grace

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The Apostle Paul used a (rather confusing) analogy involving Abraham believing in what had been promised to open up the grace of God to a wider circle than he’d previously believed. Grace came first.

Here’s a transcript.

I’m thinking about what the Apostle Paul was thinking in writing the fourth chapter of his letter to the Romans (Romans 4:1-5, 13-17). Frankly, it’s rather confusing and our lectionary editors haven’t helped by leaving out a section.

This portion of the letter is one in which Paul uses the figure of Abraham as a way of explaining the importance of faith in this developing Christian community and this emerging Christian theology. Faith rather than law; law, which had been the foundation of Judaism for the hundreds of years since they had been taken into exile and then lived under one empire’s domination or another’s for most of the intervening years.

To Paul, Abraham becomes a figure of faith. Living before the law was given to Moses and nevertheless found faithful, but also that Abraham had been somebody who lived essentially with promises. He saw only the birth of a son. He did not see the birth of generation after generation. Those descendants were part of a promise that God had made. They were not something that he could ever truly hope to see. He would pass away as they went on – at least as long as God kept the promise.

Paul uses this example in part to include the Gentiles, the non-Jews who were a growing part of the Christian community. There was still a good deal of tension between those who had been raised within the Jewish faith and adopted Jesus as Messiah, and those who had become part of these growing Christ-worshiping communities but did not have that background, came from the faiths of Greece and of Rome.

No, they too are part of the promise, said Paul, because the promise comes even in the absence of law.

Law and promise are less a point of debate amongst us in these days, but we do, from time to time, act as if we deserve, as if we earn the grace of God. And this, I think, is a crucial insight of the Apostle Paul.

We do not earn the grace of God because it precedes everything.

The law, in fact, was a gift of God, something that was intended as a blessing upon us, to guide us into better, more fulfilled lives. But the grace of God comes before it all. The grace of God carries us always. The grace of God will be there when all else is done.

So whether we are in the position of Abraham, thinking about the promise of a future we know we will never quite see, or whether we are those new people gathered into a fairly insular community that has now said, “Look, we understand that God is for more than just us;” if we are part of those longstanding communities and suddenly remember our neighbors are as beloved of God as we are, well: then the Apostle Paul has spoken to us, has given us once more a truth, has revived our faith.

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: Grace, Whatimthinking
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Sunday 10:00 am

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Monday 6:30 pm, Wednesday 9:00 am

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(The Rev. Ichiro) Sunday 10:00 am (Bdg. of Faith)

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(The Rev. Sunia) Sunday 4:00 pm (Sanctuary)

440 W. Lanikaula Street
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