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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: Pentecost

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Pentecost marked the re-emergence of the Jesus movement into the public eye. It has never left it – not even during this pandemic.

Here’s a transcript:

The last Sunday in May this year is Pentecost Sunday, and so I’m thinking about the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-21), in which Luke described the gift of the Holy Spirit to the early Church.

You may remember the story. Jesus’ disciples had been gathered together for some time following his resurrection and ascension. They’d met for prayer and for companionship, but they had been set apart from the rest of the world.

But on that festival day – the festival of the giving of the Law – they returned to the public square and the public awareness, proclaiming Jesus’ deeds of power in languages that they did not understand, so that people visiting from far away would know what God had done.

They returned to public awareness, and Christianity has never left it in the millennia since.

The parallels to our day are obvious but also somewhat deceptive. We have been staying apart from one another, but we have been doing it because that is a visible expression of Christian care and compassion. It’s a visible expression of care and compassion of any faith and no faith. We have been seeking to avoid the transmission of a disease that has deadly consequences for far too many of our neighbors and our friends.

We’ve stayed apart.

We will shortly – the dates are not set – be returning to public gatherings for worship. We will do so in ways that maintain the best practices for reducing the chances of transmission of this illness, but we will not do so because we have been “hiding” through this time. Indeed the Church has been the Church throughout.

We have been sharing the message through videos like this. We have been participating in worship through live streaming services. We have been conferring with one another; we have been engaged in studies with one another; we have been praying with one another via these new technologies as well as some old ones. The good old hand-written note card has been one.

So whatever the immediate future for our community is, what I tell you is that the Holy Spirit has been with us this entire time. The Holy Spirit has been filling in those empty spaces left by the absence of activities and encounters and conversations that we would like to have. The Holy Spirit has been with us to give us the energy to get through some of the days when, honestly, we were feeling pretty low. The Holy Spirit has been with us, and the Holy Spirit will be with us to give us the wisdom we need to be together safely in the days to come.

On this Pentecost Sunday, let us give thanks for and pray for the continued presence of the Holy Spirit. Let us be joyful. Let us be wise.

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: Covid-19

What I’m Thinking: Deliverance

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In Acts 1 and in Psalm 68, the question arises: When will God bring deliverance? We might also ask: When will we?

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about some verses in the first chapter of Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:6-14) and I’m thinking about the 68th Psalm (Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35). They have something in common. In each of them there is a question about a day of God’s deliverance.

In the case of Acts, it is the disciple’s uncertainty about the time that Jesus will return, about the time in which God will right all the wrongs and create the blessed realm. In Psalm 68, well, it’s actually rather similar. Only instead of an ultimate deliverance, Psalm 68 seems to be more concerned with an immediate deliverance.

There is, however, a curious feature… Well, there is a description of the attributes of God in Psalm 68 which is, I think, a clue to the answer to the questions posed both by the disciples and by the psalmist in that poem.

Father of orphans and protector of widows
    is God in his holy habitation.
God gives the desolate a home to live in;
    he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
    but the rebellious live in a parched land.

Psalm 68:5-6, NRSV translation

The reign of God comes when the most vulnerable among us – the widows, the orphans, the homeless – when they have a place. And this is something that we do not need to wait for God to do. Indeed, I think that God is waiting for us to do it, for us to see that the refugee, that the person without a job, that the terribly ill, that those most vulnerable to illness might not find themselves deprived of the aids and supports, the comforts and indeed the necessities of life.

This is something we can do. This is something that God has been waiting for us to do for far too long.

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: Not Left Alone

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Jesus promised his disciples the companionship of the Holy Spirit so that they knew they would never be alone. He also knew that might not be promise enough.

Here’s a transcript.

I’m thinking about further on in the fourteenth chapter of John’s Gospel (John 14:15-21); further on, that is, than last week. In this section Jesus says two more things that really strike at my heart today.

First, he announces the coming of an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, a force, a person, a power of God to be with the disciples through all of the stresses and strains of their living, their serving, and their proclaiming the message of Jesus. It is so important to me that we are never left alone, not just in these times but in any times. The Holy Spirit is always with us.

Jesus understood that this might not be sufficient reassurance. One thing about a Holy Spirit is that it is a spirit. It is not something that one touches or sees or perceives through the senses. Indeed, one has to be aware of the Holy Spirit by searching for the Spirit within the human soul, within the human heart.

So, knowing that that is not enough for incarnate human beings, Jesus assured his disciples that he was not going to leave them orphaned. He would come to them again.

Now, Jesus said this at the Last Supper. He would be crucified the next day, but then, three days later would be alive once more: the resurrected Christ of our faith, of our confidence and trust. So that promise is, indeed, fulfilled.

It is through the resurrection that we have our trust in the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are able to perceive the presence of Jesus Christ. It is through the love of a beneficent God that we are able to endure the stresses of our times; even ours, in these days of illness and of fear.

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: Companionship, HolySpirit

What I’m Thinking: Ask and Act

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Jesus told his disciples to ask for anything and he would do it. So let us pray – but let us also act in accordance with our prayers.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the fourteenth chapter of John’s gospel (John 14:1-14). This is part of what we frequently call “Jesus’ farewell speech to his disciples.”

In John’s Gospel, the Last Supper ends with Jesus speaking at length to his friends. In this section – well, this is a section that I frequently use part of at funerals. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”

There are other pieces here as well. Jesus makes the remarkable – in fact, at the time scandalous – assertion that to look at him was to see God. That has become part of basic Christian theology and message and core belief, but it would have come as quite a remarkable statement when Jesus first made it.

And it ends, or at least this section ends, with Jesus asserting that the disciples can ask anything they want of him, and he will do it. “Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not let them be afraid.”

We are in a time when those first words of Jesus speak to our deep need, our deep fear, our deep anxiety. But we are also in a place where we have been asking (we think) and we can’t quite see what God’s answer might be. It is the earnest prayer of an entire planet that a pandemic might come to an end. It is the earnest prayer of family after family after family that their loved ones might survive. And it is also the prayer of far too many asking God’s comfort and presence in the wake of the loss of a loved one.

So what are we to do with this assertion that anything we ask God will give?

And to be honest, I don’t really know: except to keep asking, except to keep trusting, except to keep on working toward the fulfillment of that prayer by our own means as well as our prayers.

Truthfully, to bring an end to a pandemic, all that’s needed is time. But that time can be a time of enormous grief and loss and suffering, or it can be a time of reduced grief and loss and suffering. The news has reported that over the weekend Americans seemed to emerge from their homes at greater rates than they have. And the sad truth is that this is a way that we will extend the pandemic; this is a way that we will increase the loss and the pain and the suffering.

Going out irresponsibly, putting ourselves and others at risk: this is not a faithful way of living. This is not an expression of confidence, “Believe in God, believe also in me.”

No.

Instead, the time calls for our prayers reinforced by precaution, a precaution that protects our own lives and health, a precaution especially that is done for others’ lives and for others’ health.

Believe in God. Believe also in Jesus. Believe that to see the one is to see the other. Believe in prayer and petition. Believe also that we have a role in the fulfillment of God’s promises. Believe and act in Jesus’ name.

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: Prayer

What I’m Thinking: Honest Reassurance

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We read Psalm 23 over and over again to find comfort. One of its great strengths is that it offers reassurance that is aware of the stresses we face.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the twenty-third Psalm (Psalm 23), possibly the best known of the Psalms, at least in the United States of America.

Curiously enough, that was not always so. A study done by a former Old Testament professor of mine, Dr. William Holladay, discovered that quotes from the 23rd Psalm increased dramatically in the late 1860s and early 1870s and stayed at about that level ever since.

You see, the 23rd Psalm is a psalm that we bring out in times of deep distress, when we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, when there might be a table before us, but that table is set in the presence of enemies. The 23rd Psalm, although it is filled with reassuring imagery, is a reassurance that comes in the presence of sorrow, of fear, of actual danger.

That makes it an apt psalm for our times, as we watch the growing numbers and realize that for every one of these people who have gone into the hospital or have left the hospital on their way to be buried, every one of these people is a special soul to someone and in fact to a great number of someones. There is great lamentation in the country, in other countries, throughout the world right now.

And to that comes the honest reassurance of the 23rd Psalm, where a rod and staff are comfort in the midst of shadow, where a banquet is set even though there is danger all around. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” and I shall dwell – you shall dwell – we shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

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: Assurance, Psalm23
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