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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: Not a Walk in the Meadow

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Jesus told his followers – told us – to be lights in the world, true lights. It’s a challenge.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 5:13-20): the continuation of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

It begins with one of the best known of Jesus’ sayings: “You are the light of the world.” Jesus encouraged his hearers to be like a lamp on a lamp stand, one that would give light to all the house, to everyone around. He also warns that this needs to be a true light. “Your righteousness,” he said, “needs to exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees.”

In this, Jesus was consistent with the age-old messages of the Hebrew prophets. They had encouraged a righteousness both individual and corporate; that is, one of the person and one of the community, all across the centuries. Jesus stepped right into that tradition and echoed it — frequently, of course, by quoting some of the prophets of the ages past.

It is a constant challenge to us, the followers of Jesus, to remember to hold to that kind of righteousness, choose that kind of consideration of other people, to personal integrity, to building societies that have integrity and compassion, societies that do not hold some down in order that others might rise up. “Your righteousness has to exceed those of the scribes and the Pharisees,” Jesus said: exceed the righteousness of the most righteous people anybody could think of.

Following Jesus isn’t… it’s not simply a walk in the meadow to appreciate the beauty of the earth. Following Jesus also means dealing with we all the awkward, difficult, and sometimes painful questions of existence, of asking why some are rich and some are poor, of seeking to comfort those who have experienced terrible loss, of seeking to end wars and violence when we just don’t know how that can be done.

Let us do our best today and each day to make our righteousness exceed that of the most righteous people we can imagine. In doing so we will follow Jesus.

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: Video, Whatimthinking

What I’m Thinking: Clarity

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We often complain about how difficult it is to follow God’s direction. What do we do when it’s clear?

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the sixth chapter of the prophet Micah (Micah 6:1-8). Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah of Jerusalem. The two of them lived in calamitous and conflicted times.

The Assyrian Empire ended the existence of the northern Jewish Kingdom, Israel, during that time. They besieged Jerusalem and only dropped the siege when there was some kind of disease that afflicted the Assyrian army in their camps. But the messages of Isaiah and Micah are not simply about invasions and political turmoil. The messages of Isaiah and Michael were also about the conduct of the people and particularly the leadership of Jerusalem and of Judah.

In Micah here in chapter six Micah seems to say that the people were relying upon their worship practice to maintain their relationship with God, that they were following the rituals of sacrifice, that they were attending the proper services, that they were carrying out the proper festivals, but that, said Isaiah, said Micah, (said pretty much nearly all of the prophets at one time or another): that is not God’s first desire, God’s first requirement of the people of God.

And so we come to that famous eighth verse of chapter six: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and steadfast love and to walk humbly with your God?”

It seems so simple, but if there is anything that history has shown us it is that human beings, given that simple direction, choose more complicated paths. I mean, is there anything that we prefer to our own self-importance and pride? That we walk with our noses in the air? We walk with hubris with our God.

And is there anything that we can say about human beings, that we prefer privilege to justice — as long as it’s our privilege.

As for steadfast love, we keep looking to God as an example of that. And we do find it also among human beings, but when we do, we call them saints. Friends, long before Jesus God asked us all to be saints: to do justice, to bring steadfast love, to walk humbly with our God.

Well, if we didn’t do it yesterday, today is a new day, and tomorrow awaits: To do justice, steadfast love, and to walk humbly with our 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: Call, Clarity

What I’m Thinking: First Disciples

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This Sunday’s Scripture is Jesus’ call to his first disciples. That raises the question: what inspires us to follow Jesus?

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the fourth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 4:12-23): Jesus’ call to his first disciples.

After his baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, Jesus spent a certain amount of time in the wilderness praying, seeking God’s guidance, and having a rather pointed conversation with the Satan, the Accuser. But then he appears to have stayed with John. It wasn’t until after John’s arrest, says Matthew, that Jesus returned to the Galilee and set up a household in Capernaum.

From there he wandered along the shoreline and he found some fishermen. First he found Peter and Andrew and he said, “Come along and I will make you fish for people.” He then found James and John and their father Zebedee, and James and John left their father in the boat and followed Jesus.

It’s tempting to wonder at the attraction that Jesus had for these men. What was it that inspired them to leave everything that they knew, and for that matter their family obligations (Peter, we might want to remember, was married; he had a mother-in-law) — what was it that impelled them to leave all that and to take up a rather more insecure life following an itinerant preacher? Quite simply, the gospels don’t tell us. They simply note that they did.

It is important for us to identify the reasons that we follow Jesus. What is it that we are seeking in him? What have we already found in him? What do we hope we will find as we follow?

One thing we will find is that Jesus’ summons comes with… it comes with things to do. It is not simply a holiday. Fishing was hard work in the first century — it is in the twenty-first century —fishing for people remains hard work to this day. But it is not in nets of cord, it is in nets of affection. It is in nets of invitation; it is in nets of shared communion that we find people are actually gathered

So with Peter and Andrew, with James and John, and even perhaps with the skeptical eye of Zebedee, we follow Jesus and we maintain our nets of love that others may join us in them and find, curiously enough, in this net, the freedom of God’s affection.

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: Discipleship, Video

What I’m Thinking: Unique Experience

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When speaking of Jesus to other, John the Baptist called him something nobody else had ever called him before – a sign of his unique experience with the Christ.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the first chapter of John’s Gospel (John 1:29-42), John’s somewhat unique account of the baptism of Jesus.

What makes it unique is that John did not give us a straightforward narrative. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke that’s exactly what we get. Jesus went to the Jordan River where John was baptizing. The two of them went down into the river. John baptized Jesus and then there is the dove and the voice – but not in John’s Gospel. In John’s Gospel, we don’t hear about the baptism until the day after, and we hear it only through the voice of John the Baptist himself.

Jesus went by where he was baptizing and John said, Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” It’s only then that John recounted what he had experienced the day before, and how he had understood that experience to be the confirmation that this was indeed the One that John had been waiting for, that John had been anticipating, that John had been encouraging others to also look for and wait for.

The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

I can’t actually blame John the gospel writer for following up on the uniqueness of John the Baptist, because I did do a quick look and it turns out that “the Lamb of God” as a phrase is unique to John’s gospel and it is unique to John the Baptist. We hear about a lamb in the Revelation to John, but even there the phrase is not “the Lamb of God” simply “the Lamb.” There are plenty of references to lands throughout the Old Testament but never “the Lamb of God.”

I think one of the things that that shows us is that John had a unique and powerful experience there when we baptized Jesus in the Jordan, such a unique experience that he had to come up with brand new and unique language to describe it. The Messiah was not anticipated as a lamb. The Messiah was anticipated as a lion. But someone who would bear God’s love and mercy, someone who would bear God’s word and expectations, someone who would bear all the hopes and dreams of the people, the faithful people, of Israel: that person could only be described in a brand new way. The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Each of us will experience the advent of Jesus uniquely. Each of us will have our own ways of describing it – at least to ourselves, and maybe to others. I just encourage you to feel free to seek for that unique description, the one that is your own, the one that describes your own relationship with the living Christ. It may not be the Lamb of God. It may not be any of those other popular titles that apply to Jesus, but it is your own: unique, precious, and a sign of God’s love for you.

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: Spirituality, Video

What I’m Thinking: First Christmas Morning

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Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth offers a vivid description of the night. What happened, I wonder, the next morning?

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the second chapter of Luke’s gospel (Luke 2:1-20), Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea.

Luke’s account is the one that we know best. It’s the one that includes the stable and the inn that was full up. It’s the one that includes the shepherds on the hillside and the angels singing in chorus. It’s the one in which Mary hears all these things and holds them in her heart.

As I’m looking forward to Christmas Day, however, I have to admit that I am thinking less about what Luke said and more about what he didn’t say. Luke focused his account upon that first night, upon the birth itself, upon the proclamation to the shepherds, upon the shepherds’ visit to Bethlehem. Luke then moved on and didn’t speak about what happened the next morning.

A child’s birth is dramatic. There’s pain, there’s fear, and then there’s joy and there’s wonder, especially the birth of a first child to parents who’ve never experienced any of this before. After that first night, however, comes the first morning, and now babies struggle to learn how to get nourishment — it’s not something that’s all that self-evident. And fathers watch the mothers and try to figure out ways to help and sometimes they don’t think of them, and sometimes the mothers don’t think of them, and sometimes the mothers think of them and the fathers don’t (and that’s not the best thing either). On that first morning, suddenly there are more people about, inquiring, sometimes trying to help, sometimes just coming along to see.

On their first morning the choirs of angels give way to the simple business of seeing that a small child lives and grows and thrives. Now on our Christmas Day celebrations, including our worship, oh my goodness. There will be all the festivities of that night, all the wonder, all the majesty, all the music. But do not forget that first and second and third mornings of that family, when a duo became a trio, when a profoundly vulnerable and needy new person emerged into the world and demanded (oh, yes, demanded) to be cared for and nurtured and loved.

The wonder of the angels is the very same as the cry of the newborn. In both the night and in the day, there is the work to be done, the care to be given, the love to be shared. Let the nights of wonder give way to the days of work and of love. Merry Christmas to you one and all.

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: Christmas, Video
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