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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: Grace and Obligation

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The people of Israel gathered to celebrate the restoration of their city. They heard a reading of the law – community and grace have obligations, too.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the eighth chapter of the book of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10): the reading of the Law to the people of Israel. This took place about five hundred years before Jesus’ birth in the city of Jerusalem.

It was not, however, the city of Kings David or Solomon. It was not the city of the prophets Isaiah or Jeremiah. This was the city that had been destroyed in Jeremiah and Ezekiel’s day. This was the city that was being rebuilt by the returned exiles who had come back from Babylon (Babylon had been overthrown by the Persian Empire). This was the city which those who had remained – their descendants – were also rebuilding along with those returnees. This was a city that was not all that familiar with the Law.

This shouldn’t come as an enormous surprise. Judaism was in the midst of its transition to becoming a “People of the Book,” and relatively few people in that day could read. It’s said about one of the last kings of Judah, King Josiah, that he had to be acquainted with the Law when a scroll was found in the Temple and it was read to him. Apparently he hadn’t heard it before. Scholars believe that what he heard was the book of Deuteronomy.

We’re not sure precisely what it was that was read to the people outside the Water Gate in Jerusalem that day. When King Josiah had heard Deuteronomy, he tore his clothes. When the people of Jerusalem heard the Law, they wept.

Ezra told them that this was not a day for weeping. This was a day for celebration because God’s direction, God’s word, God’s structure for their life together had been found and renewed. But do not mistake. It was also a day of obligation. The people had been restored to their home. They had their city once again. That city came with standards, that life together was to be lived in some ways and not in others.

This is something that Christians often if not forget, ignore. Our life together is supposed to be lived in obligation to one another, not in privilege from one another. And so yes: Celebrate the gift of grace. But remember as well that the gift of grace is one to be shared. The Christian life is a gracious, grace-filled, and grace-overflowing life.

Celebrate but also weep to know what you have been called to do.

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: Community, Obligation, Privilege, Video

What I’m Thinking: Fill the Jar

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When Jesus was asked to provide more wine for a wedding feast, he didn’t start with empty jars. He started by having them filled.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the second chapter of John’s Gospel (John 2:1-11), its opening portion which describes the wedding at Cana. Now the wedding at Cana itself may not be a familiar phrase to you, but you probably remember that Jesus turned water into wine. He did it during the feast following this wedding.

During it, the host ran out of wine and Jesus became aware of it. His mother actually encouraged him to do something about it. So he told the servants to fill up some large jars with water. And when the servants then dipped pitchers into those jars, they found that they were now once again serving wine.

John says that this was the first sign that Jesus performed and revealed his power, his glory.

The curious thing is is that this is not creation from nothing as we usually think about the creation story in Genesis. Instead, Jesus directs the servants to start with some existing things, to start with some large jars – ones that ordinarily would have held water for purification rituals – and to fill them with water. Water and jars and then a little sign from God and you have wine.

We have, among other things, been separated from weddings and from wedding receptions, from those great celebrations of life over these last nearly two years of a COVID – global COVID pandemic. I think it’s worth remembering that Jesus started by telling people to fill the jars.

I know that many of us are running close to empty. I know that many of us find it a real strain to celebrate, to hold onto joy in these days. So if there’s nothing else that you hear in this story, hear this:

Jesus says: Take a moment. Fill up the jar. Let there be something inside the jar that can be transformed and in its transformation become the greatest thing that anyone has ever experienced.

Fill up the jars.

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: Refreshment, Video

What I’m Thinking: Washed in the Holy Spirit and in Fire

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John the Baptist announced that his successor would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Which sounds… uncomfortable at best.

Here’s a transcript:

The first thing I’m thinking is: Hau’oli Makahiki Hou! Happy New Year! May 2022 bring you joy. May you be healthy. May you be filled with purpose. May you always be accompanied by the Holy Spirit.

It’s the Holy Spirit that John the Baptist spoke of when describing the baptism that would be administered by his successor. You see, I’m thinking about the third chapter of Luke, Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism by John. The lectionary editors have begun with John’s description of the baptism, not as he administered it, but the one people would receive from his successor. “I baptize you with water. The one who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

Now, baptism with the Holy Spirit sounds pretty good. It is, in fact, a central tenet of the Christian faith that baptism, that participation in the life of Christ’s Church, is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to act out of the guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit. Fire, though, that’s a little more challenging, particularly in a week after the destruction of so many homes and livelihoods by fire near Boulder, Colorado, and we are uncomfortably waiting to hear whether those fires have also claimed lives.

But John did not speak, I think, of such a destructive fire, nor even of the cooking fires on the hearths of first century homes. I think he had in mind the refiner’s fire that the Apostle Paul would take up as a metaphor some years later. A refiner’s fire was one that would separate something that was of value from something that was not, to remove the metal from the ore and have, at the end, something that would be discarded and something that could be worked and shaped, something that would serve, something that would be useful and beautiful.

And that is, I think, part of the life of faith. I don’t think any of us go through life believing that all of who we are and what we do is marvelous and great. There are many things in my life that I would very much like to leave in the past, and despite resolutions, I hate to admit it, some of them persist.

But I can also look back on things that I have done in my life, and I have succeeded in not doing those things again. There are things that I wish I had done in my life in the past, and these are things that I have remembered to take up and do as the future (well, now the past) unfolded. This process was not easy. It was, and is, occasionally painful, but out of it I do feel more truer to myself, more that the things that are of value to me are being brought together and the things that are not of value are being left behind.

Baptized with the Holy Spirit and baptized with the refiner’s fire. The blessings of God’s power and guidance; the blessings of coming to our best selves.

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: Renewal, Repentance, Video, Whatimthinking

What I’m Thinking: The Question of Jesus

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Matthew and John in writing their gospels both asked the same question: Who is Jesus?

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the first chapter of John (John 1:1-18) and the second chapter of Matthew (Matthew 2:1-12). John 1 is the reading for the second Sunday after Christmas. The second chapter of Matthew is the Gospel reading for Epiphany.

What these two chapters have in common, other than Jesus being the general subject, they also share, frankly, with the rest of both of those books and, indeed, with the rest of the other two Gospels. They are concerned with the question: Who is, who was, who will Jesus be?

The second chapter of Matthew follows the birth of Jesus with the visit of the magi with their gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh, a visit they made because they believed that this was a new ruler for the people of Israel. The first chapter of John, like Matthew 2 written some years after the birth of Jesus, is not a description of birth, per se, or of Jesus’ infancy or childhood. Rather, John began his Gospel with a great outburst of poetry, poetry based in a theological idea that this Jesus of Nazareth who lived and spoke was also to be understood as the preexisting, incarnate word of God.

So who is this Jesus?

This Jesus is someone born into the world, someone who in infancy could not have been readily distinguished (except by his nearest and dearest) from any other newborn child. This Jesus was also one who came with authority that some would recognize and some would oppose. But this Jesus also came as an incarnate expression of the love and grace of God, the same love and grace that had formed Creation at the beginning, the same love and grace that continues to abide with all people.

Who is this Jesus?

This Jesus is the love of 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: Jesus

What I’m Thinking: Merry Christmas

Published on Comments(1)

People spend an awful lot of time in the second chapter of Luke looking for Jesus. They rejoice when they find him.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about a good portion of the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 2:1-20, 41-52). Between Christmas Eve (worship is at 7 PM live streamed at and the first Sunday after Christmas (live streamed at 10 AM at, we’ll be reading a fair amount of the second chapter of Luke. Some of that, of course, will be the nativity stories from early in the chapter. We’ll also read the story about Jesus sitting at the age of twelve with the experts – the teachers and the lawyers and the priests – in the temple, and they found that they still had a good deal to learn from a twelve-year-old.

What strikes me about this chapter in Luke is how much time people spend looking for Jesus. I mean, there in the nativity, Mary and Joseph weren’t precisely looking for him, but the experience of birth is one of great expectation and hope that things will pass quickly and well. And then of course you find the shepherds coming down out of the hills and searching for the right stable with a child in a manger.

In portions of Luke 2 that we won’t actually be reading on either Christmas Eve or on Sunday we find Simeon and Anna, both of them looking for God’s promised Messiah and finding him when Mary and Joseph bring the infant Jesus to Jerusalem for his first blessing. And then, of course, while Jesus was speaking with the teachers and the experts in the Temple, his parents were feverishly searching for him, spending three days at it.

And, Luke repeats quite a number of times, Mary treasured these things in her heart.

I know it’s busy. I know that with COVID numbers rising again the busyness is compounded with anxiety, with fear, for some perhaps braggadocio or folly. In the midst of it, though, can you make some space in your spirit to search for Jesus? The remarkable thing about what happens to people who search for Jesus in the second chapter of Luke is that they found him. Mary and Joseph found him in his birth. The shepherds managed to find the right stable. Anna and Simeon, after many years, found him at the gates of Jerusalem. And Mary and Joseph found him in what he, with twelve-year-old pride, pronounced his father’s house.

That is my wish for you as this Christmas holiday comes to us. Search for Jesus because when you search for Jesus you find him.

Merry Christmas! Mele Kalikimaka!

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: Christmas, Video, Whatimthinking
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