Friday, January 11, 2019

What Do Our Dreams Tell Us - Matthew 2

What Do Our Dreams Tell Us?
Tony E Dillon Hansen
Jan 6, 2019 – Epiphany

Reflection based upon Matthew 2:1- 12, Isaiah 60: 1-6, Palm 72.

I make no expectation of how one should receive these words,
but I ask you to open your hearts and minds.
Let us pray from Psalm 19, “let the words of my mouth and the meditations of [all of our] hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, [our] Rock and [our] Redeemer”.

Today, is Epiphany, The Magi, as the wise ones are referenced, or Three Kings Day (a decent poker hand if you play).
Matthew tells us these wise ones bring gifts to Jesus. 
Some speculate this is the origin of gift giving we celebrate in current Christmas traditions. 
I would speculate the gift we received from God on Christmas Day is perhaps an origin as well. 
What a gift we have in Jesus. 

One particular aspect for us to consider is “dreaming.”
(I know while you are sitting here listening to me, some of you may find your own dreams even.)
Yet I would like to consider why dreams are important and what they may tell us.

We all dream and about many things. 
These become the elements of great remembrances, great legends, fantasies (Lord of the Rings even), and also warnings. 
They can help us understand more about us and also maybe confuse us as well. 
There are a plethora of books, magazines and websites that may offer insights into your dreams and what they could mean – that is if you remember what happened.

How many of you woke up from a dream in the morning and you felt just a rush of good joy? Maybe, you saw a loved one that reminded you of why you love them.
Maybe, you woke up in a terrible fright, shaking and wondering. 
When I was young, people started talking about the terrible things called tornados.
Later that night, I thought I was being chased down by these vicious creatures. 
(Thank you to ones who thought it would be fun to tease me like that!)

Why are we talking about dreams?
The Bible offers us plenty of accounts when people have received information or visions from God via dreams like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Isaiah to name a few.
Today, dreams inform the wise ones of Jesus and warnings.

We have heard some people declare that God spoke to them in a dream.
Now, when you hear a person say something like that, what do you say?
That the person is missing a few straws in that haybale?
Wait a minute though.
 I would like to say I haven’t lost all of my straws or marbles.
(After all, I thought a tornado was something trying to slice me up and eat me – and why me?!)

I believe, in my heart of hearts, that dreams are how God lighted a path for me into ministry. 
For a long time, I did not listen – ignored it even. 
One day, I woke up and realized I might want to listen to the call.
Thus, here I am doing ministry.
I may have a few loose screws, but I still listened.

The questions for you to consider then …
What if God was talking to you in your dreams?
Does God talk to you in your dreams (like I believe happened to me?)
What path is God lighting up for you that you maybe have ignored?

What do you do? 
Would you tell God, “that sounds crazy”, “the time is not right” or would you completely ignore what God says?
I did for a long time,
but when I finally listened,
the light given to me fully enriched my life.
That is not by material wealth, but by immeasurable interactions and the experiences of working in the community in new and revealing ways.

(Don’t worry, if you listen to God, religious vocation does not have to be your path, but …)

Think about these questions then.
What do our dreams tell us?
Does God speak to us in our dreams?
Are we willing to listen to that speaking?  Ask those of yourself.

I mentioned this “light” given to me,
and I wonder if this is the light that Isaiah refers.
With dreams, we have people in this story deserving some light.

From the Gospel account, Herod deceives to find this potential rival king.
Herod then orders the murder of babies – and for what?
This is distinctly a reaction of the powerful, or privilege, against perceived threats or “outsiders.”
Martin Luther King Jr. famously wrote that privileged people do not willingly given up said privilege or power.
Herod wants to preserve his – at all costs.

The Magi followed the light of a star from darkness that we read from Isaiah’s “dreams”.
The Magi represent the revelation of hope and wisdom to the world by God,
but ultimately, they also represent the revelation of Jesus -- from foreigners –
because they follow the light of the star (their dreams).
These outsiders tell Herod their dreams and hopes in Jesus. (Herod listens too!)
Thus, this Gospel gives us ample reason why we should listen to God, to our dreams, and to outsiders. 

For us today, wisdom (and dreams) of outsiders can speak to, and even challenge, our traditions, our privilege, and of our Church. 
I know that your church will be filling the pulpit with voices of outsiders during this time of transition.
Maybe, a lesson from the Magi is to ask what can your church learn from those voices.

The Magi express their hope and dreams to the world of this light in Bethlehem.
They travelled a long path and faced a tyrant to express this hope.
In our life journey and against great odds, how do we express our hopes and dreams? 
God lights a path for the Magi, along with us people, and through dreams so that we all might realize that hope and dream in our world too.  
Despite difficulty of life’s journey,
God is lighting a path for you and wants you to feel that hope of the Magi.
When you feel intense hope and love - that awesome feeling,
you have no choice but to share that.
God wants you to share that with the whole world.

That adds another question to our list earlier:
What do our dreams tell us?
Does God speak to us in our dreams?
Are we willing to listen to that speaking? 
How are we making known this wisdom, this hope, this compassion of God?

We know that Jesus embodies the power, the hope and the love of God.
Jesus is the example of God to us and a light upon our hearts. 
Remember, that you too are a child of God,
 and you embody all that is good of God
 – when you let God be you.
Thus, we can be that hope, compassion, that love and that wisdom to others.

So when God speaks to you, whether in dreams or otherwise, will you listen?
When God brings wisdom to you, to the Church and to the community,
what do you do with that and how do you share that?

Matthew tells us to let the light of Epiphany be upon you.
Make room for wisdom and outsiders -- find your light.
Especially as we look into the new year,
listen for God lighting your path,
and there is a gift of hope and love - despite any confusion.
Jesus is right there. 

If anything, remember that wisdom can be found in dreams.  Mary, Elizabeth and Joseph received their calls by dreams, and the Magi were guided by their dreams.

Yes Christ is revealed to us in Epiphany. 
Jesus reveals to us the hope, the peace, the joy, and the love, along with outsiders,
as gifts from God.  

Precious Child of God, what are you going to do with your gifts?

Thanks Be to God!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Reflection 2018

Christmas Reflection
Tony E Dillon Hansen
25 December 2018          

Merry Christmas to you and may you be blessed with the grace of this season now and through the coming year.

I write today to reflect upon the year, upon old ideas “re-visioned”, and new opportunities going forward. I am not going to try to project to you that you should believe as I do nor is the attempt to “save” anyone.  My writing is more friendly and wishing to share a personal reflection about this year and this season. Today, I write with a bit of grace in my heart, with somber humility and no expectation of how one should receive these words, but I pray from Psalm 19 that words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable.

“In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1) is how we begin the Gospel of John and it is fitting that I am using the word to bring this reflection to you. This also relives the beginning of the creation stories of Genesis 1 and 2. Still, A word is how one greets each other.  A simple “Hello” or “Hi” begins a conversation where we can exchange ideas and learn from each other. Perhaps John uses this to let us hear, the being we know as, God speaking to us. Culturally, we follow greetings with a question (e.g. “How are you?”) and the Gospels also present to us questions.

This year, I took courses along with internship that triggered reflections upon the scriptures and pastoral work in deep and sometimes difficult ways.  The words and stories of scripture I thought I knew changed into multi-dimensional, layered lessons and questions. I know we come to the sacred text in different ways and with different ideas of what those books represent. 

For me, my perspective has evolved to understand the collection of books and stories that we know as the Hebrew Bible are a collection of graces, celebrations and legendary strength but also stories about human failing, ego and even egregious crimes. It is a collection of lessons about who we are and from where we come with hope that we might not repeat some history.

I will give an example. There are characters in the stories that I found different understandings, like with King David. For most of my youth, I was raised to understand David with some reverence, but when you read the text in Samuel and Kings, David is a complex character. Yes he helps to establish a dynasty in ancient Israel, but he does some serious wrongs. From a modern perspective, they were severe crimes.  Even so, the books tell us that the mystery of YHWH found a place for forgiveness. While I do not condone the crimes, this becomes a good question for us.  Do we measure people only by their faults? Do we have a place in our hearts for forgiveness? 

For my own, I have my share of wrongs, but somehow, I have managed to do some good in the world. This is perhaps why I am in ministry today because like many, I have felt the torture of bullying, and like some, I have felt the agony of losing family. I have been shamed, guilted, and even felt religion used as a weapon against me rather than a comfort.  Yet, somehow, there were good experiences and people that were examples of resilience, renewal and good will. All of these inform my work with an understanding of humility, success and spirit. With all of our misfortunes and injustices in this life, that goodness can direct our outlook.

Maybe, the question is whether we let people define us or if we define our being and our lives.
As Christians (and many faiths alike), we can lean into the Gospels and the epistles that provide an account of the tumultuous life and uninhibited ministry of Jesus, which we celebrate today.  Even though “the world did not know him… and his own people did not accept him”, “he came to what was his own.” (John 1:10). 

That seems to be the core of Christmas that we read in the words from John and also Isaiah (9:2-7). That despite walking in darkness, and no matter where you are on life’s journey, there is a light that can lead us.  God is not just a being aloof in the Heavens but here among us – listening and nudging.  Christmas is a time when hope can be restored because we can begin new life with wondrous child eyes. You might smirk “with child’s eyes in this old broken body?”

We “were born …of God” (John 1:12-13) means that we are all “children of God.” This invokes Genesis (1:26) that people were made in the image of our Creator -- without distinction. Thus, we all have an equal and fair share of this creation. Through the light of this season, there is hope that we are not alone, and that we do have a purpose -- if we are willing to look up and witness the light upon our souls. Further, if we are willing to be the light of hope to someone and to our community, maybe our community might live into the promise of this season with little need for walls or guns.

This speaks to the work with the Urban Bicycle Food Ministry. Weekly, we prepare and deliver food and essentials to homeless and under-employed.  I am involved with UBFM for a number of reasons. For one, I cannot solve the world’s problems, but I can help a corner of our community. I am becoming aware of the privilege I have, and I realize how close the other side is (and has been).  If I were there, I would pray that there would be UBFM’s being the light of hope for me. 

So this season, we (Bret and I) reflect upon the changes in our lives and connections we have made this past year. We made great changes in our professional careers along with ministries with the wider Church. We still have questions along with costs and challenges, but we look forward with hopeful eyes that we are in a new place as a place we want to share friendship, laughs and some wine. Perhaps, light did shine upon us, and awakened a stronger connection and love between us along with a more optimistic outlook.

We would like to share some light with you. So Hello to you and how are you? Let the grace of the season be real and be yours. Go ahead, ask questions, make room for forgiveness in your hearts, and find your light. Then maybe you might be able to find a gift of hope, peace, joy and love - despite any tumult of our lives, especially as we look forward to another year.

Oh Child of our Creator, may the peace and hope of this season be with you all this season and the coming year!