Monday, September 2, 2019

What is a Sabbath - Luke 13:10-17, Hebrews 12:18-29

What is a Sabbath
Tony E Dillon Hansen
25 August 2019

A Sermon based upon Luke 13:10-17, Hebrews 12:28, Jeremiah 1-8

Let us begin with prayer. May the words of my mouth and meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, Our Rock and Our Redeemer!

Our lessons today have multiple layers and perspectives happening.

I thought today I might walk through Hebrews and how that invites us into the covenant with God, and that could be extremely interesting to some of you.

Then again, I thought that I might talk about 3 perspectives from Luke’s Gospel today, and that might be enough for several sermons.

I thought for One of those perspectives, I might talk about the Sabbath and what it means as a commandment and a gift from God in Deuteronomy. Then I would have to ask where do you find time in your schedules for that gift - that sacred time - alone time: for you, for your spouse or for your family.

But then I would want to invoke lessons from the movie Christopher Robin – a story about some characters from the Hundred Acre Woods (e.g. Pooh, Tigger and pals).

Yet that might spoil a good movie for some of you. I could tell you about the basic premise that invites people to think about what is in our lives that is so important that we dedicate time, attention and convenience. Perhaps, we could also wonder what in those things causes us to find some people inconvenient “or in the way.”

I would then have to ask about how we spend our time. Does it give space for what is truly important like our family, love, justice and our Creator? You know love of God and love of neighbor ...the true important stuff.

Yet that might cause a long discussion about what the Sabbath means to you and me – and that could be great time had by all.

I also considered talking about laws and whether laws are always perfectly executed, and we know how that could invite a lively debate of politics. So then I could try to focus even upon the laws handed to us in Deuteronomy that includes the Sabbath.

As I said, I could talk about those things, but that might invite a wider conversation about what laws we find convenient and some that we might say inconvenient… Or even company policies that challenge us to live at the convenience of a job …
instead of what Pooh says “doing nothing can lead to some of the best kind of something.”

Yes, I could talk about these and get you to ponder what is convenient and inconvenient in your own lives, and that could be a long conversation.

As I said, I would like to discuss these things about the Sabbath and inconvenient laws, but then I would have to ask what do these say about the woman in our story.

I could ask what is wrong with her for 18 years.
I could ask why it took 18 years for someone see her.
That is 18 years of Sabbaths for someone to find time to even notice her – and maybe I could ask who in our midst do we conveniently ignore and why?

Before you know it, 18 years goes by with all of those missed opportunities.

I could have you ponder who else in society and their sufferings we conveniently ignore: like immigrants, black Americans, homeless, Native Americans, or equality for queer people. Then we could spend time asking what we could do. That could be a great conversation.

Then I would have to ask what were you and I doing for 18 years that was so important?
How many Sabbaths were in those 18 years that she endured without so much as “how can I help?”

I could ask if that tells us about our own Sabbaths and how many people simply cannot take time off in this society ?
How many people don’t have the privilege of working only weekdays from 9 to 5?
I could ask if we conveniently see those people as necessary for our Sabbath but do we get irritated when we are inconvenienced when they deserve this divine gift.

As I said, I could talk about these things but that could invoke emotions, strains, and long uncomfortable discussions.

Suffice to say, I could ask you what does your Sabbath look like and who is important enough to notice in your lives?  I could ask How do we justify laws and policies that are convenient for us while shunning justice for others like the woman in the story – or our neighbors around us?

I wonder if a few of us could learn from  Winnie-The-Pooh saying, “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing everyday.”

Maybe we can find time for that!

Thanks Be to God.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

For What It’s Worth - Hebrews 11:29-12:2

For What It’s Worth
Tony E Dillon Hansen
18 August 2019

A Sermon based upon Hebrews 11:29-12:2, Luke 12:49-56, Jeremiah 23:23-29

Let us begin with prayer. May the words of my mouth and meditations of all of our hearts be accepted in Your sight, Our Rock and Our Redeemer!

For our lesson today, I would like for us to consider the phrase, “for what it’s worth.” Today, we will put Hebrews in the “for what it’s worth” department. We talked last week and were given the example of Abraham and Sarah as foundational examples of faith. This chapter that we have been reading is chronology of faith journeys that appear throughout the Hebrew Bible.

So why are given this history, and for what it’s worth, I enjoy reading about history, and I know how many in my high school consider it a snoozefest or the coach’s job. Yet what happened, who are the characters and the stories of why things may have happened the way they did is fascinating.

So why do these people get lifted from the scrolls of time and trials as markers of faith? If you are sitting in a prison like Paul was, you might find interesting connections to your story as well.  Broadly, the lesson from Hebrews reminds us of trials of many that came before us.

Yet, this poses an interesting question for us today as to why do we study history? 

I would say that history can teach us about where we have come so long as we don’t sanitize it. The Bible is full of stories (some powerful stories of perseverance, faith and some as tremendous failures). Depending upon which prophet and even books of chronicles, the Bible likes to tell different perspectives of the same stories: e.g. exodus, law, exile, good and bad kings and return from exile – reminding us there is more than one way to describe events.

Each of these are lessons about our humanity, our community and our connection to the Creator (or rejection of). The thing about these stories is they are, in fact, lessons, and lessons typically have some journey that involves a “teaching moment.” Saturday and weeknight cartoons used to have section that were dedicated to these whether He-Man’s “moral of the story”, Gi-Joe’s “knowing is have the battle…” or entire shows like Sesame Street.  These days, for what its worth, I am a fan of Law and Order type drama because they also share a moral dilemma, a tale with a teaching moment.

How do we heed lessons?
Still, we could go further with that question about lessons: what does history teach us if we do not heed those lessons of our past?” For what it’s worth, remember the old adage, “those, who do not study history, are condemned to repeat it” but tweaked to “those, who study history and ignore its lessons, also are condemned.” So what does the Bible, Hebrews and God teach us in these moments that are important for us today? (Great question!)

The clue may be a little further into the text that includes one of my favorite verses. 

Hebrews 12: 7-8,10-12.
Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are [lost].  10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but [God] disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share divine holiness. 11 Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make good paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
This can described in one word: “grit.” In order for us to really understand the Gospels, Bible stories and our relationship with our Creator, these lessons of faith tell us how people had the “grit” to proceed and to do right.  Even those that failed, failed “daring greatly” and discipline to keep going.  They had “discipline” to find strength to use their gifts of faith.

Dimensions of Discipline
What is discipline? Some immediately conjure the image of strict, inflexible parent model that commands and we obey, but that is over-simplification. For one, this model can lead to significant abuses. Essentially, discipline is adherence to something, to the good, to perseverance, to finance, to spirit, to health, to diet, - or even pain and abuse.  To what do you adhere?

Yes, discipline is a tool, but discipline is more than command and obedience. Discipline is finding strength (grit) and finding relationships. It is an opportunity for each of us to reflect, to live and to shine.

Discipline is better?
Does discipline make us better than others? Some like to wear this like a scout badge to be admired. As a wrestler and taekwondo competitor, discipline is what helps athletes achieve and some become champions because they do the necessary.  Discipline opens opportunities for relationships and growing strength to meet goals because the truth is that journey-to-the-goal is full of even more opportunities -- ways that we, in our own little ways, might dare greatly – even when it feels like for what it’s worth is difficult. You would think sports like these invoke a personal discipline, however even the most talented person needs and wants help – a sparring partner, a coach, a parent, a spouse, a team, a spirit. 

Even when we don’t feel like it is worth, discipline helps us find strength because we are not alone.

If we look at verse 12:10, God is rewarding us for “good in order that we may share” our gifts with our community and our Earth.  So, Hebrews is not saying we need to keep silent about our faith or our struggle because it is real – precisely because, it is our stories and your story. Your story is one that needs to be told. Telling that story is not always easy, but it is your story and your faith that needs shared. 

This is the history of faith stories that we study in church. We are more than ourselves through our connections to our community, our mutual stories and to our God.  What is our community without our diligence to share it, help it and nurture it? What is our community if we do not learn the lessons from our past so that we might have discipline for today?

For what it is worth, faith is precious because it is part of our story. Discipline is precious when we nurture our relationship (our covenant) rather than command and obey.  Discipline and faith are precious when use our gifts to do the good work and share those gifts.

We might trip and fall once in a while or face overwhelming obstacles, but you are not alone.  We have this whole church and our Creator ready to help.  Yes, faith and discipline are more than single dimensions, but opportunities to see light in darkness;  Opportunities to persevere when times are tough; Opportunities to see flowers or find vegetables in our garden of weeds.

Through faith and discipline, we are reminded that your stories and your treasured hearts are precious. 
Through faith and discipline, your story connects us together in community and church.
Through faith and discipline, you are not alone.
Let that reassure you.

Thanks Be to God.