Sunday, September 27, 2020

St John United Church of Christ - Worship 27 Sep 2020

 St John United Church of Christ

Melbourne, IA

Welcome to worship with us!     

******************************************************

“No Matter Who You are or Where You are on Life’s Journey, You are Always Welcome Here!”

September 27, 2020 | 9:30 AM | Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Invitation to Prepare:

Gandhi said, “Moral authority is never retained by any attempt to hold on to it. It comes without seeking and is retained without effort.”


Philippians 2:4-5

4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,


Call to Worship: (from Psalm 25)

Together:  

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

2 O my God, in you I trust;

    do not let me be put to shame;

    do not let my enemies exult over me.

3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;

    let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD;

    teach me your paths.

5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me,

    for you are the God of my salvation;

    for you I wait all day long.

6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love,

    for they have been from of old.

7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;

    according to your steadfast love remember me,

    for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!

8 Good and upright is the LORD;

    therefore you instruct us in the Way.

9 You lead the humble in what is right,

    and teach the humble holy Way.


Hymn 449 (NCH): Softly and Tenderly

Prayer of Confession

Called to follow Christ, we are called to a life of humility. 

But what does that even mean? 

Do we seek to exalt ourselves – to be lifted above others?

Does our sense of success depend on someone else’s failure?

Does our love of God entirely guide our relationships?

Do we twist service into convenience and leisure,

ignoring the idea that to serve is to be a servant?

Silence

Let God Disturb the habits of our sin. 

Rouse us from the sleep that cradles sin’s embrace. 

 

In the name of Jesus, we pray –

Show us your ways

Highlight what we can change

And change what we cannot.


Words of Assurance

Good friends:

God is at work in you! 

God is alive in us!

              

God lives – but sin is dead. 

And our sins are forgiven,

through Christ, our Savior. 

Alleluia!  Amen.


Scripture Reading:      Matthew 21: 23-32 (NRSV)                                    

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.


Sermon:  What Authority

Posted online as well at: 

https://tonyswebstudios.blogspot.com/2020/09/what-authority-matthew-21.html


Moment of Silence & Reflection:

Invitation to Offering:

(Upcoming “Neighbors in Need” Special Offering Oct 4, 2020

https://www.ucc.org/nin_resources?utm_campaign=nin_2020_2nd_msg_to_givers&utm_medium=email&utm_source=unitedchurchofchrist)


God of infinite patience, just as Moses was worn down by the complaining of the Israelites, so you must tire as we pray for things we want and not the things we need – forgetting your grace and au-thority. As we give our gifts to empower your church, help us to see the things that really matter, places where we can provide for others in need, and deepen our trust in you to take care of us. 


Let us remember the gifts you have been given. 

Remember to share them with the community, your church.

(They can be sent to the church office.)

Sharing your gifts, the fruits of your labor, is great 

because

God is good! All the time! 

All the time!* God is good!*

Let us share in the goodness of our God!! 


Doxology:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;

 Praise God all creatures here below;

 Praise God for all that love has done;

 Creator, Christ, and Spirit, One. Amen


Prayer of Dedication:

We give thanks, O God, for all that you have given us.  O God, you have called your laborers to give their gifts. Bless these offerings so that they reflect the work of your kingdom of heaven here on Earth. We offer this prayer in the name of the Creator, the Christ and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 


Pastoral Meditation & Prayer:  

The Lord is with you  

Let us be in quiet meditations of our own hearts and minds.

Lord's Prayer: (ALL) 


Hymn 43 (NCH): Love Divine, All Loves Excelling 


Closing Announcements:

Benediction:

Remember as you go forth the words from letter to Philippi,

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit

Live in humility

Let each of you look not to your own interests but to those of others.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. 

Remember from where your authority rests.

Remember that it is up to you live into the holy promise.


May the LORD bless you and keep you,

May holiness shine upon you, with you and be gracious to you,

May the Creator turn to you and give you peace, now and always.


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Saturday, September 26, 2020

What Authority - Matthew 21

What Authority

Tony E Dillon Hansen

27 Sep 2020

Online at: https://tonyswebstudios.blogspot.com/2020/09/what-authority-matthew-21.html


Sermon based upon Matthew 21:23-32, Psalm 25, Exodus 17:1-7 and Philippians 2:1-13


Opening Prayer:


With election season upon us, this parable feels wholly appropriate because there are plenty of presumptions about power and authority or even misleading claims.


For today, I would like for us to consider the question, 

What authority is in your life?


To start, I would like to share a little bit of a conversation I had with a friend about growing up and how we viewed family and authority in our lives.


For myself, when I was young, I saw things quite differently than I do today. My parents might quip what happened to that young one, and that would be a good question. There are stories but for another time. 


For the most part in my youth, I did not contest or push against my parents – well maybe when I didn’t want to eat liver and onions or BBQ chips or sweet pickles. So there might be a moment or two when I did.  


This also applied to church and God as well. Here, I came to cherish the vision in the Gospel of Matthew of God’s enduring love and justice for all.


As I grew, that attitude evolved as I became more independent. I would see aspects of the world of the many contrasting “proposed” social conventions that seem to govern our lives and studied them.  Now, that I have grown a few pounds, I still don’t like BBQ chips or sweet relish, but I have gained affinity for cottage cheese and sauerkraut. 


Along the way, I have observed how people would do things that felt inconsistent with what they say they believe.  I saw my own inconsistent ways. Jokes that used to be funny instead today reveal how careless someone’s attitude towards race, queerness, or women might be. I observed contrasts in places of authority where we have this Bill of Rights that enshrines justice, privacy and press, but there are laws that prevent people from gaining access to justice, making private choices or officials vilifying press as “fake news.” 


I would see folks who appear to pray solemn prayers, think they have it all figured out, done the right things, and checked all the boxes. They still walk out the door and support laws that degrade and hurt people - laws that refuse compassion towards neighbors and deny equality and justice.  Somewhere in people’s lives, the message of the Gospel seems to get clouded. 


It happens. Many claim to follow the Gospel and fall short – I can be accused of this myself. Some claim to follow the Gospel and just do not.


The contrast does not, however, have to form a dividing line or competition of scars. It is instead a teaching moment. The challenge then is to understand what obstacles do we place in front of the true authority, the Truth, these Gospel teachings. This Gospel is one that invites blessings for those hurting, the poor, the “salt” and those who light up and lift up. Think of why Jesus lists prostitutes and poor as blessed because when you have nothing left to lose, you have everything to gain. 


This is part of why I got into ministry because I want to help people feel they too can live into the promise of this Gospel. That is because the experience of the Gospel message (both graceful and difficult) and what it can do is a true gift of freedom not a privilege or weapon to wield. 


Therefore, what religion, what government, what person gives authority to demean, lie, hate and hurt when the authority of the Gospels tells us differently?


One might ask, Where are the good people? Where are those that believe and live this Gospel we read? 


Unfortunately, there are many false and deceiving “authority” around us. You see them in advertising and social media memes, so you don’t have to think. These tells us of our deserved rewards or status, entitlements to annoy people, what’s mine is mine, an eye for an eye, I need shiny things, one more beverage or hit. Some say there is no time to help neighbors in need. Some contort the Gospel into an ugly weapon.


I question these “proposed” conventions as “that’s how the world works” arguments because they feel misguided. Contrastingly, there is truth and honesty in Matthew’s Gospel that tells us of God’s unfailing love and justice that I fell in love with as a youth, and the Gospel is hard to follow. We fall short.


There are many negative things out there and bad authority that seem easy, but we can become lonely in hunts for wealth, job, social media, substances or status. Yet, we don’t have to accept these or to let them define us and our paths forward. In fact, when derecho hit, neighbors showed up everywhere to help. Truth is right here waiting, never leaving.


There are good people – those that believe the Gospel and live its teachings best they can– right here. That can be you!


The good thing is that God’s authority grounded in steadfast love and freeing justice – ready to transform and change you – if you are ready.  The question is – are you?


Know that our Creator is with you. Even when we walk in deserts and wildernesses (or pandemic) of our lives looking for food, water, hope, healing and transformation, as in Exodus, there is someone there to help us. 


If you let God work, you may feel that tickle in your heart, the warmth and the tug. You might just tear up a little. God is working if you are willing to open to the real authority and let all others fall away.


We learn and listen to God speaking. This Truth invites us and welcomes us into freely given grace – as broken, humble people we are -whether we like BBQ chips or not. 


We ought to remember the holy promise, 

the holy authority that makes space for you and me just the same.  

Why? because you are worth it.

This holy authority does not reduce your worth, does not demean and even willing to listen to your questioning. 

This authority loves a good laugh and comforts when times are tough.  

This authority does not ignore science, people or their true lived experiences.

This authority can transform you, heal you, and open your path.


This authority is not aspiration only but truly a guide into love of neighbor with humility and pure heart. This has always been here - probing us, tickling us, lifting us, and guiding us.  

This authority frees us before all, 

frees our hearts so that we can heal 

and frees us to help others heal. 


This authority is the Truth of Jesus and no earthly convention can contest it.  


Thanks be to God. 


Saturday, September 19, 2020

St John United Church of Christ - Worship 20 Sep 2020

St John United Church of Christ
 Melbourne, IA
 Welcome to worship with us! 
 ****************************************************** 
“No Matter Who You are or Where You are on Life’s Journey, 
You are Always Welcome Here!” 

September 20, 2020 | 9:30 AM | Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Invitation to Prepare: 

Pip (from Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations) says about wealth, “We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it as people could make up their minds to give us. We were always more or less miserable, and most of our acquaintance were in the same condition.” 

Call to Worship: (from Psalm 145)
 Together: 
I will extol you, my God and Holy One, and bless your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; Your greatness is unsearchable. 4 One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. 5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. 6 The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness. 7 They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. 8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 

Hymn 277 (NCH): Holy Holy Holy 

Prayer of Confession: 
Paul asks churches: “Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel,…” Let us spend a quiet minute reflecting on where we have failed to “strive side by side”...for the Gospel. 

Silence 

Words of Assurance: 

Beloved in Christ rejoice! 
 In grace and mercy, God abounds in steadfast love Forgives us, and sets us free to grow in grace. Bless God's name forever! 

 Scripture Reading: Matthew 20: 1-16 (NRSV) 

 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vine-yard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you stand-ing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the la-borers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  

Sermon: Getting What’s Deserved. 

Moment of Silence & Reflection: 

Invitation to Offering: 

When our eyes are heavy, we dream of another world. When our spirits are low, we turn to each other. When our anger flares, we need each other's gifts most. We give our gifts and offerings to create your kingdom of heaven here. Remember the gifts you have been given. Remember to share them with the community, your church. (They can be sent to the church office.) Sharing your gifts, the fruits of your labor, is great because 

God is good! All the time! 
 All the time!* God is good!* 

Let us share in the goodness of our God!! 

Doxology: 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow; 
Praise God all creatures here below; 
 Praise God for all that love has done; 
 Creator, Christ, and Spirit, One. Amen 

Prayer of Dedication: 

We give thanks, O God, for all that you have given us. O God, you have called your laborers to give their gifts. Bless these offerings so that they reflect the work of your kingdom of heaven here on Earth. We offer this prayer in the name of the Creator, the Christ and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Pastoral Meditation & Prayer:

 The Lord is with you. 
 Let us be in quiet meditations of our own hearts and minds. … 

Lord's Prayer: (ALL) 

Hymn 451 (NCH): Be Now My Vision 

Closing Announcements: 

Benediction: 

From the words of Philippians, Let us continue in our work. Let us live in manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Let us be in one spirit, striving side by side, Let us find Christ in our struggles, Let us be surprised by the joy in our faith, Let us find you, O God, in all our work. 

May the LORD bless you and keep you, 
May holiness shine upon you, with you and be gracious to you, 
May the Creator turn to you and give you peace, now and always. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Whats Fair - Matthew 20

 Getting What’s Deserved/ What’s Fair

Tony E Dillon Hansen

20 Sep 2020

Sermon based upon Matthew 20:1-16, Jonah 4, Psalm 145, and Philippians 1:21-30

Opening Prayer:

There is something peculiar and difficult about this parable because there is so much to unpack beginning with how people construct arguments over what is fair and what is not.  Jesus, with this parable, upends order and social norms, and that can make people jittery, nervous and even angry. This parable speaks to our expectations and getting what we think we deserve.  Underlying, the parable reveals a glimpse into the kingdom of God. 

Our opening quote from Charles Dickens reminds us via the character, Pip, that having social status and money or “expectations” of those do not make us great people.  

This idea of “fair” inevitably has me thinking about our Covid-19 situation that cancelled the Iowa State Fair and county fairs.  I agree with many that it was a sad day when they announced the decision, and it did not feel “fair.”

Yet, if we look at this story, we might ask ourselves “where do you find yourself in the story?” Are you the ones toiling long hours, or those who had to wait even though you are capable and willing to do good work?  Are you the ones who just found a job?

Are you the landowner trying to find help? Would you have done something different? Why?

Those who are troubled and see themselves as those toiling, looking onward at the line of payments, and wondering something along the lines of “I should get more” because obviously, I deserve more. 

Yet, the landowner promised “whatever is right,” and each group agreed to this. Now the same is being given to each group. If you are among those longer workers, why would you expect more like they did? From where do you base that expectation?

In fact, what is so important that one receive more than the other?

Then we must consider what was the “whatever is right”?  As I said in the outset, this is a glimpse into the kingdom of God because we see this gift of grace freely given.  

That this falls in Matthew reminds us of the Beatitudes again where the blessings are given not to those with seniority, status or wealth, but those poor in spirit, those pure in heart, and those thirsting for spirit and righteousness. Those willing to seek the Truth in humility. Those willing to share light for all and to lift up others.

What is really important then is a question of what value do we place upon time, work, or people. When I say valuing people, that is not how many “likes” you get on Facebook  or talking to hear yourself talk, but truly listening with compassionate and open heart. 

When we look at the later groups in the parable we see many examples in our lives. Should youth be treated differently than people who lived a few decades? (Reminds me of the Pink Floyd lyric, “Remember when you were young… Shine on you crazy diamonds.”) Should immigrants be treated less because our immigrant fore-bearers came here first? Should homeless be treated differently because they fell onto hard times? Why does any person deserve less than anyone else?

This is why recent protests for equality and fairness confuse those who already have privilege.  Think, from where does righteousness and justice come? It is not governments and corporations. It is the presence of divine grace lived out and shared with all. 

Yes this is why some react to this parable with some jealousy and mistrust because it may feel like someone is getting more than they deserve. Who decided that? Government, commercials,  you, or God? Even churches get comfortable; comfortable enjoying gifts while foregoing a “hunger and thirst for righteousness” or mercy instead because what’s familiar. However, are we leaving others out that deserve God’s grace? 

We go to church to experience God and to share that experience.

So, Jesus pushes us to go beyond social and political constructs and look into our hearts. That is not always easy, but Jesus works hearts better than exercise. We can see around us how this shows up in many areas of life where we have built expectations, privilege and prejudice. The underlying lesson is that God’s kingdom doesn’t work that way. 

Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel comfortable. Yet, it does not have to be difficult when we see true value of others, even when they are new, different or even our enemy. We welcome these voices, and when we do, we welcome God’s Truth, God’s grace, into our lives, our churches, our society, and our heart – all because we deserve the gift instead of exclude.

R. Jacobsen, commentator from Working Preacher, says truly understanding our “incredible gift of grace” becomes even more powerful when we recognize that others also have this. Still, there may be those that challenge this because this belief “that’s not the way the world works,” and you might be correct.  

Fortunately, that is not how God works and in that kingdom,  all are entitled and gifted with grace, love and justice. In fact, God’s grace is given to anyone who comes, who prays. 

It is kind of like the state fair. Whether you go for the whole 10 days or the last day, like I do, and whether you have turkey leg, corn dog, or deep-fried something, you get the experience.  Unlike the state fair though, God’s grace and welcome does not close, does not get cancelled, and does not exclude. 

All are welcome to this gift, the holy promise – no matter where you are or when you arrived.  All, the immigrants, the forgotten, the humble, the mourning, seeking mercy.. all are given sanctuary and freedom to live in that grace. You and I can enjoy and be free in our gifts. We can witness that gifts in others.  Justice, righteousness, and love are God’s gifts to be shared not simply taken. Lift others, free each other and make way for real grace.  That, my friends, is “whatever is right.” 

Thanks be to God.


Monday, August 31, 2020

Worship Bulletin for Aug 30, 2020 - St John UCC

 St John United Church of Christ                   

Melbourne, IA                     

Welcome! to worship with us 

August 30, 2020 | 9:30 AM


Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost     

              ******************************************************

“No Matter Who You are or Where You are on Life’s Journey, 

You are Always Welcome Here!”


Invitation to Prepare:

“Touched by an Angel” Maya Angelou

Retrieved from https://allpoetry.com/Touched-By-An-Angel

 

Call to Praise and Prayer:    (from Psalm 105)                

Together:  

O give thanks to the LORD, call upon the divine name, make known divine deeds.

Sing to the LORD, sing praises; tell of all the wonderful works.
Glory in the holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Seek the LORD and divine strength; seek the divine presence continually.
Remember the wonderful works the LORD has done, the miracles, and divine judgments,
We praise the LORD!

 

Hymn: Spirit of the Living God

Invocation:

God’s mercy extends beyond the bounds of even our collective imagination.
God’s love seeps through any wall we could ever put up. 
God’s goodness holds more power than the sum of all. 

It is because of that extensive, seeping, powerful and bold love
in the name of the blessed, God is with us

In genuine love.

 

Scripture Reading:      Romans 12: 9-21 (NRSV)                                   

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20 No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

Sermon:  Genuine.

Posted online as well at:

https://tonyswebstudios.blogspot.com/2020/08/genuine-romans-12.html

 

 

Pastoral Meditation & Prayer:   

The Lord is with you 

Let us be in quiet meditations of our own hearts and minds.

Lord's Prayer: (ALL)

 

Hymn: Make Me a Channel of Your Peace

 

Closing Announcements:

Benediction:

Let love be you genuinely.

Rejoice in hope, live in harmony, and persevere in prayer.

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another… so that together you may with one voice glorify our Creator.

 

May the LORD bless you and keep you,

May the LORD shine upon you and be gracious to you,

May the LORD turn to you and give you peace, now and always..

 

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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Genuine - Romans 12

Genuine.

Tony E Dillon-Hansen

 

A Meditation upon Romans 12: 9-18, Psalm 105, Exodus 3:14, and Matthew 16:

 

Intro Prayer:

 

Friends,

This passage is among my favorite from the epistles because it echoes much of Matthew 5. There is guidance and hopeful idealism - which is useful today amidst social unrest, storm recovery, racial injustice, political division, and this long-overdue visitor called a pandemic.

 

Lets start with a story

One day,

A contemptuous outlaw was thrashing about a small village.

This outlaw came upon a house of a master.

He had heard of stories about the master and wanted to test this legendary skill.

 

He came to the gate of the master's house. The master was tending his garden.

The outlaw called out to him boasting that he could beat him and crush him with a single strike.

He taunted the master and cried ignorance and bogus skill.

"Challenge me if you can, and show me your best technique."

 

At this, the master turned to the outlaw, bowed to him, and walked into the house.

 

The outlaw became furious at this and ranted the legends of the master were untrue and undeserving.

The outlaw raved the master knew nothing of great technique and worthy skills.

 

A short moment later, the master reappeared.

This time, he had with him a tray.

Upon the tray was a pot of tea and cups.

The master sat near a table and began to pour two cups.

He then gestured the outlaw to drink with him.

 

The outlaw, caught off guard, then bowed to the master and shared some tea.

 

Romans 12 is about hospitality and love – not just cute rhetorical words, but genuine love.  This, my friends, is the “sweet nectar” of faithful living. (KC commentator, Mitch Holtus, would say when Chiefs would score touchdowns.)

 

Amid struggles and questions of purpose, Romans reminds us to “rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering and persevere in prayer” where we must first let love be genuine.

 

Where does that start, you ask?

 

It starts with you. When we read, “Let Love be genuine” hear “let love be you.” Be present with love. When we peel off our own layers of social and personal pretense, we may uncover the vulnerable, broken child of God made with divine love within us – a child full of hope, potential, wonder, worry and yes love.   

 

Further, “love one another with mutual affection” means, we may recognize this in others. Then, we see each other as children of God, made with love, with their own vulnerability and brokenness.

 

For some people  “unaccustomed to courage

exiles in delight

… in shells of loneliness…”

For some people beaten down by the system, an abusive person or even themselves, this is difficult because we create walls or hide in substances from pain and suffering where unwinding that onion (of self) is more than tearful - but shattering and scary. Really, we were hiding the love within.

 

We don’t have to accept lies, deliberate distortions, or systemic chains. With God’s love in us, we can transform and tear down walls. When love arrives and when we recognize the love within us, along comes hope and courage - revealing beautiful and powerful results.

 

Thus, let love be you and share that love, as Paul says.

 

We share through contributing and extending hospitality. We recognize that we share gifts and learn from each other. Then, we find hope together because we let go of pretense, judgment and anger.  We are present together and paying attention to the moment. We find peace together because we find harmony through hospitality. 

 

With hospitality, we build a stronger community of love together. You won’t have time for negativity, lies or vengeance because we are a little busy doing Christ’s work building each other.

 

As well, hospitality extends to the lowly, the homeless, the forgotten and the immigrant because as Genesis reminds us, our people were once immigrants persecuted in exile.

 

We acknowledge and welcome people where they are, as Christ did, because they too are children of God. There is no need to “claim to be wiser” or more than we are. We know we are imperfectly, distinctly beautiful people. Thus, our genuine love helps to shape ourselves and to build a beautiful community with love, hope, peace and harmony. 

 

Be genuine and compassionate in speech, mind, hearing, and heart. Witness the potential and the love working within us and around us – even enemies. In fact, bless them too – not flippantly.

 

We have blessings with us, but the “sweet nectar” means we are good sports too.  Love is given to us and for us to give.

 

When we succeed with our blessings, we don’t put others down.  Besides, maybe authentic blessing is what opponents need as much as we need it - that space for forgiveness in ourselves. We let God work and share a drink.

 

When we let love and hospitality work, we acknowledge the homeless person asking for a meal, the black woman weeping over her child, the queer person’s struggle for identity, the native American praying to keep water clean, a good cop trying to do the right thing, or the veteran seeking peace from scars of war. In these moments, in our vulnerability, we can be bold because love and compassion is our strength.

 

Listen with compassion and understanding (rather than quickly conjuring responses) because we don’t have to agree.  Let go of negativity, judgment, anger, vice and vengeance and let God work. Give hospitality to people and their concerns. Let God work.

 

Paul says to “take thought for what is noble” and live peaceably as we can. When we do, we may expand to the possible – to our Creator.

 

Feed your enemies and offer drink. These are ways to “overcome evil with good.” This may be hard sometimes (I know), but with God’s help, things are possible.

 

Thus, we can return to the self.  We can focus upon our breath, our prayers, and our blessings. We listen for possible. Remember you too are a child of God - You are expressions of that divine love.

 

“Love strikes away chains of fear” and helps us be brave. We want freedom from “histories of pain”, worries, and injustices. Love will set us free.

 

With genuine love as “all we are”, together, we can be free from suffering. No injustice or pandemic can beat it.

 

That, my friends, is the sweet nectar.

 

We witness the divine gifts and “wondrous works” when we are free in love.

 

Thanks be to God.

 

 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sunday Program for July 26, 2020

Hope and Truth                            
Open Ministry                                               
Open and Affirming, Interfaith Ministry
******************************************************
“No Matter Who You are or Where You are on Life’s Journey,
You are Always Welcome Here!”
July 26, 2020 | 10:00 AM
Meditation and Invitation to Prepare:
Mindfulness of the Truth
“Remember to keep the intention of objective friendliness. Meet each experience with acceptance and curiosity.” (Levine, N. 2014. p 249)

Call to Praise and Prayer:    (adapted from Psalm 105)          
One:  O give thanks to the One, call upon them making the deeds known.
All :  Sing to the One with praises telling wonderful works.
One:
Seek the Presence and Strength of the One who creates.
All: We have curious acceptance of the Truth. We embrace the wonderful works and miracles done and give thanks for these divine gifts.
One: Creation is reminder of our covenant for us, the world, the Spirit and generations.
All: We give praise and thanks for all our gifts!

Hymn: Be Thou My Vision
Invocation:

Scripture Reading:      Matthew 13:31-33 (NRSV)                                   
31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with[a] three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Reflection:  Seeds of Truth in Parables
Meditation: Mindfulness of Truth

Pastoral Prayer:
Leader: The Lord be with you;
All: And with you also. 
Leader: Let us be first in the quiet meditations of hearts and minds.

Lord's Prayer: (ALL)

Hymn: Sent Forth by God’s Blessing
Benediction:
Postlude:                           
******************************************************
Tony E Dillon Hansen, Rev.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

When Is the Time - Romans 5

When is the time…?
Tony E Dillon Hansen

A reflection based upon Romans 5:1-8 and Matthew 9:35-10:8

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer.

The recent events have provided more opportunities to reflect on privilege and my own reoccurring indifference about prejudice in our culture.  Even as I learn and embrace black liberation theology and how that informs some queer theology, I am still one that wears privilege.  I cannot possibly understand the frustration and anger of the black community in response to centuries of system maltreatment, horror, torture discrimination and literal de-humanization at the hands of white people.  I can understand how, as a queer person, that subtle words and systemic action carry such derisive and hurtful connotations while being meant to appease and distract. These cut into the very being of a person. 
I fully realize the fallacy of “all lives matter” because the truth is that for far too long in our country, the lives that mattered were those that were willing to forget one's own culture, your own ideas of grace and beauty, and even your own body in order to pretend and feign an existence of belonging.  That belonging was and is false because one has to erase and deny themselves to become someone else – not who they were truly blessed to be. 
I also get the struggle of the poor white people who have been goaded and duped into believing that our daily gripes and pains are somehow measurable to perpetual systemic racism and injustice.  I understand that is difficult to live in these times with budgets, difficult decisions, and competing priorities and desire to live in peace.  Yet, when one considers a state that has been built over centuries to inject fear, division, worry and silence into your lives, the words of “all are created equal” fails and feels extremely shallow - if not perversely evil.
As a minister, I am informed by scripture and when I read this week’s scripture from Romans 5 describing how we are justified by faith, I find another viewpoint here.  Justification does nothing when we continue to be pawns of the lies and the machine – when we continue to be silent in the face of horrible and cruel injustice, inequality and further deceptions.  Our justification, therefore, is to live out the commissioning of Christ for Christians, the invitation from our Creator as mutual people with mutual concerns – recognizing that we don’t have all the answers by ourselves - that there are people hurting and have legitimate gripes. 
We then come to the help and grace of our neighbors rather than continuing to marginalize and demean their words and feelings because black lives do matter, queer lives do matter, native American lives do matter, immigrant lives do matter and you matter. They matter in this time and in this moment. They should not be swept away by more apathy and disgruntled privileged reactions designed to silence and to reduce to inaction again.  This is the time, as Paul writes, that we move to be neighbors in solidarity and empathy. We may not be able to answer for the sins of ancestors - or even our own culpability in current living, but we should not be shamed or silenced into maintaining those sins.
The Tao of people is to live into mutual beings rather than find reasons to divide and distract.  We are people called to be disciples and neighbors – not just in words but in our honest actions that recognize the fragility of lives - how words and actions have been parts of systemic tools designed to oppress, seclude, demean and hate. Instead, our scriptures, reminds us that we are called to welcome, to listen, to heal, and to be - to be a neighbor that acknowledges differences and does not close the door to authentic understanding.
We are a community in this country of many communities – each justified to live and breathe under the protection of our Creator and our laws without fear and prejudice from authorities. We live in this moment, in this time to validate the claims and desire for equality, fairness and actual belonging – the belonging that says “I care” and “I hear you.”
For the black and many communities, I ask - what can I, as a white person, do to help heal and help change our culture so that violence, oppression and hate are no longer normal measures of everyday living.  I, as a white person, want to recognize that privilege should never be taken at the cost of another or on the backs of my neighbor – because we are told to love our Creator and our neighbor as ourselves. That means loving and belonging. There is no separation, no judgment, no arbitrary system to deny but one that invites, welcomes, while recognizing and celebrating uniqueness, our struggles, our valid concerns, and our being.
We have, in this moment, an opportunity to grow together and to learn from each other rather than scorning people for speaking truth and for protesting corrupt systems.
We have, in this opportunity, to realize that centuries of injustice cannot be healed overnight, in a week, or a month but takes time across generations. Also, this injustice cannot simply be forgotten but can be a lesson and reminder that we, as a community, have work to do – to heal, to listen, and to be. 
Maybe then we can talk about how lives matter because then we might be in honest dialog about our society, Creation, and our God-given gifts of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Maybe then, we find liberation in the scriptures to free us from our sins, and systemic injustice that pervades our culture.
Maybe then, we use scripture and churches as intended places to build community and heal together rather than as props for ugly photo-ops.
Maybe then, we can look at this time – this time – and realize we decided to do the right thing and to act by living our faiths instead of shunning and silencing neighbors legitimate concerns.
Maybe then, we can be agents of true healing and growth - and this time we know better.
Maybe then we can be justified by faith.

Thanks be to God.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Actionless-Action

(Inspired by Dionysius and Chuang Tzu)

We witness transcendence
from left to right and light to dark.
We see transcendence
from right to left and dark to light;
From death to life and life to death.
Out of darkness came light
and from light we go to darkness.
All are one with the presence of the Holy One,
the Divine Wisdom.

And suddenly transfiguration is a transcendence
that we can witness in our own lives.
With the One who is beyond all,
we cannot literally comprehend that infinite image
who embodies both the divine Light and Darkness
to reveal the naked Truth:
that we cannot speak it because we cannot describe it,
but we can know it.

How do we allow the light and darkness
to transcend within us and in our being?
How do we reject the perfect light and darkness
by our feeble attempt to define its trueness, its being?

Spirit of the living Presence fall upon us and be with us
in all of your splendor and murky ways.
Spirit of Creation and Void who gives us life and death,
be nearer to our understanding and our denials.
Reveal to us so we might be able to truly embrace
what we cannot describe
 and allow that to be the naked Truth in our lives.

Spirit of the Light and the Dark,
be far from us so that we might be comforted in your presence;
That we may continue yours in no-words language,
actionless-action and thinkingless-thought,
And through your gracious Spirit,
open our questions and hearts to your True Presence.