It is Time to Renew
Tony E Dillon Hansen
A sermon based upon Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Mark 1:4-11, and Psalm 51.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts and minds, O Lord you are our Rock and our Redeemer.
Friends, neighbors, Beloved,
Where to begin today after the week we have had? I had a different idea for today's worship. This time, I feel compelled to speak about the anxiety and emotions of Wednesday’s unprecedented violence.
I wrote about it earlier this week and shared it with you, my friends and many colleagues as we attempt to cope with the aftermath of Jan6th. It is hard to imagine what many of you had going through your mind.
People have been asking questions like, “How did we get here?” “why is this happening now?” “where do we go from here?”
People are just trying to make sense of it all. People are grieving (anger, sadness, anxious, worried) because we loss something - a loss of American identity, the loss of American trust, & breakdown of the sacred American community (brotherhood).
Grief has a way of giving us perspectives long ignored.
Grief has a way of reminding us not to ignore the evil in the corner.
Grief has a way of building a path forward to reconciliation – with ourselves and our neighbors.
This quote from Lincoln might help to set the mood, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
To be honest, we had clues something like this was brewing because holiday dinners have become increasingly toxic. So many have decided to ignore truth and believe something else. This is more than just finger pointing. It is bent up frustrations and lost faith in the American experiment – a unique and diverse community experiment. This frustration morphs into willful ignorance of the truth and unwillingness to compromise. Why? - for convenience, ego or was it peer pressure? Some are so frustrated that they are willing to “burn down the house.”
What happened on Jan 6th is also direct consequence of being consumers of wrong information or outright lies. This continues today. This demonstrates how evil distorts truth and manipulates good people into denying truth’s existence – denying community - denying trust – denying any cooperation. It is a refusal to see opposing views as learning opportunities but rather as vermin to be exterminated. Cooperation stands no chance when people don't want to have dialog - don't want to trust. I dont need unity, but we do need honest (non-threatening) dialog - and Truth! We need trust in each other and that is founded in Love.
When you dont have dialog, you get mobs. On a day when Christians want to celebrate the revelation of Christ, we were reminded that mobs do not listen to reason or truth, like that day on Calvary when a mob murdered Jesus, or when mobs lynched innocent Black people or Jews and "degenerates" were marched to death camps. Afterwards, they wipe hands, turn to each other and call that “justice.”
The truth and reconciliation are not visible because people have drawn curtains to hide God’s Truth and Love for us all. Yet, Jesus - once before - tore open curtains to reveal the truth (Mark 15:28). Why? because He Loved us! Sometimes what is revealed is not easy to see, but recognizing will give us a chance to reclaim our mutual covenant - to reclaim hope, reconciliation, life, and love in the community.
Jesus tear open these curtains - so that we can see each other again!
We, as Christians, don’t need to keep spinning truth into narratives so they conveniently fit our claims because the truth is the Truth - and not always convenient. And Love is powerful!
Beloved, Tear open your curtains! Tear them open with the love of your hearts!
Ecclesiastes teaches us,
There is a “time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”
Thus, there is a time to live even in our need and grief because love will win.
There is a time to be real and to let truth and powerful be our guide. That time is now.
I, along with many of you, experienced many different stages of grief over the past week. In these moments, when the questions swirl, the emotions are high and hurt is real, it is a reminder to focus upon something, meditate and pray. Mindful meditation would have us start with the breath. Jesus would have us lean into true Love.
Yes, it is time for us to step back a moment and collectively take a breath with hands on our hearts and know that we are not alone - despite a week of chaos and pain. We have our Creator and Jesus, through baptism, restores us to the joy of salvation and sustains us.
When we renew our baptismal vows and feel the water upon our brow, we are cleansed for just a moment of all of our brokenness and worry. We are reborn into the life that has been gifted to us through Christ. We get the chance to renew and start again. We need that now more than ever. This is how we begin to reconcile - through rebirth into Christ. There we will find powerful love!
That is the promise of baptism – that with God, the cleansing Spirit, our sins are washed so that we might have new life and salvation. We restore with the Love of the One who brought us. We are reminded that we do not walk alone as the Spirit shines upon us. We do this together with honest resolve and witness of truth and love of neighbor through Christ.
I was reminded by one of my colleagues that even after a wildfire in a meadow, the field shows blooms of new life. The grief is real, loss is felt and hopefully lessons learned.
Tear open those curtains, look at what we have done and be honest. Then realize what happens when we accomplish together, when love works - so that we reconcile our differences and then, we might be the blooms that God meant for us to be. Be vulnerable, find compassion, and let others know they too can be vulnerable. We are all in this together, and we have Providence to guide us – the promise of our Baptism.
So look up, look around you and meet the Spirit falling upon you, surrounding you, within you and a part of you.
In difficult times of pure darkness, we have a chance to see the true light that helps us heal. The true light guiding us to better days and a horizon full of hope. Light that cannot be hidden.
In these tenuous times and grief, we find the Spirit giving us strength and courage to face our trial and tribulation – so that we might earn the thanks of generations to come because we persevered, and we learned Love again. We leaned into our hope and grace rather than despair and division.
In these times of pain and grief, we can become the salt of the Earth that provides the blessed spice of life and joy of God around us and through us. We take that next step with assurance and grace – knowing we don’t walk alone and that love is all around us!
In these anxious times, find peace embracing us and calling to us with calm breath. So let’s take that collective breath and let peace begin with you and me.
Use your ears and your eyes to see the mystery unfold before you and greet you into the world without pain and suffering that is accessible here today and now - In breath and God's love.
Let worry and anxiety be washed away with the water of baptism. Be delivered, be restored, be renewed and let’s get to work - together! Our American experiment is not lost but needs our help! In you Beloved, God is well pleased.
Thanks Be to God!