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.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

I am the gate

“I am the gate…”;
Tony E Dillon Hansen

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
 (John 10: 7 NRSV)

The next two “I am” verses come from John 10, and they each give us different perspectives about Jesus, as a gate and as a shepherd.

I remember walking through a gate into my grandparents’ farmhouse yard only to face a massive, menacing turkey following us to the door. We see gates through literature and movies: gates before Helm’s Deep, the arch into Jurassic Park, or energy portals between dimensions. For my Grandmother’s house, there was no question what was on the other side. Yet, upon finding such gates that do not have much visibility, one might begin questioning. Do we enter, and what happens on the other side?  As well, we remember that a gate is an entry: place to start but also place to leave. Thus, what do we leave?

Each day of our lives we face decisions and proverbial gates.  Do I take step forward or do I just stay where I am? The gate represents change, uncertainty, innovation, chance as well as hope. When we come to gates in our lives that are critical decisions, we might need a dose of courage and inspiration to proceed to move forward beyond today. Steve Jobs once said that upon daily looking into a mirror, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something” Yet, with all of our brokenness, too often we revert to contentment and resign to staying within ourselves - letting the turkey decide for us. What are we clinging that we fear to change or to enter the gate? We might hear Jesus and that good voice, but perhaps think “my heart just cannot take another surprise”, for yet another day in a row.

Understandably, we are skeptical of people making broad claims because we know marketing with false “guarantees” to solve what is missing in our lives. Yet, there is a real truth because we know and recognize authenticity, and Jesus offers genuine and authentic truth. That is part of the conversation that Jesus invites us where we can be authentic in ourselves and find the One listening to us. We are invited to hear and to listen to the voice that welcomes and speaks truth. When you hear the truth, maybe the gate won’t seem so daunting. Take a step forward, have faith, and live into the welcome you have been given.

For those that have found the strength to step, do we have patience and grace in turn to welcome others wherever they are on life’s journey?  Jesus reminds as well that we must be gates for others to find hope and justice, without judgment - just like the example Jesus set for us.

May the One, who welcomes us at the gate, be with us this season as we seek to hear your truth and take steps. Be with us and guide us through the COVID-19 trials. Let us witness your comfort within our spirit to take those steps. Amen.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Born of the Spirit - John 3

Born of the Spirit
Tony E Dillon Hansen

Reflection for John 3:1-17, Psalm 121

Psalm 19,

Whenever we get to this text, I am reminded to of the myriad ways in which John 3:16 appears throughout our society.  Whether a player tattoos 3:16 under eyes or we see people with sandwich boards proclaiming 3:16, there is a uniqueness to this passage still that calls to us.  Pastor Matt remarked on Thursday that evangelist like to emphasize words in this phrase. “For God SOOO loved the world…” and in case you missed it, we can definitely feel joy in the idea that God loves the world.
There is strength and power in God giving to us “only begotten” Jesus because our Creator is willing to give that much to us because of the “SOOO” much love. How could we as just people compete with that kind of love.
Yet this verse comes in context of the conversation between the priest Nicodemus and Jesus. In this frank conversation, each are talking about aspects of theology; aspects of God; aspects of finding God in the here and now. The lines that jumped out to me in this reading were 3:8 “The wind blows and you hear it but you do not know from where it comes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” and because you and I are talking today, Nicodemus question in 3:4, “how can anyone be born again having grown old?”
First to be born of the Spirit means what?
In this Gospel lesson and next week’s, we observe dialogs and relationship. Jesus engages these questions of faith, of identity and wholeness. In each of these dialogs, as well, Jesus listens and does not condemn.  In fact, the robust conversation invites even more conversation today.  Nicodemus and Jesus invoke the Spirit working.
Incidentally, what kind of conversations do you have with Jesus?  We often hear people talk about being spiritual without being religious, but Jesus invites us to relationship with the Spirit. Jesus invites us to go deep into ourselves. Jesus guides us to witness and to recognize the Spirit, that is not just token rhetoric for sandwich boards or tattoos, but one that breathes full dimensions into our being: a spirit that transcends my concerns, my thoughts and my fears into joy, achievement and grace. I don’t have to be religious to witness the Spirit because I can meditate and pray; I can listen and be aware of the Spirit working around me, with me, through me, through you, and through our community.
To be born/re-born of the Spirit then is not a reentering of mother’s womb (my mother probably wouldn’t appreciate that now) but allowing the Spirit to open our eyes in new ways and new awareness. When we allow the Spirit to do this, we allow and acknowledge a conversation (a relationship) with the divine. Then, we might understand what “SOOO” much love is.
Yet if we step back and say “you know I am mature in my faith and I have grown old with these ideas and I am growing older.” “Maybe, that feeling is just for young folks and hippie people that want to get in touch with their feelings.” Cynics might use the word “hogwash.”
I hear that “I am still getting old. My body is getting slower and more broken. The world seems to be spinning out of control and no one cares. Governments are corrupt and society going down the tubes.”  In that view, I guess that is it folks. There is nothing more we can do and misery is all around us with nothing we can do about it. 
That cynicism is defeating and destructive spiritual darkness. Instead looking to find connection and renewal, this attitude denies even the chance.  This attitudes denies that divine invitation to spiritual light because one stops at spiritual darkness where the experience of spiritual rebirth is fantasy or foreign.
That, my friends, is precisely when we need to find our birth in spirit. When we have lost all sense of self; lost all faith; and even lost hope. Even in our maturity, we must be willing to dig deeper, beyond the spiritual mud, to find the light of the Spirit burning for us and with us. That is when Jesus can be most meaningful to us because we let Jesus and Spirit find us and meet us where we are; to lift us to where we can be.
So, Have a conversation with Jesus in your heart where you are on life’s journey, like Nicodemus. We don’t have to dwell in the doldrums of spiritual quicksand because we can reach with our hearts at this chance to find grace again and again. We can breathe in and out with that possibility of Spirit fully inside us and with us.
When you feel that, you can free yourself from the broken, slowing body and smile with the grace of God clearing that spiritual mud; clearing the obstacles that prevent us from loving neighbor; clearing the barriers from our own tender heart and spirit.
That is how we can be born again while growing old – everyday – all day – any minute – no matter where you are on life’s journey. You can let Jesus reach down into your heart, and you let Jesus move your attitudes from cynicism to possible. You can find comfort in spiritual prayer, and you might find that SOOO LOVE can set you free.
Thanks be to God!

Friday, March 6, 2020

I am the light

“I am the light…”;
Tony E Dillon Hansen

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NRSV)

Walking around in the night can be trouble but why do we?  I will fumble through things and stub my toe while walking in dark rooms, and only then, I might turn on the light. Still, it is not like we have to remain in the dark, but yet, maybe darkness offers a weird sense of comfort. Does it? During Lent, we are reminded of how in our lives that we walk in darkness and how we simply do not attempt to find the light switch.

John 8 begins with a crowd bringing a woman (guilty of adultery) to test Jesus. They expect Jesus to judge her and cast judgment. Instead, Jesus challenges us and asks us whom among us has not sinned is whom can be the first to throw stones. The woman is set free. Then, Jesus tells us the divine light is not just for the so-called righteous and privileged but also the oppressed and all sinners. We are called to follow the light and to be free in the light.

When we look at people with judging eyes and mind, what light do we share? What light do we ignore?  The lesson then reminds us that this light “judge[s] no one”. So why do we?

Are we so twisted in our own spiritual darkness, righteousness, privilege and judgment that we need to cast our darkness upon others instead of light? We act, react, and want answers to wrongs, injustice and pains - even feel deserved in that. Perhaps, that is valid, but are letting darkness guide us into communal misery versus allowing the light to free us? Is that darkness truly what we ought to have? Dwelling in this darkness, we are, instead, not allowing the Spirit to guide us, to lift us or to stir us. Maybe light and forgiveness seem scary, but these are God’s gifts to us. Maybe in the darkness and silence, we relinquish God-given freedom.

Thus, if we consider what Jesus is fundamentally saying, we might see Jesus permitting us to be love and light to people in the world. Most importantly, we are permitted to love ourselves rather than be in dark discontent. This loving light can then be powerful and transcending.

Turn on the light, walk away from dark discontent and judgment. Then you can let the loving light of wisdom, love and faith be your guide instead of wandering aimlessly within the ego-self. Thus, our hearts will grow because we seek beyond fears, stones of judgments, and internal darkness. We may find the Spirit settling into our hearts so that we might witness the light already shining within us. When we do, we might let that comforting light be us and stir us.

May the One, who shines light upon us, be with us this season as we seek to let go of spiritual darkness. Remind us to not throw stones of judgment, but let us instead find space for our neighbors and their struggles in our hearts. Let us witness Your light in our thoughts, actions and lives. May we find comfort in Your stirring Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

I am the bread of life

“I am the bread of life…”;
Tony E Dillon Hansen

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35 NRSV)

Whenever I would hear this as a child in church, I would suddenly feel hungry and want a sandwich. As an adult reading this, I decided to get one with my coffee.  

Jesus has been preaching and teaching to growing crowds. This verse comes in context of chapter 6 when Jesus performs a sign by feeding the thousands with a few loaves of bread and a couple fish. This curious and persistent crowd continues to follow Jesus asking questions, and as if one is not enough, they ask for yet another sign. 

These signs have multi-dimensions. Jesus tells us the bread is more than a couple of loaves. People, like myself, look at what is in front of us, but we can still miss the point. Yet, there are insatiable appetites demonstrated in the persistence here, but is the need one of food, entertainment or something else?  Something is missing, but we won’t get true sustenance by just consuming.

There is also the complaining. They were just privileged to have meal with Jesus and now complaining about its delivery and message. One has to wonder if we are focusing upon our personal egos and privilege rather than living in the way of God. Jesus reminds us of injustice and struggles in our lives and ancestry and that God gave us gifts (“manna”). Thus, when we see injustice and oppression, do we just “hem and haw” about peoples’ grumblings, or do we help our neighbors find justice? Our ancestors struggled, and Jesus was executed - for justice and forgiveness for all - so that we might share bread together.

Jesus stops us and gives us something to really consider. We will never understand the signs. We won’t witness the Spirit at work right in front of us and within us, especially when we are constantly consuming and focused upon selfish concerns.

Jesus reminds us of the work our Creator is doing in and among us. If we were to pay attention to what the Spirit is saying, we might find an answer to what is missing. We might realize that we do not need to keep consuming in order to be happy.  While my sandwich was delicious and satisfying, that satisfaction is limited. We can let go of our hunger because we can live in the promise of our Creator, and when we do, we can live in the mystery that helps us to let go of the bonds of our world.  No food craving, no daily grunt, no systemic injustice, nor wretched oppression can keep us from finding sustenance in the One who brought us. This bread of life is liberation. This is what feeds me and may the spirit feed you as well.

May the One, who brought us and keeps us, be with us this season as we seek to pay attention, seek sustenance, seek humility of ego, and seek Your Holy justice. May we share Your bread of life. Amen.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Living in the Way of God - Matthew 5:21-37

Living in the Way of God
Tony E Dillon-Hansen

Reflection based upon Deuteronomy 30: 15-20, Psalm 119, and Matthew 5:21-37.

Psalm 19

Matthew 5 has been my favorite chapter in the Scriptures with the Sermon on the Mount.  This portion of the text follows the beatitudes. Unlike the blessings we get in the beatitudes, this text can make people feel uncomfortable because where before we were given a life through Christ full off blessing, Jesus is reaching into our hearts and reminding us that how we act in the world is how we live into God’s commandments, as given to us in Deuteronomy. I submit to you today that these readings are ways in which we can be living in the way of God. 

Like I said, the lectionary lines up Deuteronomy 30 and Psalm 119 with Matthew 5 given similar themes of law, mountains, gardens (as an aspiring gardener I love this) which are life-giving. Deuteronomy starts with, “I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.” God gave us abundance and challenges. Deuteronomy goes further and life is given for “loving the LORD your God and holding fast to God; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live.” This is a commandment: “to love God” and “hold fast to God” means to live into our covenant with God. So how do we live into our commandment?

So often I hear people talk about great ideas like “living into our commandment” and then forget to tell us how those ideas might look.  It starts with above all “loving the LORD.”

That brings us to this portion of the sermon on the mount, “…that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council…

Jesus is talking about anger and judgment. These are personal emotions that we have, and these are how people react to life and to that adversity – didn’t we just read Moses say God-given adversity.  Peoples’ two favorite subjects adversity and anger.  Anger is a response but does it need to be the response to adversity?

One theologian remarked that this is about what is in our hearts. I like this. Thus, I ask, what is in our hearts because saying and doing ought to follow what is in our heart. Otherwise, we are just hypocrites.  If our hearts are full of anger, judgment and resentment then our spirits are held back by negative emotion. Really, can you be honest about love?  We are not “loving the LORD our God” because we are not letting God into our hearts. 

Further, We are not letting God guide our interaction with our neighbors.  We should remember that neighbors are not defined by distance and that may be difficult to imagine with a room full of people right here that live together as neighbors. When we talk about neighbors, as Iowans, as Americans, as people of God - our neighborhood envelopes the whole world.  Genesis tells us that God created us all in the image of God in this garden of Earth.  This is why we are to love our neighbors because they were created in God’s image. You might see God in your neighbor.

Then, we let God be with us in our interaction with our neighbors, and we do not let anger rule our responses.

Passing judgment upon people whether in traffic or just because they upset you is not giving space for God to work.  Maybe, you saw someone protesting on television or crying over the systemic injustices and it moved you to anger.  When our response is anger and judging, then we are not giving space for people to be where they are - we are not giving space for God.

Instead, we produce negative stereotypes rather than letting the wholeness of people teach us more about God. Casting stereotypes reveals our privilege.  Then, we hide behind our privilege and call migrant neighbors illegals.  We hide behind our privilege and tell black people to stop protesting. We hide behind privilege and tell people that you have to live life with shame for being queer. We hide behind privilege that tells women they have no right over their own bodies.

Deuteronomy reminds us that adversity has been set before us so that we might learn.  In Matthew, Jesus calls out wide injustices in society that is rooted in judgment, patriarchy, and false privilege because God tells us to reconcile and to love – to love with our whole hearts. 

The beatitudes tells us that Jesus sees you wherever you are, and Jesus sees those who cause injustice. We are reminded how victimizers today can create the next victimizers of tomorrow.  I see you and I see your heart beyond your words and through your revealed faith.  Therefore, live with your heart open to your neighbor (whether here in this room, across town, those heading to the polls, those seeking new life in America and those whom may irritate us once in a while). Yes, open your heart to God and your neighbor rather than closed with anger.

The law reveals a portion of God’s heart.  Thus, what defines us and our actions?  Warren Buffet is quoted as saying that “it takes 20 years to build a reputation but only 5 minutes to ruin it.” We can and ought to live the promise with our neighbors rather than against them.

It is not always easy to see God and not always easy to live the way of God, but when we do, we find the many gifts surrounding us and lifting us. You may see God in them as I see in you.  We don’t have to be afraid adversity because we learn to trust God’s love will work for you.

God gives growth and allows us to be mature in that grace rather than dwell in the hurt that divides us. We might be hurting inside, spiritually, physically, and socially, God is there to heal and warm your heart into new life when you let yourself live into that love. Let God guide you and be with you.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Trump is a failure


Trump is a failure!
His signature piece of legislation,
 cutting taxes, has cost Americans trillions of dollars in debt!
No economy for the future.
Zero effort on climate change.
Destruction of National Treasures (our national parks).
No health care reform.
No immigration reform.
Tearing apart families.
No healing of racial divides – not even an attempt.
No halting the stealing of intellectual property – companies still offshore.
Not making our streets safer – crime went up!
Weakened our credibility in the world and is laughing stock.
Taunted and weakened our alliances while emboldening those who threaten us (Russia, N. Korea).
Acts of war.
No Veteran administration reform and using our military as pawns.
Ignorance of the Constitution.
Crippled our education system.
Destructive moral leadership with all of the lies and adolescent behavior.
Complete disregard for women.
Government policies for sale.
Proposes cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Disability…
The list goes on…
Trump is running this country like his businesses... right into the ground.
A complete utter and total failure!