Saturday, July 30, 2022

Prayer of Four Directions - Lakota Prayer

Prayer of Four Directions


East: 

All good things come from the east the freshening wind brings warm rain and sunshine. Each day guide us to see you in everything we do, everyone we meet. Be kind in your blessings, lord.

 

South: 

The warming south winds bring new growth, gentle rain, healing sunshine. Bless us with enough food and the good things from the earth. As we eat nourishing food help us to know you as the giver of all good gifts, lord.

 

West: 

The sun sets in the west giving us glorious colors in our life. Night can sometimes be scary. The darkness can also mean calming, healing sleep. May good dreams and deep sleep cleanse us from all that is bad or evil. Renew and refresh us, o lord.

 

North: 

North winds sometimes bring stormy weather and snow. Let your warmth in our coldness wrap us as with a blanket of love to keep away all that hurts. May all our people have warm houses and full tables against winter’s chill, lord.

 

From “The Lakota Prayer Book by Fr. Charles Flood, SCJ”

Sunday, July 24, 2022

How We Pray - Luke 11

How do we pray?

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Reflection for Luke 11:1-13, Psalm 138, Colossians 2: 6-7


Opening prayer


The lesson this week is one of the readings where we get the Lord’s Prayer, A little different than Matthew. That version is a little bigger and address a different audience than Luke. Luke is teaching not just Jewish communities how to pray but also those who are not Jewish.


These familiar verses than we say on Sunday are bracketed by the submission and the discussion.  Teach us to pray the way John taught his followers.


Jesus teaches to pray with whole heart and mind asking for the gifts that we need and God will respond.  


In verse 13, “how much more will the heavenly God give the Holy Spirit to those who ask?” This prayer asks us to understand who God is because the prayer is about relationship with God. 


To whom do we pray is important because we can have trust in God - trust in that relationship.


Beloved children, this God is our parent. In days of Luke, a parent would decide whether one lives as part of the family, sold or even killed. That is pretty ominous until we look at the character of God. Luke is pointing out to us the nature of God as good and generous. 


That is why we can trust in the relationship with God because the relationship is based upon love not fear. This relationship is based upon generosity of God and persistence of us as believers to ask and have confidence in who we ask.


God is holy and good, trustworthy and dependable - will do more than any human can because God is good - all the time. That is what God does. This gives us context to persist. You can ask God for what you want with persistence because of the deep and abiding relationship with God.  


Then the next question seems, What is going to make the relationship better? You can almost feel a bit of vulnerability on our part.  Like we talked about in our recent lessons, to make our relationship better is to remember that to be human is to bear the image of God in our world - To practice that goodness in our lives. We know that can be difficult.


The prayer commits us to actions - keeping God holy and sacred name. Because we keep God holy, we can ask for daily bread; we can persist in our daily prayers. 


The prayer then commits us even more, forgive us as we forgive others around us. Yes forgiveness is a gift from God but also how we can better our relationship with God and with those around us.  


What exactly are forgiving and asking to be forgiven? Lying, cheating, stealing are sins. Mishandling someone’s property are trespasses. And loan debts? When someone wrongs us, what is our reaction but to make people accountable? Are debts really just borrowed property but the virtual and spiritual banks that we use to measure what has been done well and what has not? What is it that we hold in those debts? 


This comes from Leviticus and Numbers and the Year of Jubilee. For those that would like a literal reading of the Bible, this passage gets overlooked quite often - has never been actioned.


Luke then reminds us that God promises to listen; why would one ask for fish and get a snake?


It is funny in our lives, when we do pray for an egg and then get an egg - somehow we are amazed. Think about that. That gives us more of that image of God - how are we so amazed with the gifts we get?


If you were to write a version of the Lord’s prayer, what would you say? 


Better question, how do you pray? Is it with these words, with song, with quiet heart?  Why do you pray? Are you trying to right your relationships - to recognize the holy - to be the image of God to people around us?


Psalm 138 gives us another way to pray with poetic words, but challenges us to follow up our words with actions. Let our prayer be holy, let our prayers be from our hearts and let our prayers be great because God is great!


Thanks be to God

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Listening to Wisdom - Luke 10

Listening to Jesus

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Sermon based upon Luke 10:38-42, Psalm 15


Opening Prayer


Today I am going to talk little about 1) lesson from Luke and 2) bit of my call story.


Whenever I read this passage, I giggle some and think: Brady Bunch.


We have two people showing different versions of hospitality.  Maybe you can identify with one or the other, or both at times. At one point I could be in the kitchen busy making a wonderful meal (I hope anyway). In that, I am pouring myself into my work, cleaning and tending as I can.


The flip is to be sitting with guests (presumably welcomed) having conversations.


Thus, Mary is sitting, listening to Jesus - to wisdom of Jesus. Martha is busy-body - doing service. Martha gets annoyed, “will you tell her to help.” A valid complaint.  Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha…” 


Is this a criticism? Not necessarily.  Martha represent hospitality of service, and Mary represents the hospitality of the Word. Yet, Jesus encourages Martha to pause and listen as well - to be served before serving. 


Besides, there is something wonderful about hearing wisdom, and this is Jesus. How often do we get that chance? How often do you pray?


Remember what Jesus says to followers (Luke 5). Jesus wants not just “fishers of fish” but “fishers of people.”  Those who stop and listen for a moment might understand why.


There is an encouragement to meditation in this. “You are worried and distracted by many things…” Pause and reflect.


In the whirlwind of life, rising stresses, and losing control. In those moments, it is time to pause, take a break, a Sabbath, and listen for a moment. Listen not just to words, but listen to creation working with you and guiding you. 


There is something about listening to wisdom, (not ego nor judgment) but wisdom. It is a pause from broken politics, demands, criticisms, pause from ugly egos. Wisdom just is, and you know it when you hear it.


That is why I love the Gospels. Like Mary, I find wisdom in the Word. The Gospels, reveal wisdom that values uniqueness of people, provides an inclusive welcome for all, and forgiveness when we need it the most. Along with Hebrew Scriptures and epistles, they teach us about the Creator and our relationship with the divine. 


I want to share that wisdom. I do my best to follow, and I know that I am broken and fallible. 


A bit of my call story…


I grew up in a devout family, and in my youth, I served the church because I loved the Gospel, especially the blessings upon broken people in Matthew 5 and the power of non-violent, inclusive love. 


Yet as I grew older, I felt a disconnect from teachers and those teachings. I felt sore lack of inclusion - even outright hostility. I walked away not sure I would come back.


When I studied martial arts, I dug deeper into the philosophies around them. My heart opened to wisdom in Asian traditions with many parallels to the Gospel teachings.


Then as it were, I was involved with groups that regularly met at Plymouth. I decided to attend a worship service with skepticism. Turns out, it was the first time in a long time where I felt I could question God. I felt inclusion as well. 


Then, someone came and asked “want to be a deacon?”, then later Stephen ministry which taught me to listen and to walk with people. One thing lead to another, and I felt something more. “The boss is on a roll!” I heard Jesus speaking/calling me.


In ministry, I hear people’s interpretations of sacred texts. Sacred stories invoke personal stories (some pleasant and joyful - some not). That is why they are living texts. When people tell me favorite verse, I want to hear why (not lists of memorized verses.) Tell me what you learned from them, and I am in.


Thus, I believe in the priesthood of all believers -  acknowledging that knowledge, presence and forgiveness of Christ belongs not just to one - but to all God’s children. You teach me as much as (I hope) I teach you. We teach each other by being the face of God to those around us. 


When you listen to Jesus speaking in these verses, find wisdom and meaning because they are our stories. See yourself in them.


I am merely a servant of the One who came before us and taught us. Like Martha, I serve how-ever and whenever I can. Sometimes I fail, but I do my best to bring the Word into this world, to share that divine wisdom and pause into our lives.


We have been given a ticket to God’s realm on Earth - an invitation to listen for Jesus still speaking and to seek the better angels in ourselves. 


Listen to the wisdom of extravagant welcome, compassionate love, and forgiving mercy - for ourselves and for all. Be that wisdom in our broken world to those we know and those we disagree. 


Be little like Mary and Martha. Feel good In your service of hospitality but never underestimate the value of wisdom in your presence. Be willing to sit and listen and find someone is nudging you to make good decisions - nudging you to enjoy the divine peace and share that with this world.


Thank you, St John. May my service be thought-provoking, growth-inspiring, and challenging when we need it, but also find ways to share the divine wisdom. 


Thanks Be to God

Why We need the Samaritan? - Luke 10

Why we need Samaritans

Tony E Dillon-Hansen


Sermon based upon Luke 10: 25-37, Psalm 25, Deuteronomy 30:9—14


Opening Prayer:


We return to Luke this week with a “lawyer” asking Jesus a question about the law - a test.  We know how people love to test Jesus. 


“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds with a question, and the lawyer responds with verses from Deuteronomy, “you shall love God with all your heart and soul and your neighbor as yourself.” And for the grand prize, the lawyer follows the test with, “who is my neighbor?”


Jesus responds with story about 6 people. Let’s look at these characters and ask, “Why we need the Samaritan?”


  1. A traveller, a person going about their day.
  2. A robber - a violent criminal that leaves traveler for dead.
  3. A priest - who walks on other side of the road.
  4. A Levite - who also passes by
  5. A samaritan - who tends to the beaten and robbed
  6. An innkeeper - who is tasked to help care for the beaten and robbed.


We don’t know the rhyme or reason, but we can see glimpses of this robber around us, maybe even in us. Maybe, this person is so twisted that the sight of another invokes violence. There is a power trip that denies humanity or godliness. Maybe, they have every reason to lash out or just lost care for people. Question how could we stop this?


There are the two that have obligations to care for people and reach out to people, but for whatever reason, decide today is not the day.  Maybe, they think “I have more important things to do”, “there will always be victims”, and “I can’t do anything.” They read verses but seemed to forget the meanings. Yet, they yield to complacency when much more is needed.


The innkeeper plays the part of hospitality and caretaker. They do not know why the person is robbed (or if the robbers may come after them next), but they are given instructions to care. Let’s assume so.


Then the star, the Samaritan -> Why we have “good Samaritan” laws. 


What does the Samaritan do? They react first, not with vengeance or disdain or ignorance of truth. They instead become the face of God to someone truly and perhaps desperately in need. They react with healing, comfort, and compassion to this person beaten and robbed.


The would-be-robbed person, whose story we don’t know, but we see in our world as: traveller, walker, worshipper, student in school, shopper at market, homeless, or a woman just brutalized. (Ukraine even?)


What is our reaction? Who in this story do we identify or want to? Be honest and ask the question why? We could be anyone of these and all at once at points.


This is not just a cute story but a challenge to be like the Samaritan to find inside us compassion, empathy and care. React first, not with violence and hate, but instead meet the violence with a nudge of love.


I can hear someone in the crowd say, I would be packing. Question, does packing a weapon help us breed compassion? As a martial artist, we teach that whenever you show a weapon, you mean to use it. For self-defense, weapons hep none if you can’t get to it. Maybe it was left home, stuck in the purse, or the attack was such a surprise, there was no time to react or worse the weapon gets turned on us. 


How did it get to this point? There are many questions in that. Who then becomes the arbiter of life or ability to make decisions over one’s body and being? The criminal or those that ignore the tragedy as not my problem - That just continues the circle or violence?


Who among us needs someone to be the face of God today?

Who maybe needs a nudge to remind them that violence and control isn’t the only way?


Who needs the face of God that brings hope, love and mercy into our world - one person at a time?


Who serves the homeless, the downtrodden, the beaten, the robbed, the seeking among us - no matter where they are on life’s journey?


It might feel easier to be those that walk on the other side with ignorance, because there will be future robbers. Let us just pray that it isn’t us then that become beggars.


That is why we need the Samaritan. To remind us what the love of God looks like. 


Not turning blind eyes, but showing compassion. 

Not avoiding truths, but giving that measure of heart into a world that so desperately needs it.

Not turning to violence but sharing the love of Jesus in the precious and needed hour.


We need the Samaritan because they break the cycle. Maybe, the robber was at one time a person on the side of the road when everyone ignored. Maybe, the Samaritan was once that person beaten and someone showed them the face of God. They remembered that compassion.


What we do know is the Samaritan is what we need because they show the face of God with compassion, love and mercy. Beloved, that is how we can break the circle - this day and this most precious hour.


Prayer: “To be truly good means more than not robbing people . . . To be truly good means more than being righteously religious . . . To be truly good means being a good neighbor. . . . And to be a good neighbor means recognizing that there are ultimately no strangers. . . . Everybody is my neighbor! . . . Everybody is my brother! . . . There are no isolated monads wounded on the other side of the street! . . . We're all connected.”

― Brian D. McLaren, A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey


Thanks Be to God.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Encounter with Jesus - Luke 8

An Encounter with Jesus

Tony E Dillon-Hansen


Sermon based upon Luke 8:26-38, Psalm 42, Galatians 3: 25-29


Opening prayer


Today, we return to Luke. We observe someone that is so tormented and conflicted that they didn't wear clothes, was chained and lived among the dead.


Was it mental health issues, trauma or spiritual tortures as the cause? We do know what it is like to have something torturing us. Bad memories, something done to us, we did, or in our future: shame or embarrassing failure, something making us anxious. This can be consuming.


This person encounters Jesus - at first, challenges Jesus as someone deeply troubled, shackled and seized. This person pleads not to be further alienated, excluded or tortured.


That experience is all too common for some. Folks seek guidance from those they trust only to get spat at, demeaned, or simply ignored. 


That isn’t what Jesus does. Jesus does something radically different. Jesus doesn’t leave him alone hiding in a hole, has him his name, conversation ensues, Jesus brings him out of the hole.


Why? We must first recognize and name our affliction whether addiction, trauma, loss, etc. Then we can begin to heal.


There is radical transformation - going from tormented individual to proclaiming disciple - a witness to the power and the hospitality of Jesus.


Jesus sends these demons into pigs to drown. How many hog operations would like that? We could ponder the meaning of this, but let’s look at the people’s reaction.


People watch but don’t understand. Something happened: a person is transformed, but he was the only experiencing it. 


They see a system, a caste, slavery, segregation, class upended = an unwritten deal broken. This person was chained up and controlled away from them. They might have even thought what they were doing was good, besides it can be nice to have “out of sight out of mind” (things or people we don’t want to deal with.) Keep over there so I don’t have to see it, and I can ignore it (until one day we cannot.) 


The people want things to go back to the way they were - the familiar. Change can breed fear and contempt.


We do this today. We live around so much anxiety and death, whether actual death, but dead ideas, notions that were once thought to be good. That change has spurred violence from fear - in our neighborhoods, our schools, and communities. 


We watch the world spiral in real time. Worry comes easy, but also fear, anger and hate. Some feign safety for ourselves or those ideas, but people are frightened about what they don’t know, don’t understand or don’t want to understand, whether demon possession or personal transformation.


Ultimately, when guided by fear, we can make some pretty bad decisions until we cannot see truth, reality, or the loving Spirit of God.


Stop. Instead look inside, name what ails you, talk with God & break the chains,. It may just be radical to nudge ourselves and those around us with the grace and love we are taught. If I am the cause of someone’s chains, then release the chains of control. 


Find God’s forgiveness. We can free ourselves in that liberating forgiveness. 


For ourselves, when we look deep inside and see Jesus working, sending the demons of our hearts away, then we might experience something too. That encounter waits for us. That, Beloved, can be transform our broken bodies and our world with healing and growing in love. 


Yes it starts from within and then we share that with the person next to us, and then that person gets it and shares it with someone else and on and on - The realm of God is ready for us.


Then you might understand why this once tormented soul becomes a disciple of Jesus proclaiming all that Jesus did for them. 


Be image bearers of God -transforming folks into images of hope and forgiveness. Jesus transformed this one, simply by first seeing and acknowledging this person. Then let them start to hope and heal.


This passage also shows us the power of hope, healing, and love despite social chains.


Paul reminds (Galatians 3) that our faith frees us, and that faith works against all the wonderful ways society builds barriers and exclusion. The love of Christ dissolves worldly barriers to free us.


Because these words are here, the Gospel is here, hope is here! We have a challenge in this hope to dismantle sexism, classism, racism, heterosexism, political division. To heal trauma and to grow in love instead.


Don’t hide in fear. See how beautiful you are, child of God.


Be image bearers. Beloved, find the work of Jesus inside - transforming you into something new. Then reveal the possible, the love of Christ from your heart.


Thanks be to God

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Access to Grace - Romans 5

Access to Grace

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Sermon based upon Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15;Psalm 8; Proverbs 8


Opening prayer


Today is called Trinity Sunday and offers another chance for us to think about the manifestation of God.  We could go into centuries of church dogma on the trinity. 


I submit to you there is something more tangible than dogma. 


I heard someone once say, “We cannot completely comprehend how God manifest’s in our world.” Yet, we know with certainty that we have a leader (not like the ones on the ballots this past Tuesday). We have someone that we can trust, even when things get ugly. 


Isn’t that what we need in these times? 


Trinity explains the experience and history of the church through the ongoing presence of God manifested in spirit and the person of Jesus teaching us. What that means more than anything is that God is relationship. Revealed in the person and further through the spirit. 


You don’t have to have it all figured out because God is going to be with us. The spirit, the advocate, the companion guides us. There is so much power right at out finger tips at our reach. Yes, you have trials and challenges but the spirit of Christ is with us today and gives strength when we access that grace in prayer and our good actions.


No one wants or asks for trials and challenges. You never see a person at the checkout counter when they ask “did you find everything you needed” respond with something like “you know, I was looking for trouble and pain, hurt, and confusion.” I certainly don’t. No one ever said give me more pain, more discomfort, or more confusion. 


There are moments when trouble seems to be stalking and all too opportunistic. Yet we don’t need to feel alone.  We can tap into the mystery. We can tap into the relationship, the spirit, the teachings of Jesus to guide us to better paths, better hearts and clearer minds. 


It is a mystery that we cannot grasp. John’s Gospel starts out by reminding us that Christ is the word made flesh. Experience the Word and feel it in your soul, in your heart, in your breath. Let the eternal connect to you! How wonderful !


God is not about politics or partisan motivator, but God is justice and love that shines light on the world as what is possible. “The Holy Spirit pours God’s love in the hearts of Jesus believers.” Let the spirit pour that into your heart.


That is what I think Paul is referring when saying, God’s Spirit given to us - gives us “access to the grace of God” wherever we are on life’s journey and in the many expressions of God’s love. 


That is why Paul writes we are “justified by faith” and “we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” This is not flamboyant bragging, but hearty excitement for what God does for us. Be excited in someone that rises above politics to give life and liberation from the worldly torments. We boast in that relationship. 


Like all relationships, they come with risk - not from selfishness or foolishness but something grounded in a loving self-confidence warmed with the Holy Spirit around us.


These divine gifts - faith, love, hope - (1 Corinthians 13); These give us endurance and character to prevail over suffering. God is God; we are not. That can take so much pressure off us. We can let God be God instead of trying to do everything.


Then maybe together, we can figure things out as a church (our relationship with each other and with God) and witness the spirit working within us and between us. 


We can witness God’s promise, God’s grace realized through faith.


Romans 4 reminds us that we all fall short and fail before the perfection of God. We have a lot of noise in our lives. That noise distracts  us. What are we listening to that distract us from what God calls us to do and God says to us? 


Listen carefully and hear God speaking to you in your work, in your prayer, where you sit, where you stand and where you lay down. Look for that relationship (even when you fail) and you will find a doorway to grace.


Then you too will realize “hope does not disappoint because God’s love is poured into you heart through the Spirit.”


Thanks Be to God.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Winds of Change - Acts 2

Winds of Change

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Sermon based upon Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104 and John 14:27


Opening Prayer


When the Soviet Union released its grip on eastern Europe there was this enormous sense of happiness and relief that erupted as Germany reunited and the East opened up, breathed a collective sigh and celebrations of community. There was this song by Scorpions called "Wind of Change" that seemed to encapsulate the spirit of peace breathing on us all.


There are different ways people can describe the Spirit. Words may not fully do justice, but feeling can.  The spirit is one way people connect to the universe, the spaces, the holy in meditation. When we sit, pause, breathe, Clear your mind, clear your shoulders of your burdens, clear your hearts of worry for just a moment.


Feel the wind around you, witness the spirit in that wind, feel that spirit move you and be with you.


Acts sets into motion for the disciples the next step in their journeys as followers and students of Jesus to become community, to become church. In this unexpected show of the spirit, Did they realize what happened ?


All were filled with the Holy Spirit - what happens when that happens? There is a spirit manifest in communal setting not just the personal.  They became spirit to each other. In your breathing, you join with others in the room.


When that happens, experience pure relief and happiness. Clarity opens your heart, your lungs: clarity that opens mind and soul.


God transcends fear and arrogance to show us the truth in us and with us. Make room for the spirit to clarify and open up your heart. Then we find places in our hearts full of love. Let that love pour out into our world. Together in community, we feel and sense the love and spirit of God’s peace found in all life (Psalm 104).


In that discovery, we find the spirit, part of the holy in us. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? Isn’t that something worth celebrating? Are you worth celebrating? Yes you are! 


Feel that grace. People may say it’s only 10:00 and they look drunk. When you are full of the spirit, you may look a little different, happier with assurance, confident with holy courage and comforted with grace hugging you in the wind of change around you. 


Life is still a challenge and full of change. Change is not to be feared but to be embraced when you invite and witness the holy. Who accompanies you in this journey of life, of community, of church?


When we allow ourselves to witness that spirit in our hearts, we find the strength as well to speak up against violence in our world; to speak to someone who needs a nudge in their own lives; to help someone see and feel a better way of peace and love rather than those of fear and demagoguery.  


Think: how much pain someone must be feeling to plan murdering 2nd graders, grocery shoppers, or church goers?  What could someone have said to them to witness their pain, be with them and change their hearts from cold to God’s warmth? Sometimes, all it takes is “I see you; I feel you - you are loved!” We can’t reach all, but we can reach those near us.


Find the spirit nudging us to share the Spirit of peace with others. Then, together we might be able to prevent a shooting. Besides, schools do not need to be the front lines of our culture wars, and they need less guns instead of more. 


The spirit is not just for personal but for communal witness - to be shared. Reach into your community, into your neighbors to show them this way of love and grace - the winds of change. Find that spirit growing in you, in your breath, and know that the holy walks with you. Find that spirit growing in us and walking with us.


When the Soviets left, all of the world breathed a sigh of relief. There was no longer east versus west, but all of Europe and world full of opportunities. There was a spirit of peace that prevailed over all countries and languages. A holy spirit to be experienced. All understood and felt the spirit. Maybe that is what it was like in that room over a couple millennium ago.


“Take me to the magic of the moment 

On a glory night

Where the children of tomorrow share their dreams

With you and me 


Take me to the magic of the moment 

On a glory night

Where the children of tomorrow dream away

With you and me in the wind of change.”


Sit, pause, breathe. Feel the “peace I give.” Witness the magic of this moment, the wind of change. Take the next step.


Thanks Be to God