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.
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

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
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


(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.