Saturday, November 13, 2021

The Sign - Mark 13

 https://stjohnuccmelbourneiowa.blogspot.com/2021/11/the-sign-mark-13.html

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Two Coins - Mark 12

https://stjohnuccmelbourneiowa.blogspot.com/2021/11/two-coins-mark-12.html

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Let Me See Again - Mark 10

Let Me See Again

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Sermon based upon Mark 10: 46-52, Jeremiah 31: 7-9 and Hebrews 7: 23-28


Opening Prayer.


Our scripture today concludes Mark 10 and prepares us for the triumphal entry into Jerusalem in Mark 11.  


My first time watching Star Wars versus seeing the trilogy again via the Special Edition radically changed because my whole perspective had changed from youthful ignorance to true student. One might say I became a “follower”, especially surrounding Yoda and Jedi training. 


We have heard Jesus tell us repeatedly, “for many who are first will be last and the last will be first” while disciples bicker over statuses. Here is a great story to show this. 


We know Jesus built a reputation with revolutionary teachings and miracles. Somehow, this blind person, Bartimeaus, on the roadside realizes that this Jesus is walking near and cries out! Then, the folks around Jesus then try to quiet him (Like somehow he was not worthy but those around him were?) He is someone who has been living on the fringes of society and isolated and pushed away. He is what some may call among “the last” despite all these people around Jesus.


Bartimaeus continues and pleads for mercy. Jesus says bring him.  Bartimaeus springs up with what has to be sheer excitement that he was even heard.  When Jesus asks what he wants, the fellow says “Let me see again.” With that sight is restored by faith and Bartimaeus becomes a follower.  


“Let me see again.” I think the key in the request is “again.”  Why is this request to “see again” because that implies he once had sight. He wants that again.  He wants to free of the darkness. As someone who wears glasses, I wouldn’t mind going without.


This par for the course for Mark’s gospel.  There are examples of obstacles and Jesus’s questioning in this story.  Yet, Jesus is accessible even though this person is lacking actual sight and even the disciples surrounding him are lacking sight.  Yet, Jesus grants the request not because of pity, but because of the pure faith demonstrated.  


1. Jesus wants followers and Bartimaeus becomes a follower. The guy has been sitting along the road (for who knows how long), but he recognizes Jesus calling to him.  How would you recognize Jesus if you did not know what he looked like, or if you could even see Jesus? Good question for us here.


As well, Bartimaeus moves to follow Jesus. Why because he wants to go where Jesus is? Do you? 


2. This is also a call story precisely because Bartimaeus calls upon Jesus and Jesus answers.  We don’t always know when or where, but if we call upon Jesus, we will have an answer.  

 

Then the reverse happens, Jesus calls for Bartimaeus to come.  Jesus is getting ready to walk into Jerusalem, stops and calls this person to him. Jesus calls to us to come to him. So take up heart, Jesus is calling you.  What would you do if you heard that call? Just sit there?


No! This one sprang up to run to Jesus! Finally, someone heard him instead of trying to SHSH him. 


3. Jesus then asks, ”what do you want?”  What is your desire - over anything else in your life?  This is not the genie of lamp with three wishes, this is an opportunity of a lifetime a moment we all could want.  What is the one thing over anything else you would ask of Jesus now? That is a tough question for many of us because we have many eyes and many tastes, but think of the one thing you would ask Jesus - right now, right here!  Can you do it?


Would you ask for a million dollars perhaps? Jesus might respond to that with, “You ask for too much.” Why because it is not about wealth and power.  This is a blind person that has tremendous insight, courage, and faith of Jesus to ask for sight again.  


The people around Bartimaeus under-estimated him. Who do we under-estimate in our lives having poor insight?  Easily, people do this to youth or homeless but also how we do this to people we don’t agree - especially in this day of divisive politics. 


What does that do - except to - lower our value of others, and reduce our brothers and sisters to objects of our requests - instead of being children of God - just lower our own insight.  


Rather, more importantly, Bartimaeus remind us to use the gifts we have and now is the time to act. What will you do for God? How and where can we raise our insight?  Think, who do we perpetually leave out so that we don’t have to see. Who doesn’t show up and why don’t they show up? What do we miss when they are not here?  


I submit to you we miss a lot more than just a presence. We miss the opportunity to learn, to grow, and to be in community - to feel and to see community and church.


Thus, the phrase let me see again, applies to us today.  Let me see again today what (and who) I have been missing all this time.  


This call and the response requires faith.  Faith requires us to overcome obstacles, whether disagreements, busyness of life, brokenness, negativity or even blindness. This an important point throughout Mark. From the very beginning, Jesus calls us to recognize the kingdom is near, to change our attitudes and our perspectives. 


Let your faith guide you and your heart to what is right, true, and love.


With your faith, you can do so much because you let things develop before you - for without it, you lose.  


Ask God today to let you see again and let your faith guide you.  Then you will understand Jesus when you hear, “Your faith has made you well”  for your faith will save you. 


That is salvation folks.  To gain sight, freedom and clarity, that is salvation. Revelation!  It is not about health and power.  When you see this, when you feel this, then you too might be compelled to jump up with excitement and follow Jesus with whole heart and whole faith.


This is not just about regaining physical sight but the ability to witness the truly remarkable with God’s eyes and be willing to speak to that.  Be willing to call God and walk with God.  We don’t have to stay in the dark because we can learn something from Yoda and the Rebel Alliance. We can learn much from Jesus let ourselves see and walk with  him. 


Yes, faith requires us to overcome obstacles. Ask Jesus, “Let me see again.” I say to you, Folks open your eyes and let your faith make you well.


Thanks Be to God.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Ridiculous Request - Mark 10

Ridiculous Request

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Sermon based upon Mark 10:35-45, Psalm 104, and Isaiah 53:4-12


Opening Prayer


Let us put some context to today’s reading.  We skip over a section of Mark 10 where Jesus again tells the path of the Messiah is not one of wealth and power but one that must endure a brutal and violent end. They are headed to Jerusalem - closer to that end. For a third time, Jesus describes what he will endure and that ought to put pause in many hearts.  


Why would Jesus do this? Why would Jesus say these things? What does that say about me as a follower?


That is a good question.


It is then that James and John make this request of Jesus to set them above the others at the right and left hand of Jesus.  Now Jesus just told you (reminded you) that his death was going to be quite vicious, but your first inclination is to request privilege.


Over my lifetime, I have observed many times when people make ridiculous requests.  Why would you go to a coffee shop and ask for a smoothie?  (Until Starbucks makes them).


In restaurants, I hear people get annoyed by specific dietary needs like no gluten or no nuts until you see a person with the allergic reaction that requires a hospital. 


Some get annoyed with black and brown people arguing over use of language and privilege like it is made-up construct.  Maybe, those black and brown people are tired of having to endure the continuous white privilege that has lorded over them for generations. Maybe instead, they are worthy of the same love, grace, benefits and access as white people.


A ridiculous request is diluting “black lives matter” with “all lives matter.” That is saying color doesn’t matter when it clearly does all while refusing to acknowledge more must be done.


Jesus flips this political request on them.  Jesus warns them that politics, titles and privileges of a broken world lead to tyrants when people “lord it over them.” We know this to be true because power corrupts and power erodes well-intentioned hearts into people willing to do anything to keep power. 


Power is addictive and tempting.  Power and privilege can lead to blindness of others because they refuse to see worth, dignity or a child of God. Culture, language, wealth and status can keep us from seeing worth of people but instead seeing people as obstacles, problems and annoyances.


This is the truth that Jesus preaches. That preaching is powerfully revolutionary for then - in the midst of a cruel Roman occupation that lords over them. Why will Jesus death be brutal - because power wants to make examples of defiance. Thus, Jesus’s death was a savage murder intended to silence these challenges to political structures and ideas. Jesus was a protester. This reminds us today to really challenge the TV talking heads or other folks casting privilege, expectation and power.


This is a challenge to our discipleship that is not about status in a broken world or some other false narrative but instead a call to a life of service because as we heard before “for many, the first will be last and the last will be first.”


Service is, as Stephen Colbert once wrote, “love made visible” because we serve what we love. If we love friends, we serve friends. If you love community, you serve community. If you love money or self, you serve money or self. Life isn’t about winning a zero-sum game but loving.  Loving others and serving others and perhaps finding others to serve together. 


So let go of privilege and pretense of this world. then, see a whole world that is made for us and with us.  When we drop our judgments and practice service, we find immeasurable grace.  It rewards us in so many ways and cannot be fully appreciated unless you allow yourself to experience it.


A life of service is not a detention or repression of hearts and minds, but Jesus’s life of service starts with a willing heart and mind to see worth in people - rooted in the command to love. That helps us observe that there is grace in our neighbors whether they have money or not, good health, clean clothes, same race as me, same country, or who they love.


That is actually seeing people on the street with the signs.  I may not have cash handy, but I might be able to provide them with a meal, water, scarf, hat, gloves or other needs.  Why because how close have been to being where they are and how close I could be? No, because they too are a child of God and I get others to help.


We can find time in our schedules for people suffering because we know suffering ourselves.  We can walk with people marching for equality and fairness because it is what Jesus did. Then, we might understand that black lives do matter.  


Thus, we don’t have to worry about reputation and wealth as measures of broken beings.  We can witness and experience the love of God in our hearts and in the people around us because we serve and love people, whoever they are and wherever they are on their own journeys.


Beloved, you won’t be making ridiculous requests but living with people and living with God -  instead of in spite of people.


Thus, live your life of service not judging, not expecting and not jealous but experiencing the love that is service. There you will find the kingdom and the whole world that Jesus promises -right here for you. 


Thanks Be to God.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Value of Stuff - Mark 10

Value of Stuff

Tony E Dillon Hansen

 

Sermon based upon Mark 10: 17-31, Hebrews 4:12-16, Psalm 90


Opening Prayer. 


For as long as I can remember, my mother loved to go to garage sales.  She would pour through piles of clothes to find something for us kids and later for the grand-children. She would have entire drawers of clothes in her arms and spend maybe $2.


In my adult life, I have realized that having one of those sales takes quite a bit of effort. You sit for most of the day waiting for random people to stop, walk around, haggle over prices, and grumble as they get back into vehicles.  That effort feels a bit much given I really wouldn’t “make much” in the sales (fraction of original prices).  


Today, I take stuff to Goodwill or with me to UBFM.


Yet, there is something to be said in these.  How do we accumulate so much stuff and why? There is a funny bit (albeit honest perspective) from George Carlin about stuff.


I look around my office and my dresser and took stock at all of these things. I started going through and paring down. Could I be a minimalist?  Even though, I would look at an object and think I can find use for this and find time to give it some love. You can tell I have a ways to go.


Even so, a minimalist still has stuff. This raises the question: What love am I pouring into my stuff that is missing in the rest of life?  What closet needs all this stuff when people all around me can fit their belongings in a backpack or a shopping cart. 


I watched a financial advertisement years back, and they even raised the prospect that accumulating stuff is counter to raising one’s financial wealth because we are spending money on things that don’t raise in value. Look all over the house and observe. Yet, we aren’t just talking about money here.


This morning we continue our journey through Mark 10 as Jesus tells a rich person that following the commandments is just part of what Jesus asks of us. Jesus challenges us that we must be willing to give up everything because following Jesus is not always easy and comfortable. 


This caused the person to grieve over their many possessions.  Perhaps you know someone like this person. What value do we put in our stuff? That is to say: What love do we project over things that ought to be given to people instead?


Then Peter follows that with, “We have given everything.” Where are we on this scale? Peter’s tone of voice is important here and you can imagine an almost exacerbated feel, “We gave it all up - for you?  We thought we were doing right.” 


As Jesus is want to do - dives deeper. The point is not necessarily about stuff, but what is in our hearts, what we are willing to do for the sake of the good news, or gospel.  


There is no loophole in this, Jesus says we must be willing to let go of everything and everyone. We must be willing to let go of status and honors of a broken world because there is a new world. The kingdom is upon us and waiting for us.  

 

Actually, these are acts of love. Jesus said this because love means being beyond ourselves or our comforts. We should be willing to go the extra degree - like a parent does for a child.

 

Conversely, what do you lose if you get rid of all your stuff? This really comes down to loss of social capital and control.  All the stuff I have and all the attachment I have with them is about control.  I can control this part of my world. 


That is why the rich person walks aways grieving. They will lose control of what they can do with their possessions. I can form a life that looks comfortable and enjoyable with my stuff, but what and who do I leave out?


Yet, why grieve because you could sell everything and distribute among the poor. Jesus in so many words asks: for whose benefit do you do this - your ego, your convenience or for justice - for the gospel? Even closer, consider what you do with the wealth you have.  You could use your wealth to empower others, clothe others, comfort others, and feed others. (Great things do happen over meals).  Show your love of God in your bold, generous kindness and love for people. Let great things happen.


This is not just a patronage game here either to see how we can compete with each other to see who can give more.  That is ego and privilege at work. 


Realistically, consider what you would do if a fire or flood destroyed everything you have. You have to start over. 


When you are willing to give everything, you will gain everything. Jesus keeps setting the bar high for this reason.


God’s word is alive and sharp. Jesus challenges us to go beyond comfort-zones.  That is a lot of self-sacrifice, but Jesus is building a community with an abundant way of living. You are invited.


Incidentally, all the stuff you give up, you get back with a new identity. Jesus is building and restructuring society based upon the good news. Jesus’s kingdom is a new kinship and family in community that is empowered not by stuff, privilege, or status, but empowered by God.  


Thus, worry not about value of your stuff and your attachment to them.  You don’t have to haggle over prices: be willing to let go of control. Be the good news. Be with God - all of yourself and find the kingdom around you with so much potential.

 

“For many, the first will be last and last will be first.”

With God, all things are possible.


Thanks Be to God.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Bless You, Child of God - Mark 10

Bless You, Child of God

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Sermon based upon Mark 10:13-16, Psalm 8 and Genesis 2:18-24.


Opening prayer


When I was young, my brother and I would stay with one of my aunts. One particular day, I was following her around the house while she was doing things and asking her questions (drilling actually): what this was, where was that and why was this.  She turned to me at one point and asked my why do you ask so many questions?


When my son, Tyler, was 6 years old, his imagination was big and wild - still is.  He could pick up a stick and suddenly he had sword with magical powers. Together, we could go on big adventures looking to stop massive creatures sure to bring doom.  


Children, in nursing homes, will go to people they do not know and sit with them just because that person looked like they could use company. I have witnessed children, in the hospital themselves, speak not of their pain but reach out to console others.


The people are bringing their children to Jesus.  (You can imagine in all sorts of duress and push back.) Jesus gets annoyed by this and tells them to “Stop! Let the children just come to me.” 


Whoever wants to enter the kingdom of God, must do so as a little child - and on their own.

 

Jesus then lays his hands upon the children and blesses them.  


Why does Jesus do this?


In the ancient near east, children are almost invisible - having no rights, no authority, no status. That doesn’t mean that their parents didn’t love them.  (Obviously, they were trying to get Jesus to touch them.)  


A theme in Mark, as we have discussed and will again, is “power” - who has it has and who has favor, specifically with Jesus.  


Thing about children is just because they do not have power or authority (even today), doesn’t mean they are nothing or have nothing.  I often find that like myself, my son and the children I encounter, each of them come full of amazement and wonder!  


So when you find yourself looking at someone and wanting to criticize the way they look, how they dress or judge their positions on issues - maybe instead, be inquisitive again and take off the adult glasses we have worn for so long.  


In fact, consider when was the last time you took off the glasses of adulthood and saw the world as a 6 year old: A child with so many questions, so many interests, and so much compassion, no worries (except for the monster under the bed) and no concern for status and excited about dessert!


A child is willing to each chocolate cake for breakfast while others have your eggs, oatmeal and toast.



We all like to make assumptions about people when we see them. We make assumptions about what must be good for me is good for you and vice versa.  We want to project these ideas upon each other like we have self-made authority to deliver such. 


Adulthood is learning about and living with assumptions.  Assumptions are good at declaring judgments with critical eyes while overlooking obvious pain. They help us create curtains and blinders to the naked truth of the world or witnessing the truly awesome spectacle around us that is Earth, nature and the kingdom of God.  


They prevent us from doing the right things because it might look weird or off. While we are fretting and worrying, a child is looking for something/someone to play with. Maybe we look for that instead of assume.


Beloved, always remember this: that we are children of the One. Psalm 8 and Genesis remind us that we were put in the garden of God with so much potential and wonder - with a mutual task.  We are given stewardship over this great playground called creation.  How do you care for this creation? How do you invite others to play in this playground?


Not by telling them what to do or how to do it, but how we together care for creation and be with each other - yes just because.


Think about this.  Jesus lays hands upon the children and blesses them.  


This isn’t the mockery type of blessing or a pun.  This is a real blessing.  


What is that, you ask?  Blessing someone is to “convey a benefit.”  That is to say “observe who you are, what gifts you have, and what is possible.”  It can be from a Bible verse (1 John 3), Psalm or simpler. 


So too, O child of God,

You, beloved, are blessed this day!  You are awesome and full of hope!  You are worthy of love, questions, imagination, and compassion.  You beloved, are a child of God. You are blessed!


How do you bless children or people?


Simple: “Jesus loves you and so do I.”


Remember as I said last time, it takes practice. Practice on your neighbors around you here.


When you go home, remember to bless each other. Bless your children (young or old).  Why would you do that? Answer: because you are worth it! You, beloved are a blessed child of God. 


This isn’t once and done. This is every day and every person you encounter because they too are a child of God.


So I say again, O child of God,

You, beloved, are blessed this day!  You are full of hope- full of imagination and want to play!  You are worthy of so much love and compassion.  You beloved, are a child of God. You are blessed!


And yes…


Jesus loves you and so do I.


Thanks Be to God.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Who is first - Mark 9

Who is First

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Sermon based upon Mark 9:30-37, Psalm 54 and James 3:13-4:8


Opening Prayer


I read in a devotional , “Sometimes it seems we are all competing for the same spaces. Parking lots are crowded with people rushing for an open spot.” People will drive around a parking lot waiting for people to get out of spots near the front. Why not park more safely and enjoy a nice walk?


Highways are full of people trying to get ahead of others. When someone gets in the fast lane (and is in fact not being fast), we get annoyed and frustrated that someone is making us slow down.  From schools, housing, jobs - we’re often trying to beat others to get a spot.” We hurry ourselves from one moment to the next and never stop and to think why.  


That is not to say competition is bad for us, but what is in the competition that gains our attention so much?  What and perhaps who are we forgetting? Or when does that competition becomes dangerous - like an unhealthy Iowa-Iowa State rivalry? Some people express an extreme position - wishing complete ill and harm to their opponents rather than realizing we are all Iowans - we are neighbors.


The disciples do what they and what people always do. They want to make sure they have a spot not just at the table but at the top.  Is that really where we ought to be? Jesus is in their presence; yet, some want to be even closer than others.  You can imagine what family dinner looks like with everyone playing musical chairs around Jesus.


We spend inordinate amount of time and energy and putting claims upon position, power and wealth, but we all die and we all get to face judgment. Is all that energy spent on those things really going to help me when I meet God in the afterlife? (For None of that follows you into the afterlife.)


Jesus calls out the disciples arguing over status and “the greatest.” Jesus calls us out for focusing importance upon the wrong things. Jesus calls them and us out for putting themselves first.  


It might be because the more Jesus talks about imminent death, the more people get confused.  Do they wonder if this is odd, morbid fascination with death or recognizing that even Jesus will not escape the pain of death? Despite that, through faith in God, Jesus will fulfill the plan. 


Human authority is going to get what it wants, but Christ submits to God and challenges us as followers.


Jesus challenges us. “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Jesus wants them and us to pursue a different way through life because Jesus isn’t concerned with status of a broken world - Neither should we. 


Jesus picks up a child (one who has no position or power) and says “whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me…” 


Jesus wants us to purse a different way: through serving others by humbly making room in our lives and in the community for others to have a place too.  Much in the way parents welcome a child into the world, we are asked to be extravagantly welcoming. Jesus challenges us to welcome not just one child but all God’s children. 


This does not mean we don’t have place in the kingdom; it means that our place is found making room for others. Some of us are used to having spaces that include us. Some have organized clubs and events that are meant only for certain kinds of people. For what purpose, do we exclude? That is not what God wants.


Then, of course, there are many that rarely have a place left for them or even allowed. Sins of segregation and slavery are all about exclusion and happen still. Why are people so afraid to share their abundance?  This is a reminder that, when we exclude, we exclude children of God.  Instead, we are to welcome. 


Our society shows us values and power structures, but what do we embody of those? James 3, “Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. [God’s wisdom.] …Harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.”


Thus, the mission of UBFM is to provide, yes meals, but it is a way for us to demonstrate and more importantly practice “radical hospitality one burrito at a time.” We welcome without judgment. If you have time, you are welcome to join us Thursday evenings. We don’t have to wait until Thursdays. The question is how can you make room in your life for someone else’s need. How can you practice welcoming?


Yes we all need practice. Question who hasn’t been included in our spaces that should be.  Practice welcoming people - practice welcoming God.


Instead of wrestling for position and pushing people out of the way, make room for people. When you do, you make room for God to work in your life. 


Sit and have conversations - even with people you disagree. That is not to say for arguments or to boast our egos, but have conversations so that we can learn from each other. Invite God to be with you and watch something spectacular happen. When we give up pushing people out of our way, we can discover that God’s grace makes room for us all.


Finally, we ought to thank God for making room for us through Jesus Christ because we find we have so much more than broken status. With God as our partner, we have wholeness, grace and love. 


So pray and ask God, help us make room for all God's children. Find that you are where you are supposed to be. 


Thanks Be to God.