Saturday, May 1, 2021

Love One Another - 1 John 4

Love One Another

Tony E Dillon Hansen

 

Sermon based upon 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8 and Psalm 22.

 

Opening prayer.

 

Today we read one of “I am” proclamations from Jesus in John as “I am the true vine you are the branches ”. There are seven. We read about a couple of them last week with “I am the gate” and “I am the shepherd.”  


In the Gospel (John 15), Jesus is beginning what is known as the farewell discourse. Jesus preaches to the disciples knowing that Jesus won’t be physically there. Jesus preps them for the journey ahead of them.  Jesus preaches this knowing that the world won’t always receive the disciples (or their message) with welcome hospitality. 


So the image of Jesus as the true vine is reminds us that Jesus is the true head of the Church and we are the branches - similar to what we read in 1 Corinthians 12 as the church is body of Christ made up of many members of many different skills. 

 

As a gardener, I can tell you my experience with vines.  I had no idea what to expect with cucumbers, watermelons and cantaloup vines.  Wow these things grow but oh do they need space! When they are well taken care, they bear lots of fruit.  Even the vine or the rosebush needs pruning now and then to help the health of the plant. It needs nourishment and water.  I, as the gardener, cannot tell the plant to start growing, it does so on its own so long as I do my part. 


We as the branches of the vine have God as our gardener. We want to stay connected. We go to church!

 

The epistle from John arises from a community trying to define itself, and it reminds us that Christian ideals have been difficult in a world that maintains a variety of beliefs, kind of like today. The epistle tells us how to stay connected to the vine and centers upon the love of God and love of one another. 


Why because Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to give all of self for us – bearing branches and fruit. 


That is the core of Jesus, and the core of our Church.  Jesus did not come to just to die but to give life. “By this, you know God is love” and life giving grace - Life giving fruit.  We, as branches, want to stay connected to the vine and be willing - to bear fruit - that is to give all of ourselves in God’s love, grace and peace for all the world.  


How does one do that?  1 John tells us, “by this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God… Little children, you are from God… The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” That is to say the spirit of God is in you, children of God, and with that spirit you have strength and peace. 


Without it, you have hate, anger and fear clouding your hearts -holding us. Rather, we hold onto them. 


Push hate and fear out for they cloud your mind and heart with judgment and destructive thoughts. Hate and fear reject the truth and reject it because they reject the possible. Hate and fear demand, dehumanize, and desensitize because they are at core selfish and greedy distortions away from what is true and what is surely possible.  They establish bias and judgment instead of openness and understanding.  


Unshackle yourself from these and you will find the fruit, the treasure of God in your heart. Push out hate, bias, anger and fear and open your heart to possible. 


Loving God and neighbor are not just words and require concentration. 


I can say this about my own because we want to turn to these when someone says something hurtful or even in moments of crisis. Why? As Yoda says, fear and anger are “easier and more seductive.” But are they. We think they might shield us but do they shield us from potential hurt, potential feeling?


Sometimes, people find these “shields” in substances, but are they.  


This is why people in recovery will tell you about the moments of clarity, the a-ha moments. In those moments, we realize the shields have been illusions and blinding - from seeing what truly is.  In that “a-ha” or “I get it” moment, people can begin the process of liberating themselves from destructive, negative forces and lean into what is possible. That is the process and it is a process: the daily practice of recovery - liberating from harmful and into the love inside you.  


It is not just addictions, but every day struggles. It is these struggles and crisis moments – are precisely when Christ’s teachings matter the most.


We have choices. We could ignore truths- maybe cower away in denial. But we might miss the roses. We might miss the wind flowing in the trees or the morning sunshine pouring into windows of life. Push beyond your comfort zones.  


One of my earliest instructors once gave me a kind of Will Rogers chunk of wisdom,  “whenever you meet someone first find out something about them beyond their name. Then you will find it harder to judge them later” – for even the homeless person on the street has something beautiful to share.


See God’s nature at work all around you, and most importantly, see God’s work in beautiful, broken you. Liberate yourself from anger, hate or fears and lean into possible – lean into God’s love.  


Be freed, be saved! Discover flowing abundance of grace and peace poured out for you right here.


Yes, Jesus did not come to die but to give life – give wholeness. God is life giving grace - Life giving fruit.  So should we. Us, as the branches of vine - as God’s children, bear fruit through our love, grace and peace that has been poured out for us to each other.  Love one another.


Bear these fruits of love, grace and peace - for all God’s children.  God loves you.  The world may not always understand, but you do. So live it.


Share that love, grace and peace with those around you, and you will discover so many beautiful things in this world, more sunshine, more days full of opportunities. 

 

Love one another! 

In God’s kingdom, the poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek wholeness will have it.  

Praise the Lord! 

The vine lives on in you and me.  

Let us together bear God’s fruits to all our neighbors.


Thanks Be to God.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Good Shepherd - John 10

Good Shepherd

Tony E Dillon Hansen

25 April 2021


An introduction and sermon based upon Psalm 23; John 10:1-18; 1 John 3:16-24.


Opening prayer.


There is this creek that is kitty-corner from our house. Whenever it’s about noon-time (or when work or life just feels too much) I find or possibly hinted at opportunities to take Reno for a walk along the trail (or I might ride my bike which incidentally follows good portions of creek and riverside).  


So when I am walking along this trail, there is peace in watching the water flow gently over rocks and sandy riverbed.  There is subtle beauty in different ways that old trees lay around and across the creek like timbers laying down for an afternoon slumber. Yes many of them were knocked over by derecho winds, but at this moment, they look like a kindergarten room of nappers. 


There is quietness most times - even when you hear a distant saw or a car rolling down a driveway. Budding trees and colorful blossoms tint the blue sky with green, yellow, pink, and purples all around in springtime. Birds are building nests in trees and talking to each other as we continue.  A dog barks from a neighbor’s deck to let Reno know where she is. People walk along both directions and bicycles ride by - some with catchy tunes playing putting a skip in our step.  


In moments like these, the mind is clear and open. God must be here in this moment walking with me, Reno and Bret. In this moment, you can witness God working, walking along and just being with you.


There are various pieces of discarded trash and litter that people have wantonly tossed about or got blown into the riverbed from somewhere else. I often wonder if a good Earth Day project could be to get people to help clean stretches of these creek beds. 


Maybe God and Reno have an understanding and work together to get me outside like this.  (We know that Reno and our cat, Biffy, work together to get food left on the kitchen counter.)


We consider today this familiar Psalm proclaiming comfort in God’s protection, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” God restores me and protects me. 


Jesus says “I am the good shepherd… I know my own and my own know me” where Jesus is speaking of God’s relationship with Jesus and Jesus relationship with the disciples. 


Admittingly, this is very comforting, like our walk on the trail, and yet challenging because a shepherd takes care of the flock. A shepherd cares for the flock and the grounds. A shepherd directs.  Maybe God is reminding us in that moment of our responsibility to pick up trash and to care for creation; we are stewards of God’s creation. 


Maybe Jesus as the shepherd reminds us of his voice speaking to us, and the question is are we listening?  If we consider the text little ahead in John 10, Jesus says “The gatekeeper opens the gate for them and the sheep hear his voice. The gatekeeper calls their sheep by name and they answer.”  Why, because they recognize the voice; they have a “bond.” 


Folks that means God knows you and I by name. What is your answer?


John 10:10 Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  Jesus gives life abundantly so that we might live - not with guarantees of wealth, power or money (tempting as that might be). We have forgiveness and grace to live as people of God.  We can have these walks along the trails (or the trails of life). Know that God is speaking to you and comforting you so that you know God.  


Thus, the job of shepherd, pastor or even as a congregation leading is to lead people to that life and forgiveness and away from selfishness, laziness, greed and hate.  That is to say, as in Romans 8, when we confess and believe in Jesus, we can be liberated in the wholeness; Live in the hope, faith, courage, justice and forgiveness that is right there for us – you and me – no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey.  


This beckons the text from 1 John 3 that love is not just a pretty word but truth and action. “For we know this love because Jesus laid down life for us.”  It is not just the word but what we are willing to do and not do. It is not just walks in the woods all the time, but this begs of us to pay attention to what we do and what we can do for God’s kingdom here on Earth. 


1 John 3 says love is for all God’s children – you and me. In our world of instant and mass communication, maybe the unon-judgmental, physical question, “Have you had supper yet?” may feel antiquated, but this is so God.


It is love - not because we expect specific responses or recite token phrases - but how we live that love – for others, for friends, for spouse and for ourselves.  If you don’t start with yourself and guide yourself, it is nearly impossible to share that with others. 


How does Jesus guide us today in our lives? Be honest with yourself, get the log out of your own eye, and let Jesus into your heart. Jesus guides us to open hearts, to feed the homeless, to care for our Earth garden, to comfort others in their struggles, and to walk with God in our hearts. God invites you to this space and this journey; so we should invite others. God comforts you and so should we.


Who is in the flock and who should be here that is not already here? How can we invite them here and make that invitation be known? For when you do, you invite Jesus.


Let Jesus walk with you by the creek and guide you to what is needed.


Jesus says, “I am the shepherd…” because God leads us beside still waters and protects us from our own vices when we listen and hear God’s voice. Jesus is our shepherd, our refuge and our guide to all things good! 


Beloved, God knows us and leads us with love because God wants us to love each other as well.


Listen now! Hear God’s voice! God protects us with love so that we protect others with ours.


Beloved, be restored, be lifted, because surely goodness and mercy will follow you!  


Thanks Be to God!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Witness of These Things - Luke 24

Witness of These Things

Tony E Dillon-Hansen

18 April 2021


Sermon based upon Psalm 4, Luke 24 and 1 John 3.


Opening prayer.


The Gospel of Luke concludes Jesus appearing to the disciples before the Ascension into Heaven. Jesus pronounces peace, has some broiled fish, then opens their minds with amazing understandings, and then Jesus says, “you are witness of these things.”  


Let us open our minds today to what this witness is because as children of God, we too are witnesses of these things.


Again, these scriptures are really the start of the story; one that tells of the promise and the hospitality of God for all. Jesus sends the disciples (us children) into the future with this. Thus, it is up to us to step into that an intimidating future because the future is not as predictable as we like.


In fact, predictable future is really the past. In other words, predictable is not having faith in what God has for us but rather something else. Instead, future is full of potential of what it will be (sometimes pleasant or unpleasant). The future is mystery.

 

When we have faith, we can realize the wisdom of Jesus. We find God keeps showing up and revealing more about ourselves as children of God more and more. 

 

The good news is that Jesus opens up minds and blessings for all people. Jesus breaks through the mystery for us to proclaim that love and forgiveness for all God’s children. (Isn’t that something we need today as we have more violence in the news?)

 

Our witness then is trusting in the process and the meaning of the resurrection as (not just a one-and-done event or having answers but ) trusting and having faith that God is working in our world. Our witness is the mystery of God - God liberating all with justice and love for restoration of all people through our hearts.  


What then does it mean to be witness of these things?  Let God work through you! Open your hearts and minds to the wisdom. Let your mind be amazed by what Jesus offers.  Then you can experience the “I get it” moment. We can be like the disciples in Luke when their minds were opened to understand.  They got it.

 

Faithful prayer is a good starting point. Prayer works because we pray and meditate upon that trust -> letting God work. Prayers, over time, are kind of like a song that plays when that music carries us along in sonic waves and hopes.  Prayers, like music, are not races to the end. If the objective of music was the quickest to the end, the song would be a single chord. That is why we listen to the whole song, why we pray, hum and sing – not to hurry to the end, but to listen for God working – opening our minds to possible, to mystery.

 

Then, “I get it” is possible, and then, we understand how amazed the disciples were to hear Jesus’s wisdom. We can do that today: realize that wisdom and peace is for you to embrace, learn and “get it.”  When you do, then justice, love and compassion as the core of God’s kingdom is revealed to us through Jesus for all God’s children.

 

If I, however, pray only with my predictable expectations or that specific ending in mind (like listening to a song that same way I always have), then I don’t allow space/mystery for God to happen where I am today; I limit what peace God offers in this space.  


Simply, peace is not control; control is not peace. In fact faith is letting peace happen; letting God fill the spaces rather than us trying vainly to control everything - because we cant. What would be the point of all that anyway?


When peace and God happen to you, you will immerse in the sensations and be one with spirit  – just like a great song.

 

Then we gain far more from faithful witness because we let love, we let all people as they are – without judgment. Then positivity, goodness – most importantly healing and growth in abundance happens.  We can reach out to neighbors in need, comfort the grieving spouse, give food to the homeless, support the veteran with PTSD, march for justice, help parents provide for children, or support our first responders.  We might find less need for social media echo chambers and maybe even grow beyond instant violent reactions. When we lift each other, you just might witness diverse people singing a mutual song. 

 

Then your faith becomes your witness with this total immersion in the peaceful experience of Jesus. We open our understanding and our minds to growth and healing. 

 

Use the gifts you have; use this witness you have of God’s grace, love, and justice in the whole world through Jesus as our example.

 

To think about it a different way, don’t let anger, sadness or troubles stop you from the peace of Christ. You may need to ask questions and be prepared for something unexpected, maybe difficult or even disturbing. In our brokenness, we have anger and sadness but we can be honest it too.  Consider how you got here, what is missing and why? What can we do from here to resurrect (as in transform) in whatever way God gives you. 


Be liberated and changed by God. Peace of Christ is waiting. 

 

To change from sadness to happiness and healing, prayerfully work through those challenges and seek real truth and wholeness! You will find it. These are ways for us to renew and open our minds to what God wants us to be – something beyond ourselves. When we do that, we allow for healing and growth - not just in ourselves, but our whole community.

 

Then, we witness the whole experience of love and justice; we just might get it.


Yes the world may feel at times like it’s bearing down from all sides like Psalm 4, but if we get it  (if we truly get it) and let God be with us, then we are more than our frustrations, materialism, social medias and brokenness. We immerse in the potential and growth. We immerse in the “gladness of our hearts and nourishments in our souls” from God. 


Beloved, you be witnesses of these things.

 

Thanks be to God.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter Miracles - Mark 16

Easter Miracles

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Sermon based upon Mark 16 and Psalm 118


Happy Easter!


Opening Prayer


I have to wonder what many people are thinking when they read this part of Mark’s Gospel because Mark leaves us on a bit of a cliff hanger. We are left with an empty tomb, people running in terror and then silence. The empty tomb is at once both a promise and a disappointment.


Well to be fair these people, these women were going to a tomb not expecting it to be empty. These women are going to the tomb to anoint the body, as is the custom. Instead, the large stone is moved, and someone talking to them saying “do not be alarmed”.  Any time someone says “do not be __” where do we go?  Just ask any parent   Instantly, we go there. 


Jesus does this disruption in the face of expectations.  An empty tomb, along with a person speaking, is sure to cause people to have some amazement and yes some terror.


Mark’s ending might leave us perplexed but is it really an ending? Where is the rest of the story? Maybe, you are upset about the way this ends. I am still not sure how I feel about the ending of Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, but it is the ending we get.  Endings are not always satisfying. Leading up to this point in Mark, we witnessed the horrible and violent death in accounting the Passion, but that is not the ending of the story nor is death all that Jesus has for us.  


Endings are not always endings either.  For us as readers, we can close the Gospel and be done, but this is a cliff hanger with something more for us. If you read in between the lines, the story does not end and is actually telling us there is a sequel. You could almost see the words inscribed “to be continued…”


I can hear people asking the questions - you might even ask, ”what is next” or “what is the sequel.” I am glad you asked.


If you ever wanted to be part of a great story, the great thing is that you already are.  The sequel stars you, me and God.  God brings us life - in this moment. Every day we get up and breathe is one more gift of life - one more chance.  The miracle is happening now as we sit here and breathe - in our lives all around us.  God is among us – waiting to move you. 


One day, there will be an empty tomb for us. What are we going to between now and then? I submit, When we invite God, amazing can happen.


God gives us many opportunities to do something amazing - if we are willing to open our ears, our eyes and our hearts to the possible – to the spiritual and to the miracle of God. Yes we can open our hearts to God and then whole wonders are waiting for us. 


What does this say about Jesus and those who of us who follow? The empty tomb is not what the women expected because God’s work is never ending.  We could go on about our lives like nothing happens and nothing changes, but God disrupts to give us a chance, an opportunity, to do something – something impactful.  


People ask me how do you get your black belt. The answer is really simple.  We show up, we continue to show up and we learn.  Think of it yet another way when playing cards. In order to play, you first have to sit at the table and learn.  You have a chance and God is ready to deal you in and teach you - what cards do we leave on the table?


Mark’s Gospel leaves us with silence, an empty tomb, and an angelic messenger.  What is really happening here is an artful invitation.  Mark invites us as the hearers (then and now) to take the next step.  


We know from our Passion story that all people ultimately abandoned Jesus in the end, but that is not the ending. That is not the promise. That is a reminder that we, as people, are fallible and broken.  This is then an invitation to take the next step to honor Jesus’s sacrifice and victory with the mission given to us and preached to us.


We know the disciples made mistakes, and we will make mistakes because we are human. Yet, we (the downtrodden, forgotten and broken) have the opportunity and the mission of healing and wholeness. 


God brings us life - from Genesis to now – for all to share.  


God brings life in various ways and full of opportunity. We can choose to restore our relationship with God - with Jesus. When we do, we will realize that divine spirit working in us. We can recognize the divine life within us and around us prodding us, tickling our hearts and opening our minds to the possible.  


Easter miracle is not just a-once-and-done mystery from a couple millennium ago but something for us to behold today in our lives and our world.  We can bring a measure of God’s kingdom, God’s justice, and God’s love into our world. We do that by sharing with all of our community. That is a powerful statement in our divided world of haves versus have-nots.  


When you believe in the possible, when you let God into your heart, you let life happen in you; you can realize healing and comfort to your own brokenness and fallibility.  We will find forgiveness waiting; we will find Jesus waiting there the whole time.  


That is why the women find an empty tomb because Jesus wants us to find him – not in a tomb but in our hopes, our minds and our hearts.  Jesus promises this and is waiting for us – to pull together, even when we fail.


For without this sustaining and empowering presence of Jesus in us, we will never be more than our imperfect and broken self.  This is not just a story about women at the tomb, but our invitation to God’s story.


This is not a paradox or an ending. This is an invitation to us to find what we truly have been seeking. 


God isn’t done with miracles and disrupting our expectations.  God’s work continues in our lives and our time.  Are you ready to receive God in your heart? Are you ready to find God’s Easter miracle in your heart? I submit to you, find Jesus there, and you will find the treasures you seek.


Thanks be to God.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Honoring and Remembering - Mark

Maundy Thursday Reflection Mark 14-15

Tony E Dillon-Hansen


Reflection based upon the Passion of our Lord from Mark 14-15


Opening prayer


One could spend plenty of time pointing fingers when reading and hearing the Passion. Who is to blame?  I submit to you there is plenty of blame to be had and go around. Maybe that speaks to the issues we raised Sunday about the crowd shouting Hosanna becomes this.


It is our duty to raise a voice against violence and injustice that is revealed – even and especially when it is inconvenient. Maybe that is how we truly honor and remember Jesus’s sacrifice - and the many who followed.


Through all of this, we should keep in mind this thought. We witness how perverse justice and corruption can destroy but Jesus prevails.  Even more, there is a question for us (you and me) to consider, Why did Jesus do this?  Simply, the answer is “you are worthy.” You are worthy of the gifts, of justice, of God’s grace and of God’s steadfast love. Jesus went through this because you are worthy.


Let the spirit of God be with us and give us courage to be worthy.


Thanks Be to God.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Walking with Jesus - Mark 11

Walking with Jesus

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Sermon based upon Mark 11:1-11, Psalm 118


The lectionary gives us the option of celebrating the Psalms or the Passion on this Sunday.  For me, I have always regarded Psalm Sunday as a nice gasp of air in the long season or reflection with Jesus being celebrated upon entry in Jerusalem. 


For us today as we conclude our Lenten journey through Holy Week, let us consider how we walk with Jesus. Do we celebrate our witness or let people alter our impressions? Do we let our potential be all the God means for us, and do we walk with the hope of Jesus in our hearts?


We know this same crowd that celebrates and shouts “hosanna” today; these same people will turn and shout “crucify him.”  


This says something about our human nature that even when we get good and amazing things, we want to analyze it (pun intended) to death. We love the majesty and strength of our faith, but somehow we easily allow society, material - people to twist it into something unrecognizable. 


We can witness Jesus walking  and preaching with a crowd in amazement of the scene. We witness the truth of Jesus, and then same crowd will tell him he is not worthy of our mercy – all because we allowed someone to distort our witness. How do we go from amazing to death?


So today let that be a lesson to us to instead of easily moving to cold-hearts and unmerciful, that we might see in each of us (especially ourselves) this God-given capacity to love and to nurture – to have compassion and to seek justice and truth rather than allow ourselves to be manipulated away from truth – to have courage and to speak up. When we see violence and racism, we call them out, and we advocate for peace, community and love in our world with whole hearts. 


You see, when we let people change the story for us, we allow seeds of apathy and discontent. Then, we give up our voice; we give up our witness and violence persists. 


We cannot let them do this anymore because God calls us to Christian service, to justice for all and for love of God and neighbor.  We cannot stay silent against the violence and hate burning our community. We must hold leaders accountable. 


That is why people marched with Jesus then, why neighbors march today and why we ought to support them and lift up their voice with ours. 


A child asked why we study things like the Civil War.  Maybe because we study history (and these scriptures) to prevent the mistakes of old rather than trying to find ways around the truth.  


How we can start that is to look at the curious colt in the story.  Jesus instructs the disciples to go find the colt, and they find this one tied to a door. The response is not just a simple question of “why are you untying this colt?”  They are taking away someone (some family’s) livelihood and future.  The words “the Lord has need of it” tells us that not only did the disciples understand, but the family giving up the colt understands.  Why and why is that important to us?  (I am so glad you asked. )


Jesus asks this person/family, like any disciple, to hand over all we have to God.  Just like we talked about last week with us as the grain of wheat (the seed) becoming all that God makes of us. So what are we waiting for and why do we hesitate?  


They didn’t know the ending and the colt doesn’t know the ending. Yet if we untie the colt, untie ourselves from what holds us and walk with Jesus, perhaps we can let God do the rest.  Then really the questions is “what is possible?”


Actually, the question really is what holds us.  Is it the crowd pleasing (that really doesn’t take care of us), is it the manipulation of our witness of truth - to be something we are not, is it fear of social isolation for standing up for justice and God’s love, or is it ourselves not living into the treasures we have (not recognizing the gifts God has given to us?  


Untie what is holding you and walk with Jesus. 


There are people that will stop and question, “but but but  the details? I don’t know all of the detail.” I submit to you that God will answer what you need – in fact, you have all you need to get started. 


As a software engineer that is crucial to getting projects off the ground.  While it is good to examine and consider the aspects, some minor details can keep us (and our ego, our expectation ) from doing what is truly possible. When we try to analyze everything, we can get into analysis paralysis. Or, We can use what we know and let the possible happen, then things can happen. If we hold up progress, justice or God’s work, what are we ultimately left with - nothing more than we started. 


So untie yourself from your fear. Untie yourself from Facebook and truth manipulators and live into what is possible.  Find your voice and speak! Untie yourselves, walk with Jesus, and carry that cross for Jesus because Jesus has your back!


Open up your “moral imagination” to the possible, and let God work magical mysteries within you.  Learn from Jesus, trust Jesus and live with Jesus in your heart.  When you understand untie your colt because God needs it, untie your colt because God needs you and your potential. Untie the colt so that you unleash your potential and God’s potential in our community.  Let your witness be heard when you see injustice. Then, reveal your witness of Christ in your heart and see the arc of justice bend towards God. 


Then you walk with Jesus.


Thanks be to God.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Grain of Wheat - John 12

Grain of Wheat

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Sermon based upon John 12:20-33, Psalm119, and Jeremiah 31:31-34


As a gardener, when I read the scriptures that talk about seeds or grains of wheat, I immediately relate.  I also think that is one of the reasons that the Bible makes sense to people in farming communities because the Bible originates from similar experiences and methods in that ancient agriculture society.  


My how some things change and some things stay the same. I still have to prep the garden beds, prep seeds for sowing, and do spring cleaning - Discipleship.


When Jesus talks about grains of wheat, Jesus is really talking about us as people, even for gluten-free folks.  Look at the rich metaphor from John “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. ”


Jesus is describing how we can grow and flourish with God or be trampled by whims of society. 


This passage falls in the context of the farewell discourse in John.  Jesus gives us this grain of wheat metaphor as one more lesson before the ultimate sacrifice – full of pain, agony and death. Remember, Jesus gives all of himself and does this for our salvation. 


Thus, Jesus wants us to be the stewards of God’s garden to take care of the community and creation.  So this image of a seed of wheat is even more powerful when we consider that a seed (a grain of wheat) gives all of itself into being what God makes of it. (Just like Jesus did.) The seed could exist among other seeds in a pile. That is alluring to people to just sit with the pile like many others, but God calls to us to be so much more than just a seed.  


God, the gardener, has plans (if you choose to accept the mission) – We could queue the Mission Impossible music.  


Ironically with God, our mission is possible because we focus and turn to the One who gives us so much light and purpose.  When we do this, we don’t have to worry about withering on the roadside of social materials and distractions being trampled and forgotten.  God cares for us and gives us gifts of life and freedom to grow.  Like all gardeners, God talks to us the growing plants so that fears can be rested and joys lifted.  Are you listening?


God is speaking (calling) to us to do good works. Thus, hear your call to discipleship (to follow Jesus) - another great reason why we celebrate this Lenten season.  Sometimes we forget to open our ears, eyes or hearts - I know. So open them up!


We know that following Jesus is tough but well worth the effort.  We know that following Jesus means speaking up for social justice while calling out hateful and bigoted rhetoric. We must live out and bring forth God’s truths. We are called to do God’s work of caring for others even when it is not convenient.


That is discipleship, and additionally, we cannot forget ourselves. That means living and caring for our own selves so that we can share God’s grace through our refreshed, re-focused souls.  


As I said, these past few weeks have seen a measure of spring cleaning.


Discipleship means it’s spring cleaning time - not only our gardens and homes, but our lives and our souls.  We have to make room for some Jesus and God to bring forth life into us and with us.  If we walk around with closed hearts and minds, we leave no room for God to work in us. If we let society weigh us down with baggage and distractions, we may lose sight of truth and our real relationship with God. So empty the clutter of your soul.  Clear it!


Yes We will fail, and we fall victim to the easy, accessible and convenient rather than the more challenging tasks of walking and following Jesus. That happens and the good thing is that God is willing to show us the way.  So empty the ugly clutter.


That is perhaps why people come to Jesus from all over, the east, the west, the north and the south – and regardless of beliefs or their affiliations. People came to see Jesus because hope is important versus the mundane and distractions of society. 


They cleared distractions /clutter. They, those ancient grains of wheat wanted to grow, just like you. They found time to see Jesus – so can you! 


Clear the distractions by periodically (like Lent) do some cleaning of our lives, our homes and our souls. So too, we must tend to this personally, as a church and for all God’s creation. What can you do in your life to clear clutter, to clear distractions and to find the holy in your life so that you and your love can grow.  What can you do to help your love blossom like spring tulips,  or summer Iris?


That is why Lent can be such a celebration because we can learn to celebrate removing clutter and finding refreshed spaces to flourish and grow – just like a well-kept gardens with blossoms and produce!  


Every year, I take old papers and spend a moment burning the ones I don’t need to keep. We don’t have to hold a bonfire nor require beverage, but we can have personal celebrations that take in a moment of success with God.  We can take in that moment and look for how we create space for the sacred to happen in our lives.  


Then, as we read last week, we remember that God so loves the world, that we were gifted with so much! We can revel and be thankful to God for opening our eyes, our ears, our hearts as well as space in our homes to make way for the Holy in our lives.  


When we do this, we will experience gardens of possible because we become true caretaker’s of God’s kingdom right here among us.  When we offer the hand and walk with our struggling neighbors, we do God’s work and remember what Jesus taught us.  


So take care of yourselves, of your Church, of your community, and of God’s creation because we have the possible from God. In the garden of God, we have the freedom to grow and to become more than we ever were! In this garden of God, let us bear fruit of love and fully blossom before God and all the world to witness.


If nothing else, let this guide you. You are a grain of wheat means you are the possible because you are a child of God.


Thanks Be to God!