Monday, February 25, 2019

I See You - Luke 5

I See You
Tony E Dillon Hansen

Reflection based upon Luke 5:1-11

Let us pray from Psalm 19, that words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable.

First, I want to thank you for spending this time with me today.  I have had an intense week of work, and to be honest, being with you is somehow a reprieve from all of that.  Thank you for your time and attendance today. 

How many of you have heard about Perpetua and Justin Martyr?
Yes this is part of how get the word martyr.
I have been reading a lot about the early Christian church (this in addition to my work),
And caused me to ask what do perspectives of martyrdom teach us today. 

I will share with one common thing that I found from these is that despite an excruciating execution,
they share a understanding of faith that propelled and guided them. 
They shared an implicit embrace of the spirit of Jesus in the midst of certain death.
My own toils and trials fall pale in comparison to these early Christians -- as I am not sure what I would have done in those circumstances (being persecuted and executed for my beliefs).

For us here in our own trials and life issues, maybe that spirit of Jesus can inspire and empower us to have courage and strength, like those martyrs before us.

As I was thinking about the Gospel, I wanted to talk about being a fisher of people,
but I don’t really know much about fishing as much as I have tried.
I even bought a whole array of equipment one time and went out to the catch fish at the lake. 
I suppose it could be fun,
but I was kind of hoping to will the fish into my cooler rather than wait for them. 
So I guess I am not a fisherman -- yet. 

Every time I say something like that, I have learned God has a sense of humor about it. Someday, I may yet find myself in a boat (or otherwise) fishing with actual results.

There is also this curious thing about Jesus climbing into a boat with Simon-Peter. 
Why does he do this?
Maybe, it is the crowd.
What does Simon-Peter think about this? 
We don’t have much context of how or if these two have met prior to this.
 It is not every day that a random guy with a crowd following him decides to just jump into your boat.

Think about it:
What would you do if a random guy or gal walked up to you and just got into your car at the grocery store? 
You might ask some questions and you might want to learn more about this person.

These guys do not reject Jesus, but they get into the boats with Jesus and they listen.
There is something here – not random. 
They realize something about Jesus.

The next part of the lesson tells us what they realize.
Let us dive into the verse here.

Simon-Peter exclaims, “Go away from me because I am a sinner”

This line definitely resonates with me, and I am sure with the many of us.

Simon-Peter knows he is broken and feels unworthy of Jesus.

Where are you in this story? How many times have we thought of ourselves as not being worthy because “I am a sinner?”

Jesus persists and calls upon Simon-Peter and also calls upon you and I.  Why?

Traci Blackmon, UCC Executive Minister, talked to a group of us last spring.
She came in the room and stood there looking at us intentionally and decisively. 
Then, she said, “I see you!” 
She wanted us to know that God sees us where we are today
--with everything we are and everything we can be.
That is not always an easy thing to consider. 

We might go our whole lives wandering in the shadows with no one paying attention.  You might think that about where you are currently.

What happens when someone does pay attention?
That is happening now.
You may ask God sees me??
God wants this? Why?

Yet Jesus saw Simon-Peter. Why?
Maybe, Jesus has more faith in Simon-Peter does in himself. 
In the same way, God sees you.

Jesus wants us to be the best we can be with the gifts we have.
Jesus will be there with us always and gives us even more. 
Jesus inspires the best in us to shine through us – when you be what God calls you to be.
When you let your heart shine, you are what God calls.

We like to think the reverse –
that religion is about telling us what we cannot do
and things we must do to earn our way to life with God. 
There are valid arguments with this because our thoughts can lead us astray. 
Our actions can put us onto a path that separates us from the holy.
Yet, I submit that we are exactly what God made us since we are made in the image of God.

It took a while for me to understand my wrongs and brokenness;
they don’t have to define me. 
If we do let wrongs and brokenness define us,
we just might be separating ourselves from what we could be -- from God.
We might not even get into the boat with God

We don’t have to continue “stinkin’ thinking” (Zig Ziglar). 
These bits of brokenness, however, can inform us as lessons but they do not have to define us. 

 God is there for us always and regardless of our brokenness.
 God sees you and wants you! 

What happens here is that Jesus rejects Simon-Peter’s self-effacing
and instead says “I see you.”
I see  who you are and who you could be. I see you. (look around)

God is ready to inspire you too, here and now.

So maybe like Simon-Peter’s words, we might feel unworthy, but God calls us to be worthy.
It was not easy, but these new disciples let God be their guide.

We may not be martyrs destined for painful execution because of our beliefs,
but the spirit and grace can be powerful in its own right -- for us here and now. 
The spirit is all around and God sees you. I see you.

We may not be good fishermen,
but we might realize and take solace in that God calls to be who we are.
It is up to us to recognize that grace and let us be us – let God be – let God guide us.

In fact, I submit that grace is right here, and we will see it when we take time to see it.
Our purpose, gifts, and our brokenness are exactly why God chooses us.

Thanks be to God!

How to Live Life- Luke 6

How to Live Life?
Tony Dillon Hansen

Reflection based upon Luke 6:27-38, Psalm 37; 1 Corinthians 15:35-50;

Let our minds be in prayer. From the words of Psalm 19, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, You are our rock and you are our Redeemer!

People often drive on the highways with various interpretations of what the signs on the road mean (Such as, speed limits.) What is the legal definition of speed limit anyway?  Is it 5-over is the speed limit posted, or is it conditions of the road?  What about stop signs? Do you in fact stop on the line and wait? Do you creep up to the stop and go if no one is looking? Do you just ignore that it is there?

Are these mere suggestions?  What happens when you follow them to the letter?  What happens when you break these?

Even better question is what do other people see in your example of these?

We don’t get to read this sermon of the “level place” (or the plain) often because we do not usually get a lengthy Epiphany like this year. Today’s portion is a continuation of last week’s Scripture. 

There are similarities to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew.

So let us walk through the text a bit here,

First, a recap of last week’s:
Jesus is preaching to a crowd of people from Judea, Tyre and Sidon (Jews and Gentiles). We have a version of the beatitudes.

Blessed are the poor, the hungry, and those who are hurting. Blessed are those who hate you – especially on account of God. 
Rejoice your day is coming!  You will have your rewards.
 Your efforts and toil will not go in vain,
but we have some Woes!
As in, don’t feel too safe in your material luxuries, wealth, food, laughs or good reputation.

Ouch!  This is not an easy sermon to hear!  You might look at yourself and wonder what am I missing. I feel ok, have food to eat, laugh a good laugh and might even have a good name.

In that part of the sermon, Jesus is describing something that sounds reassuring to us who are suffering, but radical by challenging our comfort zones just the same.

Now, today’s part of the lesson from Luke, we shift a bit and we are given a set of precepts or teachings.  You might even call these guides or rules, and as rules and precepts go, these are pretty good ones on their face.

To summarize today’s portion:
Listen Now!
Love your enemies.
Forgive those who hurt you.
Give to people.
“do unto others as you would have them do to you.”
Be fair in your work.
Be merciful.

Simple, but not as simple as we might like to think.
Then again, is being a Christian really simple?

Lets look at each of these for a moment.
Listen Now!
(In case, you were not listening before.)
Love your enemies.
Forgive those who hurt you.
These two are difficult if you ever been on the receiving end of bullying or prejudicial injustice.  I know this from personal experience.
Give to people.
Here, I am reminded of my youth when our family didn’t have much money and the church would give us those boxes and envelopes for us kids to put money for the offering. When we would get a $5 in rare form, to give a portion of that to the church was feeling “difficult.”
“do unto others as you would have them do to you.”
You might recognize this as the Golden rule, but as a corollary to the earlier points, what happens when people are not nice or kind to you?
Be fair in your work.
Be merciful.
These are good things to be fair and merciful.

Jesus challenges us and goes further in telling us to do these (not just our friends, family and good neighbors, but) for any and every one. (32) “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.”

There is a lot here! You might see yourself in many of these in your own ways.
Just like the road signs, There are a number of ways that people come to the text of the Bible and these Gospels. 

Some of us read this as the rulebook for daily living.  Some of us might read this text and say, “yeah that’s me!” Some might say, “I am already saved – what more do I need?” Some of us read this text and say, “um I have some work to do.”  You might count me in the latter of that.

If this is a rulebook, do you follow it and what does it mean to follow these?
Jesus presents to us a set of precepts and rules, and as rules and precepts go these are pretty good ones and pretty radical because Jesus tells us not to feel too comfortable in our comfort.  

Regardless of where you are on life’s journey (or if you think you have done enough), Jesus does not distinguish for whom these precepts are meant.  These are for us to follow and to live yes, but you might even ask, why do we have to do this. That is a great question.

Sure, we can be ethical in all of our work and have morals action and thought, but still the question remains why do have to do this?

Be fair in your work.
Be merciful.
Why do we do this? Look at that last line, Because your God is merciful.

That’s right! This is not about you, this is describing what God does for us and that is why we need to be like God. The world will bless us in turn. Karma from God.

That is big! Are these mere suggestions and rules, like the road signs?  

I submit to you there is something more than just following a law, but as one writer describes, these first parts (the blessed are the hungry, the poor and the hurting and woe if you revel in your luxuries) these, along with karma, outline the reward of God’s kingdom.  Then this set of precepts outlines how we participate in that kingdom today and now.

So then the question changes from whether you follow these or not – into “How do we reveal that in our lives?”  How do we reveal God’s kingdom in the now, here on Earth?

Step back again into the text, “forgive and you will be forgiven…for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” Jesus invokes karma. That which you wish upon yourself, you must be that example. Even more, this is a covenantal bond between you, God and the wider community.

So yes, Many people think of the Bible as a guidebook telling us what to do and not to do. If you do your best to follow them, that might be all well and good.

Again, I submit to you passages like this remind us there is something more here.
Wherever you are on the spectrum, the question is how do you really participate in God’s kingdom?  Do you really embody what are the stakes? (I don’t mean good juicy steak.)

How do you live this, and how do you share this because this is not meant to be a checklist so we can boast about our great work. This is challenging us.

Our order is being upended as we live just as order in Jesus’s time was upended. Further, Jesus did not discriminate with people that were different from his own culture or community. We have been given the grace of God to be us and to live in our communities as faithful servants of our God while living those precepts. When we do these in full body and mind, we may truly receive grace.

Perhaps today is the day to forgive those who hurt us so badly.  Maybe now we can let go of that pain in our lives. 
Perhaps today is the day we find out that we really do have so much more we can give than just dollars and coins.
Perhaps today is the day we reach out to the person in our community that is needing a helping hand.
Perhaps today is the day we say no to racial injustice, violence, queer slurs or any bigotry so that we might instead embrace the whole world that God gave us.
Perhaps we can extend an authentic and genuine smile because we would like that done to us.

It has been done to us.  We have grace that has been given to us. Doesn’t that just warm your hurt (even in the midst of all of this snow)?

We could all just say we do these things (whether we do or not) and say we live a moral and ethical life.  Jesus does not say this just for oneself but how we are in the community. There is something more here.  What is at stake is that God’s kingdom can be in the present now (and not just as rewards for tomorrow.)

A verse from another text can help us here.

Giving birth,
Nourishing life,
Shaping things without possessing them,
Serving without expectation of rewards,
Leading without dominating:
These are the profound virtues of nature,
And of nature’s best beings.

“Love your enemies, do good and lend, expecting nothing in return.  Your reward will be great and you will be the children of the Most High.” (Luke 6: 35)

Remember that we are in Epiphany.  In the beginning, we talked about how God is revealing to us. Here, Jesus asks us how are we participating in God’s kingdom – with all of God’s children.

With this lesson, ask yourself How can you live your life better each day by embodying God’s work here on Earth and you might see how much grace you have been given.

Let us be one with the spirit that surrounds us and bind us. Let us be profound virtues of nature and let go of our expectations while nourishing life and shaping the world which we live with our love of God.

As we prepare for upcoming Lent (yes only couple weeks away), you could consider prohibitions like abstaining from chocolates or something like that, and yes, I have my own practice. This sermon from Jesus might serve as a template for this Lenten journey. Yet for your Lenten journey, you don’t have to wait until then to start living these today.  Still, If you are looking for a Lenten theme, this scripture has potential to gift you a focus point for each week and even each day.

Thanks be to God!