Sunday, September 29, 2019

Building Paths - Jeremiah 18:1-11, Luke 14:25-33, Psalm 139

Building Paths
Tony E Dillon Hansen
08 September 2019

A Sermon based upon Jeremiah 18:1-11, Luke 14:25-33, Psalm 139.

Let us begin with prayer. May the words of my mouth and meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, Our Rock and Our Redeemer!

Happy Rally Sunday!

As we getting ready for harvest and doing fall preparations, it feels somewhat appropriate to consider the lesson today since we are in one way bringing summer to a close while preparing for next season. I would like for us consider what it means to be “building paths.”

Paths of Discipleship
Today I thought about spending some time talking about the tough lesson in Luke’s Gospel.  Jesus is describing conflict and challenging traditions, especially those that do not promote the good path, (e.g. compassion, social justice, and love.) Jesus outlines for us this thing called discipleship.  Jesus roots this in the Deuteronomy law of “loving God with all your heart and mind” and as well your neighbor -  Because loving God should not be at the expense of your neighbor (or vice-versa.)

In following, this law Jesus tells us that we must be willing to carry the cross – telling us that discipleship is not just about fun and games – but about real sacrifice, difficult decisions, and being uncomfortable. Who carries the cross and why?  When are we called to carry it?  How does this “build paths” if to focus upon a painful end? Question is would you have been the one to help Jesus carry on the way to Calvary?

We know that Jesus is not doom and gloom but wants to give a full perspective about discipleship ( there are more than one way.)

If we look then at the lesson from Jeremiah, we see Jeremiah’s image of the potter and that fits fully with Psalm 139 saying God knew us before we were formed.

Pottery and Projects
The semi-continuous readings through Jeremiah offer us a journey from a call, to question and to formation.  I will admit that I am not a potter and my experience with pottery includes walking through a market looking at pieces, the movie Ghost (with Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze) or even the parody of the potter wheel scene in Naked Gun (with Leslie Nielsen).

My experience is limited but I have witnessed people making pots on a platform, spinning with wet clay and forming into a vessel – or spoiled if it fails. As a creative artist in other ways, or even working a garden, landscape, or working on software.  There is a platform, a thought and image, design and implementation.

These can all be seen in this image of the potter.  So where are we in this?

Again, to begin a project, one must first have an end goal in mind (remember Luke 14:28). From that image, we set a foundation and journey through implementation.  (That is very corporate sounding I am sure.). Yet we are building a path that we are taking.

Project Steps:
First, Our project needs a foundation. The engineer considers a foundation by its “integrity” and a good integrity is needed for building. The Potter needs a solid platform to begin because a wabbly wheel is nearly impossible to manage. Here, we have God as a solid foundation, and as we have talked about in Hebrews, we have a history and faith stories in our scriptures to help that foundation.

Let us continue building our path.
That foundation in history and faith reminds us that our project needs faith that we will even finish. (how many of you got into project that never completed?). Even with a goal in mind, we need faith that we can achieve because we will find the path is not always perfect and will involve struggle.

Again, our lesson from Hebrews 11 a couple weeks ago, reminded us that faith is complemented by discipline – not the command and obey, but our attention and focus. If we lose focus, (to use the potter metaphor), our project can literally get out of hand as the pot starts to fail or alternatively we just quit trying. Discipline is finding strength (grit) and relationships to help keep the faith because we are not alone.

Another way to say this is that discipline is having the flexibility to change and to reach out for help when needed because we do not need to do this alone.  Don’t give up, be flexible and learn from lessons. We know we will fail along the way because I have learned that a project becomes a series of daily projects that rise and fall.

Our project building path needs: 1) integrity, 2) faith, 3) discipline and 4) flexibility. (if those words are too big: God, belief, commit and grow.)

Switch Perspectives
If we switch perspective and be the sculpted, this may make even more sense with God, our Potter.

We, being formed, have foundation and faith in our Creator. Incidentally, do we honestly have faith in this sculptor? If we do, then we, being formed, can have discipline and flexibility to let God be.  Do we have the flexibility to be molded in the image of God or are we so stiff and unchanging or careless and giving up? If you let yourself be flexible, be formed, be seen and be created by our great Creator, then you might truly realize how beautiful you can be.


Be Formed
With that, I am going to let our Creator do some molding, and I hope you let yourselves be molded. 

As this is considered to be “Rally Sunday,” let us rally and be inspired by the Potter
to create and to build,
to learn and to grow,
to form and be formed,
to do justice and be justice,
to transform and be transformed;
to love and be love.  

Yes Let God help you
To realize just how beautiful you are;
To love God with all your heart and mind and to love your neighbors – no matter where they are on life’s journey;
To carry the cross for God and for your neighbor;
To dare greatly and be dared to be great;
To have faith and be faith;
To remember your history and become legends;
To take time to remember and be who you are;

Let the spirit work for you, be with you and be you!

Thanks Be to God.

Monday, September 2, 2019

What is a Sabbath - Luke 13:10-17, Hebrews 12:18-29

What is a Sabbath
Tony E Dillon Hansen
25 August 2019

A Sermon based upon Luke 13:10-17, Hebrews 12:28, Jeremiah 1-8

Let us begin with prayer. May the words of my mouth and meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, Our Rock and Our Redeemer!

Our lessons today have multiple layers and perspectives happening.

I thought today I might walk through Hebrews and how that invites us into the covenant with God, and that could be extremely interesting to some of you.

Then again, I thought that I might talk about 3 perspectives from Luke’s Gospel today, and that might be enough for several sermons.

I thought for One of those perspectives, I might talk about the Sabbath and what it means as a commandment and a gift from God in Deuteronomy. Then I would have to ask where do you find time in your schedules for that gift - that sacred time - alone time: for you, for your spouse or for your family.

But then I would want to invoke lessons from the movie Christopher Robin – a story about some characters from the Hundred Acre Woods (e.g. Pooh, Tigger and pals).

Yet that might spoil a good movie for some of you. I could tell you about the basic premise that invites people to think about what is in our lives that is so important that we dedicate time, attention and convenience. Perhaps, we could also wonder what in those things causes us to find some people inconvenient “or in the way.”

I would then have to ask about how we spend our time. Does it give space for what is truly important like our family, love, justice and our Creator? You know love of God and love of neighbor ...the true important stuff.

Yet that might cause a long discussion about what the Sabbath means to you and me – and that could be great time had by all.

I also considered talking about laws and whether laws are always perfectly executed, and we know how that could invite a lively debate of politics. So then I could try to focus even upon the laws handed to us in Deuteronomy that includes the Sabbath.

As I said, I could talk about those things, but that might invite a wider conversation about what laws we find convenient and some that we might say inconvenient… Or even company policies that challenge us to live at the convenience of a job …
instead of what Pooh says “doing nothing can lead to some of the best kind of something.”

Yes, I could talk about these and get you to ponder what is convenient and inconvenient in your own lives, and that could be a long conversation.

As I said, I would like to discuss these things about the Sabbath and inconvenient laws, but then I would have to ask what do these say about the woman in our story.

I could ask what is wrong with her for 18 years.
I could ask why it took 18 years for someone see her.
That is 18 years of Sabbaths for someone to find time to even notice her – and maybe I could ask who in our midst do we conveniently ignore and why?

Before you know it, 18 years goes by with all of those missed opportunities.

I could have you ponder who else in society and their sufferings we conveniently ignore: like immigrants, black Americans, homeless, Native Americans, or equality for queer people. Then we could spend time asking what we could do. That could be a great conversation.

Then I would have to ask what were you and I doing for 18 years that was so important?
How many Sabbaths were in those 18 years that she endured without so much as “how can I help?”

I could ask if that tells us about our own Sabbaths and how many people simply cannot take time off in this society ?
How many people don’t have the privilege of working only weekdays from 9 to 5?
I could ask if we conveniently see those people as necessary for our Sabbath but do we get irritated when we are inconvenienced when they deserve this divine gift.

As I said, I could talk about these things but that could invoke emotions, strains, and long uncomfortable discussions.

Suffice to say, I could ask you what does your Sabbath look like and who is important enough to notice in your lives?  I could ask How do we justify laws and policies that are convenient for us while shunning justice for others like the woman in the story – or our neighbors around us?

I wonder if a few of us could learn from  Winnie-The-Pooh saying, “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing everyday.”

Maybe we can find time for that!

Thanks Be to God.