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!

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Gifts - John 3

For God So Love the World

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Sermon based upon Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107, Ephesians 2:1-10 and John 3:14-21


“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent…” invokes the passage from Numbers 21 where people have become “impatient on the way” to the Promised Lands.  People complain and ask “why have you brought us here?” “Why did we come here?  Things are so miserable here? Can we go back?”  (like the sounds from the backseat on car trips or a Simpsons episode. )


We say things like this because we are want to complain.  Why do we complain and so easily even? 


Serpents came into the desert, bit people, and people died. Moses then prays and fashions a serpent pole of bronze from which people would become healed. 


(We should spend a moment and thank all that have put themselves on the line for our sakes in the face of serpents we call viruses.  Thank you, medical community, for your work this past year and going forward yet.)


The question for us is to consider why do we have this tendency to want what has been and perhaps gone? We get to the other side of the Red Sea just making our escape from the violence and wreckage of the past washed upon the shores only to turn around with nostalgia. 


Maybe you walked in here needing something today, got something on the mind or have something to do- and just not quite sure what to do yet.  Oh the questions and how we want easy answers and we want familiar. You could walk out of here back into familiar and nothing changes.  But what if.. what if… (hold on to that for a moment.)


We like being around things that feel normal because we become complacent in them. Yet, we cannot go back in time; (we probably don’t really want to do that anyway.) If you only look at the past, you limit your future and your present. We look at now to what we have and look towards our future. 


What people experienced those many years ago in the desert on the way to the Promised Lands feels somewhat relatable to us here today going through the pandemic.  We want things to go back to “normal” - whatever that is.  I want to be in stadiums to watch baseball - enjoying expensive beverages and overpriced hotdogs. I want, I want… In our wants, maybe we are easily forgetting the lessons and our gifts too quickly. Think of how many wont see another ballgame.


To be honest, there was some good this past year. Some corrected finances (less overpriced hotdogs can help) or fixed things around the house. 


We dwell in darkness, and we love it. Just look at the what the news reports and how that captivates our attention. John’s Gospel calls us to task asking why we love the darkness when there is so much in the light for us today. 


Are we longing in our nostalgia for what has been that we lose sight of what is here and before us? I submit we do. When our focus is just upon past and misery, we not only limit our present; we might be losing sight of God.  


Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, perhaps, we (and as a church) return our focus upon God in our hearts and through us now.  What does our church want to be and where does it go from here? Do we wallow about misery and snakes (I would) or do we remember that God so loves the world that amazing things come to us? 


What if ..perhaps what if -- Let God do amazing in your heart now because then, things can change. We can embrace the light of Jesus, but you cant do it with your hands full.  You have to drop the baggage.  Oh that can be frightening but very amazing! We learn from our past, and we can let go of all the baggage we carried in here with us when we trust God.


Do we trust and have faith in God or just echo some words we read or heard in song? We are tasked to turn, not to nostalgia or misery but to the gifts that have always been there and to the promise our God gives. 


Drop the baggage, Turn to the love of Jesus and share that love. Turn to the light, the powerful light, & turn to love. Then, use your gifts in the way that God asks us.  The Gospel reminds us, “but those who do what is true come to the light so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (John 3:21)


We know there are things wrong in this world, but despair does not need to rule nor nostalgia because Jesus redefines - Jesus redefines our love and our world. Jesus needed to come in to this world to show us the way to the light. Jesus redefines and let Jesus show you! 


We all were created in this relationship with God – a great relationship, but we – we - choose to walk away. We pick many excuses (whether pandemic, or otherwise) to walk away and then wonder why things are the way they are. We find ways to complain and grumble perhaps thinking we deserve something else. 


I ask, what do you deserve that God hasn’t already given? Lean into God; find your heart & treasure there and through your deeds.  Consider what if? What if we acknowledge that God so loves the world (and so loves us), that wonderful is possible. Let Jesus show you!


We don’t need to go back to old, tired ways because we have the gift of today and new chances in this moment and a future. We won’t be miserable or afraid when we walk with faith in our Creator.  


Restore your faith and trust! Acknowledge, realize your true gifts! Don’t leave them and your faith in the desert. Give them real life and purpose by helping those around you and making it evident through you that God is with you. 


St John, find purpose, leadership and your Church in God, then you will see how God gathers all people with intention “from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.” When we cry to the Lord in our trouble and darkness, God answers and saves us from distress.  


So then drop the baggage, turn to the light, Be saved and be healed! Let God shine upon you here for “God is rich in mercy.” With great love, we are made alive together with Christ. “For God so loved the world,” we have life - these wonderful gifts.


“For by grace you have been saved… That is a gift from God… which God prepared to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2) Embrace the light, your gifts, your life and find what you need is right here.  


Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Cancel Culture

“Cancel culture” is a curious trend that’s grown attention lately. For some reason, people are suddenly concerned about some rather obscure things: handful of books no one reads (that are still available), something about a toy having multiple parts that has always had multiple parts or some advisory for a puppet show featuring a pig with hots for a frog. I personally love Dr Seuss books. I have had a plate of scrambled eggs with green food coloring and ham and wondered oh the places I will go. I always love the Muppets. The curious thing about these examples is that each of them are still quite available.


So, I wonder why the concern about being cancelled is raised with these when our society has plenty of other examples of “cancel culture.”  For centuries, entire groups of people were denied and cancelled from voting, fair pay, any sort of rights, or even basic humanity through the chains of slavery and segregation. Why? This cancelling was done all in order to preserve traditions over sharing liberties or done to reinforce a sanitized notion of the “American way of life” that freely enjoyed cancelling entire groups of people. Yes this happened and still happens.


How convenient it must be to forget the images and words (and not to mention lynching, maiming and other cruel weapons) have been used with full and intentional callousness to rob and degrade entire groups of God’s children of respect and dignity for skin color, gender, heritage, queerness or religious beliefs. When jobs are cancelled because people didn’t “play ball” and submit to inappropriate advances, I suppose they should just keep their mouths shut. When sports players make a public display against centuries of social injustice, it feels easy to cancel their concerns because they challenged the system that enables poor behavior. When indigenous tribes remind us how much our government lied and stole from them while belittling their heritage with ease, I suppose they too ought to just cancel their concerns and keep their mouths shut. When a person won’t get hired because who they love or they express religious beliefs with their attire, they should cancel religious expressions while keeping their mouths shut too. 


This reveals an underlying motivation to suppress legitimate historical grievances as unworthy. Perhaps instead of cancelling people, listen to their stories, and march with people today to call for long-overdue justice against centuries of violence and intimidation that preserves the cancelling of basic dignity.


When we are truly concerned about cancelling of culture, we no longer cancel peoples’ legit cry for equitable justice, legit indigenous heritage or their claim to promised lands, or even legit celebration of one’s basic humanity. Then, we no longer cancel authentic concerns due to some irritated convenience or tradition - like “that is the way it always has been” when that way has always perpetuated the wrong.  Instead, find time to listen to peoples’ concerns with honesty and humility, learn about your neighbors and acknowledge their rights (as well as yours) to be heard. Further, get out of echo chambers and work toward the justice the One gifts to all of us. Perhaps, this ought to remind us Christians of what Christ would do because that is what Christ did.


When you do that, you might understand and feel the frustration of generations, and then, the concern for cancelled culture might feel more genuine. 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Faithfulness to the Covenant - Exodus 20

Faithfulness in the Covenant

Tony E Dillon-Hansen

 

Sermon based upon Exodus 20: 1-17, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, and John 2: 13-22

 

Growing up, people would always ask what do you want to be when you grow up, and I would tell them something exciting like firefighter. (My how things evolve.) Today, I build software and I get the honor of preaching the Word.  Oh but what they don’t tell you as that in each of these pursuits, we have a commonality: people.

 

From early in life to school, work and outside of work, people are everywhere!  What do we do? How do we do we deal with all these people?? 


That is a great question because that is exactly what today’s scripture offers – a set of rules. God gave us a set of rules because God knows humanity, and God certainly knows how we foul things up.  


These commandments are more than just a few suggestions, principles for success or good context for an hour on Sunday, but the commandments are a way of life.  God gives us not just text in tablets, books or a reason for a sermon, but our Creator gave us a 24/7 way of life.


You, who have walked in pain, torment, and oppression as slaves; You, who have been persecuted and tired; and you, who have sinned and fallen - these are for you! These are not just for an hour every Sunday, but throughout our living and breathing days. 


These are simple points that God deems for us (e.g. don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, don’t covet, don’t lie, and honor your parents.) Yet, we (people) want to put conditions on these. 


When God says, “you shall no other gods before me” how many times do we find more time for money than God? How many times do we say it is just a little “white lie” and then realize how much damage one white lie can cause.  How many times do we covet when we put our hunger and desires ahead of what is right and just? 


Should be noted that Of these, there is no punishment listed because judgment and punishment is reserved for God. I know people like to twist that because our laws are so fallible, so political, and so human. 


These rules, commandments are not just for me (and you) to find convenient in my day but for all to enjoy.  God’s rules don’t distinguish because all God’s creation get the same rights to freedom, heritage, belief, property, and love as everyone else. Why? Because God deems it. 


In fact, God says don’t make idols of me. God doesn’t want us to pray to images, but to God!  God doesn’t need (or want) to be on a billboard selling the latest insurance policy because God is the insurance policy and the caretaker. God is for you and me, Beloved – just the way God wants!


In these commands, God gives us freedoms - freedom to love our God-given heritage.  You are free to see God in the way that God comes to us. God says that you are free to bear my image inside you and as part of you.  That is why God created you - so that God might be revealed through you, Beloved Child! You reveal the freedom of God through you and in your faith in God. Rest in the faith; rest in the covenant.


God gave us freedom to enjoy a day off because God knows the need for rest.  You are not only free to rest but deserve to rest. We ought to recognize those that work when wages don’t support days off. We ought to acknowledge people at the restaurant or store working (when we enjoy our sabbath). They also deserve a day off with wages that allow it. 


These freedoms are part of God’s covenant - not for us to hoard.  How do we live and share this great covenant from God? Do we abide or are these moving sets of goal posts in our lives? 


Psalm 19 applies here, 

“Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. 

There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;

Yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”


Sheer poetic magic !  God watches from many different angles, watching us, listening to us, and speaking with wisdom throughout all the earth.  Do we listen - even when God writes it down?


God is here! Our faithfulness reveals the wisdom of God in us and through us because there are no words to truly express that wisdom.  We follow the commandments because they are God’s reason not necessarily our convenience. So why “excuse ourselves” from these commandments when these are part of the gift of God’s covenant. When you do, you miss out. You might miss God’s gifts just waiting for you: grace, forgiveness, justice, peace and eternal life. 


Again, these are not just for ourselves personally but for us as a community to build our community in the image of God because we have life and freedom through God. Let us reveal together this covenant. We don’t have to take more than what we have. We can live in peace with each other because we share these bountiful gifts from God.


For these reasons, (again Psalm 19) “the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.. rejoicing the heart, enlightening the eyes... enduring forever.” 


John2 reminds us that Jesus is the temple - not our money, not our markets and not our wants. When we abide in Jesus and God’s covenant, we witness wisdom in our hearts and share that in our community. 


So, Revive your soul, rejoice in your heart and enlighten your eyes! When we put our faith in the covenant, then we see others through God’s eyes, and “their beauty will take our breath away.”


Thanks be to God!