Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Empower and Speak Up - 2 Sam 11

Empower MeToo

Tony E Dillon Hansen

25 July 2021 

 

A reflection based upon 2 Samuel 11:1-15 • Psalm 14 • Ephesians 3:16-17 • John 6:1*21

Link to Scriptures

 

Opening Prayer

 

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned the great delicate balance that must come with bringing God into the center of government (e.g. politics) – to be wary of letting religious power go to one’s head to abuse political power.  We know today how some will manipulate power by saying things like its God's will.  This week’s lesson reminds us how power can corrupt great minds and do some serious damage to people. Good thing about our scripture is that it is willing to reveal how damaging the dark side of humanity can be and force us to learn from them to hopefully prevent them in the future.

 

Traditional  View

 

I grew up reading this and hearing about this story in a very traditional way that pits Bathsheba as an object between two men. There is a traditional way to look at this text from a perspective of adultery where both Bathsheba and David are married, but that implies some agency on the part of Bathsheba. 

 

When we studied this text in seminary along with midrash from Dr. Wilda Gafney who reviewed the perspective of Bathsheba in depth, we almost universally agreed this looks more like manipulation of power and violence against Bathsheba. In fact, in light of recent conversations surrounding the MeToo movement, this feels very much like a MeToo moment in the Hebrew scripture because it reads so similar to cases that arise today. 

 

Bible does not ignore Timely Parallels

 

Should we ignore these uglier stories for the good ones?  Well if we did we live in a fantasyland where everything is rosy and Disney-sized parades, that might be nice for a while.  Personally, I cannot ignore these ugly truths, the church should not ignore them, and neither should we as a society.  Unfortunately, This story and the many like it are part of humanity. 

 

Let them serve as lessons for all of us, and are among the reasons why the Bible is such a rich collection of stories.  The Bible is not just a feel good book for us, but a hard look at all aspects of humanity and our relationship to God.  The Bible challenges us to be more than who we are and challenges us to be the best our humanity can be.  Thus, there should be no real surprise that the Bible does not pull punches. Yes, the Bible calls out serious infractions because clearly this is characterized as terrible. 

 

No matter how despicable or painful this is to consider, this is a story in humanity that we need to address. Even though we read how David was blessed to bring God into the center of the people. I wonder if he became forgetful of what that power means.  David allows power to cloud his brain into thinking he can do whatever to whomever he wants and commits serious wrongs. Incidentally, he gives us evidence there is no such thing as a victimless sin or crime. We know this happens today, and thanks in part to the #MeToo movement, there is serious dialog about this. 

 

Midrash

 

Curiously the story starts with noting David is not where he is supposed to be (aka fighting with his armies). Some might suggest that “she came to him” (as it is written) but was that really voluntary?  Consent you ask? I submit to you that she did not have the option. She does not really have the option to deny the request. David is king, this king wants what he sees, thinks he can have whatever and whomever he wants, and the king just sent people to get her. Why she doesn’t make a scene on the way out forcing to dragged out? Gafney suggests this is her holding pride and dignity. David holds all the power and already has 6 wives. Bathsheba is in no place to deny the king.

 

David uses power to get her, she cannot deny him and then later to murder her husband, Uriah with his troops. 

This is destructive to not just her life but literally to those around her.

 

We see parallels to behavior in some high-profile people today that manipulate power for personal benefit, regardless of whom they hurt and many without a shred of remorse 

 

I have seen the horror this can do and the emptiness it causes upon a person.

 

If this has happened to you, know that it is not your fault. You are not alone. Know that God is with you.

 

The destruction and soul-shaking cannot be understated. There is a wonton disregard and yes often no shame in this conduct.  They often recharacterize the conduct as “she deserved or wanted it.” 

 

Quite frankly this is an example of “locker room” banter that diminishes people to mere property, disposable objects and slaves of desire. (Note that this “locker room banter” does not fare well in the presence of women because we are more than objects and women know this.)

 

How many people would say that we are just property? No one.

 

That disregard for humanity might explain why David finds it easy to cast out the husband Uriah to misery and certain death. All one can do is pray the experience gets over soon.

 

No matter how much we try, survivors cannot simply numb our senses of the pain, drown out the terrors because it just doesn’t go away. We cannot just pretend all is well when everything inside feels hollow and void. There is immeasurable guilt and shame that we attach to ourselves in these. The questions of why me and how did I let this happen? As survivors, this will be carried for the rest of life, even as the Davids-of-the-world continue on with their lives. 

 

Still God is willing to forgive and does and calls us to help that effort.

 

How to Live with the Damage

 

There is damage in these bits and we help those that have been damaged like this by walking wth them and hearing their stories.

 

Further, we must empower people, especially young women, to speak up and speak out.  To prevent things like this from occurring, we must be willing to teach that is ok to say no and for all people to accommodate that “no.”

 

I cannot answer the questions with anything that might resolve the personal pain underneath. I can do my best to walk with people and be mindful of my own failings and my words.  We all can.  

 

I can, however, through Bathsheba’s experience here, demonstrate how one was able to move beyond the pain.

 

For my own, cats and a dog help.

 

Even more so, our lesson has an example when we continue to read about Bathsheba. 

 

Does Bathsheba let this define her? We don’t know much about her reaction or words said. Yet, Neither she, nor I, nor anyone of us can change the past. We can only live in today. No, we cannot undo the painful deeds. We can learn to live, and we can remind people of their responsibility to others around us and our society.  

 

Yes, this is a part of my experience and many more.  We can question many things of why, and the answer is not always what we want. 

 

We may find comfort in knowing we are not alone, and that there is someone with big shoulders and hugging arms for us where we can be safe, without manipulation and without judging.

 

We are reminded through this story to teach our children and community the good way: the God way — rather than the impulsive, destructive disregard for people , especially from those in power. People are more than objects or property, and we all have personal dignity. 

 

The epistles of St John remind us that we are all God’s children — as valuable human beings with worth and love.  Let that sink in. Let that be you. Let that help us heal and fill our hearts. Let us go forth and teach that worth and that lesson.

 

With what we know from history, with what Jesus teaches, and with this story, we are called to listen even when the message is difficult.  We cannot and should not accept being slaves to anyone.

 

We are all God’s children: broken, sinful and hurt. We have worth, and God will forgive those willing to make amends. The lesson from this story is that we deserve life that values us as worthy. 

 

If anything should speak to us in this lesson is the consequence of living as property. We do not want to go back to being just property or slaves. Our story will be heard if you speak it, our lesson will be learned if you teach it, and our community will be stronge when we live together as equals.  

 

From Ephesians, I pray that God may strengthen our inner beings with power through the Spirit and that Christ may dwell in all our hearts, especially those afflicted by such damage. Find your roots grounded in love. 

 

Remember that God is with you and that you are worthy of God!

 

Thanks Be to God


Saturday, July 17, 2021

Reach Out and Welcome Someone - Mark 5

Reach Out and Welcome Someone

Tony E Dillon Hansen

18 July 2021


Sermon based upon Mark 5:21-43, Psalm 23, and Lamentations 3:22-23


Opening prayer


I sense a need to focus our next couple of weeks about gender issues in the scriptures.  For this Sunday, this great story from Mark 5 about the woman reaching out to Jesus provides an excellent example of faith that heals.  Yet, there is so much more involved here - plenty for us to unpack in this story, especially how this contrasts with Jesus coming home to Nazareth.  This woman does not know Jesus at all but has heard about his power. Whereas hometown folks question Jesus’s power away. This woman gets it.  She recognizes Jesus’s power and so do the parents. What does she teach us in this moment?


There is a lot of symbolism and a series of questions we can raise from this seemingly random action.  A presumably, unknown woman suffering for years believes and recognizes Jesus’s power. 


We can wonder if this was an act of faith or of utter desperation.  For us, What would be the reason we would reach out to Jesus?  What prevents us from reaching out?


We do not know how long she has been there, but we can presume she is in the synagogue to pray.  We have to wonder how long has she suffered and for how long she has come to worship suffering.  At any point, she could have gave up, but she did not. For how long, do we go to church looking for that moment, that spark, the healing moment? How many times do we pray and how many times should we pray ?  


This is hope! We will find redemption and healing. When we reach out with our faith, we let God be with us rather than something else.  


When the moments arrive, we know them, and we can live into them. These moments happen to us and for us. Question for us, do we acknowledge these gifts and remember to give thanks? Do we honor God’s gifts and miracles to us with our welcoming hearts? Or do we just walk about expecting more little miracles?


As I mentioned, this story reveals gender issues that were evident in her time as much as they are evident today. Laws have been passed down for ages that discriminate due to gender. I submit to you that some laws are just an excuse to exclude. We don’t have to be ok with that.  


Yes we have a female governor and vice-president. We have had a black president and now vice president, but we well know that racism and misogyny both still poison our community. Case in point, there are people are so afraid of the vice-president becoming president. Is she demonized because she is black or a woman? How does that make people feel to hear this? 


It took centuries for women to get suffrage, and we have yet to pass the ERA. What is the excuse? Incidentally, why are people ok with new voting restrictions? Will we reverse years of progress? When will my right to vote be taken away? How do we change this?


This act of reaching out turns into a public display of healing.  Jesus presumably could have just walked onto the little girl, but Jesus makes a point to stop and publicly give witness to the woman and her healing.  He does this not just for theater.  Jesus does this because her “condition” means that for years she would have been excluded - left to fringes of the church - if she would even be allowed in the doors. For years, this woman has endured public shaming because of a bodily process – out of her control. This public act of declaring her healed is not just a physical healing but collective healing – an invitation to join the community.


This is a reminder to us here in this day.  Who do we, and for what reason, exclude from the grace of God? How can we be more inclusive and encourage others to be inclusive instead?  There are people that should be here that are not. A church that thrives invites not just us regular attendees but invites those in community to join us – wherever they are on life’s journey.


So individually and as a church, we ought to think beyond our perspectives and make sure they are correct.  Do we in fact invite and welcome people?  Nice thing about town this size, is that church is only a few steps away from neighbors.  There are neighbors around us that could be here in the church with us. Ask, “are we inviting them”, and if not, let us start.  


In order for us to reveal that extravagant welcome as a church, we individually and personally must also exhibit that invitation in our words and actions. In fact, “extravagant welcome” does not mean welcome “but only if….” Remove the preconditions and practice God’s love, God’s welcome, in our lives. 


That love doesn’t happen just when you say the right words because we know the power of words - as Jesus declares publicly that she is healed.  What words do we say publicly that lifts rather than tears down? Practice words of inclusion and lifting.


To the question of how do we change the issues impacting us.  It starts with you and me. It starts with us being that extravagant welcome and encouraging others to be that. It happens in our words we use and the empathy we extend to others. When we are welcoming in our thoughts, words and actions, we extend God’s radical and extravagant welcome one person at a time. 


So reach out and welcome someone! Then, hear the words, “Your faith has made you well; go in peace…” 

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Legends Covenants Fear - 1 Samuel 17

Legends, Covenants, Fear

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Reflection based upon 1 Samuel 17-18:5, Mark 4:35-41, Psalm 9


Opening Prayer


The story of David’s battle with Goliath is a familiar story that is invoked to encourage underdog victories.  As a Royals fan, I know this feeling of being an underdog well.  Yet David is not viewing this situation as he being the underdog - but someone with a surprise.  David is not the usual suspect, not military bred, but a shepherd, the runt of the family, and the go-getter. David does what his father instructs, Saul accepts the offer and David wins.  A series of events that raises David’s status not only in the scripture but with those who watch things unfold.  David gains armies’ allegiance for his cunning display.


The curious thing of David invoking God before this “fight” which had a whole lot more dressing than actual sparring.


How many of us have done that? Before a competition, a game, we pray for protection and victory.  David does not – instead, David says the Lord is with him.  That is serious confidence in the midst of a whole lot of fear by those around David.  Speaking of which, who wins these games?  The ones who pray more or with more solemn intention? Those who expect to win? Those who put faith that things will work out – like what we talked last week.


In fact, we have a habit of making out more of the task ahead of us instead of working with what we have vs working with true faith. Yes, we may miss our mark. We may have great chance at failure, but that fear can lead us to not even try.

 

Saul invites David into the house. Then, there is this meeting of Jonathan with David.  The son of the king binding himself with David in most dramatic fashion.  There is clearly love between these two. Later in 2 Samuel, David’s eulogy for Jonathan just takes one’s heart.  Clearly, Jonathan is more than just a friend to David, perhaps a first love.  In fact, we will observe that after Jonathan’s death, things get really wonky for David with bad decision making, cover ups and more. 


What is in a covenant? Why bind ourselves to others?  Over the next events in David’s life, Jonathan along with David’s wives (Michal) save him a number of times.  Why?


Yet this passage also marks the rapid deterioration of Saul as David’s abilities are revealed. Initially, Saul enjoys having David, but that honeymoon is abrupt. Saul changes from hospitable to adversary. David is a political foe getting a lot of accolades. It could be that Saul disapproves of this covenant between his son, Jonathan, and David. Saul wants to end this and his fear consumes him.


Fear is a natural instinct and can be life saving for the right reasons.  (I don’t like heights or deep water.) Fear can be healthy and help us to realize not to jump from the cliff or tall building.


When fear consumes us, it turns into obsessions. Then our decisions become erratic, irresponsible, and can actually disregard our safety.  Saul’s fear turns into an obsession to kill David. As Yoda says in Star Wars, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to the dark side.” Fear takes us down paths away from reason, away from reality, away from love, away from faith, away from God.  


What are we trying to protect in our fear?  Our ego? Our traditions - even when we know things need to change?  What do we hide from ourselves that we allow fear to consume us - to separate us from reality, from God? My own fears might be protecting me in some ways, but I cannot let them prevent me from doing the right thing.


If Saul’s outrage is over Jonathan’s and David’s covenant – (who both do quite a bit of subterfuge over the next few chapters to avoid Saul’s wrath and anger), it begins to feel quite familiar to situations I have witnessed where people come out to families only to be kicked out. There are so many stories about families torn apart because of irrational, fearful, and distorted views about queer relationships. This fear, anger and hate destroys – not David as the target but - Saul and Saul’s family. 


Saul’s fear is unhealthy for himself and serves to undermine his own authority. It begins his decline.


For us, the lesson is… Why not direct our efforts towards fostering love, faith and grace rather than focusing or obsessing over irrational fears, angers, and hatreds. We have enough conflicts and battles in our lives that we don’t need to introduce more tensions.  


Ultimately, love wins because the love between David and Jonathan is real and strong. That love will overcome hate and fear. Love will find a way and teach us the value of people around us. Their story also serves to remind us not to let death teach us the value of that love.


Thanks be to God.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Growing up - Mark 4

Growing up

Tony E Dillon-Hansen


Sermon based upon Mark 4:26-32, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, Psalm 92


Opening Prayer


How does the parable of the seeds describe the kingdom of God?  That is good question, and in fact, I read and heard many people talk about how challenging Mark 4 can be. I agree there is some apocalyptic language here, but in these particular verses, there is something that might help to give us some hope. 


You know I enjoy gardening, and we have talked about seeds: being branches – connected to God, and bearing fruit from John’s Gospel. The mustard seed parables has some similarities, but Mark’s usage is different. 


If we read again, I would have us kind of focus upon the verses 

“and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

There are a couple things that jump out – I might be scared of the sickle, Yet, 1) there are stages of growth or steps to discern, 2) and the earth produces of itself. 


We don’t know why or how, and this means the mystery of God is something deeper than something we can see or hear.  As written in 2 Corinthians 5, “So we are always confident; … we walk by faith, not by sight.”


Yes we walk by faith and we grow by faith.  We grow in stages, and by faith, we adapt. We don’t know how or why our bodies grow, but we do.  Indeed, hearing the good news, some will “indeed look and not perceive or indeed listen, but not understand.” (Mark 4:12)


This is different than being an engineer or landscaper, in that we don’t engineer our growth or how we ultimately turn out. When we read other parables, like of the sower of where the seed lands, we are left with questions and maybe desire to do engineering of some sort. 


These parables challenge that because growth does not depend upon ourselves and is ultimately requires faith in our greater being. Alan Watts has talked about faith like this. That faith is not an expectation of what happens, but faith that things will work out – letting God.


On this notion, John Calvin agrees that we cannot control our destiny, and why we don’t do this alone- that we cannot. That is why God’s grace is so “irresistible” and why our faith is so important.  Our faith in God’s nourishment is what allows us to grow, even in darkness, amidst calamities, droughts or division. The seed knows nothing of what will happen, but with faith, the seed transforms from something small (maybe somewhat insignificant) but something in darkness, in the ground, this something transforms into something else that is life giving.  We grow from God’s creation to give life forward. 


There is something deep, personal and intimate about this feeling. There is something powerful about the strength of our faith to go beyond what we think we see or don’t see.  We learn, we adapt, we grow into what we are meant to be.  Because, Faith allows us to seek justice in the midst of misfortune. Faith to encourage love over violence, pointing fingers or false accusation because the truth is much more than us. Faith says to be the love.


When we are deeply self-giving, deeply trusting in the faithfulness of God – for a people trying to figure what to do, there is something powerful here.  Yet, there is patience and observation of steps to take  – to grow - to be transformed – to continue.


The mustard seed parable continues with this image with the idea that we do well when we are connected to God, so we want to stay connected to the greater stalk and grow as strong branches of the one. 


Think about it, the old tree has many tales to tell, but it got there over decades of practice in faith. It still produces sap and fruit because it is connected to the soil – connected to God. A good person, a good church, does not necessarily know the why (or how) it works, it just knows because we grow and we are connected to God.


Thanks Be to God.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Who Are Family - Mark 3

Who Are Family

 – How do we recognize Jesus?

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Sermon based upon Mark 3:20-41, Psalm 138, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1


Opening prayer


We know that people can be cynical and scornful - if not outright hateful.  When people see someone like Jesus preaching and having these massive crowds, there is some jealousy growing in the local scribes.  How does Jesus get all of this attention ??


They start mocking his work and miracles as some trickery and demonic magic – the work of Beelzebul. So the first part of the Gospel text for this week is a critical response to these attacks.  How can you call Jesus Satan when Jesus is working to cast out Satan?


That Abraham Lincoln refers to this text in speeches in his run for Senate in Illinois tells how important this text is.   “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Then candidate Lincoln was referring to the persistent division of the country based upon slavery, which he predicted was going to tear apart the country - how correct he still is. 


We know that some people like to swear and curse more than a fair share. (I have lived in neighborhoods where you could tell what time of day it was by the volume of curses.) People might look at the middle verses and have some pause:

28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

When we witness Jesus or God working but completely deny it, then we might run afoul of this. Thus, it is important for us here to be conscious of when we witness Jesus working.  


It is great to see Jesus working in people doing wonderful things (e.g. that wonderful meal, graduations, a child scores the run, the success at the office, or a person pulled from a fire). 


We can recognize Jesus when people celebrate heritage (Black, Asian, Native tribes, or even Pride). Our Bible tells us to celebrate these.


Yet, we are challenged to witness Jesus also when people march for justice, equality and fairness in our laws. That’s what Jesus did. Additionally, we ought to witness Jesus when people atone for mistakes – Jesus forgives and so should we. We ought to recognize when we have screwed up, be willing to atone and forgive ourselves because we know no one is perfect - we all fall short. 


This is a central theme of Mark’s Gospel and Jesus’s teaching. Remember from Mark 1, Jesus proclaiming “the time is fulfilled, the kingdom is near, repent and believe…”


That is why Jesus in the last part of the lesson talks about where family is.  Not just family by blood (who in Mark’s Gospel also were trying to “restrain” Jesus saying “has gone out of his mind.”) 


You may have thought that about me, and I know I haven’t been perfect – but I preach what Jesus says and did. It is not always an easy path.  That is not to say I have the only perspective either. 


People like to twist this into an argument against diverse perspectives and experiences. Jesus offers grace and teaching beyond his own community.  Sorry, Jesus did not offer extraordinary powers or wealth- that would be false teaching. Instead, the focus is upon ways to connect with God, ways in which we can see and witness God in our lives and those around us. 


These are ways we can witness family all around us - not by casting negativity about others.   That only serves to sow division and hate, which our human society has plenty of ways. That is how we devolve into fighting and wars because we are too busy trying to find what is wrong with others, demean people or relegate their work as meaningless rather than finding what we can learn from each other - perhaps growing with each other.


This is one of the reasons I have grown to dislike social media. That for all of the promise it holds to reconnect friends, it has become mired in echo chambers where people shout at each other in careless, one-way, baseless claims and accusations rather than honest dialog.


So instead, Jesus teaches inclusion with forgiveness and redemption available for all. That means having conversations rather than demeaning people.  That is the core of the good news!  They who recognize this, (if you recognize this), you recognize Jesus, and recognize God.  Those who practice this, practice Jesus and find Jesus filling hearts and minds with love, justice and grace.  


By our faith, we too can witness the possible of Jesus. That is the family Jesus refers here. Those who recognize forgiveness and the kingdom is available to all God’s children. Thus, sit with Jesus to learn rather than pointing fingers and false accusation.


Yes, I am not perfect. I recognize that I am broken and I fall way short. That is why we have God – to build us up. Through faith, the power and restoring grace of Jesus’s spirit guides us to be more than our brokenness and our mistakes.  We are, after all, children of God, and with that, we have so much given to us and so much possible – and we have church -our family. 


If we open our eyes, our ears before we open our mouths, we might be willing to open our minds and our hearts to the possible - the grace of Jesus near us and with us.


Let your faith connect you to all God’s children! Let your hearts grow beyond accusations, the difficult and brokenness. Watch your heart flourish nearer to Jesus.


Thanks be to God.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Spirit of the Living God - John 15

Spirit of the Living God

Tony E Dillon-Hansen

 

Reflection based upon John 15, Psalm 104, and Acts 2.

 

Opening prayer.

 

Recent conversations and in preparing services for my cousin this weekend, I found myself ruminating over the Spirit of God, Advocate or Holy Spirit. 

 

That leads me to tell you a story about a fellow from a many years ago…

 

It is a story that is shared by many including those from my patron saint of Anthony of Padua, also Francis of Assisi, Augustine of Hippo, interestingly many other writers across faiths echo some sentiments of this. It is one of the reasons I enjoy reading from the Gospel of John because Jesus invites us to feel (or witness) the presence and mystery of God in so many ways.

 

What is this mystery?

The power and mystery of God can readily be expressed and experienced (fully and without fear) through that of the Holy Spirit.  Again, Jesus in the Gospels invites us to consider God in our hearts and the Spirit all around us. 

 

I can tell you all day long how to get there, to feel it (it takes practice), but to describe, I do no justice.

 

When you do feel it, you can feel it and you know it. We witness the presence of God best when are hearts are free and our minds let go.  Just like our story, when you just sit and let God, you will find the spirit working for us and with us – that when we don’t try to force it or dominate it – but instead just let the Spirit reveal to us. 

 

That is part of the grace people feel in the arts, in martial arts or any activity when you fully immerse yourself into what you do.  In those moments you let go of every other thing and focused upon now. This is one way people who do mindful mediation – focus upon the breath. Yes the Spirit of God transcends cultures and activities (not just prayer/meditation – although great place to start).  In those moments, you may experience the Spirit even if you don’t necessarily recognize in that moment.  The spirit is working with you and you with it. 


In the moments when you feel stress and difficulty, that is when we really need to take a moment and we can find a little smile by connecting to the Spirit. 

 

You see, when you fully embrace and embody all that is there around you – you can transform and reach.  You can see things, hear things and walk with the Spirit in that experience – and beyond.

 

St Paul echoes in Romans “hope that is seen is not true hope” similar notions found in Tao Te Ching, the true Tao/the true spirit cannot be described. I find that to be true. For me to describe the experience of the Spirit in words is really to distract from the justice, the grace, the promise, the love and the joy the spirit provides.  And… You can get there.  That is one of the reasons you will often hear me talk about “letting go and letting God.” 

 

It is fair to say this is a mystical experience (to say the least) but one that helps us begin to understand the mystery of God and to flourish in that mystery. To flourish and commune with the Spirit that surrounds us, binds us and makes us.  This is part of what Master Yoda in Star Wars means when challenging young Luke on who we are (not just flesh and bone “crude matter”) but we “are luminous beings” full of spirit that helps us connect with the greater wisdom of God. There we can find great strength, courage and peace.

 

You may even think, Tony has flipped his mind – and you may be correct.  But there is something to this I guarantee. I can tell you when you experience, then you too might sound like someone flipped their mind. 

 

Even in phone call across vast miles, we can commune in pray not only with the grieving widow but also listen for the Spirit working through us together.  We can experience this - amazing - individually and together like this.  Through breathing, sitting, seeing, walking and seeing even more. We don’t have to have all of the answers. We don’t have to force it or pretend even, but we can let God work. 

 

Maybe if we all just sit a moment, and let God’s Spirit be with us, there would be no need for violence, there would be no poverty, there would be no struggle. That is God’s kingdom for us – the holy city on the hills. 


Yet we live in this world, and we know there is so much that challenges us like the violence, arguments over political divides, struggles for mental health (it is Mental Health awareness month) or helping the homeless. 


There are stresses all over, and many things out of our control.  


Help where you can, like giving food to the homeless – or helping those that do. Let God take care of what we cannot control, and most importantly, let God take care of you. There is the Spirit of God ready to guide you and you – to help realize God’s kingdom right here and now. 

 

I may not be able to cure the world’s ills or physical pain, but through the Spirit we can journey together and we can find healing.  Maybe that is the point. Sit and Walk with the spirit.  Let it work with you. Feel it tickle your heart. Let it guide you and your actions.  


Then, you too may experience the grace, comfort and amazement of wiser people than I and all of us who learned from them.


Thanks Be to God

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Discipleship - Acts 1

Discipleship

Tony E Dillon-Hansen

16 May 2021


A reflection based upon Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 • Psalm 1 • 1 John 5:9-13 • John 17:6-19

Opening prayer.


On this seventh Sunday of Easter, our scripture raises heritage, eternal life, and discipleship.


The Story of 12 (Roots and Foundation):


In Act, there is this invitation to Matthias to preserve the number 12. The question can be raised of why the number 12.


There is a relationship of the 12 Apostles with the 12 tribes of Israel. With that, we are also reminded of the importance of heritage because our Church has roots in Jewish traditions and culture. 


Fundamentally, the reminder is not just of our roots. We are reminded not to forget the lessons and the celebrations of our heritage. All people have heritage, and we are commanded in Deuteronomy to pay homage to our parents, our heritage.  Heritage is part of our discipleship in this way. So we ought to give space for all people to honor their heritage in the ways their traditions teach them. 


That is one reason we read the Hebrew Bible. That is not just a story about God but lessons and human fallibility. We read about obstacles, threats, destruction and pathways to liberation. We are reminded not to forget these lessons. I wonder if that might be part of what is happening in Gaza. People, too easily, forget our roots and common bonds with each other in God that we all love and cherish. We still make mistakes. 


Yet, Jesus reminds us to work and pray for peace.


Our Scriptures also celebrate many achievements. Like Confirmation and graduations, success and accomplishment are gifts reminding us the Creator has been helping us to learn. Yes our heritage, our scriptures, and our community come together with struggles, and we come together with celebrations.


Story of Eternal Life (Future and Legacy):


Our epistle reading reminds us what Easter means, specifically this “Eternal Life”. What is that? Some may think it refers to the afterlife. I honestly don’t know what happens on the other side of death --  I have not been there, and I prefer to take my time getting there.


What really does “eternal life” mean for us today? The question we should ask, what life do we make here and what do we share? What does that mean for discipleship?


Consider that epistle means “testimony.” Part of Discipleship is testimony. Testimony is our witness and telling our story. Through our stories, we have life and we reveal our connections, our community, and our families. Through these, we find eternal life.


The youth have shared their stories and their faith with each other - and with you. We reveal our faith through our testimony, our discipleship. 


If we are to be true in our testimony, then we must not be afraid of the struggles and questions in our lives – not just the easy parts.  Those hard times are just as important because those reveal our humanity and lessons – our heritage – our journey of discipleship. (Psalm1)


Doing Stephen ministry or pastoral care, when people tell me their story, even the hard parts,

That’s when we have a chance to heal because we are honest in our witness and love. Then people can find the path and learn from each other.


Then we build community and experience the Spirit together. We build life together with all God’s children. We do so through our deeds and actions because discipleship is more than just fancy words & prayers.


Discipleship (Working and Praying the Present):


Through our discipleship, we are examples of that life and what Easter means to us even during dire times. We work to feed the homeless. We reach out to the crying widow. We march with our neighbors for justice and peace. We support those who protect and serve. 


What are you doing today to live your heritage, to give witness of God’s justice – to reveal your discipleship in your life and your family?


Perhaps, the world seems to be full of people that don’t share your values. In rough times, you may feel hurt, lonely or repressed. When you do, take pause, lean into your witness. Remember God is there.


The path is before us - even when we feel alone or lost.  It is ok to ask your questions. God gives space for learning and growth. Look up and see the light before you. 


Heed your lessons! Witness the possible before you! Lift up the many experiences around you. As a Church, we rise and support each other (just as our youth stated). Work with faithful heart and be the light for others to witness.


Witness and testify to the grace of God and serve Christ’s mission to all. Discipleship may not always be easy, and the world may not always understand. 


That’s ok, but we do! We live it – the best we know how! Jesus reminds us that we don’t have to be the same – or live in the same place (whether Melbourne, Des Moines, Gaza, Israel or otherwise), but together, we live our heritage, our faithful discipleship, because we know it gives life.


Our discipleship means acknowledging heritage, and witnessing the possible ahead of us and working with others around us in friendship and love to get there. Share with grace in your heart! That is the essential of discipleship. 


Share your testimony and witness precisely because the community needs it. (I learn from you and you learn from me.) Extend that faithful discipleship into our community. 


Together, we realize that community is belonging to each other - violence simply goes away. 

When we pray together, fail together, eat together, work together, sing together, then we heal together. We fill our community with our discipleship in our unique ways —we give life to our community and to ourselves.


Embody the presence that heals and shares love.

That is how we honor heritage – how we have eternal life.

That is how we live our discipleship!


Thanks Be to God.