Saturday, April 24, 2021

Good Shepherd - John 10

Good Shepherd

Tony E Dillon Hansen

25 April 2021

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

Opening prayer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks Be to God!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Witness of These Things - Luke 24

Witness of These Things

Tony E Dillon-Hansen

18 April 2021

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

Opening prayer.

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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

Beloved, you be witnesses of these things.


Thanks be to God.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter Miracles - Mark 16

Easter Miracles

Tony E Dillon Hansen

Sermon based upon Mark 16 and Psalm 118

Happy Easter!

Opening Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Honoring and Remembering - Mark

Maundy Thursday Reflection Mark 14-15

Tony E Dillon-Hansen

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

Opening prayer

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

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

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

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

Thanks Be to God.