Saturday, August 21, 2021

Dressing Up - Ephesians 6

Dressing Up

Tony E Dillon-Hansen

Sermon based upon Ephesians 6: 10-20, Psalm 84 and 1 Thessalonians 5:8

Opening Prayer

This text from Ephesians 6 tells us about putting on the “armor of God.” In a world full of struggles and worries, we are told that we can put on divine protection like a holy suit.  This scripture encourages us to use our imaginations to wear the protection of God around us like the “armor of God…fasten the belt of truth” and put on a breastplate of righteousness…” “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit.”  

We read something similar to this in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 “put on a breastplate of faith and love; ..helmet of salvation”.

I am reminded of times in my youth when we would dress in costumes. There is some fun in this text. So let God guide us. 

October 31 does not need to be the only time we can have fun with costumes and hats. As mentioned last Sunday, this feels like an opportunity to feel God in our unique ways. As someone who loves to wear different hats, let me show you some of them! 

Still we have to wonder if this text is just for us to have fun or are they reminding us of something else.  

There are a few points to raise here. 1) Dress with God! 

We know that what we wear is a part of out identity - revealing to people some measure of who we are. You might see a sports fan, cowboy, rivalry, colorfulness and yes even goofy. So yes there is also that perception of us - whether fair or not. When others wear something that expresses themselves - do we look upon it with welcome or with judgment? 

The question then for us - if we put on an outfit of God, what does that look like, what does it feel like? How would it change us? For me, I imagine that I feel comfort of a nice blanket on a cold night or flow of cooling fabric in heat - especially on a bike. If we put on clothes of love and faith, I bet that would that lift and fill our spirits too.

2) This really is saying instead - feel God around you. It’s not just outfits.

We know there are many things in this world that are just not right, chaotic, and feel broken. With hats, you could draw the hat lower to hide your eyes from the world, but when we do that, we lose perspective. God is right there for us to keep perspective.

We know that God is love. Thus, if God is love, wearing God’s armor is not necessarily metal plates of armor but “breastplate [made] of faith and love.”  We are asked to wear God’s love. Remember from earlier in Ephesians to put away malice and bitterness and “live in love.”  Put away those stressing things, make the most of time (aka “carpe diem”) and turn towards the love of God. Be kind to people and wear that love as your favorite outfit.

3) The next point to raise with this image of us putting on God like clothing also begs the question is why would we ever take it off - that we are reminded to feel God around us or we leave God somewhere instead of letting God be with us.    

Paul is reassuring churches (then and now) that we are not just people who meet once a week, but that we meet to feel God’s presence in Church and to take the presence with us into our whole lives. 

When we go home after worship, do we just leave God at the church - all packed up neatly and waiting for next Sunday… or do we bring God home with us? Wear this holy clothing with you into life and community.  

I have seen this so many times when people pray good prayers and sing good hymns in church and then as soon as they step out the door, its like instant forgetfulness.  

That isn’t to say be boastful and prideful. (Matthew 6 tells us, those that do, they will have their reward.)  

4) God wants us to share this gift and for us to recognize that others also have this gift. Wearing that love of God and feeling the love around us like a blanket can do so much for us - but so much for others.  

Loving God and loving neighbor takes practice and effort.  It is why Jesus says this is a struggle, but a struggle with so much reward.

We want to show up for church. Be filled with the Spirit and wear that love into our community. When you do, when you fill yourself with that love and let love embrace you, then the world is a much different place, less scary, less toxic, less arguing because we have made room for grace and the love of God. We transform into something bigger than us because we allow ourselves to feel God.  

Let God be in us and with us. See the blessed in and around messy, broken me and you see the blessed in and around messy, broken you. Amazingly with God’s help, we together achieve so many things with the different ways we feel and wear God’s love. 

Feel the amazing in you and around you.

So how do you dress up with God? how do you feel the love of God?

Thanks Be to God.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

What is Wisdom - Ephesians 5

What is Wisdom

Tony E Dillon Hansen

Sermon based upon Proverbs 9, Psalm 34, and Ephesians 5:15-20

Opening Prayer:

Bret and I enjoy watching some Netflix and 80s/90s TV because we get to see a lot of stuff from growing up. From those shows in the past, I have a few favorite characters like Mr Miyagi, Yoda, Col. Sherman Potter from Mash, and the Golden Girls quartet. 

Miyagi would teach lessons by revealing the power of simplicity by turning the washing a car into lesson and having respect for all living things. Yoda would reveal ways that we share great energy and spirit. Col. Potter would share nuggets with fellow service people. The Golden Girls would expand horizons to teach us how each of us have our strengths and weaknesses; That when times are tough, through friends and family, we can achieve and grow on our own journey - especially with cheesecake. 

Each of these teach the power of listening and power of compassion for people and life. Each of these share wisdom that invites connection and listening to stories because that is how we grow and how we as community thrive. 

Wisdom is not just rhetorical words, but how we dive into messy issues and learn to get up. Wisdom is learning to use the gifts we have right in front of us and then sharing that insight through teaching, guiding, and patient listening. As a master myself, I gained more from my students than my own training.

Proverbs presents a banquet hosted by divine wisdom, and Ephesians opens the treasure chest of God’s gifts for us to see (not just for me-me-me but) for you and me and everyone in our community.  Wisdom is the gift of sharing. 

Even stories like some Rose Nylon stories - imperfect as they might be - are nuggets of sharing grace. That is why I like fellowship time, and thank you for sharing your insights. May I be reminded to sit calmly and have the patience to listen because we all know that listening takes patience. Not so I can respond to whatever is said but to take in and understand perspectives, acknowledge the gifts of each other, and grow in our mutual sharing.

Proverbs gives us wisdom as a host of a banquet; come eat the bread and drink of God’s wine. God as host prepares a table for us to live life and experience life through Christ - the bread of life. God prepares a banquet so that we might share these gifts.

“Lay aside immaturity and live with insight of God.”

How do we do that?  I am so glad you asked because Ephesians gives us several suggestions for this.  

Ephesians narrates a cosmic picture of God’s plans - with Christ as head of our great Church and us the body - a community of prayer - a community blessed with redemption, forgiveness, the honor of encountering God.  Ephesians opens up for us the treasure chest that God gives us because 1) we are “no longer strangers and aliens but citizens … members in the household of God.” (2:19)

If you were looking for how to live wisely, you can look in Ephesians 4:25-32

“Let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another… work honestly with our own hands. Let no evil talk come out of our mouths. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander together with all malice…. Be kind to one another forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children. And live in love.”  

We can read that feel-good wisdom all day long.

I can regurgitate facts and read verses but knowing and reading is only half the battle. 

Those are the tools, but what we do with those blessings and knowledge is where we see wisdom born in the world and through us - Shared through us and patient listening through us. 

If you leave the lessons in the book, then the knowledge given to you does nothing more.

If you however let the verses guide your heart, you will find ways to Christ through our thoughts, our words and our actions.  

Do you welcome like God welcomes?  Do you speak the truth? Do you forgive like how God forgives? Or do you let bitterness, anger and slander rule your day? Do you let others define that for you or do you let God define that grace - that good in you? 

Yes we fail at times, but there is never a better time than now for God’s grace!

The debate around COVID vaccines and masking is perfect example. We could choose to ignore the actual facts and believe disinformation instead. OR, we could do the correct thing - the sensible thing- and be examples of how not to spread COVID.

Wisdom is understanding there are paths of disinformation and illusions that hide and look “easier” - paths that separate us from the way of God. God’s way is not always easy - maybe even tough at times - but needful. So put away the angers and bitterness as they distract us.

Col Potter told one that if you gonna love someone, it isn’t easy. When things are difficult, you learn to love them a whole lot more. Miyagi would say “no matter what, always breathe.”

Wisdom is witnessing God’s cosmic plans for us in us - in our breath. It is living in the truth and sharing that truth to those around us in our compassion and empathy. 

Yes the fierce lions will have hunger, but those who seek God’s way will have all we need (Ps 34).

To our original point, wisdom is understanding that we are not the only ones harboring wisdom.  All God’s children have these gifts, and thus, we must make space for God and for our neighbors so that we can learn the many ways people come to God.

Loving God and loving neighbor are not always easy, but these are divine ways to have a better life and better community.  Loving and imitating God as children of God may not be easy, and Jesus tells us this. Yet, if we choose Jesus, we choose to walk a path with so much potential - a path that leads to rewards for us. 

That is wisdom. Open your heart to life, the bread of life, connect with people. The compassion of God is poured out for you and for you to share. Speak with truth and from your heart! Pour out your forgiveness and blessings. Then watch the whole community flourish and grow together because we connect to something much bigger than ourselves. 

We are part of the beloved children of God with all those gifts shared with us. So sit down with some cheesecake and friends. We don’t have to worry about our brokenness because God forgives our sins with an “ocean of forgiveness” every morning. We don’t have to wonder if there is enough because God replenishes our souls every morning with grace. That is not our doing but wisdom from God. Find that wisdom in your heart and see all you need in God. 

That, my friends, is real wisdom.

Thanks Be to God

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Bread of Life - John 6

Bread of Life

Tony E Dillon-Hansen

1 Aug 2021

Reflection based upon John 6:24-35, John 4, Psalm 78, and  Ephesians 4:1-16

Opening prayer

Beloved, I have told somethings about my grandmother, and today, I will share one more with you  My grandmother used to make an awesome bread that had to eat the crust and all- was great with her homemade jam and butter .. oh it could be described as “bread to die for.” 

I remember the flour drawer, how quickly she could take water and yeast and within a few minutes have span in the oven.  The whole house would fill with aroma of baking - even on a hot day, you knew something good was coming.

It was so good you ate the crust, especially paired with her awesome jams. It’s not like whole crowds would come to share in the bread (although with our family size, you might describe that as a crowd).  

I never learned Grandma’s recipe, and as much as I rave about her cooking, she would not compare her bread to that which Jesus gives.

Her bread is brief sustenance or may go bad (e.g. perish), but maybe the focus is upon the wrong things. Her awesome cooking lasted us couple hours; Jesus gives us bread of life. Jesus gives life.

First Jesus challenges the crowd “you are looking for me, not because you saw signs but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”  Grandma or I can bake wonderful, but I don’t have a crowd running after me for them.  That is what Jesus observes here. There are misunderstandings that Jesus means to clear up.

To help us understand this misunderstanding, let’s look at another text.  Today, I invite you to see the parallels from John 4 with the woman at the well.

I love this dialog between Jesus and the woman that comes out to draw water from the well.  Jesus is just sitting there, he tells her to “give me a drink,” and they have curious conversation about faith.  She challenges how can you ask me to draw water for you. Jesus says if you knew God, you would ask for living water instead. She inquires about this “living water” - where do you get it?

Jesus tells the woman, that everyone who drinks of the water from the well will be thirsty again, but the water I give will bring “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (4:13-14).  

The woman beckons “…give me this water so that I may never be thirsty …” (4:15)  

After this conversation, she questions how we find God, and Jesus tells her “God is spirit and those who worship [God] must worship in spirit and truth.”  There it is.

She lets Jesus fill her heart and proceeds to tell everyone to come witness Jesus for themselves.  “You gotta see this.”

Similarly, Jesus answers in this in the Bread of Life discourse “Do not work for the food that perishes.” (6:27) The crowd asks Jesus to give this bread always. (6:34)

Jesus reminds us that the bread we eat is perishable, but the bread from Heaven is much more than just grain meld.  Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and … will never be thirsty.”  Jesus answers the people in the crowd and the woman at the well with reflexive - “I am.” 

The uniqueness of Jesus is the presence of God embodied. Jesus’s whole life in John institutes the Eucharist.

Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to use our senses to help find the spirit working - in tasting the great wines at the wedding (2:10), quenching our thirsts from living waters (4:10), blind gaining sight (9:11), the fragrant perfumes used by Mary to anoint Jesus’s feet (12:3), and hearing difficult teachings about the truth and life “..for I came not to judge the world but to save [it]” (12:47). Jesus reminds us that feeling is ok - just like a woman giving birth, the hour comes when the child is born, anguish turns into joy. (16:21)

Jesus helps us to use our senses to find God’s spirit in many ways. We may not always get God, but God gets us.

God answered Moses’s question by saying “YHWH” or “I am.” Jesus directly references this, but moreso, Jesus helps us to find God inside of us. Jesus reminds us that great presence is intimately inside us. Let God tickle your heart.

We all look for explanations.  In everything there is a season, you can witness God right there all along - teaching and guiding us. In some things, it is difficult to witness something so great, but when we give time and space, we can witness God when we let God flourish in us. We can search and find there is so much revealed for us.

Let that majesty be what you feel -right here. When you sip beverage, taste the presence that is there.  When you share a meal (or bread) with people, witness the spirit moving among you. When you smell aromas, let your nose help you find God in the space between the spaces.  When you see grace, don’t avert your eyes. Let God reveal to you how beautiful this world is. When you hug your spouse and children, witness God’s presence in the touch of compassion, love and grace.

When the crowd and the woman asks, give us this bread always (or this water). Jesus responds God already has. We may feel flawed, broken and messy but you see beloved, God has perfect recipes and made you!

God has given you life, all the joys to answer your struggles, and all that you need to quench your thirsts. 

Yes God made us in her image as her children. And together we make God’s community. “God in me recognizes God in you.”

Every day you wake, God is there. God is life, the bread of life - our daily bread - Not just words we say in prayer but life. The question for you is do you believe it, and will you let God’s bread be yours?

These are the necessary ingredients that you have been looking for, and Grandma doesn’t need to slave over hot ovens for it. This does not have a shelf life. You dont have to be in hurry or worry to get your share because God gives the bread of life for all of us. That is all you need. You, made from the perfect recipe!

Let your soul be nourished and fulfilled. 

Let God be your living waters and bread of life!

Let God be with you and sustain you.

Thanks Be to God.