Sunday, April 17, 2022

Easter Miracles - Luke 24

Easter Miracles

Tony E Dillon Hansen

Sermon based upon Luke 24: 1-12, Psalm 118

Opening prayer

Let's wind the clock a short bit. Thursday brought us windy winds, then relative calm paralleled the story of the anguish and tumult that Jesus endured before fateful silence. Yet in the darkness, we saw light - light shining upon the cross and before us today to remind us that God’s power (God’s love) prevails over violence and anguish. God’s showed us a path to victory. 

Why? Because you and I are worthy. 

Now today is Easter - Hallelujah! Today is marked with miracle because this day itself is miracle. Discovery at the tomb leads to confusion gives way to recognition.

Why do miracles happen? Why do people try to explain them away as some farce that ought to be forgotten? 

We could do that and lose a moment of teaching reduced to happenstance.

We could sit and argue over why miracles happen. Doing so, we would forget that miracles do happen. These women remember what Jesus said with what they see.

A colleague of mine once said to me, everyday he wakes is a miracle. Yes this day is itself a miracle.

As a martial arts instructor, I have witnessed a few miracles as well like when a young girl who discovered she can break a board with her bare feet. Or how a parent and child grew a bond together as they rose in ranks.

For years an acquaintance and I did not see eye to eye. Then one day, we sat down and started talking; we learned about each other.  We remembered history and we still had doubts, but it was perhaps a miracle that we spoke after so much between us. 

Miracles contain blessings and discoveries not anticipated - some good news. If we explain them away, we lose what is truly there.

Still some contain our contributions. That means you don’t experience it alone. We contribute with effort and prayer, and then let faith and hope guide the next step because all things are possible with the help of God.

How do we explain the runner crossing the marathon finish line that years before doctors said she wasn’t going to walk, how a martial artist became master instructor after blowing both knees. How do we explain cancer that goes into remission? 

Our Gospels says Jesus does the ultimate - victory over death. The discovery at the tomb wasn’t some circus show, but recognition of victory over the gruesome and brutal torture (a Remembrance of what Jesus said).This miracle contains blessing - the freedom from bondage from sin.

This miracle was not just for one to escape death but for us to find life through Christ. 

Through this miracle, we have the blessing of freedom and the gift of life through this spirit. All of this is possible through God.

Yes there are miracles that contain our agency through training, discipline and skill, but maybe, a miracle is that we didn’t give up hope and faith; didn’t give up on the possible. Why because all things…  

Maybe, we have help along the way. You don’t have to walk alone. You are part of something bigger. Let God help us learn what is possible.

Miracles are lessons that with hope and faith, we persevere. They’re lessons that reveal God’s love and work in our lives - that we don’t do this alone - because we cannot. We need each other and we need God. That is why we come to church.

People like to say otherwise (e.g. No one helps me; I can do it all myself). A little idolatrous don’t you think? To think you have all that you need and all the answers, please write a book because people want to learn from you. 

Whether healing from injury, repairing friendships, surviving and recovering from a tornado, building a church, or simply raising a family, they don’t happen/grow on their own. They require care, effort and faith. Will there be mistakes? Probably. Perfection? Perfectly yours. Thank God, because all things are possible… 

In the darkest days and nights, when things are not going the way we feel they should, that is when we need strength to persevere. That is when we can reach deep and find that miracle of Jesus, the life in Christ, helping to build that strength - setting purpose and path before us. 

We may not understand the wisdom or see the end game, but wisdom of the divine is there. We go forward with God’s blessing and assurance that there is possible. 

Miracles are blessings because we believed the possible and prayed. We have hope; all is not lost. We believe there is a mystery that lifts us in greater purpose than we can imagine. That, my friends, is for you and for me today. We are set free through Christ’s victory to free us from the chains of sin. Why? Because all things

Finally, our task then is to share what we learn and what is possible with others. Like Mary witnessing so long ago shared the good news with the others. 

Our neighbors around us need that just as much as you do.

We are called to grow in miracle love of God and of neighbor - called to witness and to be a blessing for those around us. To show others that through God all things…

So share your smile, prosperity, helping hand, comforting arms and listening ears. Let the light shine upon you and be gracious to you. Let that light flow - be a miracle (a blessing) to others that God has been for you.

Through the Easter victory, we are set free to live in freedom together with our neighbors in Christ’s life of love. 

This Easter Christ is risen indeed hallelujah!

Let all things be possible for you too.

Thanks be to God!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

What would the stones say - Luke 19

 What Would the Stones Say

Tony E Dillon Hansen

Sermon based upon Luke 19:28-40; Psalm 118

Opening Prayer

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” We Shout hosanna! 

Shout hosanna - Why? - a good question

The symbolism of this marks a stark difference between the kingdom of God versus the Rome  on full display. 

Rome is full of pomp and circumstance, soldiers, swords, people wearing rich cloaks, horses - all on display to demonstrate the greatness of Rome with no doubt who is charge.

Jesus walks in from another gate into the city with multitude of ragtag folks, welcomed by people on the fringe, pulling branches from trees. There is a borrowed donkey, cloak used for sitting instead of wearing, even throwing some on the ground to be trampled by donkey and people alike, and Jesus - full of hopes, expectations and mystery.

Why is all of this happening? What have people heard? Who is this coming into their midsts? 

Roman Triumphs were for Romans and the leaders celebrating victory.

People ride on horses, in carriages for people to raise their heads to look up at them, upon the glory of these from a distance. They demonstrate public dominance - of the conquered “don’t even think it” - a reminder who is in control - For even elites and all to understand who the master is - it aint you.

Jesus “triumph” is all about the people and God. This entrance is all about life, hope, and upending traditions that take away life. For regular folks (you and me). You are worthy of celebration. God is throwing a party, you and I are invited. 

People bring their hopes and dreams “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” We Shout hosanna! 

Who do they think this one, Jesus, is? What do they expect Jesus to do? Some throw around these-titles of Messiah or king. What does that mean & What did they hope to find and see? 

That raises the deeper question of us here, Who do you want this Jesus to be? What do you want Jesus to do?

Take a look at Luke 19:40, these stones.  We have seen stones periodically these past few weeks. 

How did we make ordinary stones into something extraordinary? We passed a blessing onto them. Do you still have your stone? Your blessing? What does it say to you and why? Incidentally, it might say something different to you today then before.

The stones have been here before us, seen generations pass and will see more. What do they tell us today? We need saved and the good news has arrived!

Jesus is coming into Jerusalem to bring good news not just the countryside but for all people. 

People need hope, need reconciliation, need love and they need God. Maybe, that is what the stones say. The elites can dance all day on their parades, but we need our savior in Jesus - who brings hope, forgiveness and love. For this we shout hosanna!

Why? Because we are a child of God.We shout hosanna!

Jesus isn’t for just a few but for all. Glory is not just for those well-to-do, in horse-drawn carriages, with rich cloaks and military parades. God’s glory is for all.

Jesus is for the people who are forgotten, left out and pushed out. For this, We shout hosanna! 

For you and me who are doing the best we can, we who fail here and there - For this, we shout hosanna!

For those who work for a living, who navigate this world to raise families - to be good people. For this, We shout hosanna! 

Jesus teaches us to be with each other because we need each other instead finding ways to divide each other. For this, We shout hosanna!

Jesus walks among the crowd -  accessible and real not just a sight from afar or via social media, but in real conversation, real listening, real comfort, and real love.

This contrasts the world power; one that makes some afraid of worldly wrath. Fearful that those with all the so-called world power, in all its brokenness, will come down harsh upon this celebration. 

Quiet the people Jesus. Jesus says “even the stones would shout.”

Why - for they too come alive in this moment. For the young, old, the poor and the questioning. Those looking for victory, for hope, for strength, Jesus comes. For this, we shout hosanna!

Today in Christ, Beloved, behold all that we are and all that we can be - together.  

What would the stones say? Maybe, they are blessing us with hope, faith and love of generations. 

Listen carefully. God is speaking through them, God is coming, God is blessing.

Jesus brings celebration despite clouds of threat and violence- Jesus brings certain blessings of liberation and forgiveness to you.

It is time to shout, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Shout hosanna! 

The Lord has come for you! Shout out your frustrations and worries. Now Let God’s blessing be yours. Receive it, feel it - live your blessing!

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” We Shout hosanna! 

Beloved, let your heart sing!

Thanks Be to God

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Homecoming Party - Luke 15

 Homecoming party

Tony E Dillon Hansen

Sermon based upon Luke 15:11-32, Psalm 126, Psalm 32

Opening prayer

This familiar parable about two siblings may be Jesus is retelling the story of Israel via the fight between Esau and Jacob over birthright. Who will win? Who will be angry? 

This is ultimately a homecoming party because God celebrates finding those who are lost.

It concludes Luke 15 that focusing upon finding the lost: sheep, a coin or family. This story is not just about the prodigal one.

In this parable, we can see examples of the people in our own lives today (which is why the Bible is a living text).

You have two different people: one who works and toils and one who is lavish and reckless; the person who save versus those who squander (those who do all the right things vs do not.) The Ant vs the grasshopper.

Remember in Luke 13 when Jesus was asked about the people suffering in Siloam. People thought, “Ah poor them; they must have done something to deserve misfortune.”

Luckily, there is the third person, the parent figure.

Still, the question that gets raised. Who is more deserving of God’s love? That question begs transactions for God’s love. This for that - give my work, obedience to get God’s love. Simple easy and very deceptive. Because it pits us v them.

Do what God says to get God’s love. Nice. How many of you are perfect? Those who have never sinned can throw the first stone.

Maybe there is a fear of losing or we get less of what we are entitled by sharing and welcoming? That reduces God’s love into something we give, which is in of itself disposable and small because it limits God to our terms - to stinking thinking.

God’s economics don’t work like that. God’s love is so much bigger, more forgiving than we can imagine, which is what we need and in the moment - forgiveness and reassurance. When we feel so unworthy and broken, God is running to cover us and kiss us. God is there to deliver us and wash us free from our sins. 

There is a lesson here for us parents too. Let’s teach to bless the stones instead of casting them.

For You who have done the things that God asks, be grateful that God blesses you. (Ps 32) “Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in God. Be glad and rejoice, o righteous and upright in heart, shout for joy.” God’s love surrounds those who trust -whereever we are on life’s journey. 

God’s love is not constrained by frail human brokenness. God’s love is there for us in abundance (a harvest of joy and celebration) for who have been fortunate , for who hope is restored, and for who are lost. God has done great things for us and we rejoice. 

For we who are lost, God restores you so that you too may shout for joy. (Ps 126)

Maybe the question is: Do you have faith to believe that God’s love is truly big enough for all? Or Is God’s love, blessings and even this church are just for only those who have done the necessary? Think of the words we say to start worship every Sunday. God is equally welcoming to all. Let go of all your toils, and all you think you are entitled. Let go of your misery and be found. Run to God’s extravagant welcome, God’s love - for all God’s children

Fortunately like our last lesson about the farmer and man talking about the fig tree, God gives us - the tree - more chances even though broken people may not.

Make room for God to flourish and to welcome. Let yourself grow in that welcome. 

When the prodigal brother comes home, the parent throws a party. God is throwing a homecoming party and invites all to attend, especially you. You the sinner and unworthy, You, the person away toiling in the fields, it is time for you to come home too. It is time to celebrate the homecoming of God’s family. The question for you is, would you attend?

Thanks Be to God!

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Psalm 143 adapted

Psalm 143 (adapted)

A Psalm of David.

1 Hear our prayer, O Lord;
    give ear to our supplications in your faithfulness;
    answer us in your righteousness.
2 Do not enter into judgment with your beloved and humble servants,
    for no one living is righteous before you.

3 For the hostile enemy has pursued us,
    crushing lives to the ground,
    making us sit in darkness like those long dead.
4 Therefore, our spirits faint within us;
    our hearts within us are appalled.

5 We remember the days of old, we look forward to Your promise,
    We meditate on the works of your hands.
6 We stretch out our hands to you;
    our souls thirst for you like a parched land. Selah

7 Answer us quickly, O Lord;
    our spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from us,
    or we shall be like those who go down to the Pit.
8 Let us hear of your steadfast love in the morning,
    for in you we put our trust.
Teach us your way of peace and love we should go,
    for to you, we lift up our souls.

Inspire our eyes see in your path

    And touch our hearts that we may heal with your grace.

Inspire Your enemies to lay down their weapons

    And to seek evil no more in your sight. 

Guide us to be your love 

    To quiet senseless violence against your beloved.

9 Save us, O Lord, from our enemies;
    we have fled to you for refuge.
10 Teach us to do your will,
    for you are our God.
Let your good spirit lead us
    on a level path.

11 For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve our lives.
    In your righteousness bring us out of trouble.
12 In your steadfast love, cut off our enemies,
    and destroy the wicked leaders of our adversaries,
    for we are your servants in faith and humility.