Sunday, June 19, 2022

Encounter with Jesus - Luke 8

An Encounter with Jesus

Tony E Dillon-Hansen

Sermon based upon Luke 8:26-38, Psalm 42, Galatians 3: 25-29

Opening prayer

Today, we return to Luke. We observe someone that is so tormented and conflicted that they didn't wear clothes, was chained and lived among the dead.

Was it mental health issues, trauma or spiritual tortures as the cause? We do know what it is like to have something torturing us. Bad memories, something done to us, we did, or in our future: shame or embarrassing failure, something making us anxious. This can be consuming.

This person encounters Jesus - at first, challenges Jesus as someone deeply troubled, shackled and seized. This person pleads not to be further alienated, excluded or tortured.

That experience is all too common for some. Folks seek guidance from those they trust only to get spat at, demeaned, or simply ignored. 

That isn’t what Jesus does. Jesus does something radically different. Jesus doesn’t leave him alone hiding in a hole, has him his name, conversation ensues, Jesus brings him out of the hole.

Why? We must first recognize and name our affliction whether addiction, trauma, loss, etc. Then we can begin to heal.

There is radical transformation - going from tormented individual to proclaiming disciple - a witness to the power and the hospitality of Jesus.

Jesus sends these demons into pigs to drown. How many hog operations would like that? We could ponder the meaning of this, but let’s look at the people’s reaction.

People watch but don’t understand. Something happened: a person is transformed, but he was the only experiencing it. 

They see a system, a caste, slavery, segregation, class upended = an unwritten deal broken. This person was chained up and controlled away from them. They might have even thought what they were doing was good, besides it can be nice to have “out of sight out of mind” (things or people we don’t want to deal with.) Keep over there so I don’t have to see it, and I can ignore it (until one day we cannot.) 

The people want things to go back to the way they were - the familiar. Change can breed fear and contempt.

We do this today. We live around so much anxiety and death, whether actual death, but dead ideas, notions that were once thought to be good. That change has spurred violence from fear - in our neighborhoods, our schools, and communities. 

We watch the world spiral in real time. Worry comes easy, but also fear, anger and hate. Some feign safety for ourselves or those ideas, but people are frightened about what they don’t know, don’t understand or don’t want to understand, whether demon possession or personal transformation.

Ultimately, when guided by fear, we can make some pretty bad decisions until we cannot see truth, reality, or the loving Spirit of God.

Stop. Instead look inside, name what ails you, talk with God & break the chains,. It may just be radical to nudge ourselves and those around us with the grace and love we are taught. If I am the cause of someone’s chains, then release the chains of control. 

Find God’s forgiveness. We can free ourselves in that liberating forgiveness. 

For ourselves, when we look deep inside and see Jesus working, sending the demons of our hearts away, then we might experience something too. That encounter waits for us. That, Beloved, can be transform our broken bodies and our world with healing and growing in love. 

Yes it starts from within and then we share that with the person next to us, and then that person gets it and shares it with someone else and on and on - The realm of God is ready for us.

Then you might understand why this once tormented soul becomes a disciple of Jesus proclaiming all that Jesus did for them. 

Be image bearers of God -transforming folks into images of hope and forgiveness. Jesus transformed this one, simply by first seeing and acknowledging this person. Then let them start to hope and heal.

This passage also shows us the power of hope, healing, and love despite social chains.

Paul reminds (Galatians 3) that our faith frees us, and that faith works against all the wonderful ways society builds barriers and exclusion. The love of Christ dissolves worldly barriers to free us.

Because these words are here, the Gospel is here, hope is here! We have a challenge in this hope to dismantle sexism, classism, racism, heterosexism, political division. To heal trauma and to grow in love instead.

Don’t hide in fear. See how beautiful you are, child of God.

Be image bearers. Beloved, find the work of Jesus inside - transforming you into something new. Then reveal the possible, the love of Christ from your heart.

Thanks be to God

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Access to Grace - Romans 5

Access to Grace

Tony E Dillon Hansen

Sermon based upon Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15;Psalm 8; Proverbs 8

Opening prayer

Today is called Trinity Sunday and offers another chance for us to think about the manifestation of God.  We could go into centuries of church dogma on the trinity. 

I submit to you there is something more tangible than dogma. 

I heard someone once say, “We cannot completely comprehend how God manifest’s in our world.” Yet, we know with certainty that we have a leader (not like the ones on the ballots this past Tuesday). We have someone that we can trust, even when things get ugly. 

Isn’t that what we need in these times? 

Trinity explains the experience and history of the church through the ongoing presence of God manifested in spirit and the person of Jesus teaching us. What that means more than anything is that God is relationship. Revealed in the person and further through the spirit. 

You don’t have to have it all figured out because God is going to be with us. The spirit, the advocate, the companion guides us. There is so much power right at out finger tips at our reach. Yes, you have trials and challenges but the spirit of Christ is with us today and gives strength when we access that grace in prayer and our good actions.

No one wants or asks for trials and challenges. You never see a person at the checkout counter when they ask “did you find everything you needed” respond with something like “you know, I was looking for trouble and pain, hurt, and confusion.” I certainly don’t. No one ever said give me more pain, more discomfort, or more confusion. 

There are moments when trouble seems to be stalking and all too opportunistic. Yet we don’t need to feel alone.  We can tap into the mystery. We can tap into the relationship, the spirit, the teachings of Jesus to guide us to better paths, better hearts and clearer minds. 

It is a mystery that we cannot grasp. John’s Gospel starts out by reminding us that Christ is the word made flesh. Experience the Word and feel it in your soul, in your heart, in your breath. Let the eternal connect to you! How wonderful !

God is not about politics or partisan motivator, but God is justice and love that shines light on the world as what is possible. “The Holy Spirit pours God’s love in the hearts of Jesus believers.” Let the spirit pour that into your heart.

That is what I think Paul is referring when saying, God’s Spirit given to us - gives us “access to the grace of God” wherever we are on life’s journey and in the many expressions of God’s love. 

That is why Paul writes we are “justified by faith” and “we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” This is not flamboyant bragging, but hearty excitement for what God does for us. Be excited in someone that rises above politics to give life and liberation from the worldly torments. We boast in that relationship. 

Like all relationships, they come with risk - not from selfishness or foolishness but something grounded in a loving self-confidence warmed with the Holy Spirit around us.

These divine gifts - faith, love, hope - (1 Corinthians 13); These give us endurance and character to prevail over suffering. God is God; we are not. That can take so much pressure off us. We can let God be God instead of trying to do everything.

Then maybe together, we can figure things out as a church (our relationship with each other and with God) and witness the spirit working within us and between us. 

We can witness God’s promise, God’s grace realized through faith.

Romans 4 reminds us that we all fall short and fail before the perfection of God. We have a lot of noise in our lives. That noise distracts  us. What are we listening to that distract us from what God calls us to do and God says to us? 

Listen carefully and hear God speaking to you in your work, in your prayer, where you sit, where you stand and where you lay down. Look for that relationship (even when you fail) and you will find a doorway to grace.

Then you too will realize “hope does not disappoint because God’s love is poured into you heart through the Spirit.”

Thanks Be to God.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Winds of Change - Acts 2

Winds of Change

Tony E Dillon Hansen

Sermon based upon Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104 and John 14:27

Opening Prayer

When the Soviet Union released its grip on eastern Europe there was this enormous sense of happiness and relief that erupted as Germany reunited and the East opened up, breathed a collective sigh and celebrations of community. There was this song by Scorpions called "Wind of Change" that seemed to encapsulate the spirit of peace breathing on us all.

There are different ways people can describe the Spirit. Words may not fully do justice, but feeling can.  The spirit is one way people connect to the universe, the spaces, the holy in meditation. When we sit, pause, breathe, Clear your mind, clear your shoulders of your burdens, clear your hearts of worry for just a moment.

Feel the wind around you, witness the spirit in that wind, feel that spirit move you and be with you.

Acts sets into motion for the disciples the next step in their journeys as followers and students of Jesus to become community, to become church. In this unexpected show of the spirit, Did they realize what happened ?

All were filled with the Holy Spirit - what happens when that happens? There is a spirit manifest in communal setting not just the personal.  They became spirit to each other. In your breathing, you join with others in the room.

When that happens, experience pure relief and happiness. Clarity opens your heart, your lungs: clarity that opens mind and soul.

God transcends fear and arrogance to show us the truth in us and with us. Make room for the spirit to clarify and open up your heart. Then we find places in our hearts full of love. Let that love pour out into our world. Together in community, we feel and sense the love and spirit of God’s peace found in all life (Psalm 104).

In that discovery, we find the spirit, part of the holy in us. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? Isn’t that something worth celebrating? Are you worth celebrating? Yes you are! 

Feel that grace. People may say it’s only 10:00 and they look drunk. When you are full of the spirit, you may look a little different, happier with assurance, confident with holy courage and comforted with grace hugging you in the wind of change around you. 

Life is still a challenge and full of change. Change is not to be feared but to be embraced when you invite and witness the holy. Who accompanies you in this journey of life, of community, of church?

When we allow ourselves to witness that spirit in our hearts, we find the strength as well to speak up against violence in our world; to speak to someone who needs a nudge in their own lives; to help someone see and feel a better way of peace and love rather than those of fear and demagoguery.  

Think: how much pain someone must be feeling to plan murdering 2nd graders, grocery shoppers, or church goers?  What could someone have said to them to witness their pain, be with them and change their hearts from cold to God’s warmth? Sometimes, all it takes is “I see you; I feel you - you are loved!” We can’t reach all, but we can reach those near us.

Find the spirit nudging us to share the Spirit of peace with others. Then, together we might be able to prevent a shooting. Besides, schools do not need to be the front lines of our culture wars, and they need less guns instead of more. 

The spirit is not just for personal but for communal witness - to be shared. Reach into your community, into your neighbors to show them this way of love and grace - the winds of change. Find that spirit growing in you, in your breath, and know that the holy walks with you. Find that spirit growing in us and walking with us.

When the Soviets left, all of the world breathed a sigh of relief. There was no longer east versus west, but all of Europe and world full of opportunities. There was a spirit of peace that prevailed over all countries and languages. A holy spirit to be experienced. All understood and felt the spirit. Maybe that is what it was like in that room over a couple millennium ago.

“Take me to the magic of the moment 

On a glory night

Where the children of tomorrow share their dreams

With you and me 

Take me to the magic of the moment 

On a glory night

Where the children of tomorrow dream away

With you and me in the wind of change.”

Sit, pause, breathe. Feel the “peace I give.” Witness the magic of this moment, the wind of change. Take the next step.

Thanks Be to God