Saturday, July 30, 2022

Prayer of Four Directions - Lakota Prayer

Prayer of Four Directions


All good things come from the east the freshening wind brings warm rain and sunshine. Each day guide us to see you in everything we do, everyone we meet. Be kind in your blessings, lord.



The warming south winds bring new growth, gentle rain, healing sunshine. Bless us with enough food and the good things from the earth. As we eat nourishing food help us to know you as the giver of all good gifts, lord.



The sun sets in the west giving us glorious colors in our life. Night can sometimes be scary. The darkness can also mean calming, healing sleep. May good dreams and deep sleep cleanse us from all that is bad or evil. Renew and refresh us, o lord.



North winds sometimes bring stormy weather and snow. Let your warmth in our coldness wrap us as with a blanket of love to keep away all that hurts. May all our people have warm houses and full tables against winter’s chill, lord.


From “The Lakota Prayer Book by Fr. Charles Flood, SCJ”

Sunday, July 24, 2022

How We Pray - Luke 11

How do we pray?

Tony E Dillon Hansen

Reflection for Luke 11:1-13, Psalm 138, Colossians 2: 6-7

Opening prayer

The lesson this week is one of the readings where we get the Lord’s Prayer, A little different than Matthew. That version is a little bigger and address a different audience than Luke. Luke is teaching not just Jewish communities how to pray but also those who are not Jewish.

These familiar verses than we say on Sunday are bracketed by the submission and the discussion.  Teach us to pray the way John taught his followers.

Jesus teaches to pray with whole heart and mind asking for the gifts that we need and God will respond.  

In verse 13, “how much more will the heavenly God give the Holy Spirit to those who ask?” This prayer asks us to understand who God is because the prayer is about relationship with God. 

To whom do we pray is important because we can have trust in God - trust in that relationship.

Beloved children, this God is our parent. In days of Luke, a parent would decide whether one lives as part of the family, sold or even killed. That is pretty ominous until we look at the character of God. Luke is pointing out to us the nature of God as good and generous. 

That is why we can trust in the relationship with God because the relationship is based upon love not fear. This relationship is based upon generosity of God and persistence of us as believers to ask and have confidence in who we ask.

God is holy and good, trustworthy and dependable - will do more than any human can because God is good - all the time. That is what God does. This gives us context to persist. You can ask God for what you want with persistence because of the deep and abiding relationship with God.  

Then the next question seems, What is going to make the relationship better? You can almost feel a bit of vulnerability on our part.  Like we talked about in our recent lessons, to make our relationship better is to remember that to be human is to bear the image of God in our world - To practice that goodness in our lives. We know that can be difficult.

The prayer commits us to actions - keeping God holy and sacred name. Because we keep God holy, we can ask for daily bread; we can persist in our daily prayers. 

The prayer then commits us even more, forgive us as we forgive others around us. Yes forgiveness is a gift from God but also how we can better our relationship with God and with those around us.  

What exactly are forgiving and asking to be forgiven? Lying, cheating, stealing are sins. Mishandling someone’s property are trespasses. And loan debts? When someone wrongs us, what is our reaction but to make people accountable? Are debts really just borrowed property but the virtual and spiritual banks that we use to measure what has been done well and what has not? What is it that we hold in those debts? 

This comes from Leviticus and Numbers and the Year of Jubilee. For those that would like a literal reading of the Bible, this passage gets overlooked quite often - has never been actioned.

Luke then reminds us that God promises to listen; why would one ask for fish and get a snake?

It is funny in our lives, when we do pray for an egg and then get an egg - somehow we are amazed. Think about that. That gives us more of that image of God - how are we so amazed with the gifts we get?

If you were to write a version of the Lord’s prayer, what would you say? 

Better question, how do you pray? Is it with these words, with song, with quiet heart?  Why do you pray? Are you trying to right your relationships - to recognize the holy - to be the image of God to people around us?

Psalm 138 gives us another way to pray with poetic words, but challenges us to follow up our words with actions. Let our prayer be holy, let our prayers be from our hearts and let our prayers be great because God is great!

Thanks be to God

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Listening to Wisdom - Luke 10

Listening to Jesus

Tony E Dillon Hansen

Sermon based upon Luke 10:38-42, Psalm 15

Opening Prayer

Today I am going to talk little about 1) lesson from Luke and 2) bit of my call story.

Whenever I read this passage, I giggle some and think: Brady Bunch.

We have two people showing different versions of hospitality.  Maybe you can identify with one or the other, or both at times. At one point I could be in the kitchen busy making a wonderful meal (I hope anyway). In that, I am pouring myself into my work, cleaning and tending as I can.

The flip is to be sitting with guests (presumably welcomed) having conversations.

Thus, Mary is sitting, listening to Jesus - to wisdom of Jesus. Martha is busy-body - doing service. Martha gets annoyed, “will you tell her to help.” A valid complaint.  Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha…” 

Is this a criticism? Not necessarily.  Martha represent hospitality of service, and Mary represents the hospitality of the Word. Yet, Jesus encourages Martha to pause and listen as well - to be served before serving. 

Besides, there is something wonderful about hearing wisdom, and this is Jesus. How often do we get that chance? How often do you pray?

Remember what Jesus says to followers (Luke 5). Jesus wants not just “fishers of fish” but “fishers of people.”  Those who stop and listen for a moment might understand why.

There is an encouragement to meditation in this. “You are worried and distracted by many things…” Pause and reflect.

In the whirlwind of life, rising stresses, and losing control. In those moments, it is time to pause, take a break, a Sabbath, and listen for a moment. Listen not just to words, but listen to creation working with you and guiding you. 

There is something about listening to wisdom, (not ego nor judgment) but wisdom. It is a pause from broken politics, demands, criticisms, pause from ugly egos. Wisdom just is, and you know it when you hear it.

That is why I love the Gospels. Like Mary, I find wisdom in the Word. The Gospels, reveal wisdom that values uniqueness of people, provides an inclusive welcome for all, and forgiveness when we need it the most. Along with Hebrew Scriptures and epistles, they teach us about the Creator and our relationship with the divine. 

I want to share that wisdom. I do my best to follow, and I know that I am broken and fallible. 

A bit of my call story…

I grew up in a devout family, and in my youth, I served the church because I loved the Gospel, especially the blessings upon broken people in Matthew 5 and the power of non-violent, inclusive love. 

Yet as I grew older, I felt a disconnect from teachers and those teachings. I felt sore lack of inclusion - even outright hostility. I walked away not sure I would come back.

When I studied martial arts, I dug deeper into the philosophies around them. My heart opened to wisdom in Asian traditions with many parallels to the Gospel teachings.

Then as it were, I was involved with groups that regularly met at Plymouth. I decided to attend a worship service with skepticism. Turns out, it was the first time in a long time where I felt I could question God. I felt inclusion as well. 

Then, someone came and asked “want to be a deacon?”, then later Stephen ministry which taught me to listen and to walk with people. One thing lead to another, and I felt something more. “The boss is on a roll!” I heard Jesus speaking/calling me.

In ministry, I hear people’s interpretations of sacred texts. Sacred stories invoke personal stories (some pleasant and joyful - some not). That is why they are living texts. When people tell me favorite verse, I want to hear why (not lists of memorized verses.) Tell me what you learned from them, and I am in.

Thus, I believe in the priesthood of all believers -  acknowledging that knowledge, presence and forgiveness of Christ belongs not just to one - but to all God’s children. You teach me as much as (I hope) I teach you. We teach each other by being the face of God to those around us. 

When you listen to Jesus speaking in these verses, find wisdom and meaning because they are our stories. See yourself in them.

I am merely a servant of the One who came before us and taught us. Like Martha, I serve how-ever and whenever I can. Sometimes I fail, but I do my best to bring the Word into this world, to share that divine wisdom and pause into our lives.

We have been given a ticket to God’s realm on Earth - an invitation to listen for Jesus still speaking and to seek the better angels in ourselves. 

Listen to the wisdom of extravagant welcome, compassionate love, and forgiving mercy - for ourselves and for all. Be that wisdom in our broken world to those we know and those we disagree. 

Be little like Mary and Martha. Feel good In your service of hospitality but never underestimate the value of wisdom in your presence. Be willing to sit and listen and find someone is nudging you to make good decisions - nudging you to enjoy the divine peace and share that with this world.

Thank you, St John. May my service be thought-provoking, growth-inspiring, and challenging when we need it, but also find ways to share the divine wisdom. 

Thanks Be to God

Why We need the Samaritan? - Luke 10

Why we need Samaritans

Tony E Dillon-Hansen

Sermon based upon Luke 10: 25-37, Psalm 25, Deuteronomy 30:9—14

Opening Prayer:

We return to Luke this week with a “lawyer” asking Jesus a question about the law - a test.  We know how people love to test Jesus. 

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds with a question, and the lawyer responds with verses from Deuteronomy, “you shall love God with all your heart and soul and your neighbor as yourself.” And for the grand prize, the lawyer follows the test with, “who is my neighbor?”

Jesus responds with story about 6 people. Let’s look at these characters and ask, “Why we need the Samaritan?”

  1. A traveller, a person going about their day.
  2. A robber - a violent criminal that leaves traveler for dead.
  3. A priest - who walks on other side of the road.
  4. A Levite - who also passes by
  5. A samaritan - who tends to the beaten and robbed
  6. An innkeeper - who is tasked to help care for the beaten and robbed.

We don’t know the rhyme or reason, but we can see glimpses of this robber around us, maybe even in us. Maybe, this person is so twisted that the sight of another invokes violence. There is a power trip that denies humanity or godliness. Maybe, they have every reason to lash out or just lost care for people. Question how could we stop this?

There are the two that have obligations to care for people and reach out to people, but for whatever reason, decide today is not the day.  Maybe, they think “I have more important things to do”, “there will always be victims”, and “I can’t do anything.” They read verses but seemed to forget the meanings. Yet, they yield to complacency when much more is needed.

The innkeeper plays the part of hospitality and caretaker. They do not know why the person is robbed (or if the robbers may come after them next), but they are given instructions to care. Let’s assume so.

Then the star, the Samaritan -> Why we have “good Samaritan” laws. 

What does the Samaritan do? They react first, not with vengeance or disdain or ignorance of truth. They instead become the face of God to someone truly and perhaps desperately in need. They react with healing, comfort, and compassion to this person beaten and robbed.

The would-be-robbed person, whose story we don’t know, but we see in our world as: traveller, walker, worshipper, student in school, shopper at market, homeless, or a woman just brutalized. (Ukraine even?)

What is our reaction? Who in this story do we identify or want to? Be honest and ask the question why? We could be anyone of these and all at once at points.

This is not just a cute story but a challenge to be like the Samaritan to find inside us compassion, empathy and care. React first, not with violence and hate, but instead meet the violence with a nudge of love.

I can hear someone in the crowd say, I would be packing. Question, does packing a weapon help us breed compassion? As a martial artist, we teach that whenever you show a weapon, you mean to use it. For self-defense, weapons hep none if you can’t get to it. Maybe it was left home, stuck in the purse, or the attack was such a surprise, there was no time to react or worse the weapon gets turned on us. 

How did it get to this point? There are many questions in that. Who then becomes the arbiter of life or ability to make decisions over one’s body and being? The criminal or those that ignore the tragedy as not my problem - That just continues the circle or violence?

Who among us needs someone to be the face of God today?

Who maybe needs a nudge to remind them that violence and control isn’t the only way?

Who needs the face of God that brings hope, love and mercy into our world - one person at a time?

Who serves the homeless, the downtrodden, the beaten, the robbed, the seeking among us - no matter where they are on life’s journey?

It might feel easier to be those that walk on the other side with ignorance, because there will be future robbers. Let us just pray that it isn’t us then that become beggars.

That is why we need the Samaritan. To remind us what the love of God looks like. 

Not turning blind eyes, but showing compassion. 

Not avoiding truths, but giving that measure of heart into a world that so desperately needs it.

Not turning to violence but sharing the love of Jesus in the precious and needed hour.

We need the Samaritan because they break the cycle. Maybe, the robber was at one time a person on the side of the road when everyone ignored. Maybe, the Samaritan was once that person beaten and someone showed them the face of God. They remembered that compassion.

What we do know is the Samaritan is what we need because they show the face of God with compassion, love and mercy. Beloved, that is how we can break the circle - this day and this most precious hour.

Prayer: “To be truly good means more than not robbing people . . . To be truly good means more than being righteously religious . . . To be truly good means being a good neighbor. . . . And to be a good neighbor means recognizing that there are ultimately no strangers. . . . Everybody is my neighbor! . . . Everybody is my brother! . . . There are no isolated monads wounded on the other side of the street! . . . We're all connected.”

― Brian D. McLaren, A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey

Thanks Be to God.