It All Begins With Hope

On November 29, 2011, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

It All Begins With Hope Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Advent 1, Year B 2011 Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is the first season of the Christian Year. And here we are, once again, at a new beginning: the first Sunday of the first season of a new Christian year. And the first […]

It All Begins With Hope
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Advent 1, Year B 2011

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is the first season of the Christian Year.

And here we are, once again, at a new beginning: the first Sunday of the first season of a new Christian year.

And the first Sunday of Advent not only begins the new Christian year, it also begins the period of anticipation leading to the birth of Jesus. And recalling Jesus’ birth, we also remind ourselves to let the Christ light shine more brightly in and through our own lives.

Now during the 4 week Advent season, we focus on a different positive aspect of faith each week. During the four weeks of Advent we also embrace the qualities of hope, peace, joy, and love.

But it all begins with hope.

Hope is what our gospel reading is about today. While the imagery may at first seem unpleasant, we must remember that apocalyptic literature is actually an expression of hope for better days.

Mark, written about 70 CE (the same year Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed) is responding to the world that he knows coming to an end. It’s already happened! He is expressing hope that something new and healing can rise from the wreckage. He isn’t predicting the end; he’s hoping for healing from the end that has already occurred. He’s hoping for a Christ experience that will “occupy” imperial Rome and bring healing and justice at last. Jerusalem has been destroyed; Mark hopes it has a future anyway. And to his hope he adds action; the action of writing a Gospel, a dramatic telling of Good News.

St. Clement of Alexandria said, “If you do not hope you will not find what is beyond your hopes.”

Now, let’s not confuse hope with a wish.

I may wish I was 6’5”, but I probably don’t really hope to ever be 6’5”. Hope means I really want it, I really believe it’s possible, and I’m really willing to do my part to make or allow it to happen.

I don’t really think I’ll grow 5 inches ever in this life, and frankly, I’m not willing to try any crazy scheme to see if I can add almost half a foot to my stature. So, whereas I might wish I were 6’5”, on close analysis, I don’t really hope that it will ever happen.

When we say, “I hope to make more friends” or “I hope to learn to play an instrument” or “I hope to take a vacation” or “I hope I can improve my self-esteem”…are we really hoping, or are we just wishing? Hope is rooted in a trust that it really can happen, and it is accompanied by a willingness to do what we can to aid the thing for which we hope. If we aren’t willing to change our attitudes, our behavior, or our habits, then we probably aren’t really hoping; we’re just wishing. And hope leads to fulfillment far more often than wishing does.

Sometimes people will say they are hoping for a return to the good old days.

Sometimes I remember them from the good old days; I remember that they were miserable, unhappy, and constantly complaining even back then!

The old days weren’t as good as they remember…in fact, their days, past and present, were never, are never, and never could be any brighter than their attitude; so even a return of the good old days wouldn’t bring them happiness. It would just remind them of the good old days they were longing for during those good old days.

Inventor Charles F. Kettering said, “You can’t have a better tomorrow if you’re thinking about yesterday all the time.”

You know those people who talk about their “ex” all the time…not their ex from last Spring…their ex from 1996! I don’t think that person is your ex…he or she seems to be your current something…crutch, fantasy, obsession, regret…that person is very current in your thinking. Of course, there aren’t many other romances to talk about, because strangely, spending the last 15 years talking about your “ex” didn’t feel very inviting to many new suitors! Now if your “ex” evolved into your “friend,” friends are always good to have. But let them be your current friend, rather than your “ex” that carry around like luggage.

Sometimes the “ex” isn’t a person, but church. We sometimes treat MCC like the rebound lover…not the one we really want to commit to; just the one to keep us from being lonely until the ex comes to her or his senses and realizes they can’t live without us. And so 5, 10, 15 years into MCC, we’re still talking about, with longing in our voices, the Seventh-Day Roman Wesleyan Calvinist Assembly of Latter Day Saints – Wisconsin Synod.

With pained expressions we’ll lament how our former church vilified us, rejected us, demonized us, dehumanized us because we were gay, or female, or gender non-conforming, or divorced, or because we fell in love with someone from another faith tradition or dared to question or even disagree with some ancient dogma that originated when everyone assumed the world was flat.

And yet, while we recall the reprehensible way they denied our very humanity, we will still identify as one of their own.

We aren’t hoping to recover from the pain, we are just wishing that the pain had never been inflicted. But that wish never bears much fruit.

Hope for healing from the religious abuse of the past will mean believing we can separate from systems that claimed our minds and our thoughts and sometimes our bodies; hope for healing will mean moving forward, not longing to go back. We can’t have a better tomorrow if we are thinking about yesterday all the time.

Wishing is fine, but wishes have a very hit or miss record of achievement. Hope, however, leads to positive action and positive action has a much better report card!

My grandmother hoped to have a college degree. But she married young and had children. How could she keep her hope from being a mere wish? She went to college for one year, and then went to work, returning to school every summer until she finished her Bachelor’s degree. It took her 10 years to earn a 4 year degree. But she believed she could, and she was willing to do what had to be done, even if that meant a lot of work and spending a decade of her life to make it happen. When the wish to achieve something evolved into hope, the hope led to positive action which led, over time, to a happy result.

Hope inspired positive action has led countless people into 12 Steps and recovery.

Hope inspired positive action is what resulted in women getting the right to vote in this country.

Hope inspired positive action led to the Civil Rights Act.

Hope inspired positive action led Harvey Milk to run for public office and to stand up to the forces of homophobia.

Hope inspired positive action has led to marriage equality in 6 states, one Native American tribe, and the District of Columbia.

Hope inspired positive action led to medications that have kept people with HIV alive for decades now.

Hope inspired positive action has led countless people out of the closet and into the light of joyous, self-actualized living.

Hope inspired action gave birth in 1968 to Metropolitan Community Churches.

Hope inspired action gave birth in 1972 to Sunshine Cathedral MCC.

Never under-estimate the power of genuine hope.

Hope leads to action; action leads to result. We’ll want to keep our actions positive; all action gets results, but only positive gets positive results.

If you haven’t yet been inspired to take positive action, your hope may just be a wish.

To get better results, let your wish become hope and your hope will lead to a plan of positive action which can lead to positive results.

Do you dare to really hope today?

Do you dare to hope that you can heal from the past?

Do you dare to hope that you can have a new beginning after a disappointing failure?

Do you dare to hope that your future can be better than the past, even the romanticized past of your imagination?

If you will dare to hope, then you will believe that what you hope for is possible, and you will be willing do your part in moving the dream forward to the world of lived experience.

If you dare to hope, you may just find that what is beyond your hopes is nothing less than miraculous. And this is the good news. Amen.

© Durrell Watkins 2011

Affirmations:
I dare to hope.
I hope for healing.
I hope for achievement.
I hope for peace.
I will add positive action to my hopes.
And I expect positive results.
Amen.

 

The Reign of Christ

On November 21, 2011, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

The Reign of Christ Durrell Watkins Sunshine Cathedral Reign of Christ Sunday 2011 I remember in Hot Springs, AR in the 80s there was a fabulous entertainer known as the Grand Empress of Arkansas. But there was no Grand Empress of Arkansas pageant. The holder of this title didn’t win it, he just sort of […]

The Reign of Christ
Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral
Reign of Christ Sunday 2011

I remember in Hot Springs, AR in the 80s there was a fabulous entertainer known as the Grand Empress of Arkansas. But there was no Grand Empress of Arkansas pageant. The holder of this title didn’t win it, he just sort of came by it and it stuck. {By the way, the Grand Empress was NOT me…I was just a princess in those days!}

Well, just like no one ever crowned the Grand Empress of Arkansas, no king or emperor crowned Jesus as a prince, no General elevated him to a high ranking military position, no prophet anointed him as the leader of a nation.

Mary of Bethany is said to have anointed Jesus’ feet with perfumed oil, but who was she? Of course, that shows Jesus the Anointed one literally receiving his anointing at the hands of a woman, but that’s another sermon.

But some people, either toward the end of his ministry or shortly after his crucifixion started giving Jesus exalted titles. They weren’t official titles; they were tributes from the margins of society.

People started to think of Jesus as God’s anointed, as a messianic figure, as their Lord over against the dominus of the empire, Lord Caesar. The Lordship of Jesus was empowerment shared with people, not privilege lorded over people. People felt more whole in Jesus’ presence, more alive, more hopeful, more connected to divinity, and so they called him messiah, teacher, healer, and Lord.

Jesus wasn’t a prince or a Lord in any political sense; he had no throne or scepter; in fact, he even once said that he didn’t even have a place to lay his head sometimes! Even though an imaginative genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel tries to suggest that Jesus is descended from royalty of the distant past, the truth remains that the Jesus people encountered in the first century was a peasant living in the backwater of an occupied territory. 95% of his community would have been illiterate.

Jesus himself would eventually be tortured and executed as a dangerous subversive. And yet, that is the sort of person who helped marginalized people feel more alive, more truly themselves. And in defiance of the empire, some of those people, at least eventually, called him Lord. How shocking, how creative, how seditious to call one Lord whom Lord Caesar’s government had killed. That’s how the reign of Jesus was established, but his reign wasn’t about power, privilege, or wealth…his reign happened in people’s hearts, and it was given to him freely, not demanded of them at the point of a spear.

We see the tribute to Jesus’ counter-cultural lordship in our scripture readings today. The Deutero-Pauline writer of Ephesians suggests that power is available to us. The “us” to whom he was writing would have been subjects and in some cases even slaves of the empire.

Empowerment in spite of oppression, hope in the face of hopelessness, human dignity affirmed for oneself when others have denied it, freedom in exile, wholeness in spite of all attempts to leave one broken…oh how tremendous is the power available to us…ALL of us!

While some may try to lord power over others and keep “the other” in the margins of society, we are always free to believe the best about ourselves, to see the divine potential in all people, to respond positively even to the most negative circumstances, and to summon hope even when situations seem hopeless. That is what we find in the beginnings of what would evolve into Christianity. Before it was institutionalized, domesticated, and used to reinforce the status quo, before it abandoned the Judaic faith and culture that gave rise to it, The Way, as the Jesus Movement was called, was a counter-cultural movement that challenged the systems of the world and offered Good News to those who needed it most. That’s the reign of Christ.

In the Gospel reading, Matthew imagines Jesus separating sheep from goats. The sheep and the goats can represent the best and worst elements of our lives, our society, our world. The sheep are the better angels of our nature while the goats are our fears, greed, violence, etc. The goats…those attitudes and habits that are unworthy of our divine nature, they are to be separated out and cast out, over come, replaced with lambs.

In Revelation 7 the writer imagines a Lamb on a throne…not a General, not an Emperor, but a Lamb. The Reign of Christ is what bible scholar Barbara Rossing calls Lamb Power: the power of love, the power of hope, the power of seeking the best not just for oneself or one’s community but for all people…that’s lamb power; that’s the reign of Christ.

That drug companies have accumulated vast fortunes while entire countries have been decimated by diseases that could have been managed with existing drugs is the way of the world, the way of empire, the way of Caesar, but Lamb Power, the reign of Christ would say “what does it profit someone to gain a fortune but lose compassion for others?” That people have died of AIDS when they might have lived if not for our greed is the way of cotemporary economics but it is not the way of the Reign of Christ.

Matthew suggests that followers of Jesus aren’t measured by their affirmations about Jesus but by demonstrating the compassion and commitment to justice that characterized his life and ministry. Venerating Jesus is easy (and cheap); caring for the dispossessed and marginalized, forming caring communities, demanding liberty and justice for all, caring for the so-called least of these…the sex worker, the migrant worker, the undocumented worker, the blue collar worker, the single mother, the elderly person, the Queer person, the transgender person, the abused child, the bullied teen…affirming the dignity of those society has too frequently cast aside is more difficult and more costly, in fact, it is the sort of activity that cost Jesus his life, and yet it is also what made people see following him as actually being life-giving.

For the reign of Christ to be experienced it must happen where it first happened, in human hearts so that our hands become the hands of Christ and we become truly the body and presence of Christ in the world today. We lift bread every Sunday and say, “This is my body.” But it’s not about the bread! Those who share the bread are to be the body – THIS (everyone in the room) – IS MY BODY. The reign of Christ happens when we care and when we care enough to share. The Reign of Christ is deeds not creeds!

For the Christ Nature to reign in our consciousness and to express in our lives isn’t to imagine Jesus on a throne as one more dictator or potentate. The Reign of Christ doesn’t look like Jesus wearing robes and a crown; it looks like us doing what Sojourner Truth did…working for not only our own liberation but also for the liberation of others.

Notice we are speaking of the reign of Christ, not the rule of Christ. Ruling is the oppressive, imperial way of Caesar (and of all empires and colonizing powers).

Rulers will try to block marriage equality.
Rulers will call pizza a vegetable.
Rulers try to protect the most powerful few who will in turn protect them.
Kings create barons and knights; barons and knights protect kings, even in republics though the verbiage is different. Kings create and protect the elite; the elite then protect the king. The circle of privilege is small and fiercely guarded. That is what ruling looks like.

But to reign is to be a unifying symbol and presence, not a conquering ruler. To be ruled over is to be enslaved, controlled, robbed of choice or agency, and that is not good news. The reign of Christ is the indefatigable, fearless, relentless sharing of life-giving, life-enhancing, life-saving good news! Rulers are seldom just; but the reign of Christ demands justice for all!

Jesus lived so fully into his humanity that he actually expressed divinity. The divine humanity that Jesus modeled touched lepers, empowered women and children, affirmed the sacred value of his people’s traditional enemies, and broke social taboos when he shared table fellowship with tax collectors, prostitutes, the mentally ill, and others whom society shunned.

To follow Jesus then isn’t to merely recite 3rd and 4th century creeds as if they were completely relevant for today. To follow Jesus is to minister to the sick, to demand equal protection and equal opportunity for all people, to value peace more than war, and to insist that in an abundant universe every human has every basic need met!

We must use religion, government, social capital, and personal resources to see that no one is needlessly hungry or homeless, unmedicated or uneducated, oppressed or dispossessed.

To see the light of Christ in the so-called “least of these” among us and to offer them the hope, peace, and empowerment that we have found is the true Reign of Christ.

We still have work to do. And we are called to do it. Together, as we continue to share our time, talent, and treasure for the cause of Christ, we will succeed! This is the good news. Amen.

© Durrell Watkins 2011

Affirmations:
God in me is lifting me up.
God through me is lifting up others.
May the reign of Christ bless us all today.
Amen.

 

The Future Has Infinite Possibilities!

On November 13, 2011, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

The Future Has Infinite Possibilities! Rev. Durrell Watkins Sunshine Cathedral, Nov. 13, 2011 1 Thess. 5.1-9, 11; Matt. 25.14-30 The Fabulous Carol Burnett! When I was a child, that sort of performance thrilled me! I’m five years old dancing around the house singing, “I saw her at the Seashore with a great big pan, there […]

The Future Has Infinite Possibilities!
Rev. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral, Nov. 13, 2011
1 Thess. 5.1-9, 11; Matt. 25.14-30

The Fabulous Carol Burnett! When I was a child, that sort of performance thrilled me! I’m five years old dancing around the house singing, “I saw her at the Seashore with a great big pan, there was Hannah pouring water on a drowning man, she’ hard hearted Hannah, the vamp of Savannah, GA!” And yet, 14 years later my mother had the nerve to act surprise when I came out her!

The reason that clip appealed to me for today, other than, hello?! It’s a great song, and its Carol Burnett…who needs any other reasons?! But the real reason that seemed appropriate for today is because Carol starts singing some old fashioned religious song and then jumps into a more festive, fun secular song that actually fills her with life and joy and vitality. And that reminds me so much of our ministry in MCC, and especially at Sunshine Cathedral.

We say now every week, “Sunshine Cathedral is a different kind of church where the past is past and the future has infinite possibilities!” The mistakes of the past don’t limit what we can do in the future, and the successes of the past aren’t as good as it can ever be. As a church, as a community, as individuals, we are empowered as we embrace the notion that the past is past and the future has infinite possibilities.

When people point out how different we are from Presbyterians or Roman Catholics or Mormons or Wesleyans, they sometimes seem to be suggesting that we should be like those places, but we could never out Presbyterian the Presbyterians or out Catholic the Catholics or out Baptist the Baptists, nor should we waste our time trying. We’ve been called to be US. Those ministries are well established; ours is the new thing that has been raised up to enliven and renew the world at this time.

We read in Isaiah (43.19), “See, I am doing a NEW thing!” and in Revelation (21.5), “Behold I make all things new.” MCC is something new in the Christian experience, and Sunshine Cathedral is something new in MCC, and each of us is something new within Sunshine Cathedral! The past is past, and the future has infinite possibilities.

For some of us, its new to consider that God is bigger than tradition, scripture, sacraments, nationality, or gender…and yet as our experience of God becomes more, we grow and become more ourselves. The future has infinite possibilities!).

For some of us, its new to see women in leadership, and yet as we embrace the sacred value of all people and respect the gifts that all kinds of people have to offer, we all grow and thrive and become better. The future has infinite possibilities!

When we come to MCC, it’s new for most of us to learn that we have a denomination that is lead by a woman…one of the few denominations in the world that is led by a woman, and yet, how special that makes us that in spite of millennia of patriarchy, sexism, and misogyny, there is within Christianity a movement that is leading the way in showing what the Apostle Paul said so long ago, “In Christ there is neither male nor female for we are all one in Christ!” (Gal. 3.28).

It is very new for some people to realize that we can hear the voice of God in film, television, secular music, art, nature, science, and the wisdom of the world’s various religions as well as from our own Christian traditions. And yet, as we allow God to be more than the symbols we’ve created to point us toward God, our experience of spirituality and life begins to expand dramatically.

Of course, coming to MCC and learning that there are Christians who affirm the sacredness of the human body, who affirm the blessing that love is regardless of the genders of the people who share it, who affirm the miracle of human sexuality, and who affirm the divine gift that diversity is represents a very new experience for many of us. And yet, a spirituality based on celebration rather than condemnation, on affirmation rather than on degradation, and on possibilities more than on prohibitions has brought those of us who have dared to try it more peace, joy, and empowerment than we ever knew before. And if our lives have improved this much in this amount of time, then we can easily believe that the future has infinite possibilities!

When other churches condemned same-gender love, MCC affirmed with the writer of 1 John that God is Love and WHOEVER lives in love lives in God and God lives in them! When other churches ignored the AIDS crisis or accused people with AIDS of deserving their plight, MCC affirmed with Jesus that with God all things are possible. And when other churches said that only those on their roles who shared their opinions had a place in God’s heart, MCC affirmed with the Apostle Peter that God shows NO partiality! Oh it seemed so new, so radically new, and thank God for the new voices of hope and healing, love and liberation, inclusion and revolution. The very existence of MCC proves that the future has infinite possibilities!

Process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said, “Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude.”

We are always being encouraged to embrace new thoughts that will allow new and better realities. And we can, because the future has infinite possibilities!

If Carol Burnett singing an old vaudeville song on Lucille Ball’s comedy television show can touch the heart of a 5 year old baby Queer who 40 years later would use that song to proclaim the good news that the future has infinite possibilities, then there are NO limitations on how lives can be enriched, empowered, uplifted, and filled with joy. The future has infinite possibilities!

That’s what the gospel is saying today. You each have something worth sharing. Talent, wisdom, kindness, money, love, time…you have something that you can use in service and as you share it you are participating in bringing to light the miracles that exist within the Field of All Possibilities. When we give time, talent, and treasure to what we believe in and to what has affirmed our sacred value, we are expressing trust that our gifts can make a difference and we are also expressing trust that as we share our blessings we are blessed all the more. Our sharing encourages one another and future generations to believe that God believes in them…and that belief changes lives for the better.

That’s what Paul is saying in his first letter to the Thessalonians, the oldest book in the New Testament. Paul uses an old term, “Day of the Lord” which is found throughout the ancient scriptures (Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Zephaniah, Ezekiel). It was usually used by prophets to suggest the possibility of divine wrath and judgment; it was meant to threaten people, to frighten them into being faithful.

Paul, however, uses the term a bit more constructively. Paul reminds his Thessalonian friends that the divine presence is a healing presence, not the cause of harm. Children of Light (enlightened souls) trust the goodness of God and believe it will sustain them regardless of what is happening around or even to them. He tells them, “God did not appoint us to suffer” (probably with Jeremiah 29.11 in mind, “I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you…”). Messages of doom and gloom are not good news, and so we must redeem those old messages so that they are encouraging rather than demoralizing. That’s what Paul is doing today…he’s encouraging his friends and he asks them to continue encourage one another. The day of the Lord isn’t a punishment around the corner…THIS is the divine day and it is a day of blessings and possibilities. This is the day our God has made, let us rejoice and be GLAD in it!

The scriptures tell us today that we don’t have to be Hard Hearted Hannahs…We are meant to be Warm Hearted Homos…and Heteros…and all the variations of blessed humanity that exist between those two expressions. We are meant to be warm hearted humans, people who are aware of and grateful for our gifts, who then share them to bless the world, and who by our witness are letting the world know that for all of us, the future has infinite possibilities.

Thank God, the Sunshine Cathedral is a different kind of church where the past is past and the future has infinite possibilities. And this is the good news! Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2011

Affirmations
My future has infinite possibilities.
My future begins right now.
I am blessed and my blessings multiply.
I share my blessings to bless others.
And I am blessed even more.
Alleluia!
Amen.

Final Word
“Become a possibilitarian. No matter how bad things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities – always see them, for they’re always there.” Norman Vincent Peale

 

We Remember

On November 6, 2011, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

We Remember Revelation 7.9-17 Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin Sunshine Cathedral MCC ~ Sunday, November 06, 2011 On this Sunday of the church’s cycle we recognize All Saints and All Souls Day. All Saints Day is a consolation and a reminder that we have not nor will we make this earthly journey alone. When we take […]

We Remember
Revelation 7.9-17
Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin
Sunshine Cathedral MCC ~ Sunday, November 06, 2011

On this Sunday of the church’s cycle we recognize All Saints and All Souls Day.
All Saints Day is a consolation and a reminder that we have not nor will we make this earthly journey alone. When we take a moment to remember and honor those who have gone before us we pay respect to a long line of saints who took it upon themselves to work for justice while showing compassion.

All Saints is a reminder of our friends and loved ones who have gone before us and though gone from this plane of existence, their spirit remains very much alive and present. They are present as we remember how their words and deeds touch the very core of our existence and their legacy lives on because part of who they were is forever instilled into the very core of our memory, never to be forgotten.

Today is a reminder that our fore-parents worked to improve our world; they made some mistakes along the way, and they certainly left more work to be done by us, but the heroes and sheroes of the past did what they could to make life better for more people, and we honor them when we try to do the same.

When we place the Saints into proper context, the lives of the Saints, men and women alike, become our sacred text. The lives that the Saints lived, the good acts on behalf of humanity that they committed, to make the world that they knew better and is what in some cases led to their very deaths and this does not go without notice.

Their lives have become for us a living text. Saints of all times, saints of our religion, other religions, and no religion, people who simply expressed hope and wholeness by the way they lived their lives, left us with an inheritance of integrity and courage and hope. From religious leaders to philosophers, from movement starters to peace activists, the saintly souls who have gone before us have helped shaped what we are by showing us what we can and must do. As long as we continue to improve ourselves, we honor their witness, we keep their work alive, and they are never truly forgotten.

Recently, MCC bible scholar Dr. Mona West said, “Saints are not models of perfection but people who opened themselves to the ways God, sought to work in and through their particular lives and gifts.”

Now I believe people like Rev. Jonathan Daniels, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks, Bayard Rustin, Harvey Milk, Mother Teresa, Princess Diana, former United States President Jimmy Carter, and former South Africa President Nelson Mandela are examples and models of what Dr. West spoke of when she said, “Saints are not models of perfection but people who opened themselves to the ways God.”

We are not these Saints, but the text of their lives can be inspiration for our journey. Saints living and dead aren’t models of perfect; they are models of commitment, people who work with God so that God’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven. There are saints in our hearts today, and even saints in this room. In fact, at some moment or other, I bet almost all of us have shown signs of saintliness, even if we didn’t notice.

Then, there are those who I believe become Saints of no particular doing of their own, like Matthew Shepherd. He just was living his young life, and he was martyred for embracing his truth. He didn’t mean to be a hero or a symbol, he just wanted to live out loud, and he paid for embracing his wholeness with his life.

Everywhere that finds people who are bullied and victimize and marginalize same-gender loving people are places where saints are made. Not because the hatefulness is holy, but because the cruelty shows that life is precious, every life is precious and genuine love is always better than self-righteous hate.

Saints are those who are dying of hunger, because their needless deaths show that life is good and worth living and that we who have much should share more plentifully so that all may have enough.

Those who suffer from lack of medication, from unclean air or impure water, who die alone or forgotten are all saints, because even when the world ignored them, the presence of God enfolded them and cared for them and affirmed their undying dignity.

Today I am mindful of our MCC history and Saints. One particular set of Saints that comes to mind were those who were killed in a MCC church fire in New Orleans some 30 years ago. As the congregation gathered in an upstairs room, someone decided to set fire to the downstairs area, thus trapping the congregation upstairs, within moments the majority of that congregation was killed, all due to homophobia.

I am further reminded of our MCC saints, that great cloud of witnesses that were taken due to AIDS. An epidemic that took the lives of over 50% of our male clergy and many lay people in MCC could not defeat the purpose of MCC, and we’re still here…Sunshine Cathedral MCC and MCCs all over the world are still here.

We are here for those who are still on the margins of society, here for those who have yet to find a spiritual home, here for the seekers who are uncertain if they can every try religion again or trust church again. We are here and are committed to remaining here as a beacon of hope.

I often hear the words of Rev. Elder Troy Perry, founder of MCC saying, “for such a time as this MCC has been called forth”. We have not been called forth to rest on the works of the saints who have gone before us; Our Saints have lived and often given their lives so that we can be more than just open and affirming. Acceptance or tolerance isn’t enough for MCC. I would never worship in a church, no matter how friendly they seemed to be to my face, that would not marry me, ordain me, or say out loud that I am as God made me. The saints of MCC gave too much for me to ever consider putting even a toe back in the closet…MCC celebrates all of me and we are here for all who are longing for that amazing gift.

I believe that the great cloud of witnesses has kept us moving forward because we still have work to do. I believe that great cloud of witnesses has been with us as we faced the Anita Bryants of the world, as we faced employment discrimination, as we fought for a woman’s right to choose, as we faced amendments to prevent marriage equality, as we faced the threat of funding decreases in the battles against AIDS and poverty, as we dared to name racism and classism and sexism where they existed, even in our own community. The saints have called us to action, and they continue to inspire us throughout eternity.

Our Saints are not super humans, but a reminder of our calling to make this world a better place. With this in mind, we can be reminded that regardless of the current state of affairs, personally or globally, we are still blessed and have that great cloud of witnesses watching over us as we do our part to make this world and our community more heavenly here and now.
That is the challenge of MCC today and yet I am also aware of the words of Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson, current Moderator of MCC who has said, “MCC is not for everybody.”

For me it was a reminder that if we are not committed to making the world a better place, MCC may not be for us. If we are not committed to addressing classism, racism, sexism, homophobia or any ism that would hold any of the children of God back from experiencing the best of life, then MCC may not be the place for us. If we are not committed to tearing down walls and being agents of change where hope can be built up, MCC may not be the place for us. MCC is a prophetic movement that calls for action, commitment, service, generosity, hope, and courage. Not everyone is interested in such a whole-life commitment, but that kind of commitment is the Christian life…Christianity isn’t a life of privilege for the lucky, it’s a life of service to improve the lot of all who haven’t yet experienced God’s best in their lives. If one isn’t ready to live a life of service and activism, a life of Christian transformation and action, then MCC may not appeal to them.

If you are not a part of blessing those who mourn, then MCC may not be the place for you.
If you are not a part of blessing those who are poor in spirit, then MCC may not be the place for you.
If you are not a part of blessing those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, then MCC may not be the place for you.
If you are not a part of blessing the merciful, then MCC may not be the place for you.
If you are not a part of blessing the peacemakers, then MCC may not be the place for you.
If you are not a part of blessing those who are persecuted, insulted and unfairly vilified, then MCC may not be the place for you.

But I believe you and I are in this room because MCC IS the blessed place for us. I believe we have answered the divine call to hope more, love more, give more, serve more, to stand up and speak up and change lives. We won’t settle for the back of the bus, not for ourselves nor will we sit idly by while others are kept in the back. We want more, we deserve more, we demand more, and in the name of God we are working for more, just as the saints who went before did.

Because as we do this work of living the Beatitudes, here and now we can see how lives are changed forever because of our presence in this community. As we do this work of living the Beatitudes, the hungry are fed both physically and spiritually. As we answer the call to live fully into the Beatitudes our own individual attitude is forever changed because we want the best not only for ourselves but also for those who are less resourced than we are. As we do this work, we can rejoice and be glad because we know that we are making a difference.

And this is the Good News.

Affirmations:
I am being blessed right!
I receive my blessing!
I am blessed beyond measure!
I am blessed to be a blessing!
I willing share my blessings with others.
And so it is.
Amen.

Final Word
“If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it.” Andy Rooney

 

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