Something About God Rev Cindy Lippert
Something About God
Rev Cindy Lippert
Teach Us to Pray Rev Dr Durrell Watkins “Teach us to pray like John the baptizer taught his disciples.” Jesus responds by saying, “Pray like this” and then gives a model for prayer. Our God in heaven – God, omnipresent: God, throughout the universe; God everywhere. There’s not a spot where God is not. Once […]
Teach Us to Pray
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
“Teach us to pray like John the baptizer taught his disciples.”
Jesus responds by saying, “Pray like this” and then gives a model for prayer.
Our God in heaven – God, omnipresent: God, throughout the universe; God everywhere. There’s not a spot where God is not.
Once that is embraced, then we can face the challenges and recognize the opportunities in life. So we see Jesus expressing awe and gratitude, placing demands on the universe for blessings to be made manifest, and even humble requests (help us to let go of the regrets and the grudges that make us miserable)…but it begins with the idea that God is everywhere, fully present.
Jesus then gives them some ways to think about prayer as a relationship to the Infinite.
A friend would help you out if she possibly could. If it were in a friend’s power to help you in a moment of need, why wouldn’t she? If God is a benevolent presence, if God is indeed the power of love, then surely God would respond compassionately to us when we ask for divine assistance.
But, some will say, what if God isn’t like a person; what if God is a neutral power, like the force in Star Wars. Jesus has a response to that very question.
Jesus feels an intimate connection to the power of the universe, and so he refers to It in relationship terms. But he says, even if God isn’t predisposed to offer help when it is needed, even if God is just a neutral power like electricity, even so, the more we try to tap into the power, the more likely we are to get it right.
As we keep praying, we are forming psychic conduits through which the power can flow. So, even if God doesn’t show us kindness out of love, God will still show up for us because of our own persistence.
Which is your theology? God is love, or God is a neutral power?
God is a benevolent presence, or God is an energy that can be accessed and used for good? Either way, prayer is useful. Whether it activates the love that God is, or whether it channels the power that God is, prayer can make a positive difference.
Jesus repeats the point by saying just like friends want to help each other, parents want to help out their children. Love gives. Love cares. So, while Jesus suggests prayer works regardless of one’s theology, he shares what his theology is. For Jesus, God is a loving presence and love always responds lovingly.
Finally, Jesus makes a powerful point that we all too often miss.
Jesus isn’t saying that if we say the Lord’s Prayer the next scratch off will pay off big for us. Jesus isn’t saying that prayer will rig elections or sports events. Jesus says, if friends and parents are generous with those they love, how much more will God give the spirit to those who ask.
The spirit is the presence and power of God, the life-force, the energy of life. The holy Spirit is the whole spirit of God…all the power, the entire presence, all the love, all the beauty, all the peace…
Of course we wish for our loved ones to be safe as they travel, we hope for good results from medical procedures, we give thanks for lucky breaks, but the best gift we can get is a more profound awareness of God’s presence…and Jesus promises we will get that gift if we continue to grow in prayer.
And once we remember that God is with us, that God’s love will never abandon us, that we are held in God’s light forever, then we are filled with that peace that passes understanding and from that place of peace, the obstacles seem manageable and opportunities seem abundant.
The point of prayer is to learn to trust that we are one with God, and that awareness is the one thing we are promised we can have as a result of faithful prayer. And that blessing is enough, because it’s everything.
Whatever we are facing, we are not facing it alone, because God is with us. That reminder is the gift we are promised in prayer, and this is the good news.
©Durrell Watkins 2016
The Way of Transformation Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (7.17.16) In the 13th century there was Sufi mystic and poet called Rumi. He once said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” What Rumi is telling us is that spirituality should transform us. […]
The Way of Transformation
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (7.17.16)
In the 13th century there was Sufi mystic and poet called Rumi. He once said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
What Rumi is telling us is that spirituality should transform us.
Sometimes we think religion is meant to comfort us – and it is.
Sometimes we think religion is meant to challenge us – and it is.
Sometimes we think religion is meant to help us form loving communities so that we never have to celebrate our joys or face our difficulties alone – and it is.
But what we sometimes forget is that religion’s primary mission is to help us transform our lives into all they are meant to be.
Transformation doesn’t happen in a magic moment, though the journey can certainly begin with a moment of decision. Transformation happens as we develop disciplines that help form and reform us into our best possible selves.
We usually hear today’s gospel reading as a contrast between Mary and Martha, with Mary getting a thumbs up and Martha getting a finger wag. But that isn’t a completely fair reading of the text.
Mary represents study and prayer.
Martha represents work and sharing.
Mary is spending time with Jesus, listening to his teachings, contemplating spiritual lessons, feeling joy and gratitude. And Jesus says she has the better part, but he doesn’t say that Martha is wrong.
Martha has the right idea. She wants to do good work. She wants to be generous: Come eat at my house, Jesus. Let me serve you. Let me cook for you. Let me share my food with you, my time, my home, my hospitality.
Who could take issue with Martha’s work ethic or generosity?
Martha’s problem is that her work isn’t centered in prayer. Of course, work can be prayer, if we intend for it to be so. But too often, we just get busy and forget that our effort is in service to a larger, nobler goal. We forget we are offering our efforts to serve God by serving others.
Martha’s desire to be helpful and generous is wonderful, and it will be more effective if she makes it part of worship rather than a chore she resents doing.
Mary has the better part because she is fueling up with study and prayer that will then allow her to work and share in a way that is worship, that will be transformative in her own life.
Martha is doing what Mary will be doing, but she forgets to start out by doing what Mary is doing.
Pray – Study – Work – Share…that’s the formula for transformation.
Mary has the better part, but not the only good part…Mary’s part is what will make Martha’s part more successful.
Pray – Study – Work – Share.
If you want to transform the world, start by transforming yourself.
We can’t erase racism, xenophobia, misogyny, Heterosexism, or poverty from the world…but we can transform our own consciousness, and that can help us do more that will make more of a difference over time. If spirituality isn’t transforming us, helping us be better, helping us have more hope and joy, then we need a tune up.
Pray – Study – Work – Share…that’s how we give ourselves a tune up.
When we pray more, and study more, we will get less exhausted from our work, and more generous with our sharing.
We will keep our optimism fueled and we won’t give in to disappointment as frequently.
We need you Martha, but to make sure that you don’t burn out or get bitter, we need you to do what Mary is doing, also. We need you prayed up. We need you constantly learning. And from that spiritually centered place, we need you to share time, talent, and treasure. Your effort will make more of a difference when you understand it as being central to your spiritual life.
I want us to be a transformational church…yes, doing our part to improve the world, but realizing that means to be constantly renewing and improving ourselves. And as we become more of what we are meant to be, we have more of our divine nature to share with the world.
We need study and prayer, as Mary shows, and then, when we work and share like Martha, our deeds will make a bigger difference.
When we come to worship, we aren’t just hearing good music or comforting words or spending quality time with friends…we are doing all of that, but we are also allowing personal transformation to take place.
When I ask you to pray daily, to read positive, spiritual literature, to take classes here at the church, those are invitations to develop disciplines that will help each of us grow in grace so that we can be a positive power in this world.
When we are called to volunteer, to vote, to spend intentionally, and to be generous with our offerings, we aren’t just being asked to stay busy…we are being asked to make our lives a prayer, the sort of prayer that will enable us to be the presence of Christ in the world.
Mary and Martha…they aren’t opposites; they together are the full picture. Pray, study, work, share…that is the formula that can transforms our lives, and transformed lives is what can transform the world. This is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2016
I am willing and ready to be my best.
I wish to enjoy communion with God.
I want to express divine qualities in my life.
Let it be so!
The Gospel Mandate Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Just weeks after 49 people (mostly gay, mostly Latinx) were killed in a mass shooting in Orlando, Philando Castile and Atlon Sterling were brutally and senselessly slain last week in Louisiana and Minnesota. Then during a peaceful protest in Dallas, a sniper opened fire in the crowd, and […]
The Gospel Mandate
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Just weeks after 49 people (mostly gay, mostly Latinx) were killed in a mass shooting in Orlando,
Philando Castile and Atlon Sterling were brutally and senselessly slain last week in Louisiana and Minnesota.
Then during a peaceful protest in Dallas, a sniper opened fire in the crowd, and killed 5 police officers. They were protecting peaceful protestors. They, too, were innocent victims.
The barrage of violence in our country is overwhelming, and our hearts are breaking. For those who have been taken from community, family, and friends this week, let us observe a moment of silence…
Let light perpetual shine upon them. Amen.
Jesus tells the religious faithful today that the most important teaching of their faith is “love your neighbor” and the gospel call is to see all people as our neighbor, and caring about all people means caring particularly for those most in need at the time.
1998 James Byrd, Jr. – dragged to death in Jasper, TX.
African American man killed by white supremacists.
Was our response the response of Jesus?
Last year, during a bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, 9 African Americans, including the pastor, were killed by a white man they had welcome into their circle of study and prayer.
Was our response the response of Jesus?
Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were killed last week…but by the time of their shootings, we had almost become desensitized to such news.
James Byrd, worshipers in Charleston, a man in New York, a man in Baltimore, a child in Ohio…the news of people of color being unnecessarily and brutally slain is so frequent we sometimes fail to respond with shock, horror, and disgust.
God have mercy on us.
We have a prophetic word from the gospel of Luke today…when people are hurting, the godly response is to offer compassion.
For social and religious reasons, people walked by a hurting man in the gospel lesson today, but the Samaritan is the one who simply responded to need. There was pain, and kindness was the most human response…too many people had learned to ignore their most human impulses, but the Samaritan shows us that we are most divine when we allow ourselves to be more fully human.
I’m tired of gay people being told their very existence is a sin.
I’m tired of transgender people being objectified and used for political gain.
I’m tired of men regulating women’s bodies.
I’m tired of immigrants being treated as if they are crashing an exclusive party when they come to the US to improve and sometimes even save their lives.
I’m tired of Muslims being demonized.
And I am tired of African American people being publicly executed with virtually no consequences to the killers.
And you know what else? I am tired of Christianity being reduced to what people say they believe. The religious guy wanted to know how he could benefit from religion…how can I benefit forever, he asks Jesus. And Jesus responds by telling him to help people in need. You’re worried about heaven in the next life – why aren’t you concerned about those who are going through hell in this life?
Christianity is about living the gospel, about manifesting the realm of God in this world, about sharing hope and compassion and working for justice for all, as Jesus did.
If we are not going to take a stand for peace, our beliefs are irrelevant.
If we are not going to participate in changing structures that leave people poor our beliefs are irrelevant.
If we are not going to affirm the sacred value of all people, our beliefs are irrelevant.
If we are not going to oppose irrational fear and lethal hatred, our beliefs are irrelevant.
The gospel message today is painfully clear and remarkably simple:
To love God is to love people, and to love people is to recognize the inherent dignity and sacred value of all people. And if we see the dignity of people who have been marginalized, we will do what we can to lift them up.
The priest and the Levite that passed the wounded person in Jesus’ story had strong beliefs, but that didn’t cure hatred or heal the wounded. Being super religious didn’t make them more human, and what the suffering person needed most was human compassion.
It was the despised Samaritan, the queer, the transgender person, the immigrant, the Muslim, the African American with a broken tail light, who most demonstrated the love of God.
And Jesus says, “don’t be like the people who use religion as an excuse to hate others or ignore suffering; be like the Samaritan. Be a good neighbor.”
I’m going to declare something as clearly and emphatically as I know how to do right now.
I want you to know that Sunshine Cathedral is a spiritual community dedicated to following the example of Jesus. You may be Christian, Catholic or Protestant, you may be Muslim, Jewish, Agnostic, Buddhist, Wiccan, or something else, and we certainly value and celebrate pluralism here, but whatever your personal philosophy, whatever your religious opinions, our shared covenant in this body is to embrace the Good News of God’s all-inclusive and unconditional love. The message of God’s all inclusive and unconditional love, by the way, is the gospel of Jesus, and those who embrace that gospel message have mandate to then be channels through which divine love flows.
I am a minister of the gospel of Jesus, and as such it would be an absolute sin for me to fail to say today, Black Lives Matter.
All lives have sacred value, which is why we must pay special attention to the lives whose dignity are being assaulted in the moment.
That is why we have responded to the odious bathroom bills that target transgender people, that is why we fought for marriage equality, that is why grieved for Orlando, that is why I have said without apology that I stand with Planned Parenthood, that is why we confront and condemn verbal attacks against the Muslim community and why we declare unequivocally that immigrants are the children of God and must be welcome with open arms, and it is why we grieve for the police officers senselessly slain in Dallas.
But today, we must recognize that the lives that are frequently under attack, the lives frequently denied justice, the bodies on the road needing our attention are black bodies.
As followers of Jesus, we must stand up and let our voices be heard in holy outrage.
Are you tired of the violence, and are you ready to insist the human compassion mandated by the gospel become the model of our faith and our lives? If so say YES…
Let people hear you today. Cry out for the sake of the gospel. In the name of Jesus, we call for an increase of human compassion in our world. Amen.
I love God.
I love my neighbors.
All people are my neighbors.
We are all children of god.
May we all be blessed.
A New Creation Rev Anne Atwell
A New Creation
Rev Anne Atwell