Outside the Gate

On September 30, 2016, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Outside the Gate Rev. Anne Atwell

Outside the Gate
Rev. Anne Atwell

 

Alleluia!

On September 18, 2016, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Alleluia! Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Jeremiah is writing during a time of exile for his people. His nation has been conquered and his people are living under foreign rule. It’s a difficult time. His people have lost their home, their freedom, and in some instances, they fear they may be losing their identity. The passage […]

Alleluia!
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Jeremiah is writing during a time of exile for his people. His nation has been conquered and his people are living under foreign rule. It’s a difficult time. His people have lost their home, their freedom, and in some instances, they fear they may be losing their identity. The passage in Jeremiah today asks, “Why has this happened to us? Isn’t there some medicine that can heal our broken hearts, and if it exists, why haven’t we found it?”

Some of the people wonder if God has abandoned them. There is some really bad theology that says that if God is pleased with you God won’t let anything crappy come into your life.

The Apostle Paul who received a bunch of beat downs, stonings, and incarcerations probably wouldn’t agree.

Jesus who was betrayed by one of his students, denied by one of his best friends, and later was tortured to death probably would say, “You know, you can be way spiritual and still step into some mess sometimes.” In fact, he did say that (“The rain falls on the just and the unjust” – Matthew 5.45).

You know what else Jesus said, though. When his companion Lazarus died, he was sad. The bible says he wept. And even in his sadness, he prayed, “I thank you, God, for hearing me; I know that you always hear me.” Even when we are sad, if we trust that there’s not a spot where God is not, we know that our prayers are received. And if our prayers are received, then comfort is always possible. Lazarus died, but good things happened after that. Bad things happen, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

We get to choose how we will respond to what happens in life, we can make meaning of whatever it is, we can try to find a hidden treasure in the wreckage, and we are free to believe that beyond the heartbreak there are new opportunities. We can take lemons and make lemonade, but the lemons we will always have with us.

Jeremiah wonders, his people wonder, and maybe Jeremiah even imagines God wondering, “Is there any medicine that can ease the suffering and sorrow of these hurting people?” Jeremiah can give expression to his momentary hopelessness, but he trusts that God is near. And so as he names his despair, he creates space for hope to replace it. By asking a question, he makes room for an answer. Is there no medicine for our social ills, our global woes, our spiritual dryness, our emotional burdens? Is there no balm that can sooth our aching hearts? Maybe there is.

Trusting in God’s nearness and goodness, and trusting God with the question allows for new insights. Now, maybe Jeremiah can begin to hear God saying, “I will hold you through this hardship, I will encourage you, I will celebrate with you when things get better…you are not alone.”

There is a beautiful drawing, haunting, powerful, of Jesus being crucified. I don’t celebrate Jesus’ death or attribute it to a divine plan, but this crucifixion portrait captured my heart when I was an AIDS chaplain. It shows Jesus covered in Kaposi Sarcoma lesions, which were once common among people with AIDS. The heavens looked upon him as if his pain was the only thing to see. His mother and his beloved hold each other in grief, while a woman cries at his feet and anoints him to give comfort in his moment of suffering. Above him there is a mocking sign that reads: AIDS, Homosexual, Pervert. And close by, there is a preacher with an open bible and a clinched fist shouting words of hate and condemnation at the suffering Jesus.

It was a visual reminder that the body of Christ had AIDS. The children of God were suffering with AIDS, some fretting helplessly on the sidelines, some ministering to the suffering as best they could, some condemning those who suffered, but the painting suggested that God and the godly were aware of and concerned about the suffering.

The presence of divine Love was right in the midst of the AIDS crisis. Some people ignored the crisis, some people tried to help in the midst of the crisis, some hurled hateful words and accusations, all while the heavens looked on with compassion, hoping and working with us for medical breakthroughs.

Several years ago there was an American Baptist pastor whose son was killed in a car accident. Some well meaning person tried to comfort the minister with thread bare, bad theology. The misguided friend said, “Pastor, it was just your son’s time; the Lord called him home.” And the pastor responded instantly by saying, “The hell it was! When my boy died God shed the first tear.”

That’s what I believe. It is God that kisses us gently in the night, whispering words of encouragement to our hearts, calling us together to work together to do great things, and it is God who first yells “hooray” when a war is ended or a cure is discovered or a depression is lifted or an oppressive law is repealed.

The psalmist wrote, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Sadness and sorrow occur, but we do not face the tough times alone. God is with us, and on the other side of the pain, there are still infinite possibilities.

Napoleon Hill said, “Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat.”
That’s what Jeremiah is trying to remember. That’s what he wants his people to remember. That’s what God wants us to remember.

Today’s disappointment may well contain the seeds of tomorrow’s miracle. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Jeremiah will later imagine God saying very clearly, “I know the plans I have for you, plans for your well-being, not for harm; plans for a hopeful future (Jer. 29.11).

The psalmist echoes this holy hope in the first reading. The psalmist doesn’t say we won’t ever feel knocked down; the psalmist says we can get back up. That’s the very definition of resurrection power! The psalmist acknowledges that there are times when people feel down and out, but the good news is, God is always trying to lift us back up.

Like Jeremiah, you may have felt knocked down lately. If so, the psalmist has something to tell you…God wants to help you get back up. And that’s something to get excited about; so, with the psalmist, say “Alleluia!”
Alleluia’s right, because this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2016

Alleluia!
Alleluia!
Alleluia!

Come Home!

On September 11, 2016, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Come Home! Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Do you remember an old hymn, if not from church then perhaps from the film Sordid Lives: “Coming home, coming home, never more to roam; open wide thine arms of love, Lord I’m coming home.” The gospel today tells us about a Prodigal Child who lost his way for […]

Come Home!
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Do you remember an old hymn, if not from church then perhaps from the film Sordid Lives:
“Coming home, coming home, never more to roam; open wide thine arms of love, Lord I’m coming home.”

The gospel today tells us about a Prodigal Child who lost his way for a bit, but who chose to come home.
He gets his inheritance early, and squanders it.
But nothing can separate him from the love of his family. Even when he thought he had behaved so badly his best hope was to be hired as a farm hand, and even that he thought would have been a mercy, in truth, he never did nor never could wander away from his parents’ love. Their love is unconditional and everlasting.

The son is lost…not from God, of course, but he has lost his sense of belonging to something more than himself, he has lost his awareness that he has sacred value, he has lost his trust that there is a universal Love that will never let him go.

He isn’t punished for his mistakes, though he has certainly experienced the natural consequences of poor choices. He isn’t bad. He’s just temporarily separated from the knowledge that he is God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.

He has squandered not just his money, but his birthright of knowing that he matters just because he exists.
He has traded the joy of knowing his sacred value for some quick thrills and trinkets.
He has thrown out the awareness that he is part and parcel of God.
He has lost the valuable understanding that he is part of the creation that God calls very good.

But guess what? His Parents never give up. Giving up on their child is just not an option.
He will not be abandoned, and even if he feels lost, even if he forgets his way for minute, even if he hits a real rough patch in life, he cannot be separated from the power of Love. Divine Love will not let him go.

Some of us have felt like we lost our way at one time or another.
Maybe we squandered our self-esteem, our dignity, our hope, our resilience, but we cannot, ever, be separated from God’s love.
And if we think we’ve lost those precious gifts of our divine inheritance, we can be reminded today that God wants to replace them. God wants to give us all that we thought we let slip away.
God’s grace is limitless, so there is no limit to the goodness God can bestow upon us. As Emma Curtis Hopkins so rightly said, “There is good for me and I ought to have it!”
God is saying to each of us, “there is good for you, and you ought to have it.”

Do you know what the word prodigal means? It means to spend lavishly, wastefully, extravagantly.
We call the son a prodigal, but we could also call the Parents, who represent God, prodigals.

The parents give the son his inheritance, and when he blows it they restore him. They prop him up. They give him another chance.
All that they have is for all of their children, even those who screw up.
They want to give as much as they can to each and every child.

Have you ever needed the soul liberating love that gives totally without condition?
Well, good news: that’s what the love of God is, and it’s yours, right now.

God is extravagant.
God’s love is immeasurable.
God gives grace abundantly, lavishly, wastefully.
Ours is a prodigal God!

If you are joining us by Internet in Russia, Uganda, Malaysia, Jamaica, Nigeria, Tennessee, Oklahoma, or Utah…God loves you for who you are and you are forever held safe in the heart of God. God will never let you go.

For those on line and those in the room, I want to give you an invitation today.
I want to invite you to come home to daily communion with Spirit, to a knowing that you are forever connected with your divine Source, to the joyous realization that divine Love permeates your life.

If you’ve forgotten that you are loved, lovable, and precious to God, then come home to the remembrance that you are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake!

If you’ve been away from spiritual community and want a spiritual home that will celebrate you for who you are, you have found it today at Sunshine Cathedral: welcome home!

There’s another old hymn that’s been on my mind this week as I’ve prepared this message. I want you to sing it with me if you know it. It’s basically the gospel lesson put to music:

Softly & tenderly, Spirit is calling
Calling for you & for me.
See, on the portals, God’s waiting & watching,
Watching for you & for me.

Come home, come home, ye who are weary come home.
Earnestly, tenderly, Spirit is calling, calling ‘Oh dear one, come home!’

Why should we tarry when angels are singing,
singing for you & for me?
Why should we linger & take not the blessings,
Blessings for you & for me.

Come home, come home, ye who are weary come home.
Earnestly, tenderly, Spirit is calling, calling ‘Oh dear one, come home!’

Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2016

Dear God,
I am forever at home in you.
Thank you, God.
Amen.

Use Me, God

On September 4, 2016, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Use Me, God Rev Dr Durrell Watkins The prophet Jeremiah tells us today that he saw a potter working. The pot she was working on was spoiled, Jeremiah says, and then the potter reworked it. Another way to hear that is that vessel didn’t yet resemble it’s perfect pattern, so the potter kept working on […]

Use Me, God
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins

The prophet Jeremiah tells us today that he saw a potter working. The pot she was working on was spoiled, Jeremiah says, and then the potter reworked it.

Another way to hear that is that vessel didn’t yet resemble it’s perfect pattern, so the potter kept working on it until it did.

Once Jeremiah saw this, it occurred to him that God can do that with us. If we aren’t yet all that we are meant to be, and most of us probably aren’t, the good news is God isn’t done with us! In God’s hands we are still being perfected, worked and reworked according to a pattern and a plan that is perfect.

The material is perfect, the plan is perfect, the potter is perfect, so perfection is the ultimate outcome – it has to be.
That we aren’t there yet just means we remain a work of art in process.

I love that Jeremiah thinks of God as an artist, and we as God’s works of art that will be, must be, worthy of a divine artist’s time and skill. Jeremiah thinks of God as a potter, an artist, a committed craftswoman who will not give up on her project until it as beautiful as it is meant to be.

Jeremiah shows us –
Whatever we thought God was…God is more.
And, whatever we thought we were…We are more.

If you are worried that it’s ever too late to be happier, to have more peace of mind, to have something meaningful to contribute, Jeremiah tells us not to worry.
We aren’t the potter, God is…we are clay.
God’s clay is perfect, and God’s skill working with the clay is also perfect.
God isn’t going to give up on us, and God has all eternity, all power, and all wisdom to get it right. We will be fine.

Jeremiah is a prophet, and in the old prophetic tradition, there was some finger wagging and some stern admonitions to get it together, but there is always the promise of grace as well. The prophets say “do better” – because we can, because we deserve better, because God isn’t giving up on us so don’t you dare give up on yourself, on your community, on your society, on your world.

God is molding pure potential…it’s got to turn out right eventually. That’s why it’s always too soon to give up hope.
Jeremiah reminds us we are better than we think and we can be more than we’ve ever been.

No matter how damaged or incomplete our efforts or our goals may seem, we are still moist clay in the potter’s hands. Any given moment may seem to be a mess, but it can still be reshaped. The vessel may not look right yet, but the pattern is still perfect, the material is still perfect, and the potter is still perfect. Perfect manifestation is on the way.

Oprah has said the best advice she ever received was to not be too worried about success but to work toward being significant. She also adds, when we focus on significance, success follows naturally. Success may not mean being a billionaire like Oprah; success is doing what you can to make a positive difference. A successful life is a life of service.

Oprah dedicated her life to significance. Early in her career she said this prayer:
“Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”
I think her prayer got answered.

In her younger life, she had some tough breaks as many of us have…but she knew she was moist clay in a potter’s expert hands. She asked the potter to continue to work and rework her into her best possible self, so that she could then help others be their best selves.

The potter metaphor was used in our opening hymn today: “Have thine own way Lord; have thine own way. Thou are the potter; I am the clay. Mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.”

Whenever I read this passage from Jeremiah I’m reminded of another old hymn that uses the potter metaphor: “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living of God, fall afresh on me.”

It’s like Oprah’s prayer: “Use me, God.” It changed her life, and through her, others.

Will you say that life-changing prayer today?
Will you see yourself as moist clay in a divine potter’s hands?
If so, you can expect miracles in your life, and you will be part of making our world a better place.

You are amazing, and will become more so. The Potter isn’t finished with you yet.
And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2016

Dear God:
Continue to work in and through my life.
Use me for a purpose greater than myself.
Thank you, God.
Amen.

 

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can
take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...